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For actions on November 26, 1965

Gallant Ship Award Citation:

Responding to a distress call on November 26, 1965, from the SS ODUNA which had run aground during a storm, the ADELINE FOSS raced to her aid. Heavy snow squalls and mountainous seas prevented rescue by sea. The Tug’s work boat was launched with a recue party of five men who fought their way through treacherous surf and then climbed for two miles over jagged rocks and a high cliff to reach the ODUNA. After a difficult descent, they made their way to the rock-strewn area near where the ship was grounded. With equipment brought from the tug, and aided by a line floated from the distressed vessel, the rescue party rigged up a breeches buoy with boatswain’s chair. Through this means, but in a perilous operation, seventeen crew members were safely hauled ashore.

The courage, resourcefulness, expert seamanship, and teamwork of her Master, officers, and crew in successfully effecting the rescue of survivors from a disabled ship have caused the name of the ADELINE FOSS to be perpetuated as a Gallant Ship.

Adeline Foss was a tugboat originally delivered to the U.S. Army in 1944 by Northwestern Shipbuilding of South Bellingham, Washington as Sgt. Raymond E. Baser (LT-452). In 1958, Foss Launch and Tug purchased the vessel and renamed it Adeline Foss.

On November 26, 1965, while towing a barge from Adak to Seward, Alaska, Adeline Foss received a distress call from SS Oduna, which had run aground off Cape Pankof, Unimak Island, Alaska.

Oduna was a Liberty-type ship delivered under the name Francis A. Retke on February 12, 1945, and operated by Boland & Cornelius Company under a General Agency Agreement with the U.S. Maritime Commission during World War II. The Commission laid the vessel up in the Wilmington, North Carolina Reserve Fleet on June 15, 1948, before removing and selling it in 1951. In the years that followed, the ship changed ownership and names several times before the Alaska Steamship Company purchased and renamed it Oduna in 1964.

Because of the poor weather conditions and heavy seas, it was impossible to safely tow Oduna, so Captain Guy H. Johnson, Jr., Adeline Foss’ master, anchored the barge that they were towing in a cove to allow more maneuverability for the tug to reach Oduna. When it was clear that this would not work due to the rough seas, four crewmen volunteered to hike overland to reach the stricken vessel.

The four-man party braved the rough surf in the tug’s small work boat piloted by the second officer. The men then climbed up the snow covered cliffs for two miles and then made an arduous descent to a rocky beach in line with Oduna’s bow. The rescue party used wire straps secured to a boulder and a line from Oduna to rig a breeches buoy line with a snatch block, haul lines, and boatswain’s chair. The men were able to bring 17 of Oduna’s crew safely to shore while combating the frigid conditions, and 15-to-20 foot high breakers. Captain Johnson also maneuvered Adeline Foss leeward of Oduna in the event that any crewmembers needed to be rescued from the sea. After the seventeenth crewmember made it safely ashore, the weather improved enough to allow a U.S. Air Force helicopter to recover the remaining 20 crewmembers still onboard the ship.

In addition to the Gallant Ship Award, the master and the crew that landed ashore, also received the Merchant Marine Meritorious Service Medal. On March 15, 1967, in Seattle, Washington, the Maritime Administration awarded the Gallant Ship Plaque, Unit Citations, and Meritorious Service Medals to Adeline Foss and its crew.

Last updated: Thursday, November 8, 2018