Crewman Describes Minesweeper Sinkings
October 13, 1950
For some time now (3 days or 4, I don't know) we have been on the 39th parallel outside of Wonsan. We came here with South Korean and U.S. minesweepers to clear the approaches and harbor of Wonsan for another landing. For several days, the minesweepers kept clearing a path toward the harbor of Wonsan.
As time went on we kept moving in closer and closer to shore setting markers and destroying mines. All this time we could see and hear artillery on shore but nothing came our way.
Our UDT (underwater demolition teams) went into the bay near an island where, with the naked eye, you could see a white flag flying. UDT was to determine the density of the minefields, etc., but a few shells from the beach stopped the operation. So everyone waited for the air attack by our planes that we had been promised while the minesweepers enlarged the channel.
Finally the planes came. There were between 150 and 200 Corsairs with bombs and rockets. They peeled off and made a run over the over the mine fields setting off mines with their bombs. The guys below decks were scared silly because they did not know what was going on and the concussion under the water was probably great. Half of them thought we hit a mine or two.
The planes gave the islands and beaches a good working over then finally left. I'm really hot for the air force.
Well, we sat around waiting while two destroyer escorts bombarded the beaches and hills. The steady banging away gets on my nerves. My head feels clogged up from it.
Well, finally six minesweepers, a destroyer escort and us moved in. Our UDT was ahead of us in our boats. We sailed slowly between two islands at the entrance to the harbor. As the minesweepers and destroyer escort got behind the islands, the Reds opened up.
Our ship hadn't reached their path of fire so in a narrow channel in the middle of a minefield, we turned around cautiously and moved out a ways. The brass figured we could be of no help with the rest. So we sat and watched them slug it out.
They called for air support and six planes came from somewhere. We were close enough so the concussion of the bombs would blow your pants against your body. One of our minesweepers hit a mine and was practically blown to bits. It went down in about 45 seconds. Another one hit a mine and the Reds finished it with gunfire.
Over the radio, I could hear them directing boats to pick up survivors, etc. For about an hour there was a lot of lead and taxpayer's money flying around.
Out of the smoke comes this sampan or whatever you want to call it with a bunch of Koreans waving ROK and US flags. This was tragically funny. They came to a ship near us looking for refuge but as the sun sank tonight they were still drifting around, but at least out where they couldn't get hurt. These were identified as friendly civilians. However our boats picked up Koreans in another sampan and they now have them aboard her as prisoners of war.
We have a Korean interpreter aboard and they have been giving them the 3rd degree for five hours now. They claim they are civilians but other people don't think so. I don't feel too sympathetic. When I saw those two minesweepers go up, it burned me.
There are a lot of dead fish floating around here. Mines and bombs must be hard on their eardrums, ha! It's nighttime now and we are all anchored out. Things are quiet with the exception of a few blasts from guns now and then. I don't know what they will do now. They've pretty well silenced the guns on the beach and in the hills. I hear that a helicopter spotted 61 more mines in our path this evening. It sure takes a lot to do what seems so little.
I feel fortunate that we didn't get in a position where the Reds could train on us. It seems like they always wait until they see the whites of your eyes.
I don't know if I'm hearing gunfire now or if it's just the echo in my head. If you don't read it in the papers, you have an account from an eyewitness anyway. I'll write more tomorrow but right now I want to hit my sack. See you later.
If I hear something bumping along the bottom tonight that sounds like a mine, I'll be out in that sampan with the Koreans and eat raw fish for breakfast. That sampan doesn't sit so far down in the water. A little ways back I said "See you later", but I'm still here.
Well, we're still out here in the minefields. As usual we're playing "hero ship" and keep edging in towards shore. All the other ships are out on the horizon. I believe the Missouri is out there. We have managed to move through the minefield and are now about 10 or 15 thousand yards from the place where the two minesweepers were sunk several days ago.
To our left is an island about one half the size of Rattlesnake Mountain. From this island, the Reds bombarded the minesweepers, but no shells are coming from there anymore for Navy planes have been constantly rocketing, machine gunning and bombing the last few days. It's really a sight to watch. We, and other ships, have bombarded this island also.
To our direct left, as we point in towards the harbor, is another island that has surrendered. From here, this Korean commander we have with us, has sent Koreans in sampans to search for mines. The people on this island were not Reds but naturally did not dare to fight them. However, now they want us to be sure they are on our side.
These Koreans have found several mines moored beneath the surface. The Koreans and our under water demolition teams mark the mines with buoys and we have the Navy planes set them off with bombs. A helicopter has been helping the crews spot the mines. The helicopter has picked up and dropped off different brass hats on the ship several times. It hovers overhead and they crawl down a ladder to the ship.
This is supposed to be an attack destroyer transport, but you could sure call it a minesweeper. No one will probably know it or care, but we are doing a mighty important job here. At least it gives you a feeling that you're here for a reason. At the rate we're clearing a channel, however, it seems it will take months before the transports and larger ships can get in safely.
To watch the planes use their various weapons and bombs is something I'll always remember. It's sure nice we have complete air supremacy. The only worries we have are the constant danger of hitting a mine and some unseen shore battery opening up on us. The mine threat is worse for this place is lousy with them.
Our UDT has discovered mines in areas they searched previously, so it is suspected that during the night, the Reds are sneaking out and planting new mines haphazardly.
I'm slowly getting accustomed to the sound of bombs, etc. The noise the rockets make I couldn't describe. I just hope they never come our way. So far in this war I've been seeing some good action and haven't been suffering any more than if I were on a normal cruise. I just hope things stay that way.
When you see steel flying around and a couple of ships get sunk a short ways away, you think how easy it could have been you. I knew a fellow on one of the hit ships that went down. He was in the hospital with me last month. I don't know whether he got out or not. His ship is in several pieces 558 feet below. I've found the best thing to do is to not think about those things. If it comes - it comes.
There is a rumor, but a good one, that after this operation, we may come back to the States. I doubt this very much. We're all hoping anyway. This is all for now except our dog (mascot) bit me today. I was peacefully resting in a rubber boat and he bit me. He's a good morale builder. Everyone has his turn to play with him. He's named after one of the chiefs.
Well, I hear some gunfire again somewhere. Gotta go look. Goodbye now.
Causes of the Korean Tragedy ... Failure of Leadership, Intelligence and Preparation
The Foundations of Freedom are the Courage of Ordinary People and Quality of our Arms
- A VETERAN's