Hungnam Evacuation – What Ship?

In the story written by older Uncle on his early life – which I will get to publish – he says a regret is that he can’t remember details of the ship that evacuated them from Hungnam back in Dec 1950.

I decided to see if it was possible to find that ship.

I had the following information from recollections.

  1. They boarded around 9pm on the 22nd of Dec 1950.
  2. It departed later that evening or possibly the early hours of the following morning.
  3. It was an LST – that is a Landing Ship Tank. They remember entering into the interior of the ship and only able to go up on deck later.
  4. It had 2-3 tanks on board as well as some artillery pieces.
  5. They were squeezed in between the US equipment.
  6. They had to give a password “YMCA” as they boarded. Uncle remembers saying it to a white and an African American sentry checking those boarding.

There has been quite a bit written about the military aspects of the Chosin Resoviour campaign and subsequent evacuation from Hungnam. But less so about the refugee component. I have now read a number of articles and books on the topic and subsequently contacted authors and knowledgeable folk on the topic.

There were a total of 40 LSTs and 75 marine transports used during the evacuation of Hungnam. All ships making multiple trips from Hungnam and Wonsan to various ports in southern Korea and parts of Japan.

Early in my research I managed to find a list of US LSTs involved in the Korean War – some 40 LSTs. As part of this process I also found that a lot of Japanese and a few Korean LSTs were used. There were a total 40 LSTs used at Hungnam, 11 US, a large number of Japanese LSTs and a few Korean.

With help of Donald Chisholm (a Professor at the US Naval War College) who provided me with a number of documents including the original Operations Order specifying the units assigned to the evacuation. There was the glimmer of gold. The definitive list of US LSTs; 742, 845, 898, 973, 715, 914, 802, 883, 975, 799, 1048.

From another source I was able to ascertain that there were 7 LSTs (but no hull numbers) on the beach in Hungnam on the 21st of Dec to evacuate the remaining troops. I was also able to ascertain that 4 LSTs 799, 845, 833 and 898 departed 23/24 Dec getting to their destinations on 27 Dec so able to remove them from the list of possibles.

Seven possible US LSTs remaining. All Navy ships maintain Deck logs. This is a document used by the officer of the watch to maintain a running history of all activities on a ship. Many Deck logs survive today maintained in the National Archives in Maryland. I commissioned a researcher to go and visit the archives and see what he could find.

The researcher finished the work just recently. He was able to knock out through positive confirmation that 742, 973, 715, 802, 883, 975, 1048, were either in port elsewhere or underway at sea. This only leaves LST-914. Worse luck the 914 Deck logs for Dec and Jan are missing so we can’t get positive confirmation. But by a process of elimination it has to be 914.

“LST-914, later named Mahoning County, served in WWII, decommissioned 26 June 1946. Recommissioned 26 August at Yokosuka Japan, Lt Ralph Leonard Halzhaus in Command. Deployed Communist China Aggression Campaign 3 Nov 1950 to 24 Jan 1951. The LST participated in the Wonsan landings, subsequently resupplied and then joined the evacuation of Hungnam from 10 Dec through 24 Dec.” Note this implies she made two trips as there was a 5 day turnaround on the trip south.

I found a number of pictures of LST-914. It is the one below I found most interesting – its an aerial photograph. The caption said beached LST loading refugees on a “friendly” island in Korea 1950-1952.

I actually postulate that it was unloading refugees from the evacuation as Hungnam was the only occurrence I can find of evacuating Korean civilians on an LST and this certainly isn’t Hungnam.

We were in Geoje recently and my photo below of the harbour there has a remarkable similarity in the hillside – could it be???

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