Navy Accounts of the Korean War
Loss of the USS Pledge (AM-277)

 
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Introduction

The following information was obtained from various sources on the Internet, including the Department of the Navy - US Naval Historical Center.  The story of the loss of the USS Pledge on October 12, 1950 can only be told by including the story of the sinking of the USS Pirate.  See "Sea War In Korea" below the casualty list and U.S.S. Pirate.  When the USS Pledge sank, she had one fatality, eight missing in action, and 61 survivors. The Korean War Educator is searching for the names of the survivors.  To add this and other information to the KWE, write to Lynnita.

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Fatalities
  • Sea War in Korea
  • Bronze Star awards
    • UDT awards
    • USN Bronze Star awards -  citations not yet found
    • USNR Bronze Star awards - citations not yet found
    • Bronze Star award citations
  • Silver Star awards
  • Survivors List

Fatalities of the Sinking of the USS Pledge

  • Cauthen, 3C Brenice - He was the son of Roach Cauthen (1900-1994) and Henrietta Davis Cauthen (1906-1975), who lived in Monroe, North Carolina at that time. - KIA
     
  • Fuller, 2C Vern Harris - Menomonie, WI - KIA

    E6 Fuller, USN, served in the U.S.S. Pledge-AM-277 as an Engineman First Class. His ship was sunk in enemy action in North Korea, and he was killed in that action, 10/12/50.  He was the husband of Mrs. Ardythe Lorraine Fuller, Yokosuka, Japan.  Fuller, born June 17, 1921 in the Barron County community of Dallas, was a 1938 Barron High School graduate. He studied at UW-Stout, then known as Stout Institute, for three semesters before enlisting in the Navy.
     
  • Galley, Kenneth Eugene - North Irwin, PA - KIA

    E3 Galley, USN, served in the U.S.S. Pledge-AM-277. His ship was sunk in enemy action in North Korea, and he was killed in that action, 10/12/50.  He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles John Galley, North Irwin, Pennsylvania and a fireman on the ship.
     
  • McCoy, Richard Thomas - Fresno, CA - KIA

    E6 McCoy, USN, served in the U.S.S. Pledge-AM-277. His ship was sunk in enemy action in North Korea, and he was killed in that action, 10/12/50.  Born June 22, 1926 in Fresno, California, he was a radarman.  He was the brother of Mrs. Cozette E. Bassett, Los Angeles, California.
     
  • McIlvaine, Lt. A. Lynn - served on the U.S.S. Pledge-AM-277.  His ship was sunk in enemy action in North Korea, and he was reportedly killed in that action, 10/12/50.
     
  • Moore, Charles J. - Born January 1, 1918, Moore was a Quartermaster First Class (Signalman) on the Pledge when she sank.
     
  • Nowak, RD2 Martin Joseph - born April 16, 1926, a son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Nowak, Niagara Falls, NY.  His brother was Thomas Nowak, who served in the US Navy from 1953 to 1973.  KIA
     
  • Smith, 3C Marcel Albert - Hoquiam, WA.  Damage Controlman on the ship, he was the husband of Mrs. Esther Lalena Smith, Bell Gardens, California, and the nephew of Mrs. Grant Wilkins of Montesano.   - KIA

    E4 Smith, USN, served in the U.S.S. Pledge-AM-277. His ship was sunk in enemy action in North Korea, and he was killed in that action, 10/12/50.
     
  • Turner, Robert William - Logansport, IN - KIA

    E7 Turner, USN, served in the U.S.S. Pledge-AM-277. His ship was sunk in enemy action in North Korea, and he was killed in that action, 10/12/50.   A chief engineman on the ship, he was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Francis Turner, Juniata, Altoona, Pennsylvania.

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.

The 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.


Bronze Star

Gordon William Sumner, in charge of a rescue crew on a Motor Whale Boat attached to the Pledge also received a Bronze Star.  Citation not yet found.

UDT Bronze Star Awards

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 [For] “heroic service in action against the enemy during minesweeping operations at Wonsan, Korea.”

  • Lieutenant Daniel F. Chandler, United States Navy
  • Lieutenant (junior grade) Philip M. Master, United States Naval Reserve
  • Seaman Philip E. Carrico, United States Navy

    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.

USN Bronze Star Awards (citations not yet found)

  • Stewardsman Lucio De La Calzada, United States Navy
  • Engineman First Class Christie J. Coleman, United States Navy
  • Seaman William B. Derry, United States Navy
  • Boatswain’s Mate Third Edward M. Hazzard, United States Navy
  • Seaman James W. Hoag (San Bernardino, CA), United States Navy
  • Fireman Billie La R. Johnson, United States Navy
  • Chief Boatswain’s Mate Dennis J. Keane, Jr., United States Navy
  • Draftsman (DMSV) Robert H. Larkin, United States Navy
  • Quartermaster Second Charles F. Laws, United States Navy
  • Electronics Technician First James K. Sellers, United States Navy
  • 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

USNR Bronze Star Awards (citations not yet found)

  • Lt. (jg) George W. Eidsness

USN Bronze Star Award Citation

  • Hospitalman Gordon W. Sumner

In  the name of the President of the United States the Commander Seventh Fleet takes pleasure in presenting the Bronze Star Medal to Gordon W. Sumner, Chief Hospitalman, USN, for services set forth in the following citation:

For heroic service while in charge of a rescue crew in the Motor Whale Boat attached to the USS Pledge during minesweeping operations in densely-mined areas subjected to enemy gunfire off Wonsan, Korea on 12 October 1950.  His  crew picked up many of the survivors of the sinking USS Pirate while under heavy fire from enemy shore batteries and by his skilled care of the wounded greatly minimalized the loss of life.  His outstanding courage and steadfast devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.  Combat Distinguishing Device is authorized.


Silver Star

Archer, Stephen Morris

General Orders: Commander 7th Fleet
Serial 1204 - December 13, 1950

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 10  to 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.

Link, Harry L.

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Engineman Third Class Harry L. Link (NSN: 3730516), United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action as a Fireman in the Forward Engine Room on board the U.S.S. Pledge (AM-277), during minesweeping operations in densely mined areas subjected to enemy gunfire off Wonsan, Korea, on 12 October 1950. Although painfully injured and dazed, he heroically assisted a semi-conscious shipmate who was unable to help himself to escape from the rapidly flooding engine room, and when clear of the ship, cared for him until picked up by a passing boat. His outstanding courage and steadfast devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Commander 7th Fleet: Serial 262 (February 20, 1951)
Action Date: September 26, 1950
Service: Navy
Rank: Engineman Third Class
Division: U.S.S. Pledge (AM-277)

McIlvaine, Aubrey L.

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Lieutenant, Junior Grade Aubrey L. McIlvaine (NSN: 0-433069), United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action as Safety Officer on a 3-inch gun on board the U.S.S. Pledge (AM-277) during minesweeping operations in densely mined areas subjected to enemy gunfire off Wonsan, Korea, on 12 October 1950. Through his leadership and judgment his gun crew took under fire and silenced two enemy shore batteries firing on a stricken sister ship, and after his own ship was mined, he unselfishly organized and directed the orderly evacuation of his crew, though painfully injured, thereby contributing to the successful clearing of mine free channels and anchorage areas off Wonsan. His outstanding courage and steadfast devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Commander 7th Fleet: Serial 262 (February 20, 1951)
Action Date: October 12, 1950
Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant Junior Grade
Company: Safety Officer
Division: U.S.S. Pledge (AM-277)

Young, Richard O.

For gallantry and intrepidity in action as Commanding Officer of the USS Pledge while engaged in mine sweeping operations in densely mined waters off Wonsan, Korea and in areas subjected to heavy gunfire from enemy shore batteries during the period 10 to 12 Oct. 1950. His inspiring leadership and professional ability contributed to the successful clearance of mine free channels and anchorage areas off Wonsan. His loyalty and steadfast devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U. S. Naval Service.


Survivors List (61 survivors - list incomplete as of 5/04/2017)

[KWE Note: According to Doug Voss, all survivors of the sinking of the USS Pledge were granted a 37-day furlough.   They were to report back to duty on December 23, 1950.]

  1. Eidsness, LT JG George W., USNR - gunnery officer
  2. Kinney, Bill
  3. Link, Harry L. - fireman, forward engine room
  4. Lynch, Robert Eugene - fireman, son of Mr. and Mrs. Walter M. Lynch of Waco, TX
  5. McIlvaine, LT JG Aubrey L. - safety officer, son of Mrs. Daisy Dean McIlvaine of Clearfield, PA
  6. Miller, Robert A., USNR - Townsend, Montana (also a WWII veteran)
  7. Milliken, RADARMAN 2C Richard Cole - son of Mr. and Mrs. Roger Irvin Milliken of Kittery, NH
  8. Pollock, FT3 Carlton A. - Grants Pass, Oregon
  9. Price, ___
  10. Saling, Jerry - Quincy, Pennsylvania
  11. Sumner, Gordon William - (b. Portland, Multnomah, Oregon, 1921/d. Retsil, Kitsap, WA 2010)
  12. Van Buren, Ervin Leroy - believed to be on this minesweeper
  13. Voss, Douglas Leroy - died August 5, 2011
  14. Warner, EN2 John M. - served on the Pledge from August 12, 1949 until she sank
  15. Young, LT Richard O. - Commanding officer
 

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