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SS DOLLY TURMAN

For actions on October 26, 1961
Gallant Ship Award Citation:

Responding to a distress call on October 26, 1961, from the Japanese Ship SS Fukuzan Marufoundering in mountainous seas on the edge of a typhoon, the Dolly Turman raced to her aid. With the Dolly Turman as escort the ill-fated vessel attempted to reach port. After struggling through the night to save their ship, the crew of the Fukuzan Maru was finally forced the next morning to attempt to abandon ship. In gale swept seas the Dolly Turmanlowered a lifeboat despite extreme danger of it being swamped by the waves or crushed by the severe rolling of the ship. The brave men of the lifeboat crew showed no hesitancy in their destination to reach their fellow seamen though it demanded complete disregard of their own safety. The Dolly Turman lifeboat reached the stricken vessel and in less than one hour the transfer of 47 men was complete. Moments later an explosion rocked the Fukuzan Maru and caused her to sink in less than two minutes.

The courage, resourcefulness, sound seamanship, and teamwork of her master, officers and crew in successfully completing one of the greatest marine rescues in the history of the world have caused the name of the Dolly Turman to be perpetuated as that of a Gallant Ship.

SS Dolly Turman, originally built as Crest of the Wave, was a break-bulk cargo ship built for the U.S. Maritime Commission by Consolidated Steel Corporation in Los Angeles, California.  It was completed on July 8, 1946.  Agwilines Inc. operated the ship under a general agency agreement for the War Shipping Administration[1] for approximately five months before the Maritime Commission sold the ship to Lykes Brothers Steamship Co. in November 1946.  Lykes Brothers renamed the vessel Dolly Turman and operated it in commercial trade for the remainder of its career.

On the morning of October 26, 1961, Dolly Turman was homebound to New Orleans, Louisiana from Nasipit, Philippines, sailing on the fringes of Typhoon Betty, when Captain John L. Potts received a distress call from the Japanese vessel Fukuzan Maru.  The ship was 150 miles off the coast of Saipan in the Marianas Islands amid the typhoon when it struck an object. Not long after the collision, water began pouring into its cargo holds.  With their vessel quickly foundering in high seas, Fukuzan Maru’s crew sent a distress signal.

The distress call was received by Dolly Turman, the Norwegian ship MV Ferncliff, and by the Naval Air Station on Guam, which dispatched USS Brister (DE/DER-327), to assist. Racing against high seas, Captain Potts arrived about five hours later.  Fukuzan Maru’s Captain, Yoshinosuke Okano, had first hoped that he could save the ship and requested that Dolly Turman escort it into port; however, he soon realized that his vessel was too severely damaged and he was forced to order his 47-man crew to abandon ship.

After receiving the abandon ship call, Captain Potts launched a lifeboat manned by ten of DollyTurman’s crew.  Within an hour after reaching the crippled vessel, Fukuzan Maru’s entire crew was safely onboard Dolly Turman.  Meanwhile, Ferncliff spread oil on the water to calm the storm-whipped waves.  Less than 90 minutes after the rescue began, the crippled Japanese ship exploded, sinking within two minutes.

Onboard Dolly Turman, the ship’s crew offered their Japanese counterparts dry clothing, food, and coffee.  Twenty-four hours after the rescue, Dolly Turman transferred the Japanese sailors to Brister, which was waiting anchored off the coast of Saipan, before continuing on its voyage to New Orleans.

Dolly Turman remained in commercial service until February 28, 1970, when it was sold to the salvage company Nan Feng Steel Enterprise in Taiwan.

[1] In 1942 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the War Shipping Administration (WSA) in response to America’s entrance into World War II. Executive Order 9054 effectively separated the Maritime Commission into two parts; the Commission to design and construct ships and the WSA to acquire and operate them. Although administratively separated, the two agencies worked closely together.

Updated: Monday, October 29, 2018