A Story from Korea

A story from Korea, 1952

by Commander Robert McCurley

I had been aboard the Fletcher for 17 days on May 29, 1952.  We had been assigned to package 4 conducting harassing and interdiction fire as assigned by CTF 95. We were in the vicinity of 40 degrees, 02 minutes North and 128 degrees 23 minutes East, steaming independently. The ship was at darken ship and maintaining position to conduct firing on targets 320 degrees to 350 degrees. During the mid watch, CIC reported a possible small radar contact a few hundred yards distant. Ensign Pete Johnston was the JOOD. The blip appeared every third or fourth sweep and was possible sea return. At 0115, Fletcher ceased firing and Captain Rawlings commenced to approach the contact at 120 degrees, 10 knots.  Although at darken ship, Captain Rawlings ordered the searchlight turned on, a risky choice, but it promptly brought results. At 0127, two Korean boys and their skiff were brought aboard.  Our ROK officer, Ensign Kim interrogated them. They said the Chinese would not give them anything to eat, and they had been eating pine bark for 6 months. They said the Chinese wanted them to work for them, but would only give them a big medal, no money or food. At 0153, Fletcher resumed firing, and scored a hit on a bunker at 0647, expending six 5"38 rounds. At 0712 commenced firing on a group of railroad cars, and ceased firing at 0742 with no results observed.

At 1105, Fletcher commenced firing on gun positions on Phakkuan Kutchi, scoring 5 direct hits. About 1230, Captain Rawlings sent for me and showed me an island on a map. He said he wanted me to take the prisoners to the island and turn them over to the people there.   I asked whose island it was, and Ensign Johnston said "we think it is ours".

At 1315, Fletcher entered the swept channel off Wonson Harbor, and approached a buoy off YoDo Island. I took the whaleboat with a boat crew, and one radarman. We rounded a point into a small bay with a shack on the beach, an ROK flag flying, and a small pier. We were greeted by Koreans in green uniforms, who were talking to my prisoners, and I didn't know what was being said. Finally one pulled up a bush revealing a field telephone and handed it to me.

An American Marine sergeant on the other end answered, and I told him I wanted him to come down there so I could turn the prisoners over to him. When he arrived, he asked how they had got to the ship. I told him about the boat, and he said they would like to have it. They conducted raids on the mainland each night. I went back to the ship, and we started to tow the boat but it started sinking. We lashed it to the side of the whaleboat and when we got to the island with it, the ROK Marines started laughing and pointing to the boat. I don't know what they said.

Captain Rawlings had said he would be steaming back and forth in the swept areas, (three U.S. minesweepers had been sunk in the swept area) but would pick us up before leaving. The Fletcher was steaming at 10 knots, back and forth to avoid shore batteries which had certain locations zeroed in. As soon as the whaleboat cleared the water, at 1459, Captain Rawlings was steaming out of the harbor at 10 knots.  At 1515 Fletcher continued patrolling the East Coast of Korea from Wonsan to Suwon Dan.

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