|On 14 August 1950, the U.S. Navy re-commissioned USS Pirate (AM 275) to serve in the Korean War, which
had begun the previous June with the North Korean invasion of South Korea. During her service in the war,
Pirate served as a minesweeper off the east coast of Korea. On 12 October 1950, Pirate, along with several
other ships, was sweeping the area of the Wonsan Harbor near Sin-Do island. During her sweeping activities,
Pirate was alerted of the presence of several mines and that the first confirmed mine position was close to
her. As she was turning to change her course, she struck a mine. Then several moments later the same fate
befell USS Pledge (AM 277). Although the Pirate sank
in just four minutes and six enlisted men's lives were lost, Pirate had helped to clear the waters allowing the UN ships
better access to Wonsan harbor and the continuation of their attack on North Korea.
To learn details about
what happened that fateful day, as well as read the list of fatalities
and survivors, continue reading "Sea War in Korea", a government
document based on the After Action Report, and other sections of
this page of the Korean War Educator.
Sea War in Korea
At the Hague Convention of 1907, it was agreed that all contact mines should be moored, and so
constructed as to destroy themselves if they should break loose. This law was never signed by the USSR, or
North Korea. The excellent U.S. Navy minesweeping forces of World War II, were literally dissolved after
World War II. There were only three U.S. Naval Officers in the Pacific Fleet with mine warfare experience
when the Korean War started.
In October 1950, the U.S. Navy begin the minesweep of Wonsan, North Korea
Harbor, a 400-mile harbor, with many small islands, on the east coast of Korea. It was found that the
400-square mile minefield contained more than 3,000 contact type, and magnetic type mines. The sweep was to
be a direct route to Wonsan, an amphibious landing route.
On 12 October 1950, Lieutenant Commander Bruce
Hyatt led a formation in his flagship, USS Pirate-AM-275, with the USS Pledge-AM-277, and the
USS Incredible-AM-249 following astern. Laying Dan Buoys (Dan Buoys are used to mark the edge of a
swept channel), astern of the USS Pirate was the USS Redhead-AM-32,with the USS Kite-AM-22
on shotgun duty astern of the Incredible, the USS Endicott-DMS-35 steamed close astern of the
sweep formation. They were passing between Yo-do and Ung-do islands.
At 1112, the fleet entered unswept
waters. Three minutes later, things began to happen fast. Two mines, their cables severed by the USS
Pirate, popped to the surface, then four more mines followed. The mines were 50 yards apart, and lay on
a north-south line between Yo-do and Ung-do. The USS Pledge, maneuvering astern through the mines cut
by the USS Pirate, swept three more mines with her port gear, then the USS Incredible in
formation cut a fourth mine. A helicopter pilot above radioed a (Cabbage Patch) of mines lay dead ahead of
the ships, and were bounded by the islands of Ung-do, Yo-do, Mo-do, and Sin-do.
Lieutenant Commander Hyatt
made the decision to continue the course. Lieutenant Commander Hyatt, and Lt. C.E. McMullen, skipper of the
USS Pirate, considered a turn at this critical point more dangerous than continuation on course. A
short time later the USS Pirate's stern rose from the water. The explosion of a mine directly
underneath had broken USS Pirate's main-deck into two parts. It capsized in four minutes.
USS Pledge, skipper Lt. Richard O. Young, cut her sweep gear, and put her motor whaleboat in the water
to rescue Pirate's survivors. Enemy shore batteries on Sin-do opened fire on the sinking USS
Pirate and her crew in the water. The USS Pledge opened up with her single three-inch gun, and
the enemy shifted its guns to the USS Pledge.
At this time there were at least 13 loose enemy mines
on the surface. Lieutenant Young called for air-support, as small caliber enemy fire came from Rei-To island
as well. The USS Pledge expended her three-inch ammunition, the ship was bracketed by enemy gun fire,
and its position was becoming untenable. Lieutenant Young ordered left full rudder, starboard engine, ahead
two-thirds. The ship turned about 30 degrees, and at 1220 struck an enemy mine. She was mined amidships, on
the starboard side, near the forward engine room.
Damage was extensive. Decks and bulkheads were ruptured
from keel to the open bridge. The hull split, and water rushed into the rupture. A U.S. Navy mine hunting
patrol plane overhead flown by Lcdr. Randall Boyd, XO-of VP-47, radioed the USS Endicott-DMS-35, and
spotted gunfire for them while they put small boats in the water for survivors and fired on the enemy guns
on Cho-do island. Aircraft from the carrier USS Leyte-CV-32 arrived with napalm, rockets, and
500-pound bombs, and worked over the enemy.
Then the USS Incredible radioed all their engines were
dead, and they were out of action. Altogether, there were 92 casualties from the two sunken U.S. Navy
vessels. Of these, 14 were MIA, and one died after rescue. The USS Pirate lost six crewmen:
- FN. Alfred Lewis Coleman, Lucedale, MS - KIA - son of Mrs. Lillie Bernice Taylor Coleman, Lucedale,
- END1 Adrain Warren Johnson, Mt. Sterling, KY - KIA - son of Mr. and Mrs. Burton Raymond Smith,
Klamath Falls, OR
- CS1 Earl Joseph Mocklin, New Orleans, LA - KIA- son of Mrs. John Mocklin, New Orleans, LA
- FN Robert John Nelson, San Francisco, CA - KIA - son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert M. Nelson, San
- FN Gerald George Smith, Charles City, LA - KIA
- EM3 John Norman Thomson, Baltimore, MD - KIA - son of Mr. and Mrs. John Thomson, Dundalk, MD
God bless these brave men.
The Salvage of Pirate
The next day a helicopter flying over the area spotted a number of mines around the wreckage. This meant
that for salvaging to occur, a sweep of the area had to be done. Once done when diving to the wrecks could
begin, the main focus was the retrieval of the onboard encryption devices. Due to imperfect weather and the
ship's location, a more complete salvage of Pirate and Pledge would have taken months to complete. Thus,
after the salvagers established that no classified information of use to the enemy was on board, the
demolition of the ship was ordered to destroy anything of possible use left on the ship. The officer's in
charge of the salvage operation decided to use routine air surveillance to insure that the enemy did not try
to salvage the ship.
An Item of Value
Contrary to the belief that there was only "a small chance of obtaining any item of value" from the
wreck, one artifact of great value was recovered. When Pirate went down in 1950 so did her 48-star American
flag. However, Captain Cornelius E. McMullen, Commanding Officer of
Pirate at the time of her sinking,
received an anonymous package sometime in 1952. Along with this package was a note stating that because he
had been Commanding Officer of Pirate the sender thought that he, McMullen, would like to have the package's
contents--the ship's American flag. On 28 May 1985, Captain McMullen donated the flag to the Naval
Historical Center, where it is presently on display in The Navy Museum's Korean War exhibit.
Crew of the USS Pirate
- CO - Lt. Cornelius E. McMullen, USN
- XO - Lt. (jg). Henry E. Davies, Jr., USN
- Gunnery Officer - Lt. (jg). Roy F. Hoffman, USN
- Operations Officer - Lt. (jg). Robert E. Creque, USN
- Communications Officer - Ens. John J. Eklund, USN
- Engineer Officer - Ens. Sam W. Wright, USN
- ENC. Joseph T. Danna, USN
- QMC. John B. Faulds, USN
- ENC. Vivien K. Love, USN
Bronze Star Recipients
Awarded for actions during the Korean War For their work in
rescuing twenty-five sailors from the minesweepers USS Pirate
and USS Pledge (which were mined, shelled, and sunk by the
enemy) and caring for injured men at Wonsan, the below members of
Underwater Demolition Team Three received the Bronze Star Medal:
- Lieutenant Daniel F. Chandler, United States Navy
- Lieutenant (junior grade) Philip M. Master, United States
- Seaman Philip E. Carrico, United States Navy
service in action against the enemy during minesweeping
operations at Wonsan, Korea.” Seaman Carrico was credited with
diving into the water under enemy gunfire and towing two injured
men aboard a life raft to a nearby craft. He also assisted five
other men to life rafts, and eventual safety. The survivors
rescued by Seaman Carrico were from the USS Pledge and USS
Pirate, which had been struck by enemy mines and gunfire. “His
devotion to duty was outstanding, and in keeping with the
highest traditions of the naval service.” Source: newspaper
article titled ‘Frogman’ Carrico Gets Bronze Star."
- Engineman First Class Christie J. Coleman, United States
- Stewardsman Lucio De La Calzada, United States Navy
- Seaman William B. Derry, United States Navy
- Boatswain’s Mate Third Edward M. Hazzard, United States Navy
- Seaman James W. Hoag, United States Navy
- Fireman Billie La R. Johnson, United States Navy
- Chief Boatswain’s Mate Dennis J. Keane, Jr., United States
- Draftsman (DMSV) Robert H. Larkin, United States Navy
- Quartermaster Second Charles F. Laws, United States Navy
- Electronics Technician First James K. Sellers, United States
- Boatswain’s Mate First Joseph F. Staley, United States Navy
- Seaman Willis B. Taylor, United States Navy
- Engineman Fireman Ralph C. Voltmer, United States Navy
- Boatswain’s Mate First Robert H. Walker, United States Navy
Source: U.S. Navy Publication All Hands, February 1952
Silver Star Recipients
Archer, Stephen Morris
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure
in presenting the Silver Star to Commander Stephen Morris Archer
(NSN: 0-71396), United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry
and intrepidity in action as Commander Underwater Reconnaissance
Element in support of naval forces conducting operations in
heavily mined waters during the period 10to 22 October 1950.
When the U.S.S. Pledge and U.S.S. Pirate were
mined on 12 October, he conducted rescue operations for
surviving personnel with disregard for his own safety in the
face of enemy gunfire from shore batteries. The leadership,
force, and judgment displayed by Commander Archer in directing
visual and sonar searches for mines throughout this period and
in supervising underwater demolition operations in the vicinity
of Koto and Rei-To Islands contributed directly to the
successful clearance of mine channels and anchorage areas off
Wonsan, Korea. His outstanding courage and steadfast devotion to
duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United
States Naval Service.
Davies, Henry E. Jr.
The Silver Star Medal, was awarded to Lt. (jg). Henry E. Davies, Jr., USN, 0-478746, for conspicuous
gallantry and intrepidity, in enemy action as Executive Officer of the USS Pirate-AM-275, during
mine sweeping operations in densely mined areas off Wonsan, Korea, on 12 October 1950. After his ship
had struck a mine, and having been ordered over the side by his Commanding Officer, he observed crew men
in the water, all of whom were either wounded or dazed. Despite the fact that the vessel's list was
increasing rapidly, and danger of her capsizing was imminent, he towed the men clear and assisted them
in reaching a life raft. Then, with complete disregard for the enemy gunfire and his own personal
safety, he boarded a passing boat to aid in the evacuation of wounded men from a stricken sister ship.
Hyatt, Bruce M.
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure
in presenting the Silver Star to Lieutenant Commander
Bruce M. Hyatt, United States Naval Reserve, for gallantry and
intrepidity in action as Commander Mine Division Thirty-Two and
in tactical command of that division during minesweeping
operations conducted in Wonsan Harbor preliminary to occupation
of Wonsan, Korea by United Nations forces. During the period 10
to 12October 1950. The ships of his division penetrated to a
depth of 19 miles from the outer mine defenses through heavily
mined waters until well within range of enemy shore batteries.
On 12 October he penetrated two lines of mines barring the
entrance to the outer harbor and carried out the sweeping plans
in the face of enemy gunfire until his flagship was mine. His
leadership and professional competence contributed greatly to
the efficient operation of the ships of his division and his
loyalty and steadfast devotion to duty were in keeping with
the highest traditions of the U. S. Naval Service. Action Date:
October 10 - 12, 1950 Service: Naval Reserve Rank: Lieutenant
Commander Company: Commander Division: Mine Division 32 USS
McMullen, Cornelius E.
Awarded for actions during the Korean War For gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as
Commanding Officer of the USS Pirate during minesweeping operations conducted in heavily mined
waters and in area subjected to enemy gunfire during the period 10 to 12 Oct 1950. The inspiring
leadership and professional competence constantly displayed by Lt. McMullen in the performance of this
mission contributed directly to the efficient operation of his ship and to the successful clearance of
mine free channels and anchorage areas off Wonsan, Korea. His loyalty and steadfastness to duty were in
keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
The USS Pirate had a crew of 77. Of those, six were
MIA/KIA and 51 were injured. The injured included three
officers and 48 enlisted men. In addition to the crew (six
officers and 71 enlisted men), the Commander of Mine Division 32 and
his staff of one Quartermaster were onboard the Pirate that
day and survived the sinking.
- Brown, EM2 Issac G.
- Brown, GM1 Robert A.
- Bryant, RD1 Vernon L.
- Burton, SO3 Charles M.
- Caputo, SN John D.
- Carey, HM1 Richard J.
- Carroll, EN3 Alvin D.
- Carter, 1C2 Davis I.
- Catyb, RM1 Albert M.
- Coomes, QM3 Kenneth R.
- Creque, LT (JG) Robert E.
- Crook, DC2 Victor H.
- Daman, FC2 Sherley H.
- Danna, ENC. Joseph T.
- Davies, LT (JG) Henry E. Jr.
- Demers, END3 George L. (USNR)
- DeRoche, QMS1 Howard J.
- Donatelli, SA Anthony
- DuRette, END2 David W. (USNR)
- Eklund, ENS. John J.
- Evans, SA William
- Falconer, BM1 Horace W.
- Faulds, QMC John B.
- Finn, EN3 Robert L.
- Flannagan, FN John W.
- Freudenberg, SN Ronald H.
- Garrow, EM1 Ernest F.
- Grengs, SA Ervan T.
- Gunn, SO3 Paul
- Henry, SA Robert L.
- Herty, EMP1 John H.
- Hetezel, SN Fred W.
- Hill, SK2 Winfred B.
- Hilt, EN3 Lionel C. Jr.
- Hoffman, LT (JG) Roy F.
- Hyatt, LCDR Bruce M.
- Jackson, SA Lawrence J. Jr.
- Kaul, SN Norman E.
- Kurtz, SN Edward A.
- Long, FN William C.
- Loutzenhiser, BT1 Howard W.
- Love, ENC Vivien K.
- Luethi, SA Jerry C.
- Lundin, SN Roger B.
- Mardon, SA Arthur L. Jr.
- McAnallen, SN Raymond E. - wounded. Born 1929/died 2012.
- McCullough, ENFN Rex R.
- McMullen, Lt. Cornelius Emmett
- Moore, QMS1 Charles J.
- Parker, END1 Warren
- Pianowski, DC3 Ernest M.
- Pierce, BM2 Winston C.
- Reed, HM1 Charles R.
- Richard, YNSN Earl J. "Rick"
- Rites, FP3 William E.
- Roulhac, TN Earl
- Scanlon, FN Roger W.
- Schoonen, YN2 David H.
- Scruggs, EN2 Albion C.
- Shafer, END1 William M.
- Shaules, RD3 Edward F.
- Sloan, ET3 Deward V. Jr.
- S now, SN Howard A.
- Snyder, QMS1 George M.
- Stanford, RM1 Joseph C.
- Stephenson, SN John P.
- Tottress, SD2 Elvert G.
- Tucker, FN Morris D.
- Vanskike, EMC Ophir R. Jr.
- Wall, EM2 Paul E.
- Woop, SA Thomas A.
- Wright, ENS Sam W.
- Young, GMM2 William B. - gunner's mate from Rockingham, NC