- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Posted June 27, 2010
Victory-class cargo ships were built during the last half of World War II to haul general cargo for the US and its allies. When the Korean War started in June 1950, many of those same ships, manned by civilian crews, were pressed into service for the US and UN forces battling against the North Korean invasion of South Korea.
One of those ships was the Meredith Victory, manned by civilians of the US Merchant Marine and captained by a quiet and unassuming man named Leonard La Rue. Having been demilitarized after WW II, the Victory ships were totally unarmed as they commenced shuttling vital cargoes of food, fuel and ammunition to the Korean peninsula to support rapidly advancing US forces.
In December 1950, when the Chinese entered the war in support of North Korea, the UN forces found themselves badly outnumbered and had to start what turned into an epic retreat. One of the evacuation points was the small port of Hungnman. All available ships were sent there, including the half-empty Meredith Victory and her civilian crew. The teeming mass of humanity at the port included not just soldiers and Marines but thousands of Korean civilians who did not want to be ruled by the North Korean communists. The Army asked La Rue if he would volunteer to take "some" of the refugees; La Rue unhesitatingly said Yes. Over the course of two days, as naval gunfire whistled overhead to keep the North Koreans at bay and with lights on for around the clock loading despite the risk of air attack, the 450-foot long Meredith Victory somehow managed to load the incredible number of 14,000 Koreans on board before finally leaving just hours before the port fell.
Author Bill Gilbert does a splendid job of bringing to life what has been called "the greatest rescue by a single ship in history," and the marvel of how an unarmed ship sailed alone and unescorted, at night, through minefields, more than a hundred miles to reach safety - all without the loss of a single life (and the addition of five new babies born during the voyage). More than a war story or a sea story, Ship of Miracles an enduring testament to the tenacity of the human spirit.