US Merchant Marine Ship Rescued Over Ten Thousand Korean Refugees

SS Meredith Victory

In 1950, the Korean War was not going well as the United Nations Forces would have liked. As a result, the American forces were stuck in the Korean Peninsula, trying to hold off North Korea.

Holding The Line

The line the forces were holding was known as the Pusan Perimeter. The U.S. forces were going to land at Inchon, coming in behind the North Koreans. The Army and Marines were planning the landing with full support from the Navy and Air Force.

When the Army broke through the perimeter, the North Korean forces broke up. It took about two weeks for the UN forces to retake Seoul partly.

Once there, the forces took control of the supply lines and communications. The Merchant Marine took part in the Inchon Landing too. They played an integral role in the whole operation.

A typhoon landed on the coast of the Korean Peninsula the day before the landing. Boats were slammed with hurricane-force winds. The SS Meredith Victory was one of the ships hit. They were full of supplies plus crew to support the Inchon Landing. The skill of her crew helped the ship survive.

Working Til The End

At the end of 1950, Chinese forces got involved in the war and pushed the UN to the south. The forces were retreating en masse, but along with them came refugees.

Thousands of North Koreans were running away from the Communists. Hungnam Harbor’s docks were filled with refugees and soldiers trying to get away from the Chinese.

“The Koreans on the dock, to me, that’s what we were there for, that was our job. The problem was how we [were] going to get them aboard. There were too many people and not enough time to get them all loaded. It looked like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.”

Burley Smith

The Army was no longer in Korea. The only defense against the Chinese was the Navy. So the Meredith Victory took it upon themselves to load up the refugees. In total, they loaded 14,000 people onto a ship that was meant to have 59 people.

The Meredith Victory got all the passengers safely away from the harbor and to Geoje Island. Five additional passengers made their way into the world on the trip.

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