Meredith Victory Main Deck - December 24, 1950 - Some of the 14,000+ panic-stricken North Koreans
on their way to safety in Pusan from Hungnam, but eventually disembarking in Koje-Do on Christmas Day.
The Meredith Victory was a VC2-S-AP3 (8,500 hp.), launched July 1945, Hull No. 799, at the California Shipyards.
The S.S. Meredith Victory was sold for scrap on October 1, 1993. "... a common ending
for such an uncommon vessel. In a touch of irony, the scrapping reportedly took place in China, with the Chinese finally able to destroy the ship that boldly defied their efforts forty-three years before, with no protection
and without firing a shot of her own." Quote from the book, Ship of Miracles, by Bill Gilbert.
American Victory Main Deck - November 12, 2005 - During a cruise we took in Tampa Bay.
Note the cargo hold cover. Shown in the photo of the Meredith Victory to the left, the Koreans are standing on top of the cover, but thousands more are below the Main Deck.
The American Victory is a VC2-S-AP2 (6,000 hp.), launched June 20, 1945, Hull No. 792, at the California Shipyards.
Charles M. Fuss, Jr., the historian for the American Victory Mariners Memorial & Museum Ship, was kind enough to
send us his personal experience about the S.S. Meredith Victory and Hungnam:
SS MEREDITH VICTORY & HUNGNAM
C.M. FUSS, 12 DEC. 02
Today Captain John Timmel asked if we had any artifacts from the SS Meredith Victory.
John recently read "Voyage of Mercy" in the December USAA magazine about the Meredith rescuing 14,000 Korean refugees from the port of Hungnam who were fleeing ahead of the advancing Chinese and North Korean troops in
December 1950. John was trying to make a connection between us and the Meredith Victory, to promote the cause of saving our ship. I told John that I could not recall anything that would bond us to the only Korean War
merchant vessel designated a "gallant ship" except for me.
I was a flight deck boatswains' mate aboard the light aircraft carrier USS Bataan when we were ordered to an
area of the Sea of Japan off Hungnam. The First Marine Division and elements of the Army 3rd and 7th divisions were besieged by the huge Chinese Army that had recently come to the aid of the North Koreans. Our Marine corsairs
were helping to keep open the single road that led from the high Chosin Reservoir to the sea. It was cold! Sometimes the temperature fell to almost 20 degrees below zero. We were without Arctic gear except for wool masks to keep
our faces from freezing in the high winds over the flight deck. Our noses ran and frozen mucous stalactites dripped from the masks. We were working 18 to 20 hours a day to keep planes over our poor frozen ground troops. Our
living space ran athwart ship just under the aft flight deck. There was no insulation and the inside temperature was not much above freezing. It was nearly impossible to bathe. I wore the same two pairs of long johns together for
nearly a month. We all stunk and looked awful. Aqua Velva mixed with black coffee kept us going.
When the Meredith Victory sailed out of Hungnam on December 23 with the miserable Korean refugees, the
battleship Missouri was firing 16-inch projectiles over our heads to keep the Chinese at bay. We had another day to go. On Christmas Eve, we took the last hellos of Marine Observation Squadron 6 off the beach and headed
south to Pusan. That night, Father John Coffee of the Bronx held a midnight mass on the hangar deck all hands not on watch attended, regardless of faith or lack thereof. The ad hoc choir was beautiful. A few days before, the
oiler Cimarron had brought us a scrawny Christmas tree. It was well lit with red and green airplane running lights. It was a time to be thankful, especially for me. There had been four of us in the general area of Hungnam
from the Tampa Sea Scouts; another sailor, a Marine and an infantry soldier. The other three were dead.
The Hungnam evacuation, called the "redeployment" by the brass, would have been impossible without the help of
fifty-seven merchant ships, including twenty-seven Victories. My Belgium Victory was there. The Lane Victory was there. We have the wheels and builders' plates for the Twin Falls Victory and the Wesleyan
Victory. They were there. We also have the builders' plates for the Lafayette Victory and the Manderson Victory. They were there with the rest during that bleak winter of 1950 in the "Forgotten War."
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