The Korean War is, perhaps shamefully, known to most American veterans as the “Forgotten War,” the legacy of its many heroes falling by the wayside.
Adam Makos, author of “Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice,” which will be released as a major motion picture on Nov. 23, hopes that more Hollywood attention to this era of American military history equates to a new moniker for the Korean War.
“Devotion” tells the tragic but inspiring story of Jesse Brown, the first Black Navy aviator, and his wingman Thomas Hudner. The unlikely friendship between Hudner and Brown brought together a white, would-be Harvard student, who chose instead to go to the Naval Academy, and the son of a sharecropper in Brown, who would attended Ohio State before joining the Navy.
Written by Makos, the book was picked up by actor Glen Powell (”Top Gun: Maverick”), who felt it needed to be a movie, and he wanted to play Hudner.
“I’d written the book in 2015,” Makos told Military Times. “In 2017, a young actor named Glen Powell comes along and said that his family had been reading this book while they were on a fishing trip. When he started reading this book, he decided he wanted to play Capt. Tom Hudner more than anything in the world.”
In March 2018, Black Label Media optioned the rights to the movie on Powell’s recommendation, with J.D. Dillard (”Sleight,” “Sweetheart”) as its director. Powell also hilariously propositioned Jonathan Majors (“Hostiles”, “Da 5 Bloods”) to play Brown as the pair were hanging out in the nude in a Russian Turkish bathhouse.
Makos said he believes that more pop culture attention to this particular war is owed.
“The Korean War just has never gotten its due,” he said. “It came on the heels of World War II, and it was a war nobody wanted. World War II was supposed to end it all, and suddenly, we’re going back? They didn’t want to celebrate it, so they didn’t make many movies. It has M*A*S*H as its legacy.”
Makos added that he wants to see Hollywood leading the charge in bringing attention to the historical context of the “Forgotten War.”
“They electrified people to the D-Day landings, the Omaha Beach scene in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and the Normandy landings — they suddenly exposed millions of people to these battles they never heard of,” Makos said. “We’re gonna expose them to some heroes, we’re gonna expose them to the place where it took place, to the battles themselves.”
The events of “Devotion” happen during the first year of the Korean War, when many of its most harrowing battles were fought.
In real life, Brown’s F4U Corsair went down on Dec. 4, 1950, while the squadron was flying to the Chosin Reservoir. When his wingmen didn’t see him emerge from the crashed cockpit, Hudner intentionally downed his own aircraft next to the wreckage to attempt a rescue.
Unfortunately, Brown died at the site of the wreck, and the squadron was eventually ordered to scuttle the debris. But it was the story of Hudner’s devotion to saving Brown, and eventually his mission to recover his remains that lend to the title of both the book and the movie.
To this day, the Hudner and Brown families remain friends.
It was remarkable, Makos noted, that this story wasn’t told by a movie or TV show until now.
“November 23, this movie comes out, and it may not be forgotten anymore,” he said.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.