SS MEREDITH VICTORY
For actions on December 22, 1950
Gallant Ship Award Citation:
At the height of the epoch-making evacuation of Hungnam, Korea, by the United Nations Forces in December, 1950, the MEREDITH VICTORY was requested to assist in the removal of Korean civilians trapped and threatened with death by the encircling enemy armies. Most of the military personnel had been pulled out, and the city was aflame from enemy gunfire. Despite imminent danger of artillery and air attack, and while her escape route became more precarious by the hour, the MEREDITH VICTORY set her course through enemy minefields, and although having little food and water, and neither doctor nor interpreter, accomplished the three day voyage to safety at Pusan with her human cargo, including several babies born enroute, without loss of a single life.
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 MEREDITH VICTORY to be perpetuated as that of a Gallant Ship.
SS Meredith Victory was a Victory-type cargo ship built for the U.S. Maritime Commission by California Shipbuilding Corporation in Los Angeles, California. It was laid down on May 1, 1945 and launched less than one month later on May 23. The ship was named for Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina. Meredith Victory was employed in both government and commercial cargo service, first in the Pacific, and then the Atlantic, through 1950.
On June 28, 1950, Meredith Victory entered the James River Reserve Fleet for deactivation. Just three days earlier, however, the simmering conflict on the Korean peninsula soon spiraled into full-fledged war between North and South Korea and a United Nations (UN) force, led by the U.S., quickly intervened. Subsequently, the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) requested that the Maritime Commission activate reserve ships to support sealift operations.
In July, Meredith Victory was reactivated and assigned to Moore McCormack Lines as General Agent to transport military cargo to the Korean theater.
In October, Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) entered the conflict to aid the North Koreans. The surprise and swiftness of the CCF overwhelmed the defensive forces, driving them to evacuate to the beaches of Hungnam for transport to South Korea that winter. Responding to the CCF onslaught against the more than 100,000 troops and 90,000 North Korean civilians, the U.S military agreed to transport the civilians to safety.
Meredith Victory, at anchor off of Hungnam, North Korea under the command of Captain Leonard LaRue, was one of the many ships that assisted in the rescue of UN forces and Korean civilians fleeing the area.
Victory ships were designed to accommodate just 35 crewmembers and 12 passengers. Nonetheless, Meredith Victory managed to board more than 14,000 Korean civilians and steamed south unescorted while navigating a mine field and dodging air attacks. Refugees were packed chest-to-chest on deck and in the cargo holds, while others rested on top of jet fuel drums.
The ship sailed for two days to Pusan, South Korea without additional food, water, or protection. Miraculously there were no casualties, which later earned Meredith Victory the nickname “Ship of Miracles.” In fact, five babies were born during the voyage. The vessel is considered to hold the record for the largest evacuation from land by a single ship.
Arriving at Pusan on Christmas Eve, Meredith Victory was only allowed to evacuate its wounded and take on interpreters and a small supply of food and water before being redirected to the island of Koje-Do, where it disembarked the refugees on Christmas Day.
Meredith Victory served as part of the MSTS fleet, with Captain LaRue in command, until 1952, when it was laid up in the Olympia Reserve Fleet in Olympia, Washington. The vessel was activated again in 1966 in MSTS cargo operations during the Vietnam War. At that time it was operated by American President Lines.
In 1970 the vessel was laid up for the last time, at the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet in Benicia, California. Meredith Victory was sold to Chenco International and removed from the fleet on October 1, 1993. The ship was dismantled later that year.
1. MSTS was a post-World War II combination of four predecessor government agencies that handled similar sealift functions. These included the Navy’s Naval Transportation Service and Fleet Support Service, the Army Transport Service, and the War Shipping Administration of the United States Maritime Commission. In 1970, MSTS was renamed the Military Sealift Command (MSC).