SS Meredith Victory
|Career (United States)|
|Name:||SS Meredith Victory|
|Builder:||CalShip, Los Angeles, California|
|Laid down:||1 May 1945|
|Launched:||23 June 1945|
|Completed:||24 July 1945|
|Fate:||Broken up in China between 1993 and 1994|
|Displacement:||15200 tons (at 28-foot draft)|
|Length:||455 feet (139 m)|
|Beam:||62 feet (19 m)|
|Draft:||28 feet (7.6 m)|
|Depth of hold:||38 feet (11.5 m)|
|Speed:||15 to 17 knots (28 to 31 km/h)|
|Capacity:||59 total (35 crew members, 12 officers, and 12 passengers)|
The SS Meredith Victory was a United States Merchant Marine Victory ship, a type of cargo freighter built for World War II. It is best known for evacuating more than 14,000 refugees in a single mission during the Korean War.
Under the stewardship of Captain Leonard LaRue, the SS Meredith Victory performed the largest humanitarian rescue operation by a single ship. The vessel has often been described as the "Ship of Miracles" as it was designed to carry only 12 passengers.
The SS Meredith Victory was named after Meredith, a small town in North Carolina. The ship was built to transport supplies and equipment overseas during World War II. It was then deployed in the Korean War.
In December 1950, United Nations Command troops were retreating from northeast Korea after a massive assault by Chinese and North Korean forces. Over 100,000 UNC soldiers were to evacuate the city of Hungnam on 193 ships. Nearly the same number of civilians had also gathered at the port, hoping to board these vessels heading to safety in the southern port of Pusan. News of the evacuation had spread in the region and many refugees fleeing from the communists had lined up on the shores seeking rescue.
On December 21, Captain Leonard LaRue of the SS Meredith Victory made the decision to unload nearly all weapons and supplies on board the ship in order to transport the remaining refugees to safety. Although built to accommodate only 12 passengers, besides the crew and staff, it managed to hold more than 14,000 Korean civilians fleeing the approaching communists. By using booms and makeshift elevators, the ship was converted to hold the refugees who filled the five cargo holds and the entire main deck. The ship departed on December 23 for Pusan as gunfire from UNC ships and explosives destroyed the port in an "enemy-denial-operation" razing.
Despite the fact that the refugees were "packed like sardines in a can" and most had to remain standing up, shoulder-to-shoulder, in freezing weather conditions during the entire voyage, there were no injuries or casualties on board. There was very little food or water and the people were virtually unable to move. J. Robert Lunney, Staff Officer on the ship and a navy veteran of World War II, stated: "There's no explanation for why the Korean people, as stoic as they are, 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." First mate D.S. Savastio, who only had first aid training, delivered five babies during the three day passage to safety. The ship arrived in Pusan on Christmas Eve before heading to its final destination of Koje Island on December 26.
Captain LaRue remained in command of the SS Meredith Victory until the ship was decommissioned in 1952.
Awards and distinctions
After the war, the South Korean government honored the crew of the SS Meredith Victory with the Korean Presidential Unit Citation. The United States Merchant Marine also gave the ship's crew the Meritorious Service Medal its highest honor.
The Department of Transportation declared the SS Meredith Victory rescue mission as "the greatest rescue in the history of mankind". The Guinness Book of World Records has described it as "the greatest rescue operation ever by a single ship".
The SS Meredith Victory was later sold to Nishant Import/Export Co. of London to later become scrap metal in China.
- Culver, John A., CAPT USNR "A time for Victories" United States Naval Institute Proceedings February 1977 pp. 50-56
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/11/nyregion/a-tale-of-salvation.html?pagewanted=1 http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/include/print.asp?newsIdx=37787 http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2001/dec/19/guardianobituaries1