Sunday, December 29, 2019

SS Meredith Victory, The Ship of Miracles


Imagine a ship designed to carry 12 passengers with a 47 person crew somehow expanding to accommodate 14,000 people...
How can this be? It really happened between Dec. 15- Dec. 24,  1950 in Korea on the ship, the Meredith Victory during the Hungnam Evacuation. It is called the Miracle of Christmas. I had never seen photos of the refugees crammed onto the ship until I read a piece about it from the BBC recently. You may read it just here.  I urge you to do so.

In order to understand this you will need to know the background story of the Korean War...
It was a war between North Korea and South Korea. North Korea had the support of the Soviet Union and China. South Korea was supported by the United Nations.  Never actually declared a war, this "police action" claimed 33,686 American lives. 

The Battle of the Chosin Reservoir was from Nov. 27-Dec. 13, 1950.  This occurred during some of the coldest winter temperatures, estimated to be 36 degrees below Fahrenheit. (That would not only cause many cases of severe frostbite but also cause guns to jam and for the batteries in the jeeps to quickly die down.) 
The Frozen Chosen...that is a phrase you might have heard before, once again I urge you to read more about the desperate plight of those who were there.
Did I mention to any of you about the book " On Desperate Ground" by Hampton Sides? This book is about this battle which actually turned out to be a test of survival. The troops were ordered to withdraw to the port of Hungnam.   There, many Korean refugees waited hopefully to be put aboard one of the naval ships.  With 193 ships, the UN forces were evacuated and also roughly one third of the Korean refugees, about 100,000.  As I told you at the beginning of this post, one of the ships, the SS Meredith Victory, carried 14,000 of them. Here is a quote for you from the captain of that ship, Captain Leonard LaRue...

"I think often of that voyage. I think of how such a small vessel was able to hold so many persons...and as I think, the clear message comes to me that on that Christmastide, in the bleak and bitter waters off the shores of Korea, God's own hand was at the helm of my ship."

Even though there was very little food or water and the people were standing shoulder to shoulder, there were no injuries or casualties aboard. (In fact, five babies were born on ship!)

One of the officers aboard had this to say...

"There's no explanation for why the Korean people, as stoic as they were, were able to stand virtually motionless and in silence. We were impressed by the conduct of the refugees, despite their desperate plight. We were touched by it."

Col. Edward H. Forney was the evacuation control officer at Hungnam in 1950. His grandson, Ned Forney, is a writer who lives in Seoul, Korea and is working on a book about the Battle of Chosin and the Hungnam evacuation. You know that is a book that I will read!  I am happy to direct you to his website, you may find it just here.  (While there, don't miss his blog, where he also wrote about Jimmy Stewart and his military service. I promise that you will thank me for telling you.)

Finally, let me say that I have great respect for all that I have mentioned here.  My mother's first husband died in Korea. I remember the carefully folded American flag and Purple Heart in the cedar chest as I was growing up. I have contacted Ned Forney in Korea and he has told me that the name, Roy Hollifield is on the memorial to the Americans killed in Korea. I am grateful to know that.  

Why did I choose this photo to go with this post? This was taken at almost the same time last year and the contrails from the airplanes remind me a bit of the characters from the Korean alphabet. Once again, I mean this with respect and honor.








22 comments:

  1. Pictures from that vessel are astounding, it certainly was a miracle. The story should be told.

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    1. I think so. I have read much about the Korean War was censored for Americans. I guess that is why not too many know of these things.

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  2. It really sounds like a miracle. No other explanation really fits this event! Thank you for bringing it to our attention, dear Kay.

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    1. You are welcome! I am glad you find it interesting also.

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  3. I was very moved reading the BBC article. Whilst 14,000 people is a lot and without detracting from the story or the discomfort for all those on board, the SS Meredith Victory was a fairly large cargo ship. What really distresses me is the wars that are still raging over our planet.

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    1. I probably didn't explain it very well. All the equipment had to be boarded on the ship in addition to all those thousands of people. It was a very, very tight squeeze and was actually quite the feat to get this done. I look forward to that book by Ned Forney!

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  4. Good post. I know very little about the Korean War, though I am a Korean American.

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    1. Thanks! I wish you would tell us more about your heritage! And also, is it just me, or do you think the clouds look a bit like the Korean language?

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  5. My uncle served in the "Korean Conflict" as it often called. Thirty years later my brother was an MP at the DMZ. Peace has never been decided there. It is still an active military action.

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    1. That is absolutely correct. Peace terms were never agreed upon, so therefore it is still going on. It is quite a complex thing to speak about in a short blog post.

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  6. An amazing story, Kay. Thank you for bringing something else to our attention and giving us ways to research it more. I was just 5 years old when this happened...

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    1. I think most people my age just think of the TV show "Mash" in regards to Korea. As for me, well...you read the above with me looking at a Purple Heart as a kid.

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  7. An interesting post, Kay. Thanks for sharing.

    I wish you and your loved ones all the best for 2020 and beyond.

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    1. Thank, you, Lee! And a very, very happy 2020 to you and beyond!!

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  8. Remarkable story. Happy New Year Kay.

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    1. Glad you think so too. Happy New Year to you, BOB and to Alex!
      See, got it right that time!!

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