Navy Accounts of the Korean War
Sinking of the USS Sarsi

 
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   Introduction

The following information was obtained from various sources on and off the Internet, including the Survivors of the USS Sarsi and the Department of the Navy - US Naval Historical Center.  To add other information, write to Lynnita.

Table of Contents:


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USS Sarsi Booklet

Dedication

This book is dedicated to the five crew members of the USS Sarsi ATF 111 who lost their lives on the night of August 27, 1952:

- Chief Quartermaster Raymond Parrish
- Steward 2C Hampton Carter
- Radarman 3C Robert Slattery
- Damage Control Man Charles Kunsch, Jr.
Yeoman 3C Hubert Demerest

In Memory of

Sarsi crew members that have passed away from 1952 to the present.
You are not forgotten and a special prayer goes out to you and your families.

Special Thanks

Susie Collins Fry, sister of Millard Collins, who sent information regarding
her brother.  Millard passed away just a few months before this book was started.

Mr. Joseph R. Russell, Attorney, Missouri.  Mr. Russell received a
"Survivor Search Letter" and although he was not the Russell being sought,
he took the time to locate the Sarsi crew member currently residing in California.

Thanks to

Bill Hodgerson, Jim O'Connell, Terry Worden and Pete Peterson for information
they have provided for the book and for their assistance in the search for survivors.

All the survivors who sent their personal experiences of the night of August 27, 1952.
Without their help, this book could not have been completed.

To my wife, Judi, who spent hours and hours retyping, making copies, and helping me
put all this information into book form.

- Kenny Vining

List of Crew Members:

Adams, William Anderson, Wilbur D. Barton, Ira
Bennett, John D. Breeden, Joseph D. Brown, John N.
Bryant, Paul J. Burns, Donald D. Burza, Peter S.
Butler, William F. Campbell, Colin J. Carr, Clyde P.
Collins, Millard A. Corbid, James J. Crow, Earl D.
Deardorff, John A. Dierking, Dennis G. Draber, Ervin A.
Flores, Joseph Fuller, Louis F. Germaine, Johnnie T.
Hamann, Eugene E. Havert, Robert K. Henderson, Robert F.
Hertz, Donald R. Hill, Jackie R. Hodgerson, William w.
Hoffman, Marion E. Hughes, Clarence E. Keller, James A.
Kenny, Joseph G. King, James W. Knight, Gerald W.
Lee, Claude M. Lee, Marion C. Leslie, Harry J.
Love, Robert K. Marino, Francis J. Martens, John R.
MCCoy, Herschel H. McDonald, Richard Moates, Richard M.
Mowery, Richard R. Moysey, Edward D. Nader, George Q.
Nash, Robert E. Neff, Robert E. Nicholls, Jack L.
Noel, Richard L. Norman, Joseph L. Novick, Lawrence N.
O'Connell, James W. Paul, Hubert M. Peterson, Alan
Pittman, Cecil H. Pollard, James H. Pumphret, William F.
Rabe, James A. Roberson, James C. Robnett, Wilbur W.
Rodriquez, Richard S. Russell, Joseph P. Sheridan, James E.
Scarpaci, Gordon W. Siebold, Lawrence E. Smith, James Bernard
Smith, James Barton Suski, Joseph F. Taylor, Harold L.
Thiroux, Louis R. Tresner, Robert H. Trimble, Jesse F.
Vining, Kenneth Waters, Kenneth F. Watson, Bruce E.
Westbrook, Weldon A. Wheelis, Floyd Williams, Carl R.
Williams, Richard R. Whitler, Willard B. White, Cecil M.
Wommack, Hines L. Wood, Raymond E. Worden, Terry G.
Workman, Leonard D.
Officers:
Brown, Jack N. Gatts, William H. Howard, William M.
Phelan, Donald W. Santangelo, Louis Shordt, Pete H.
Casualties:
Carter, Hampton C. Demerest, Hubert Kunsch, Otto
Parrish, Raymond S. Slattery, Robert J.

Record of Proceedings of An Investigation

To inquire into the sinking of the U.S.S. Sarsi (ATF-111) in the vicinity of Hungnam, Korea on or about 0600, 28 August 1952, causing ship and personnel casualties.

Memories of the Sarsi Survivors

Anderson, Wilbur D. - Rochester, Minnesota

I want to apologize for being so slow to return information that I have about myself and the Sarsi.  I don't have very many pictures because I came aboard only a few months before we went overseas.  The few clippings I have are not too accurate but will send them along anyway.

My recall of the Sarsi sinking is still quite vivid.  I was one of six or eight guys hanging onto the rings of a spare buoy.  Two of the men were a steward named Carter, and my boss, QM Chief Parrish.  I remember that Carter panicked and drowned himself as the sea swells engulfed us, and Parrish never was conscious when we found him.  We took turns holding onto him so he wouldn't drift away.  Sometime during the night and early morning both were released because two others didn't have life jackets (re the clipping).  I recall tremendous sadness knowing Parrish left behind a beautiful wife and little daughter in San Diego.  Her picture was a prominent fixture on the charting table in the QM area.

My GQ station was starboard--aft life raft.  The saltwater releases were rusty and we couldn't get the raft loose.  I recall hearing the concrete buoy anchors sliding on the aft deck as the ship tilted forward.  When the water came up to our knees we bailed out and swam like hell.  I hooked up with the others by voice communication.  I don't know who, or how, we found the floating buoy.  We feared drifting ashore and tried to swim seaward, but to no avail, because the sea swells were too high, and we tired quickly.  "Charlie Horses" came on regularly for most of us.  We tried to massage each others knotted legs but that did not help much.  We attempted to sing something once to keep our spirits up, but that didn't last very long.

Shortly after daylight we were spotted by a copter, which gave us the thumbs-up "high-sign", and dropped a smoke bomb.  A short time later we were picked up by the USS Boyd.  They dropped a cargo net for us to climb, but none of us could lift our bodies out of the water, so several sailors jumped in to help lift us out.  Sure was a great feeling!!  We had no idea how anyone else had fared until later.

After shore leave I was processed through Treasure Island and reassigned to the staff of COMPHIBGROUP #1 as a signalman.  I served two year-long tours (Far East) aboard the USS Estes, and USS Eldorado (communication ships).  I finished my tour of duty at the naval signal tower in San Diego.

Upon discharge I returned to Minnesota, went to college, and spent 32 years teaching school in Rochester, Minnesota (the #1 city in the USA in 1994).  A fine place to raise a family!

I have been retired four years, and am enjoying it very much.  I have cultivated many hobbies along the way so always manage to keep very busy.  You might guess I love to hunt and fish.  Tying trout flies is a wonderful way to spend cold Minnesota winter nights.

Forty-two beautiful years of marriage produced a daughter and two sons, all of whom are married and living within the confines of Minnesota.  We have five grandchildren so family has been very important to us.  Our good fortune has also been good health, so life has been very good to us.

Within the last 1 1/2 years I have heard from Bill Hodgerson in Oklahoma City, and Jim O'Connell.  These are the only two I know anything about from the Sarsi.  They traced me through my brother in our hometown of Jasper in western Minnesota.

I appreciate the effort you are putting forth to compile Sarsi information Ken!!  I hope this tidbit I have will help in some way.  I remember you from the picture you sent, but I do not recall your ship assignment?  I was topside trying to learn the QM trade.  I got lots of practice later on while on two communication ships.  Not a good job experience to transfer into civilian life. - Wilbur D. Anderson

Brown, John - Coos Bay, Oregon

In answer to your letter, to the best of my memories, when I went aboard, the Captain asked me if I would become an engineer.  I said no!  I would do my duty as a deck hand.  I did and it saved my life as the engineer went down with the Sarsi.  In total (5) went down with the ship.  I got off duty at 11:30 p.m. and went back aft and got ready to go to bed.  Just as I did, I heard a roar and felt the ship stop as we hit the mine.  I went up on deck, put on a life saver, and started releasing the raft.  I did and at that time, the ship started to go under and the Captain said, "Abandon ship", twice, and down she went.  The life boat pulled two rafts and we stayed in the water from 12:15 to around 7:00 a.m. and was rescued by another ATF.  We went to Sasebo, Japan and in about one week, got aboard a troop ship and came back to San Francisco.  I did the rest of my time at Treasure Island.  That is about all I can remember.  I'm sorry, but it has been a real long time. - John Brown

February 6, 1996 - After your letter and phone call, I've been thinking and so here goes.  Yes, when the Sarsi went down, I tried to the best of my knowledge to really help.  I did, with help, cut the raft loose and did help release the motor boat.  The others went down too.  When we were told to abandon ship, I jumped from the port side by the stern.  I helped, or tried to get people into the raft.  I also took off my life jacket and gave it to another person who said he couldn't swim.  He dog-paddled to the beach, was shot and killed.  The life jacket had my name and navy number on it.  The Navy notified my folks and told them I died in Korea.

When we came back to Treasure Island, my Dad was there to pick me up.  We went home to Westwood in the high Sierras.  In Susanville, as long as I was in uniform it did not cost me anything to eat or drink.  When I went back to Treasure Island, I did the rest of my duty on shore, not back to sea.  I'm sorry I don't have any pictures to give you but I would like to have a copy of what your wife is putting together.  I'm somewhat of a collector of what has happened to me and my life.  So if you can, I'll tell you thanks in advance. - John Brown

Burns, Donald D. - Gig Harbor, Washington

I joined the Navy in November 1951 in Des Moines, Iowa.  I was 17 years old and joined in what they called a "baby diaper cruise".  I was to get out of the Navy one day before I turned 21.

Went to boot camp in San Diego and was in CO147.  After boot camp, I went aboard the USS Sarsi ATF111 and after shake down, we headed to the Far East.  It took 30 days to get to Sasebo, Japan with a stopover in Hawaii.  I was seaman and my first duty on the Sarsi was mess cooking.  Our job in Japan and Korea was to tow ships, patrol, underwater work with divers and working with the South Korean Navy.  My GQ station was JA telephone talker on the boat deck for the twin 40's but I remember doing a lot of paint chipping and painting on the ship.  I also remember one time, standing deck watch with an M1 rifle when an officer tried sneaking up to check on me.  I pointed the gun at him and told him to halt.  He said, "Take it easy Burns and for God's sake, don't shoot."  I would have shot if he hadn't stopped.  (Officer unknown.)

Leading up to August 27, I got a letter from home from my mother about four days before the sinking.  For some reason I hadn't answered her letter and was in my rack (the night of the 27th) when I decided to get up and write to her.  I felt bad that I hadn't answered the letter sooner.  I had just put the finished letter in the mail box in the lunch room when the ship hit the mine.  I remember being thrown to the deck and then went up to my abandon ship station on the boat deck where I got my pick of the life jackets.  Things started happening pretty fast and my memory gets a little fuzzy here.  I remember someone called for me to go to the main deck and help there.  When they said abandon ship, I was mid-ship on the starboard side and stepped off into the water.  I swam away from the ship and found a buoy with about 9 or 10 men hanging on to it.  There was a chief there, but I can't remember who he was.  I was a good swimmer and was not afraid of the water.  I remember seeing lights and hearing voices on shore.  Some of us wanted to swim to shore but the Chief said it was best to stay and try to go out to sea because that way we would have a better chance of being picked up.  We learned later that the voices and lights were from the North Koreans who were waiting for us to drift ashore.  I do remember the water being cold and very choppy.  A crewman was let go from the buoy because he had died.  Someone gave his life jacket to another crewman.

I think my group was picked up by the USS Boyd.  I can't remember too much more; in thinking back, I believe I blocked out thoughts of the sinking--just didn't want to remember.  I was only 18 years old at the time.

In boot camp, I met a guy by the name of Ken Vining from Colorado.  We went all the way through the Navy together.  He was best man at my wedding in 1954.  In 1994, 39 years later, Ken found me in Tacoma and we have been in touch many times since.  I am now 62 and Vining is 64.  My wife and I have three children, a daughter and two sons, and five grandchildren.  In April 1966, I started working for the City of Tacoma and joined the Army National Guard in 1978.  I retired from the Guard in 1995 and the City of Tacoma April 1, 1996. 

I think I was blessed the night the Sarsi sank.  It was all in the hands of God and I am also blessed with a wonderful family. - Donald Burns

Burza, Peter - Oswego, New York

March 27, 1996 - After I left the Sarsi I went to the USS General A.E. Anderson (AP111).  Good duty.  Then to US Naval Mine Defense Laboratory, Panama City, Florida (shore duty).  Good liberty town!  Then to the USS Forrest Royal (DD-872).  Tin can duty was rough, on the go a lot.  Got my twenty in and then went home.  Soon after, I met a widow.  It's been 32 years plus and we are still together.  She has her home and I have mine.  We like it that way (crazy).  It works for us.  Well, I'm not good at writing letters, so I will say so long, and be good to all. - Peter Burza

Carr, Clyde P. - Portland, Oregon

I was a young green 18 year old SA when I was assigned to the USS Sarsi ATF111.  To me, going aboard the Sarsi at that time, was a great experience and I enjoyed my shipmates as well.

As I remember the events of that fatal night, it was a little past midnight, the mid-watch had been set and the remaining crew was in their bunks asleep when the alarm went off.  This was no drill this time, it was for real.  I went topside to my duty station--the order had already been given to abandon ship.  I went to the life boat and found it full of water.  I jumped in and pulled the plug to let the water out while it was being put out over the side.  Just before it got in the water someone yelled to put the plug back in, which I was doing anyway.  Everyone seemed a little anxious at the time.

I believe "Big smith" was at the aft crank when the lifeboat was being swung out.  I do not remember who was at forward crank.  I held the line and held the boat to the gunwale as we started putting people into the boat.  The boatswain had us cast off and we made a large circular swing to see who else we could help.  It was very dark out with no moon showing.  We found two groups with life rafts.  They were tied on, in tow.  The senior older hands had a discussion as to where we should head.  A decision was made for us to head out to sea for our safety.

I believe one of the gunners mates brought an M-1 and a couple of clips of ammo aboard.  There was a discussion as to how effective it might be should we encounter an enemy ship.  We seemed glad that he brought the weapon anyway.  It was a partial security blanket.

Because of where we were and who might be coming to look for us, besides our guys, it was decided we keep quiet as we headed away from the wreckage of the Sarsi.  Several times we thought we saw ships pass by that night, but we were not sure who they were, so silence was the order and we kept on going.  One of our passengers on one of the life rafts complained about his state in life.  I volunteered to trade places with him but was summarily told to stay put in my place.

As the grey light started to break thru the black night, we knew searchers would be out looking for us and our thoughts shifted to how we could help our searchers find us.  One of our radar techs said it would help if we had some kind of metal screen to assist the searchers radar to pick us up on their screen.  It was finally decided to pull the cover off of the engine and hold it in place.  It wasn't long thereafter when a mine sweeper headed for us.

We were soon picked up and put aboard, the wet members of our crew were given blankets to keep warm and we had hot coffee.  The crew of the mine sweeper said they heard the "may day" call and started searching for us right away.  Several other mine sweepers assisted in the search as well.  They said they criss-crossed the area several times before we were spotted that a.m.

We were later transferred to the USS Platt, a larger ship, and returned to Japan.  While on our return to Japan, we sent telegrams to our families and loved ones letting them know that we were safe and would be returning home soon.

While in Japan, we were re-issued our shots.  I made a minor complaint, because I had just had them prior to coming aboard a few months earlier.  The corpsman said they had no record to go by (they were at the bottom of the bay with the Sarsi) so we get them again and that was that!  Our personnel records were reassembled and we were scheduled out for shipment back home to the States for leave and re-assignment.

After leave, some of us were regrouped at Treasure Island for reassignment.  I requested another tug, but was sent to Stockton, California to the mothball fleet for duty.  I was there for a year and transferred to the USS Rochester CA124, a heavy cruiser, for more sea duty.  I was later transferred to a destroyer tender at Long Beach Naval Ship Yards for duty for my last six months before being discharged and getting out of the service.

After getting out of the Navy, I went to college to further my education and get a degree in engineering.  I always loved the small work boats and later worked at a small shipyard in Portland, Oregon working on river tugs and commercial fishing vessels as a marine engineer.  I loved the work.  When the yard was closed, I went into construction and worked as a project manager and construction manager for several years in Saudi Arabia and Alaska.  I now reside in Portland where I have a real estate business and an accounting business. - Clyde P. Carr

Collins, Millard (died December 1994)

Letter from Susie Collins Fry:

I am writing for my sister-in-law, Helen Collins, on behalf of her husband and my brother, Millard A. Collins, who was aboard the Sarsi when it sank the night of August 27, 1952.

My brother passed away due to lung and throat cancer in December 1994.  The night the Sarsi went down was very vivid to him.  Just before he lost his voice, he was telling my husband and I about the incident and tears came to his eyes.  He told us that the only reason he survived, God had other plans for him.  When he came home from the service, he married Helen and they had two sons, now in their thirties, and three grandchildren.

Enclosed are copies of newspaper clippings of his account of the incident.  We hope this is helpful in your assembling a scrapbook.  My sister-in-law Helen would like to get copies for their sons.

William Hodgerson from Oklahoma City, who was also on the Sarsi, had called to talk to Millard, but by this time, he was unable to talk.  Millard was so delighted to hear from one of his shipmates.  He said at the time of the phone call that was the first time he had heard from any of the Sarsi shipmates.

On behalf of Helen and their sons, thank you for your inquiry and again hope these articles can be of help.  They look forward to seeing the scrapbook. - Susie Collins Fry

Note: The following is quoted from the Kingsport Times-News, an interview with Millard while home on survivor's leave.

"How does it feel to have a  ship blown out from under you?  Millard Collins can tell you.  Twenty-year-old Collins is home on a 30-day leave now but August 27 he was on the USS Sarsi fleet tug off the coast of North Korea.  Collins went to sleep that night but didn't expect to spend the night in enemy waters without a life jacket.

It all began November 28, 1951.  That is when Collins joined the United States Navy.  Everything in the Navy was standardized, according to Collins.  That is, it was until that very dark night on the Sarsi.

The Sarsi had one purpose and that was to patrol the Korean coastline and locate water mines planted by the enemy.  This can be dangerous work.  There are many ways of locating mines but the best of mine-detecting devices can go wrong.  That's when a ship can fail to locate a mine and smash into the TNT-loaded ball-like container.  The 205' Sarsi was plowing along about 175 miles beyond the 38th parallel on the night of August 27.  Collins said he had been asleep when he was jarred awake by a loud noise.  He jumped out of his bunk and asked a companion what had happened.  "We hit a mine or went aground" was the answer.  He noticed the time was about 20 minutes before midnight.  Then he rushed to the life jacket container.  There were none.

The Sarsi's deck was listing when Collins came topside.  Collins said there was an announcement made to abandon ship and he jumped.  As he swam away from the Sarsi voices could be heard from the listing deck calling, "It's a dream.  It's a dream."  Collins said he could hardly believe he was swimming out there in the oil and salt water without a life jacket.  But the cold water convinced him it wasn't a dream.  About 200 yards from the Sarsi, Collins glanced back at his floating home.  The rear of the ship, fantail, was the only visible outline against the sky.  Then it slid beneath the water.  Collins said for just a moment a person felt that there couldn't be a more lonely swimmer in the ocean than he.  Ninety-seven men had lived on the Sarsi.  Now they were swimming around off the enemy mainland about three miles from shore.

Collins found a buoy and grabbed an extension of iron pipe.  There were thirteen men clinging to that buoy.  Then began the waiting.  Collins or any of the men had no idea when rescue craft would come.  With no radio contact they were sure the fleet would know the Sarsi had met trouble.  But the men were floating on a buoy in the middle of a mine field.  For all they know their feet could be only a few feet from a submerged mine.  What does a man do when he is floating in the ocean, sick from swallowing oil and salt water and trying to hang on to a buoy?  First, the men would take turns rubbing each other's legs.  Cramps could cause a man to drown and they all had cramps in their legs.  Three of the thirteen didn't have life jackets.  Collins was one of the three.  They had the added problem of holding themselves above the water.  Two men with life jackets were wounded.  The Chief--same as a first sergeant in the Army--spoke to the men.  Both failed to answer.  They were dead.  The group kept the bodies in hopes that a ship would come soon.  It didn't.  Finally the Chief ordered the jackets removed and given to the men who needed them.  Collins received one of the jackets.  Oil covered the faces of all the men.  That and the darkness made it impossible for the men to recognize each other except by the sound of their voices.

Daylight came.  The men had been in the water over seventy hours.  As the buoy rose and fell on the crest of each wave, the men could see the enemy shoreline.  The tide had changed and was now carrying them away from the beach.  The ingoing tide had pushed the men to within one mile of the beach.  A helicopter hovered over the men almost before they knew it.  The pilot dropped a smoke flare.  In less than an hour a ship arrived and picked up the men.  Other ships had scouted the mined area and picked up the remainder of the Sarsi's crew.  Five were missing.  How did that night pass?  Collins said, surprisingly enough, it passed pretty fast for him.  There was never an idle moment and that had a lot to do with the time factor, he said.

Collins said he didn't talk with the pilot of the helicopter but he heard it was reported enemy soldiers were waiting along the beach for the survivors of the mine blast to be washed ashore.

And it's sure good to be back in Kingsport.  It's a bad feeling when your ship goes down.  Worse when you find out some of the buddies you lived with went down with it.  Course it's nice to be back in Kingsport.  Seems that a person could almost forget that there's a war going on if he could stick 'round here.  That's the pity of it all.

Corbid, Jim

Got your letter today and I will help you all I can.  I'll look for pictures tomorrow.  You sent no picture of yourself so don't know if you were on deck force or not.  I do remember a Joseph Kenny.  I hear from Bill Hodgerson.  In fact, he called me last Saturday. 

Now, a little about myself.  I retired in 1987 from UPS.  I was married almost 35 years.  My wife died in 1989, just a year and five months after I retired.  We had five children, some around here.  Last year I drove back to Minnesota where I am from, although I've been out here since 1954.  I would like the pictures back when you are through but it's not important so don't worry about it if you can't.  Will say so long for now.  I'll have to look on a map and find out just where you are.  Good to hear from you. - Old Shipmate, Jim Corbid

Hi, Ken.  Jim again.  I was gun captain on the 40's the night the ship sank.  I was just going on watch, it was sixteen minutes to midnight.  I was in the wash room.  My station was starboard life rafts.  After the ship went down, I was with Chief Parrish.  Curtis was also with us.  At about 4:00 a.m. we took Parrish and Curtis' life jackets as there were two with us that had none.  We had a small buoy.  The only ones I remember with me was an Ensign and a kid from Minnesota that was my bow hook on the old man's gig.  I am going to try and write to a kid I think was with me. - Jim Corbid

Deardorff, John - Port Orchard, Washington

I'm very sorry I have not answered your letters before now.  Time goes so fast when you are 39 years plus.  I'm still working to have something to keep me busy.

The night the Sarsi went down, I had just come down from checking the ammo ready lockers and all of a sudden, I was on my back on the deck of our sleeping compartment.  Acrid smoke and red lights told me something was wrong.  I went topside and was in water up to my knees.  I heard someone say, "Is this abandon ship?" and someone else said, "What the hell do you think it is?"  I then went to GQ and the flare locker but the ship was so broke into I could barely get the lid open.  Then Bos'n Brown said, "Man the 40 MM guns" and I said, "What the hell are we going to shoot at, submarines and airplanes?"

So much went on in those few minutes it is hard to say.  I do remember going to the bridge and getting all the small arms I could carry and took them to the life boats.  The last time I saw Slattery was when I handed him a 45 Thompson submachine gun.  He was in a lifeboat still in the davits.

I think your picture and Bill Hodgerson are in some of the pictures I sent.  By the way, the group picture is of the Greek ship crew and us as a party they had for us in Sasebo after we returned to Sasebo after the sinking.  If you know anyone, put their name on the back, please.  I'm looking forward to the reunion.  Wish it could be sooner.  - John Deardorff

P.S. - I still don't think we hit a mine.  Think back to the night before when we chased a target on radar we could not catch the size of a buoy? - John

Draber, Ervin A. - Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Jim O'Connell was able to get the following information regarding Ervin from his widow.

Ervin died suddenly of a massive heart attack at the age of 61 on October 6, 1991 while vacationing on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He married October 1952 after the Sarsi sunk.  After the sinking, he was assigned to Sonar School at Point Loma, California.  He stayed there two years, then left the Navy.  He and his wife, Lillian, had three children: Ervin, Jr. born January 1954 in San Diego; Mark, born October of 1955 in Richmond, Indiana; and Susan, born December 1957 in Philadelphia.  Ervin worked for 34 years with Honeywell, Inc., and retired at age 57.

Flores, Joseph - Stockton, California

February 29, 1996 - In response to your letter, I also was aboard the Sarsi on August 27, 1952.  I was on watch on the second deck from 8:00 p.m. to 12 midnight.  Just prior to being relieved, the mine struck and I found myself thrown to the deck tangled up with the cord to the earphones I was wearing.  The noise was terrible, like two trains colliding.  I made my way to the fantail for muster (roll-call) and during that time, someone gave the order to abandon ship.  I think it was Captain Howard.  I dove into the water and started to swim away from the Sarsi.  I looked back and saw the fantail in the air (about 45 degrees angle shooting steam) and she disappeared into the water.  All was quiet for a short time and then on the beach I saw military vehicles going back and forth with search lights.

I was just treading water, then I heard voices and started swimming towards them.  Next thing I know, I grabbed a shoulder and it was Bosn Brown.  He said, "Hang on son" and I hung on to a line on the side of the life raft.  We could hear boats with searchlights and Bosn Brown told us, "Remember boys, if we are captured, just give your name, rank and serial number."

The raft was tied to a whaleboat and we headed out to open sea.  One kid was in trouble and yelling for help.  Petty Officer 1st Class Burza dove in from the raft and brought the man back to the raft.  Another man named Slattery was swimming towards the beach.  We called to him to come back but he kept on swimming and soon disappeared in the dark.  I have never heard about him since then.

We continued to open sea being towed by the whaleboat.  One man in the life raft began screaming for his mother and some of the guys started to panic.  The Executive Officer who was in the whaleboat yelled at us to keep that man quiet.  Hammond and I told him to shut up or we would drown him.  That kept him quiet.

The next morning we were rescued by the Minesweeper Compton AM 316.  The crew was great.  They gave us dry clothes, a shot of brandy, breakfast and cigarettes.  Two days later we boarded the Platt AO24 and were taken to Sasebo for processing.  On September 10th, I boarded the Prairie and we were en route to Pearl Harbor and the US.  In the States I went on leave, returned to Treasure Island and was re-assigned to shore duty in Stockton, California Naval Annex.  While there, I met a friend named Todd who was previously in UDT.  He told me he dove down to the Sarsi, sitting on the bottom in 150 feet of water, upright like nothing was wrong until he swam around her and saw the gaping hole.  She was blown up and destroyed.  Todd later volunteered for a drowning victim.  He also drowned. - Joseph Flores

Hodgerson, William W. - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

On the night of August 27, 1952, I was awake and went topside to help abandon the ship.  I went off the ship on the right side and swam out away from the ship as it went down.  I remember before I went over the side that I had forgot my billfold in my locker and I started to go back and get it.  Henderson told me to forget it and to get my ass in the water!

Somehow, I found the Captain's gig and Ken Vining.  Marino and Captain Howard were there.  It had about a 2-foot hole in it where the foxal arm had hit the boat when the ship went down.  Anyway, the boat was floating upside down and we lay on it and every wave that came along, the thing would roll over and we would have to climb back on.  At daylight, we were close enough to shore to see two North Korean tanks going south on the beach.  I suppose they were looking for us.  The tide took us back to sea and then we saw this destroyer come at us and then it turned and went back to sea.  That was a big disappointment, but we did know they were looking for us.  Then the most beautiful thing in the world showed up.  A helicopter flew over us and the Destroyer Boyd came in and picked us up.  After we were picked up at 7:45 a.m., we were on about three different ships to get back to Sasebo, Japan.  We stayed on a floating pier of some kind about a week and then we came back to the States to San Diego.  We got a 30-day leave.  Went back to Treasure Island about 10 days after and then went to Bremerton, Washington and lived aboard the Indiana, taking care of the moth ball fleet.  I was there a little over a year, then went aboard the USS Philippine Sea for about 3 or 4 months.  I got out of the Navy March 11, 1954 and went back to Eldred, Illinois and started trucking.  Have been in the business the rest of my life.  I have seen some bad times and some good times in Illinois, Texas and Oklahoma.

I guess I was like most people.  I put the sinking of the Sarsi out of my mind for years until I got in touch with Terry Worden.  I got to thinking about all the men and where they were.  I started calling some of them and got hold of a few and got Vining and O'Connell into it and they really went to work at it and did a good job. - Bill Hodgerson

Hughes, Clarence E. - Stanfield, Oregon

My name is Clarence E. Hughes.  I was Engineman 3rd class Petty Officer.  I went aboard the USS Sarsi on September 1950, which made me one of the older men on the Sarsi at 20 years old, the night of August 27, 1952.  That night, the Sarsi was hit by a North Korea mine.  I had the 8 to 12 evening watch in the main engine room.

The engine room had four main diesel engines with a generator which furnished power for the main propulsion for the electric motors.  The engine room consisted of a boiler to produce steam for the evaporation and heat and steam for the main galley.  Also, the evaporator made fresh water from salt water.  The temperature gauge had to be watched all the time.

On the night of August 27, 1952, I was on watch.  It was around midnight and we were having watch change.  Just before my relief arrived, there was an explosion.  That was when we hit the mine.  We lost engine power so I told one of the men that was in the room to shut the boiler off and for he and the other men (I don't remember who they were) to get out.  When I started out there was water coming in the entrance hatch.  I jogged down the hatch and in a few minutes we were told to abandon ship.  I had a life jacket on when we went over the side of the ship.  Some of the men didn't have time to get a life jacket.  We swam away from the ship as fast as we could.  The Sarsi went under in about half an hour.  There was a group of us, 8 or 9, that ended up on a buoy that had flown off the ship.  When the Sarsi went down, there was an explosion which was probably the boiler exploding caused by cold water hitting hot water and steam.

The group of us on the buoy got to about 1000 yards of the beach.  We would have been killed or captured by the North Koreans had we reached the beach.  When we started back out to sea, one of the men panicked and ended up drowning himself.  This was about 5:30 in the morning.  The chief took the life vest off him to give to one of the men who didn't have one.  We were all getting very cold and tired and had held on to the one without a vest.  Then, about 8 a.m., the destroyer Boyd picked us up.

My wife Beth and I live in Stanfield, Oregon which was my home when I was on the Sarsi.  We have seven children, 19 grandchildren and one great grandchild.

In September 1996, we went to meet the other guys that attended a reunion in Beaverton, Oregon.  We were so glad we went and are looking forward to seeing everyone August 27, 1997 in Denver. - Clarence E. Hughes

Knight, G.W. "Jerry"

It was midnight on the ocean, not a streetcar was in sight, but we got sunk that night.  A loud explosion echoed in my head and tore me out of my bunk.  Immediately, my feet hit six inches of water as I stood up.  The chief above me came down on my back as he rolled out of his bunk.

The hatch to the chief's quarters did not swing all the way open with the bunks down.  The other chief thrust the door open with not much effort.  When I threw all my weight against the door it would not budge--the water had already risen another foot.  I then went through the bunks and out the hatch.  I went up the ladder to the mess deck.

I had almost demolished a pair of shoes for the time I had been on the Sarsi, so I was barefooted when I entered the mess deck.  There was broken china and cups all over due to the explosion.  Somehow, I reached the other side of the mess deck without a cut or a bruise.

From there I arrived at the boat deck, and the other sailors had lowered the whale boat in the water.  We got the engines started once we hit water and began to pick up survivors.  The explosion had thrown a mass of water into the whale boats.  We came alongside the ship to get a bucket to bale the boat of its water.  The Chief Boatsman Mate gave me a bucket and said, "Be sure to bring this bucket back."

We picked up some survivors out of the water and took a life raft in tow.  One of the survivors was a second class quartermaster.  He was sitting in the bottom of the boat cradling the compass with a battle lantern to light the compass.  While in the water he was completely exhausted, and ready to give up.  "I sank down about five or six feet and being in the middle of a divorce, that old bitch would get the ten thousand dollars.  So I came up fighting."

Visibility was good till the ship sank.  Then, a curtain of darkness hit the sea.  The only thing I could compare this with is standing and watching your house burn.  In the middle of the ocean in a life raft, the boatswain's mates and I said, "Let's have a beer."  Except the life raft was the chief's club in Sasebo.

When on the rescue ship, I was sitting having a cup of coffee when a chief approached me and said, "Two men died in the water."  Then my nerves snapped and I redecorated the chief's mess deck in coffee brown.  I went down to the sick bay and told the chief pharmacist mate to give me something to slow me down.  He gave me two miniature brandy bottles.

The brandy tasted so good that in the chief's club I was drinking brandy.  They served the brandy in a water tumbler, so everyone was buying the survivors drinks.  Someone came up and wanted to buy me a drink.  I looked down and my 6-ounce tumble was completely full.  I said, "Let me finish this and you can sure buy me another."  I then downed the entire glass.  The next thing I remember, was a mess cook shaking me and asking me if I'd like breakfast.

Midsummer's Night's Dreams - For over a year I sank the ship nightly.  But one mystery was solved in my dreams.  My hands were sore for nearly a month after the ship was sunk for an unknown reason.  It came to me in my sleep that when I was escaping from the interior of the ship, I came to a hatch that was dogged down.  I beat the dogs off the hatch with my bare hands.  On my next duty station, I was talking with the doctor and he told me, "You know your problem," and the nightmares became less frequent.

The Power of Three - Years after the sinking, I met one of the men from the demolition crew that had blown up the remains of the Sarsi.  He said there were two mines off both sides of the ship, and we had hit the middle one.  The Skipper of the Sarsi was a navigation perfectionist.  Our patrol was the same every night, except for the departure time--so naturally we had hit the middle mine. - Compiled by Jerry Knight and Edited by 1st born grandson Brian Knight, 1995

Lee, Claude - Kerman, California

I am sorry it took so long to answer your letter regarding the USS Sarsi, but I moved from Lebanon, Oregon to Kerman, California and lost your address.

The first thing I remember about the Sarsi is going on board on April 15, 1951 in San Diego.  The Sarsi was in port getting painted and I met a couple of old salts by the name of Gilliam and Robert Escabar.  That night we took the pontoon boat, rowed to Coronado and bought a gallon of port wine.  Three drunk sailors!

Anyway, to the best of my knowledge, on August 27, 1952, the gun watch was set at 19:45.  I was one of the lucky ones and about 23:35, I started to wake up the on-coming watch, but got stopped by a loud boom.  I didn't have to wake up anybody.

I got in the Captain's gig to put it in the water but before I got it unsecured, somebody undid a line before we cranked it out and dropped it on the deck.  I fell out and cracked my head, hurt my left leg and next thing I remember, I was in the water swimming.

I finally got on a raft.  The next morning we were picked up by a destroyer.  I don't remember which one and I don't remember anybody on the raft with me that night.  Thanks for letting me tell my story.  If I can find a picture I will send it. - Claude Lee

Marino, Francis J. - Corpus Christi, Texas

I will try to recall the events of our sinking prior to the striking of the mine during that fateful night.  I was just getting up to go to the bridge to help take the ship back out of the harbor; my part of the operation was for friend or foe recognition signals so that our own forces would not fire on us.  As I was putting my pants on, we struck the mine.  I was knocked down to the deck and somewhat dazed for a couple of minutes.  I ascended the ladder from the after-berthing area on the starboard side passageway.  As I neared the galley, I saw Germaine (the cook) jump over the half door, run over to the deep sink and shut the water off, proceed to open the half door and go out the starboard hatch.  I lost contact with him after that.

I then proceeded through the mess hall to the radio shack which was up on the second deck.  By then we were down by the bow.  I realized that I could not throw our publications over the side in shallow water and so placed all the pubs, authentications into the safe and locked it.

I then proceeded to the bridge.  There was no one on there.  I then went to the publications locker and ran into the Communications Officer (Santangelo).  We decided to secure that area; it was impossible to jettison the material due to existing instructions.  At that time, we ran into Bosn Brown and I asked him if we were going to abandon ship.  His reply was, "You god damn right."  At that time, I went and retrieved the emergency radio and proceeded to the captain's gig which was my abandon ship station.  The gig was being lowered into the water, the engineman and myself were in the boat.  As the boat was launched, the ship at that point was on its bow and the stern swung to the starboard side and hit and knocked a hole in the boat which then capsized.

As you know, from then on it was swimming and hanging on the best we could.  I recall that besides Ken Vining and I, there was Henderson, Captain Howard and someone else.  I just can't recall who.  Anyway, I remember I had about eighty or ninety dollars in my wallet and although it was wet, it was spendable.  I hope this helps with the scrapbook.

I stayed in the navy and retired in 1968 as a Chief Radioman with 22 years service. - Francis Marino

McCoy, Herschel H. - El Dorado, Kansas

August 28, 1995 - I joined the Navy in October of 1951, so I would have a dry bed to sleep in every night.  Worked fine until the night of August 27, 1952, as you well know.

I left Oakland, California, on the USNS General M.C. Meigs, sometime in June 1952, and arrived in Oppama, Japan, on July 1, 1952.  On the way to lunch the first day there, I saw Japanese Honey Dippers working outside the mess hall.  I couldn't believe what I saw, especially as they were breaking for lunch without washing their hands.

I rode a train consisting of box cars with wooden benches to Sasebo, Japan, arriving July 9, 1952.  The receiving station there was an old Liberty ship, the SS Weeks, and bedbugs were really bad in the mattress.  I was there for three days, and I had so many bedbug bites that I was afraid they wouldn't let me onboard the Sarsi when I got there.

I left Sasebo July 12, 1952, on the aircraft carrier Battan, which had the "Checkerboard Squadron" onboard.  There were 27 Corsair planes with Marine pilots.  On July 13, 1952, Jim Dierking from Plains, Kansas and I rode a boatswain chair from the Battan to the Australian destroyer HMAS Warramunga, which took us to the Sarsi, which was somewhere off the coast of Korea.

There was only one empty bunk, so we flipped a coin and I spent the night on a cot.  Sometime during the night, a sailor coming off watch walked into the cot.  He let out such an oath that I thought I might wind up on the deck, but it never happened!  The next morning, Charles Kunsch DCI (the MAA), gave me his bunk, and he took an empty bunk forward in officers quarters.  I was told that he was close to where the mine hit the ship, and that he went down with the ship.  I have thanked God many times that I wasn't in his place.

On July 23, 1952, I started mess cook duty because another mess cook had gotten more than he bargained for from a Japanese girl. It seemed like the coffee maker was always empty.  I tried pouring the coffee back through the grounds a couple of times, thinking that if it was too strong, I wouldn't have to make so many pots a day.  Lo and behold, everyone liked it better that way, and my work doubled.  I soon quit that, and went back to making coffee like I was shown how in the first place.

I had a lot of problems with being seasick.  I remember being on switchboard watch with Jess Trimble, and every time I had to walk by the clinometer, I would soon go up topside and lose everything.  I wonder if Jess still has the twin screws tattoo on both cheeks (not facial), and the pig and rooster on his feet.

The evening of August 27, 1952, while the movie was showing, I knocked over a cup of coffee with my elbow right in the lap of the Boatswain Mate Chief.  Some of the deck hands froze, but the Chief said not to worry, he shouldn't have had his cup sitting where it was.  Boy, what a relief!  During the movie, I fixed a door switch that shut off all lights that would show when the door was opened.  Since the ship was lost shortly after, I'll never know if it was fixed or not.

When the mine hit, I felt what I thought was a bump, like maybe we were tied up to a tanker and taking on fuel.  I decided to get dressed and go topside to watch, when someone came down and said, "We've been hit!  We're sinking!"  About that time, General Quarters sounded, so I ran up to my station in the thwarts ship passageway.  Most of the life jacket bins were empty, but I did get the next-to-the-last one there.  Being a lousy swimmer, I was very glad to get one.

My GQ duty was to go forward into officers quarters and make sure all the portholes were covered.  When I started through the door, I stepped into a foot of water, so I gave up on that.  I remember one of the cooks jumping over the swinging door to the kitchen to turn the water off to one of the big kettles.  I don't remember a lot of panic, but when the big cement buoy anchors came sliding down from the fantail, I abandoned ship immediately.  I had often wondered if it would be hard to jump overboard, especially at night.  It wasn't.

I was holding onto a floating wooden box when I was helped into one of two rafts that were tied together.  I only remember that S.O. Pete Shordt was in this raft, no other names come to mind now.  Someone said, "Who has their shoes on?"  I didn't realize that it was me until someone reached down and then took them off for me.  I spent the last half of the night hanging onto the side of the raft, so someone else could get in the raft.  I wondered if there were any sharks nearby who might be hungry.  I remember what a welcome sight the helicopter was, and then the minesweeper that picked us up.

My wife and parents didn't receive the telegram that I was okay until Sunday evening, August 30th--a long three days.  After survivors leave, and spending time at Treasure Island awaiting reassignment, I spent three-and-a-half months at the Naval Hospital at Mare Island and was discharged Friday the 13th in February 1953.

Feel free to use any, or all of this information that you need for your scrapbook.  I'm sorry that I took so long to get this to you, and we are looking forward to seeing your finished book. - Herschel H. McCoy

Mowrey, Richard - Michigan

February 26, 1996 - Sorry I haven't written to you before this.  I am semi-retired and staying with a friend in Ocala, Florida this winter.  I will probably head back to Michigan around May 1st.  I got a phone call from Bill Hodgerson last year.  It was good to hear from him.  Then I got a Christmas card from he and his wife.  I must send them a card or a cake.

Here is what happened before and after the sinking of the USS Sarsi:

I went to boot camp from February to April 1952 at Great Lakes, north of Chicago.  Had a couple of weeks leave, went back to Great Lakes and a bunch of us was sent to Treasure Island by train for our assignment.  We were sent from San Francisco to Japan on the General W.M. Black to catch the Sarsi in Sasebo.  I got on board sometime the first part of June 1952.  I was on the deck force for awhile and then I started striking for Quartermaster.  Then, on the night of August 26, 1952 (I believe), at 2345 hours, we hit a floating mine.  I was on watch from 8 to 12 that night.  I was just about ready to get relieved when there was a loud explosion and the bow of the ship was under water.  It stayed afloat about 15 minutes.  As the ship started to sink, I was coming down the ladder from the bridge to the boat deck.  The ship sank right out from under me.  There were some men in a life raft who pulled me onto the raft with them.  There was a motor whaleboat of ours that had a lot of men in it.  They gave us that were in the raft a line to tie to the boat.  The motor whaleboat, with us in tow, headed south.  We were picked up the next morning by a US Minesweeper.  What a wonderful thing that was.  We were taken back to Sasebo, stayed for a few days and then back to the States for survival leave.  I was assigned to shore duty in San Francisco the first part of November.  I was then discharged from the Navy around December 4th, 1953.

From then until now a lot of water has gone over the dam.  My heart goes out to the families of those that lost their lives.  I also served in the Coast Guard from January, 1961 to December, 1967.  Four years in Toledo, Ohio and three in Boston, Massachusetts.  Stayed in Boston from 1965 through 1973.  Moved down to South Dartmouth, next to New Bedford, Massachusetts.  In 1983, went up to Manchester, New Hampshire to work and live.  In 1988, went back to Michigan to stay and work.  As I told you at the beginning, I semi-retired last May.  Best regards to you and your family. - Richard Mowrey

Nader, George Q. - Farmington, Illinois

I joined the crew on the Sarsi April 1952 at Sasebo, Japan.  On the night of August 27, 1952 I had the 4 to 8 lookout watch on the bridge.  After my watch I went to my bunk and wrote a letter to my parents.  I then showered and went to sleep.  The next thing I knew there was an explosion.  I thought we had gotten hit by shore batteries, but later found out we were hit by a mine.  The force was so great it threw me out of my bunk.  The first thing I did was get my life jacket, then went to General Quarters station which was the 40 mil. gun mounts on the starboard side.

As soon as I got there someone told me to go to my abandon ship station, which I did.  I started to unbuckle the life raft on the starboard side.  Pete Burza told me to get in the whaleboat and get it away from the ship.  I got it away just before the davit came down on it or it would have sunk the whaleboat.

As soon as we got clear of the ship we turned to watch the Sarsi go down.  There was someone on the fantail and I saw him jump off.  We started picking up survivors.  Boson Brown took command of the whaleboat.  I took orders from him.  We picked up as many men as we could. We then went to a raft and then took them in tow.

Boson Brown and other officers decided to head out to sea and then to Wonsan Harbor lights.  During the night we spotted a couple of planes and shot up two flairs.  We also saw a ship on the horizon but could not make contact with them.  We went as far as we could before the motor quit.  After that we just drifted until we were picked up by the USS Competent, a minesweeper AM316.

After going aboard, I never had a cup of coffee and cigarette so fast or taste so good!  Later we transferred to the U.S.S. Comstock LSD19.  After a 30-day leave I went to Treasure Island and later transferred to Astoria, Oregon, Tongues Point, to a mothball fleet.  After 9 months in Astoria I transferred to the USS Blue DD744 for about a year, then to the USS Los Angeles. - George Q. Nader

Novak, Lawrence - Troy, New York

Thank you for your recent letter concerning Sarsi survivor statements.  At the end of last year, "Red" O'Connell tasked me with contacting three former members of the Sarsi crew.  Attached are the returned envelopes indicating that the current addresses supercede the home addresses that you and Red have as home of record.  In the case of Pete Burza's sister, although postal officials have her listed as deceased, it's not clear about status of Pete.  I'll try contacting someone in the city administration in Oswego, New York.  I'm also enclosing two letters from individuals who are organizing military reunions in the future.  Their replies may be of help to you and Red.  Below is a brief account of my recollections concerning events on the evening of August 27, 1952.

I remember it was a very hot night and in the sleeping quarters, the air was quite stuffy.  I was sleeping in my shorts.  Suddenly, I heard a noise that sounded like scrapping of metal and the smell of oil.  Someone called for "all hands on deck and grab your life jackets."  I'm not sure who gave the command.  I then remember pulling the wenches to lower the life boats.  John Deardorff kept telling me to work faster, faster.  I remember looking at the ship's bow and it was starting to sink under the water.  I left the side of the ship and got into one of the life rafts.  Pete Shordt was moaning from apparent pain.  We could see lights from the distant shore and I remember the silence that then surrounded the setting.  I next remember Kenny (Joseph?) who was hanging on to the side of the raft saying he was cold and in my opinion, very scared.  Mr. Shordt then told me to get into the water and give Kenny my place on the life raft.  These are the most recollections I have of the event.

I think that any reunion would be incomplete without inviting Cook.  Although he transferred off the ship approximately two days before the incident, it probably saved his life since I think he bunked in the same vicinity as Kunsch. - Larry Novak

O'Connell, Jim - North Carolina

December 1, 1995 - On August 27, 1952, while on patrol off the coast of North Korea, the USS Sarsi struck a submerged mine and sunk in less than ten minutes.  I was part of that crew and was just getting up for the mid watch.  Suddenly there was a tremendous blast.  The ship seemed to rise up at a great angle at the bow.  The ship then did a violent shimmy as it settled down.  During what I just described, I flew all the way across our living compartment and slammed up against the bulkhead.  When I gained my composure, I jumped up and got back to my bunk area.  I was clad in only my shorts and one sock.  I grabbed my dungarees and shoes and went up the ladder to the main deck.  The ship, at this time, was at a steep angle forward.  It was obvious that the Sarsi was damaged badly and was going down.

At the top of the ladder, I started to unloosen the dog handles on a hatch door.  Someone yelled, "Don't open that door."  I didn't intend to open it, but wanted to know that it could be opened if need be.  All during this time, things were all happening in rapid succession and I could smell what I would term electrical equipment burning.  Parts of the deck leading to the chow hall was actually shattered in places and twisted and bent in others.

I was trying to make my way to the boat deck which was my station for GQ or for any other emergency situation.  I was designated the coxswain of the starboard whaleboat.  When I arrived on the boat deck, there was a number of fellow crewmen all around a huge metal box in the center of the ship.  The box contained several life jackets normally.  It was very dark up there.  As I reached to get a jacket, I lost my balance and fell into the box.  It was obvious to me at this point that no jackets were available--they were all gone.  To the port and starboard, only a few feet from where I was is where the boats were.  I jumped out of the box.  There were two men up on the boat getting ready to lower the boat to the water.  I started to crank out the davits.  Finally I could see who the men up on the boat were.  One was Pete Burza, the other I believe was Claude Lee.  During our patrol, we were having periods of bad weather.  The whaleboats had to be secured with extra pelican hooks to keep them from breaking loose from their normal positions.  The hooks were kept in place with bailing wire, a precaution against the hook from releasing.  As I said, we had cranked the davits out.  While all this was going on, the ship was going down rapidly.  Claude Lee got his hook released, the boat swung out and Lee fell to the main deck.  Ordinarily it would have been quite a fall, but by now the water was above the gunnals on the main deck.  Pete Burza was kicking the forward hook to make it release.  I don't believe he had shoes on at the time.

The boat was finally in the water.  It was pretty bright now because of the phosphores around the ship.  For some reason I think that the gooks knew we were out there and had been hit, so they shot or dropped star shells that gave even more light temporarily.  The engine man started the motor as people climbed into the boat.  We were about to shove off when the motor stopped.  On several attempts to start it again, it would not go.  We tried to push the boat away from the ship.  By now, the suction was so great that we could not do it.  At that point I glanced up at the ship which was by now at a 45-degree angle.  The screw was well above us.  The suction was drawing the boat toward the stern of the Sarsi.  I looked back and everyone was jumping from the whaleboat, so I jumped too.

After I surfaced, everyone was scattered.  We were away from the ship.  I heard someone yelling.  This person was not far away and we linked up together.  It was through the constant communication by yelling "raft" and hearing the response "raft here" that we managed to get together.  Several crew members were around two small rafts where I finally arrived.

I was told that there were a couple of people laying on the raft that were seriously hurt.  One I believe was Scarpaci, the other one I can't remember.  The routine all night was that some guys would sit on the raft, cross their legs and the guys in the water would sit on their feet.  After awhile they would change positions to allow turns to be taken on the raft.  Most of the time in the water does not leave me with any great recollection of what happened.  I'm not sure why.  The only thing where my memory picks up again is in the morning when we were picked up.  A search was initiated when we didn't respond to radio traffic.

For some reason, I envision a destroyer coming in at a high speed, coming right up to our group, going dead in the water.  They threw over a cargo net and someone shouted, "Climb up the net.  If you can't make it, we'll help you."  Later I found out that the destroyer was the Boyd DD544.  The Zeal AM131 and the Competent AM136 were the other ships involved.

Recently I have contacted the National Archives to try to get the deck logs of those ships for the dates around the time of the sinking, in regard to who they picked up.  I'm sure that they must have entered the names of individuals in their logs.  Now, 43 years later, that ordeal is always in my mind.  Over the years on that date, I always managed to take that particular day off from work and have a few beers in honor of the crew members.

We are all scattered throughout the country, busy raising families, earning a living and in recent years, enjoying the grandchildren.  However, one day while sitting at my desk at home and reading the old yellow, faded-out list of survivors that was provided to most of us in 1952, I began to get a curious feeling.  I wondered how I could find some of those people.  Some I knew better than others.  I even remembered where some of them came from.  I remembered their hometown names.  I started by calling a fellow in Jasper, Minnesota named Anderson.  I eventually found him in Rochester, Minnesota.  Anderson said he had been in touch with other people over the years and they had been looking for me for several years.  He gave me the addresses of other people and now we are planning a reunion.

I am sending a picture that was on the front page of the New York Daily News after the loss of the Sarsi.  I still have the life ring.  A number of crew members signed their names on it and I put a coat of shellac on it for preservation.  It still hangs on the wall in my home.  I intend to update the picture.  The ring will look the same but the fellow has aged a bit.  I hope we can find more survivors and have our reunion in the future. - Jim O'Connell

Peterson, Allen "Pete" - Memories of August 27, 1952 as Told to Ken Vining on May 4, 1995

I went aboard the Sarsi in September of 1951 as a Seaman.  I was in the motor room on August 27 when the Sarsi hit the mine.  It felt like I had been hit in the chest by a hammer.  One crew member was with me but I can't remember who it was.  He had been knocked out but was one of the survivors.  I went up to the "head" and although I don't know why, there were quite a few crew members there.

I went on to the boat deck where I saw Pete Burza whose feet were bleeding badly.  I didn't have a life jacket at the time and Burza gave me his.  I left the ship on the starboard side, swam to whaleboat #2 and was told it was full.  I wasn't about to get out but it looked as though the ship was going to hit the whaleboat so I left and made it to a buoy and life raft.  There was a man there but I don't know who he was.  He appeared to be hurt.  After coming home on survivor's leave, I was shipped back to Korea.  Currently living in Lawton, Oklahoma. - Pete Peterson

Additional Information Supplied by A. Peterson - Sarsi's Survivable Crew: It was close to midnight when the fleet tug USS Sarsi ATF 111 struck and detonated an enemy mine while patrolling the enemy coast.  The explosion ripped open Sarsi's steel plating forward and also destroyed the Sarsi's communications equipment which prevented the sending of distress signals.  Soon afterward the forward compartments flooded and all efforts to save the ship were unsuccessful.

Lieutenant William Howard commanding the Sarsi gave the order to abandon ship and shortly after the Sarsi sank to the bottom in 120 feet of water 3 miles off Communist held Hungnam, Korea.  Fortunately the Captain of the Destroyer Boyd and Minesweepers Zeal and Competent became concerned when they could not make radio contact with the Sarsi and began an immediate search.

The groups in the water were determined never to surrender and started swimming out to sea.  The rescue efforts were hampered by the fact that it was dark and we kept quiet not knowing if the sounds we heard were coming to rescue or capture us.

Seven hours later I was spotted by a U.S. Navy helicopter in the water holding on to a life raft with one hand and the bottom shackle of a steel buoy with the other.  A minesweeper rescued our group.  92 of our 97 crewmen were saved.  Four of the survivors, Warrant Officer Peter Shordt and Crewmen Floyd Wheelis, Charles Waite and Wayne Scarpadi were seriously injured.

Communist gunfire hit 21 U.S. Navy ships off Korea in 1952.  Sixteen officers and men were killed and 55 wounded.  The only U.S. ship lost in 1952 was the fleet tug USS Sarsi ATF 111.  Built by the United Engineering Company, Alameda, California, and commissioned 24 June 1944, sunk 27 August 1952. - Pete Peterson

Phelan, Donald W.

Published in the Seattle Times on Thursday, October 9, 1952 - Navy men, traditionally, abhor shore duty, but Ens. Donald W. Phelan, 23, will settle for a little of it now.  Phelan, 1951 graduate of the University of Washington and former Roosevelt High School halfback, went to war in Korea in a tugboat in March.  In August, a mine sent the boat to the bottom in Hungnam Harbor.  Phelan and 91 other members of the crew of 95 survived.  They were sent back to the United States for leave and reassignment.

The tugboat, the 206', 1,700 ton Sarsi struck the mine while on night "anti-sampan" patrol between Wonsan and Hungnam.  "The Reds used sampans to lay mines and move their men around at night," said Phelan.  "We had run the patrol for six nights, and on the seventh night, at 18 minutes to midnight, we hit the mine."

Phalen just had left his quarters to stand watch at midnight.  The mine tore a hole in the boat near where he had been sleeping.  "One of our two lifeboats swamped," said Phelan.  "We finally got four rafts into the water, and then we could feel the ship going out from under us.  I had a life jacket on.  I dived to get out as far as I could to miss the suction when the boat sank.  She went down in 18 minutes."

Phalen and 11 others formed a circle around a small navigation buoy which the tug had been carrying.  They were in the water eight hours before they were rescued.  Phelan's new assignment will be in the Naval Control Shipping Office at San Diego.

Rodriquez, Richard S. - Sacramento, California

I received your letter several days ago and was glad to hear from you.  The stationery is great.  I like the pictures of you and the guys.  Thanks.  Seeing them makes me realize how old we are getting.  Sorry to hear about the passing of the Captain and his EX, but I guess they were a little older than the crew.  I could not recognize any of the guys from the pictures, but I had only been aboard the ship about ten days.

You know, my wife has asked me what the Sarsi's job was in Korea.  I can't give her a complete answer.  I would appreciate your help here.

When I went aboard, my boss showed me where my bunk was and where the carpentry shop was.  He then told me to just stay out of the way or in the carpentry shop during the day while the rest of the crew was working.  After 1600 hours I was allowed to move around the ship.  After a few days I was put on boiler watch.  I don't know what the boiler was for; it was just aft of the pilot house.  I stood about three 2000 to 2400 hours watches.  I had just been relieved when we hit the mine.

After I was relieved, I would go to aft to talk with the gun crew which was on duty, and that's where I was when we got hit.  One of the crew members on watch that night was a black guy, but I do not recall his name.  I thought all these years that his name was Wheeler but looking at the list of crewmen, I don't see that name.  Maybe you might remember him.  He was knocked from his seat on the gun when we hit the mine, and he hurt his shoulder.  I had gotten a life jacket; and when I saw that he was hurt, I took it off and helped him put it on.  I think he had dislocated his shoulder.  I didn't see him again that night but did see him later.  He used to say to me, "You saved my life when you gave me your life jacket."  I would surely like to know this man's name and if he is among those you have contacted.  My wife and children think I was a hero!!

When we got to Treasure Island, I did not have far to go to get home to Sacramento.  When I contacted my sister at home, she had not even heard that my ship was sunk.  If you remember, the next day when we were picked up how eager the Navy was to know our names and addresses so our next-of-kin could be notified.  I don't think the sinking even made my hometown paper.  It was all news to my brothers and sisters!

When my leave was up, I went back to Treasure Island and was there about a week before my name came up on the assignment list.  I don't remember what ship I was assigned to, but it was an amphibious unit.  I said to myself, "Self, you don't want to go back to Korea  yet", so I went home!  I was over the hill for about sixty days.  When I was home, I received my check for the personal things and uniform I had aboard ship.  When I was finally broke, I went back to Treasure Island.  I received a General Court Martial and ended up in the brig!  Well, Kenny, enough for now.  Will continue this saga in my next letter. - Dick Rodriquez

February 6, 1996 - I received your letter a couple of days ago and was very glad to hear from you.  Since I retired from the Sacramento Police Department, my world has gotten kind of quiet and boring.  I am sure glad that I was contacted by you guys.  I've written more letters in the past several months than in the last 30 years.  My wife said she knew here was still some life left in me!  I really look forward to receiving your letters.

Now that I have Floyd Wheelis' address, I will be getting a letter off to him in a few days.  I hope he answers.  I see that the next NAFTS convention will be in Portland.  My wife and I are planning to attend.  I hope that you, Terry, Floyd and the others from the Sarsi will also make it.

Kenny, I don't know if you or any of your helpers have been able to identify any more of the guys in that one picture that was taken of the survivors when we pulled into the dock at Sasebo.  I don't know who might have an original of the photo, but I've been thinking that if we go to the convention in Portland, it would be nice to have a big blow-up of the picture.  That way, each man in the picture could identify himself and possibly sign the picture.  Ask around and see what some of the guys think.  I don't know what it would cost, but I'd be willing to make a contribution.

Well, now to get back to my serial story.  As I was telling you in my last letter, I was found guilty of being AWOL and was sentenced to four months in the brig and fined $120 and broken down to a recruit.  My case was later reviewed by the District Admiral who cut my brig time down to sixty days.  When I got out, it had been over four months since I had seen my seabag.  In fact, I did not even have a seabag!  When I went AWOL, I left it on my bunk, and I never saw it again.  I had to be issued all new clothes and equipment.

I was assigned to the Mess Hall barracks at Treasure Island and was a mess cook for about a month before I was reassigned.  I was assigned to the USS Manatee, an oil tanker, which was in Formosa.  I went to Japan by ship and flew from there to Formosa where I joined the ship.  When my record was reviewed, it was thought I was a "screw-up" as I had come out of the brig, but I still had my Damage Control rating so I was assigned to the Damage Control Unit.  It was determined that the Navy is not supposed to send anyone overseas unless he has at least one stripe.  The next day I was promoted to Fireman's apprentice.  We sailed around for a few weeks and then were off to Korea where we fueled ships on duty.  When we returned to Japan, we went to Sasebo.  I was able to go ashore two or three times but got drunk and was in trouble again.  I was then assigned to the mess deck for three months.  In all the time I was in the Navy, I did about half the time as a mess cook!  I was THE Number One Potato Peeler!!

The Manatee came back to the States in the latter part of 1954.  I was then transferred to another ship in Oakland, the Pollux, an AKA (supply ship).  I did about six months in the mess deck and then was assigned to the boiler room.  Even my Damage Control rating didn't do me any good there.  I was then told to take the Third-Class Boilerman Test.  I passed the test but was in liberty trouble before I could get the Third-Class rate.  I never did get it.  I was told I could get the rate and a good conduct ribbon if I would re-up for three years.  I got my Honorable Discharge in October of 1955.  I let them have the rate and good conduct ribbon! - Sincerely, Dick Rodriquez

Russell, Joseph P.

Your recent telephone call was certainly a pleasant surprise.  You are the first person I have spoken to from the Sarsi since being reassigned back in 1952.  Thanks so much for the crew list and their whereabouts.  You have certainly been diligent in "tracking down" the survivors.

My primary job aboard ship was working in the ships office as a yeoman striker.  By the end of my four-year hitch I was Yeoman 2nd Class.  After the Sarsi sinking I was reassigned to Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, Hawaii with the Military Air Transport Service (MATS).  That was a joint Navy-Air Force operation of Air Transport squadrons.  I was there for about three years serving in a squadron legal office as legal yeoman, and then at Pacific Division Headquarters of MATS in communications.  I would probably have been aboard the Sarsi for my entire hitch if the sinking had not occurred.

My recollection of the sinking is still quite clear in mind (I think).  On the evening in question I was in the sack in the crew's quarters when I was awakened around midnight to the shaking of the ship and the sound of General Quarters.  I thought that we had been hit by shore fire.  I sprung out of my sack and proceeded to the bridge which was my GQ station as the Captain's talker with the headphones.  As I went to obtain my lifejacket near the mess hall, I discovered that someone had removed it, so I was forced to take a jacket that was not my own.  As I went up the ladder from the main deck near the Chief's quarters, I noticed water coming up the ladder well from the CPO's quarters and the Ship's Office.  I scurried on up to the bridge and went for my headphones, but was told to forget the phones and proceed to my abandon ship station.  As I recall, Radarman Slattery was on the bridge at the time.  Also as I recall (I don't think I'm imagining this) the ship's steering wheel had torqued off and was on the deck.  I then went to the boat deck to my abandon ship station as I had done many times in drills.  However, the usually assigned personnel did not show up to lower the whaleboat.  Finally, after a few minutes, an Engineman and Radioman attempted to lower the boat by use of the davits.  They were able to get the boat lowered but not in a seaman-like manner.  Instead of gradually playing out the line and gradually lowering the boat, they let the boat go all at once.  The boat hit the water with great force.  But the most disturbing thing was that the Radioman violated the cardinal rule of basic seamanship.  He was standing in the bight of the line used to lower the boat.  Yes, you guessed it.  He was immediately hogtied and thrown from the boat deck down to the main deck, receiving major bruises and abrasions.  I thought that he was a "dead man."  Of the two whaleboats that were lowered, I recall that one of them was crushed by the screw while it was tethered to the stern.  This happened when the ship rolled over a bit prior to taking its last dive to the bottom.

I did not abandon ship at this time, but waited for further orders from the Bosun Jack Brown who was directing the operations.  During the next few minutes, numerous sailors were abandoning ship on their own.  Several were diving headfirst into the dark murky waters.  It was pitch dark and visibility was virtually zero.  I thought surely some of those who were diving headfirst would hit a floating object or another crewman.  Others of the crew entered feet-first, the wiser course.  I myself, waited to the very end to leave the ship.  The ship was down by the bow and resting on the bottom.  I was straddling the starboard gunwale.  Finally, when the water started gurgling around my legs, I deemed it time to go.  I kept my shoes and, of course, had on my life jacket.  I could see the many lights on the enemy-held shore and figured that the enemy knew we were out there, especially since we appeared to be only about 2000 yards offshore.  I immediately thought of the possibility of being captured so I kept my shoes on in case of a "death march" similar to World War II Bataan Death March.

As I entered the water, the ship was beginning to take its last dive to the bottom.  I swam as hard as I could to avoid the suction of the ship.  Of course, swimming with shoes and a life jacket and dungarees is not easy.  I was not pulled down, but I could definitely feel the suction.  I spoke with one sailor afterwards (a mess cook or commissary man) who was dragged down by the suction and swallowed a lot of oil-filled water.  I swam through the pitch dark, not knowing which way to go.  I swam toward the noise of other sailors shouting out.  I reached a life raft and climbed aboard along with many others.  We were packed in like sardines.  I stayed on the raft for awhile and then traded with another sailor (who will go nameless at this time) who was in the water.  The understanding was that we would then trade off again.  However, this nameless sailor decided he would not trade again and remained on the life raft while I stayed in the ocean.  However, in the long run, I was glad to be in the water because I could stretch my legs and also urinate which helped keep me a bit warmer.  Although the water was not cold, this being August 27 or 28, my legs eventually cramped to the point where I could not remove the cramps.  I clung to the life raft and also a buoy which had broken loose.  And do I remember those buoys and clumps which were on the fantail?  You bet I do.  When they broke loose and shifted forward, there was one helluva noise.  I don't know if anyone was trapped there.

One of the acts of bravery and heroism which I remember was the "Muscle Man" from Southern California (an electrician's mate I believe) who swam about gathering sailors and leading them to the raft.  Was his name "Smitty"?  I think he had spent time at Muscle Beach in Malibou, California.

I remember, sadly, when the decision was made to remove the life jackets of Chief Parrish and Steward's Mate Carter, both of whom had died in their life jackets.  I personally did not see the need for it.  No one at the time seemed to be in danger of drowning.

While floating in the water for those eight hours, I don't mind telling you that I said a few prayers, and my whole life seemed to appear in front of me.  When we were picked up the next morning by a boat from the USS Zeal, a DMS, I was indeed grateful to our Maker.  I remember that I could hardly use my legs when trying to climb up the Jacob's ladder to the Zeal.  With a little assistance I was able to make it though.  The crew of the Zeal was most hospitable and accommodating.  They gave us dry clothing and fed us breakfast, which was out of this world.  Also, there were a few shots of whiskey passed out to those of us who wanted same.  As I recall we were transferred over to the USS Comstock, an LSD and then taken into Sasebo, Japan where we stayed on a floating dry dock or barracks.  There, we were reissued new uniforms and equipment, and were able to file claims of personal items lost in the sinking.  After spending several days in Sasebo, we were then transported back to San Diego via the USS Prairie.  While onboard the Prairie, there was a man overboard drill in the middle of the night which everyone thought was real.  It immediately brought thoughts to mind of the recent sinking.  I didn't sleep well on the return trip back to San Diego.

After taking a couple weeks survivor leave, I reported to Treasure Island for reassignment.  When I got orders to VR-7, Hickam Air Force Base, Honolulu, I didn't realize that I was now going to be part of the brownshoe Navy.  My remaining time in the Navy was spent in Hawaii--tough duty!!  Surfboards, sailboat and much time on the beach.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the islands.

I was discharged from Treasure Island, and then headed to Monterey, California where my folks were living at the time--my Dad was an Army surgeon stationed at the old Fort Ord Army Hospital.  They moved on to another station while I remained in California where I finished up my college education at the University of California in Berkeley.  Later, I went to law school in San Francisco, and then practiced law in Monterey for about 15 years.  I then left the practice of law and became a construction estimator and project manager for about 13 years.  Presently I have returned to the semi-legal field, and am involved in construction arbitration and mediation.

Ken, that's about all I have to say except I will always remember those unfortunate sailors who lost their lives.  They were Kunsch, Slattery, Parrish and Carter.  May God be with them.  Thanks for the opportunity to express my thoughts.  Again thanks for the diligent effort on your part in locating many of the survivors.  It was indeed uncanny that you found me through another Joe Russell who lives in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and also is an attorney.  He is in a law firm of Limbaugh et al, yes, the same Limbaugh family of the talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, Jr., also from Cape Girardeau. - With warmest regards, Joseph P. Russell

Santangelo, Louis F. - Hershey, Pennsylvania

I was assigned to the USS Sarsi in 1951 following graduation from the U.S. Navy Communications School in Monterey, California.  My room was adjacent to the wardroom and my roommate was Chief Boatswain Brown.

I had just fallen asleep in my bunk after having had watch duty on the bridge.  I cannot recall what awakened me, but realized from the smoke, noise and confusion that we were sinking because water was gushing in the stairwell outside my room.  I tried to exit the ship through the porthole in my room.  However, my roommate, Brown, pulled me back.  I climbed the stairs to the upper deck immediately and was handed a life jacket.  I then proceeded to the communications room where our security information was stored.  It was too late to try to salvage or destroy this information because the ship was listing and sinking very fast.  The crew members were jumping off the Sarsi and I waited until the very last moment before entering the water.  As far as I can remember, I was the last person to leave the ship.  It was completely dark at the time with considerable confusion among the crew in the water (yelling, crying, etc.)  I remember pulling three of the crew to a boat or a raft that was in the water.  I eventually stayed with about five men until we saw another raft.  We began to collect several members of the crew.  I left the raft when I heard several and swam to their location.  I then told them about our raft and asked them to follow me in the water back to the raft.  During the night, as the officer in charge, I ordered everyone to take off as much clothing as possible (shoes, etc.) because the raft could only hold so much weight.  As it was, we were on the raft with the raft submerged almost to our shoulder level.  Almost everyone had a life preserver.  With over 30 crew members present, we had to take turns staying on the raft, swimming or just treading water allowing time to pass until possible rescue.  We spotted lights about 1000 yards off shore.  To the best of my knowledge, this was Hungnam, North Korea.  I was particularly concerned with wanting to keep our group from wanting to drift or swim to shore.  I knew the North Koreans were aware of what had happened and would have taken prisoners if we had gone ashore.  We tried unsuccessfully to attract the attention of ships we could see far off on the horizon.  It was a very long and cold night waiting until daylight.  I was very pleased that no had panicked, that I could determine.  At about 0900, we spotted a plane that was obviously searching for us.  Our call name, "Dipper Love" was not responding to communications from the other ships we had been with.  We were rescued shortly thereafter.

When we were rescued, we were black with oil and wearing under-shorts and shirts, for the most part.  We were given clean clothes and food.  Soon we were returned to the US via Hawaii.  At this point, we had joined other members of the Sarsi who were rescued.

I received a 30-day survivor leave in the US (assume all survivors did).  I was assigned to be the officer-in-charge of a small ship that was to be commissioned in Key West, Florida.  I had a crew of 10 which I mustered in each day and then stood watch at the Naval Station in Key West.  While in Key West, I was called to the office of Admiral Duke and notified that following interviews with crew members of the Sarsi, conducted by Naval Intelligence personnel, I was being recommended for the Commendation Ribbon and Combat Distinguishing Medal.  - LT (JG) Lou Santangelo

Scarpaci, Gordon W. - Chula Vista, California

I received the letter asking for information on the USS Sarsi ATF111.  Well, it's been 44 years since it went down and it's hard to remember after all the duty stations since then but here goes.  The names may not be spelled right.

I reported on board the Sarsi the last part of 1951 as the Yeoman 2nd class on board.  We went to Kodiak, Alaska for 3 months, then we came back to San Diego.  Then to Long Beach for overhaul after which we went to San Diego where we towed targets.  Then to Bremerton, Washington shipyard with two other ATF's: one was the USS Tawasa.  Anyway, the two ATF's were to tow two cruisers to the Panama Canal (one was the Canberra).  We were the escort ship.  Well, as usual, the Tawasa lost her tow in high seas so we worked all night to get it back to them.  After 3 days in Panama, we returned to San Diego.  We were then sent to Japan, then Korea.  The first time on the line in North Korean waters, we did assorted jobs.  One was to raise a fighter plane in Pusan Bay with shore batteries firing at us.  They sent a battlewagon in later and they knocked out the shore battery.  That was something to see--those 16" guns blazing.  Next, one of our ammo ships rammed a Korean destroyer and sliced halfway through almost mid-ship.  We went along and closed the water hatches.  The Koreans were opening them as fast as we closed them.  Anyway, we were alongside and pumped her and brought her to Seoul.  Our diver and I went under the ship to inspect the damage.

After that, we loaded big concrete blocks, they must have been 4'x4'.  They were to use in Pusan Harbor to reset the buoys after the minesweepers cleared it.  We went to the East of North Korea and was to shoot mines as they drifted out of a river.  The Sarsi then went to Kobe, Japan.  Why, I don't know.  I wasn't on board as I had been sent to the hospital before the Kobe trip.  Anyway, the ship hit a fishing vessel and I got back to the ship from the hospital.  I had to go with the investigating party by car to Kobe, Japan and that was some ride.  After that we were sent back to North Korea.  This was our last time before we were to return to San Diego.  We had that night and were to return to Sasebo, Japan and get ready to return home.  It just wasn't to be!

Where was I and how did I get off that ship?  I was in the office talking to a Yeoman 3rd class.  He stayed in the office and slept on a cot.  I went aft to get some coffee but there was none.  At first I was going back to the Chief's Quarters for some but then decided not to.  I had just went and laid down in my rack when the ship jumped and shuddered.  In a second, the abandon ship order came over the PA.  I was on the O2 deck helping to get a life raft in the water.  The ship was going down fast, bow first.  I heard someone fall and was on my hands and knees with a spare life jacket looking for who fell.  I never did find him.  By then, the forward half of O2 deck was under water.  I stood up and looked aft and saw those concrete blocks sliding forward and one person sitting on the after-rail.  I jumped up and grabbed a cable and started to swing out to clear the sinking ship and was hit in the shin by the 40mm barrel and fractured my right shin.  I swam as best I could with a life jacket, on to a raft.  The only person I can remember was the corpsman who said I made it.  I understand the man who was sitting on the aft-rail and jumped when I did, was the Exec. Officer.  The USS Sarsi was a good ship with a good crew and officers.

The names I remember:  Captain Myers or Meyers (Howard), Exec Officer Gatts or Gates, Bos'n Brown, Engineer Shordt, Johnny Germaine, the cook from Florida, Womack SK3, Chief QM Parrish who died in the sinking and the captain's Steward who also died in the sinking, Carter.  I can still remember a lot of crew but not their names.  If I think of anything more or remember names I will send it to you.

Good luck on your book and also your reunion plans.  I won't be able to attend.  I'm 74 years old.  But if you do get a book together, I would like my grandchildren to have one. - Shipmate Gordon W. Scarpaci

Shordt, Peter Henry (July 14, 1917-December 28, 1996)

The following information regarding Mr. Pete Shordt was graciously submitted by his brother, Richard Shordt in May of 1997.  Unfortunately, in our search for "Sarsi Survivors", we were not able to locate Pete or determine his status until shortly after he passed away.  We want to thank Richard for taking the time to submit Pete's history.

Pete was born in Toledo, Ohio to M. George Shordt and Margaret Shaver Shordt.  He is survived by one daughter, Kathleen and one granddaughter, Maya Shordt and one brother, Richard Shordt.

Peter joined US Navy in the summer of 1935.  Boot camp was at Newport, Rhode Island.  First sea duty was on USS Maryland.  Some of the other ships were Canopies (oiler), Ptarigan (mine sweeper), Wooster, and many others, besides the USS Sarsi.  He spent at least seven years in the Asiatic Fleet, traveled in the Philippines, Japan, China, Singapore, Borneo, Bali and India.  He really enjoyed the pre-war service.

After returning to the States, he married Marjorie Hall of Nasua, New Hampshire.  One daughter was born, Kathleen.  He was stationed in Key West, Florida; Bremerton, Washington; Brooklyn, New York; and San Diego, California.  Most of World War II was spent on sea duty in the Atlantic Theatre.  He earned the Navy Cross in a personal rescue of a shipmate.  He had many medals and citations.  His daughter said he had the Purple Heart.

He then went back to Asiatic duty where you met him on the USS Sarsi.  After your disaster on the Sarsi, he spent time in Japan as a result of heart and back injuries.  He was transferred to Corona, California Naval Hospital and from there to Boston where he worked for the Navy until he retired after twenty years of naval service.

He lived in Windham Depot and Rye Beach, New Hampshire.  He attended the University of New Hampshire and graduated in three years with a teaching degree.  He taught in upper New York at a boys school, moved to New York, lived in Brooklyn and Staten Island while he worked for the US Bureau of Metals.  He then moved to Floyd County, Virginia, where he lived until he died in December of 1996.  He was a member of the Hillsville VFW #1115 and a member of the color guard and very active.  I met the Commander and the 25 color guard members at his funeral and they could not say enough of how much they enjoyed him.  He died of complications of a fall at his home in Roanoke VA Hospital.  His daughter lives in Der Hague, Netherlands.  Like her father, she is very outgoing and intelligent. - Richard Shordt

Smith, James Barton

On the night the Sarsi was sunk I was just getting up to go on watch.  I had my pants half on when we took the hit.  I was the first one to the hatch which had been dogged tight.  Several sailors were at my back trying to get out.  My hands ended up with solid blood blisters in the effort to open the hatch.

When I arrived on deck I was handed a life saver vest and asked to put it on one of the injured men who had a dislocated shoulder.  After getting him into his vest, I went to help get the whaleboat in the water.  An engineer and myself ended up in the whaleboat and took it out and away from the ship which was starting to go into its sinking mode.  However, Captain Howard hollered at us to bring the whaleboat back alongside, which we did.  Just as we got alongside, the Sarsi started to sink.  We dove off and swam like hell to get away.  I looked back and saw the boatfalls hook into  the whaleboat, taking it down with the Sarsi.

I helped men get to the life rafts.  After all, my main concern was drifting toward the shore which appeared to be close by, or that the North Koreans would come out and attack us.  I spent the night either swimming, pulling on the rafts or sitting on the raft and rowing.  Being in the water so long, my calves ended up bunched behind my knees.

Of course, by now Captain Howard had taken off in another whaleboat and left us.  Enclosed are copies of a couple of things you might be interested in.  Please send me a copy of your finished project. - James Barton Smith

Suski, Joe

Since I was only on the ship two weeks, and one of those weeks we were in port (Sasebo, I think). I knew little of the crew or operation of the ship.  I came on board with two other recruit sailors, Millard Collins and Raymond Wood.

I was a fireman's apprentice on the Sarsi, with Clarence (Skinny) Hughes on the lower level.  When we hit the mine, I thought the boiler blew up.  I looked down to the lower level and Skinny was looking up at me.  He gave me the cut off sign, so I turned off the boiler.  Then I went down below to see what I could do.  Skinny said, "Go up topside and send someone down that knows something."  As I was going topside, two other sailors were coming down.  Henderson was one, but I didn't know the other one.  On the way topside, I got the last life jacket in the mess hall.  We waited about fifteen or twenty minutes on the upper deck with the bow of the ship slowly going down.  Someone said to stay on the ship, it was the safest place.  Then the ship took a fast pitch and someone said, "In the water."  I went in the water about mid-ship and swam away from the ship.  There were eleven in our group.  I only knew two of them.  One sailor was Millard Collins, the other was Skinny Hughes.

On the way away from the ship I met Richard Moates.  He said that he had no life jacket and asked to hold onto mine.  I said that it was okay.  After being in the water a few minutes we found a buoy off the ship.  Soon, about three-foot waves came that washed over our heads every thirty seconds or so.  Those two with no life jackets were holding onto the buoy (Collins and Moates).  A small black man that was on mess hall duty drowned because he could not swim.  He died about 1:30 a.m.  Collins was getting sore where the buoy was rubbing on his chest, so we gave Collins his jacket around 5:00 a.m. because Moates was starting to get leg cramps.  I was getting leg cramps about 6:00 a.m.  By 7:00 a.m., a LSD picked us up.  As I came on deck, they gave me a blanket and a small neck brandy bottle.  I had some eggs and went to bed.

After the Sarsi sank, I went to the Bremerton Moth Ball fleet in Washington.  We used the USS Indiana as living quarters.  After two years at Bremerton, I put in for sea duty.  The navy sent me to the USS Nicholas.  It was a destroyer in Pearl Harbor and going to Japan every six months.

I was discharged in March of 1956.  I have been in contact with Herschel McCoy, who I met at Treasure Island, San Francisco after the Sarsi sank.

I called Millard Collins after I got a letter from Bill Hodgerson.  I am now retired from Sunstrand Aviation, where they make parts for airplanes.  I had fifteen years of service at Sunstrand.  I now rent out four houses to help pay my bills.  Am married and have two children, a daughter, 36, and a son, 33.  I attend and am an usher at First Assembly of God Church.  I enjoy camping and family get-togethers. - Shipmate Joe Suski

Thiroux, Louis R. - Biloxi, Mississippi

What I can remember about the sinking of the Sarsi is very little.  I was on the bridge on watch when we hit the mine.  It knocked me from the front of the bridge to the back.  I turned my ankle and foot but managed to crawl down to the deck.  I had on foul weather gear so I tried to help get rafts off but was unsuccessful so I abandoned ship when the Captain said to.

I remember being tied to a raft.  I really don't remember too much--guess I was in shock.  I do remember being picked up.  Have been in and out of hospitals since.  I just had four by-ass surgery and came out pretty good.  Had a nervous breakdown for about 5 years but am doing okay now.  I take about 20 pills daily.

Might be up your way this summer.  I bought a 30' motor home and I have kids living in Oregon.  Go up there every year.  Sorry I can't be of more help. - Good luck, Louis R. Thiroux

Tresner, Robert H. - Great Cacapon, West Virginia

I joined the navy June 22, 1949.  After basic training in San Diego I spent a couple of years in Japan.  I took sixty days leave and reported to the USS Sarsi ATF111 in Korea.  Traveled from San Francisco to Korea with EN 1st Class Henderson.  My duty station aboard ship was in the engine room.  I remember a couple of instances where we really screwed up.  One was when a ship came along side to give us fuel.  We pumped fuel for about an hour and had to get underway.  We discovered that we forgot to open a valve in the engine room so we didn't take on a drop of fuel.  There was no time to try again.  The other time, we were anchored in the mouth of a river on look out.  All lights out and engines off.  We used compressed air to start the main engines.  While updating the log books we discovered the air tanks were empty.  We couldn't get under way if we had to.  We had no choice but to start the air compressor.

Now as for August 27, 1952, at about midnight I was on watch in the engine room.  When we hit the mine I thought we went aground.  After bouncing off the bulk head, I tried starting the bilge pumps.  naturally I couldn't get a suction.  I was working hard trying to find out what was wrong when our 2nd class electrician opened the hatch to the engine room and said, "Abandon ship."  For the life of me I cannot remember the man's name that saved my life.  That doesn't mean that I am any less grateful to him for remembering that I was below deck.

After my thirty days survivor leave I reported aboard the USS Prairie where I spent the rest of my enlistment or I should say then President Truman's year extension.  I was discharged April 20, 1953.

After the navy, I attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.  I guess I am a slow learner because I joined the army (Army Security Agency) January 25, 1955.  After basic training at Fort Ord, California, I went to crypt school in Massachusetts.  After school I was assigned to the National Security Agency in Maryland.  I worked with thousands of civilians.  I was discharged on Friday, January 24, 1958 and reported to my same desk the following Monday as a civilian.  I retired December 30, 1982.

I have been married 41 years, had three children, two girls and a boy.  My oldest girl was killed in an automobile accident in 1986.  We have three grandchildren, two boys and a girl.  Two are in Virginia and one in Florida.  We don't get to see them very often.  When I retired we sold our home in Maryland and moved into our vacation cabin in the mountains of West Virginia.  Now that is our excuse for living in almost heaven West Virginia.  My g--, I have bored myself to death.  I can imagine how you feel. - The End, Robert H. Tresner

Vining, Kenneth N. - Denver, Colorado

I joined the Navy on November 6, 1951 and went to boot camp in San Diego, California.  While in boot camp, I met a man from Navada, Iowa, Don Burns.  We went all through the Navy together.  If I remember correctly, we went aboard the Sarsi in San Diego in February of 1952.

I remember my first liberty was with Carter.  He took me under is wing and showed me the "do's and don'ts."  We met some nice ladies and their Mama-Sans and Papa-Sans.  Carter was a good shipmate.  I think I cried when I learned he was one that was lost (as well as the others).

On the night of August 27, 1952, I remember waking up laying on the deck below my bunk.  I put on a pair of dungarees, went topside and to my abandon ship station.  There were other crewmen there trying to get life rafts loose and in the water.  I could be wrong on this, but it seems to me that I saw Captain Howard already in the water at this point.  Bosn Brown was on the boat deck with only a pair of shorts and a 45 strapped on.  I remember him being the one that told us to abandon ship.  I remember taking my watch off and putting it in my pocket so it wouldn't get wet!  That was a little dumb!  Myself and a crew member by the name of Williams left the ship together.  We pulled a small life raft away from the ship, about 25 yards.  It was one of those kapok types with web netting in the middle.  After leaving the ship I remember looking back and seeing the ship take its last dive to her end.  I remember rolling over on my back as I had been told that sometimes when a ship goes under it will explode and could tear your stomach up.  I left the raft and swam around for a short time.  I came upon the captain's gig.  Captain Howard, Bill Hodgerson, Francis Marino, and I think another crew member, were hanging on to the side.  There wasn't much talking going on.  Captain Howard did keep telling us not to worry, that when the sun came up, we would be rescued.  During the night, if someone would move just a little bit, the gig would start rolling.  I rolled with the gig many times that night.  Early the next morning we saw ships that were looking for us but it was still too dark for them to see us.  Later, a helicopter dropped a smoke bomb to show where we were.  Morino took out his billfold and started counting his money.  He said after we were rescued we would have a big party.

Before I left the ship, I remember we had some big cement blocks on the fantail and they started sliding forward.  Someone screamed.  I don't know if they were hit by the block or what but I have often wondered about Slattery.  The investigation only said he was missing and may be a survivor in enemy hands.  Some of the survivors said they saw him in the water.

We were picked up by the USS Boyd, then went to Sasebo, Japan where we drew stores and then back to the US.  After a 30-day survivors leave, my next duty station was shore duty in Tacoma, Washington, and then to the USS Nereus AS17, a sub tender.  My discharge came in 1955, San Diego, California.

After my discharge, I came back to Denver, married a wonderful girl and we have been together now for 40 years.  We had a daughter and two sons, but lost our daughter when she was 8 years old--she was struck by lightning in our back yard.  We now have five wonderful grandchildren.  I hadn't heard from Don Burns for over 40 years until the Fall of 1994.  Don and his wife, Janet, have been here to Denver to visit us and in the Spring of '95, we made a trip up to Washington to see them.  I have often wondered what happened to all of the Sarsi survivors and am now finding out since we started the "Sarsi Search".  I am now 63 years old and these are my recollections of the night of August 27, 1952. - Ken Vining

Waite, Chuck - Harrisburg, Oregon

Re the night of the sinking of the Sarsi, I was radioman on watch in the pilot house.  The explosion blew me through the hatch and I got burned on the back--guess it was from reefer ammonia.  I couldn't walk and someone threw me a life jacket and I stumbled down the ladder to the main deck.  It seems to me that Pete Burza probably did more to get the boats in the water, etc. even though I don't think much was said about him.  I saw him before I jumped overboard--he was lowering a boat.  Anyway, I floated for a while and somebody pulled me into a boat being operated by Bosn Brown.  It picked up several other guys.  The next morning a minesweeper AMS picked us up.

I was in the hospital in Sasebo for a week, then went home and into Vallejo Naval Hospital.  They operated on one leg and after 3 or 4 months recouping, I was put on the LST 742.  It immediately took off for Korea.  We spent most of our time on the west coast of Korea.  We were involved in the transfer of POW's.  Chicken wire pens were built on the tank deck and about 20 POW's were put in each pen.  The US Army was on guard.  We were there for 18 months, then I came home for discharge at Treasure Island.

I wound up in Oregon, got married and we had 2 boys and 2 girls.  I am now retired and my wife is quite ill.  I doubt if we could make a reunion and please stay in touch. - Chuck Waite

Waters, Kenneth F. - Splendora, Texas

What a surprise to receive a call from someone who served on the USS Sarsi.  I will try to remember what happened that night the Sarsi sank.

I was on the second deck, on gun watch on the port side 40 mm with Flores and two other men whose names I don't remember.  We had the eight to twelve watch.  One of the men had gone down to the sleeping department to awaken our watch relief and had returned when we hit the mine.  The sky lit up from the explosion.  We climbed the ladder down to the main deck when we remembered the life jackets were in a box on the second deck.  So, we climbed back to the second deck to get a life jacket.  We then returned to the main deck which had a number of concrete blocks and marker buoys.  I talked to my best buddy, Slattery, for a minute, but I don't know what happened to him after that.

The ship was sinking by the bow and the concrete blocks and buoys were sliding down where we were standing.  Someone shouted abandon ship.  I jumped overboard on the port side and started to swim away from the ship when I bumped into Flores.  I asked if he was okay and he said yes but did not have a life jacket.  Another man and I held him up until we were picked up by the whale boat.  After picking up other men, we had a total of 29 men in the boat, if I remember right, with two life rafts tied to the back of the boat.  The time was a little after midnight.  We were picked up by a boat from a LSD at about eight o'clock that next morning.

I served on two other ships after the Sarsi, the USS Evansville PF70 and USS Wiltsie DD716.  I was discharged from the Navy in October 1954 at Long Beach, California.  I got married in June 1955 and have two children, a daughter 40 and a son, 38. - Kenneth Waters

Whitler, Bill - Tampa, Florida

Following is a chronology of my time aboard the Sarsi, taken from a book that my mother made from the letters and pictures that I sent home during the time I was in the Navy.  I have made Xerox copies of some of the pictures, which I have included, but I am not able to identify many of the crew members in them.  Maybe if we do get to a reunion we could do so.

I joined the Navy in July 1949 and went to Boot Camp and Electronics Technician School at Great Lakes, Illinois.  From there, I was assigned to the USS Ajax in San Diego in September 1950 and then to the Sarsi October 19, 1950.

  • October 30, 1950 - Tow targets off San Diego
     
  • November 1, 1950 - Tow 2 destroyers to San Francisco.  The radar went out just before we were going into the harbor and under the Golden Gate bridge and we had to go back out to open water.  If I remember right, there was heavy fog.
     
  • January 17, 1951 - Tow another destroyer to SF and then towed the USS Independence out about 60 miles and then they set off charges to sink it.  I have included some pictures and news articles.
     
  • February 4, 1951 - Leave Seattle for Kodiak, Alaska.  We took the inland passage up to Juneau and then across the Gulf of Alaska.  I remember that trip as one of the most scenic I have ever taken.  We were towing two small harbor tugs and were in no hurry.  I also remember that when we went into the Gulf of Alaska, the weather was bad and I think I was sick until we got to Kodiak.
     
  • March 11, 1951 - Back in San Diego.
     
  • April 12, 1951 - Back in Kodiak for Air Sea Rescue.  The only things I can remember that we rescued was a fishing boat and we were sent out to repair a weather station on a small island.  We got into one of the whale boats and started out toward the island but as we got closer to it, the surf was so high that we turned around and went back to the ship.
     
  • June 20, 1951 - Leave Kodiak.  I wrote that this was a much better trip going back than going up.
     
  • June 25, 1951 - Back in San Diego.
     
  • August 27, 1951 - Into the yards at Long Beach.
     
  • January 22, 1952 - Leave for Panama with two other ATF's towing two guided missile cruisers, the USS Boston and the USS Canberra.
     
  • February 15, 1952 - Arrived in Panama.  That was a slow trip.
     
  • March 5, 1952 - Back in San Diego.
     
  • March 25, 1952 - Leave for Pearl Harbor.
     
  • April 1, 1952 - Arrive in Pearl Harbor.
     
  • April 19, 1952 - Arrive in Sasebo, Japan.
     
  • April 29, 1952 - On the way to Wonsan.  Got enlistment extended 9 months by Truman.
     
  • May 3, 1952 - Picked up a sam-pan off Nam Hung and towed it back to Wonsan.
     
  • May 15, 1952 - Salvaged a Corsair in Wonsan Harbor.
     
  • May 17, 1952 - Back to Sasebo.
     
  • June 24, 1952 - Back and forth to Pusan (5 or 6 times).  To Kunsan on the west coast to tow a merchant ship back to Kure, Japan.
     
  • June 29, 1952 - To Inchon.
     
  • July 4, 1952 - At Chinampo on the west coast of Korea with 3 British destroyers and one US destroyer.  We all fired a 21-gun salute for the 4th.  I think we had a target which we could not see because it was on the other side of a hill.  I don't think we ever knew what we hit but we saw black smoke come up on the other side of the hill.
     
  • August 10, 1952 - Anchored outside Moje, Japan waiting for another tug with a tow - we escorted them through the Shimonoseki Strait - then back to Sasebo.
     
  • August 20, 1952 - Back to Wonsan.
     
  • August 27, 1952 - The last letter I wrote home before the sinking was dated August 27.  I said in the letter that we were about to go alongside another ship and would try and get this letter sent over to it to be mailed.  The letter made it.
     
  • August 27, 1952 - I was in my bunk sleeping when we hit the mine.  My bunk was at the bottom of the starboard ladder going to the crews quarters.  I remember my first priority was to make sure I had my glasses and shoes.  I went up the starboard side through the mess hall and then up to the radar room where I kept my life jacket.  From there I went up to the bridge.  By the time I got to the bridge, we were already starting to go down by the bow and were told to go to the fantail.  I went back to the fantail and ended up under the port gun tub where several of us congregated.  I remember one of the chiefs telling us to stay on the ship because the water was shallow and we would come to rest on the bottom.  It didn't take too long to see that this was not going to be the case because he came back a few minutes later and said we were going down and to abandon ship.  I remember we had several concrete buoy anchors which were about a cubic yard in size and very heavy.  As the bow went down, more of these buoy anchors started to break loose and come slamming down toward us.  It was about this time that the chief came back and told us to abandon ship.  I jumped from the port side taking great care not to lose my glasses.  As soon as I got into the water, I started to swim on my stomach.  My life jacket kept turning me over so I changed to a back stroke and swam as hard as I could.  I was thinking about the suction of the ship going down but never felt anything.  I could see the ship starting down at what looked like a 45-degree angle.  Two things crossed my mind at this time--it sure was lonely out here in the dark, I don't think I could see over 5 or 10 feet--and what are Mom and Dad going to think.  I did link up with one other man after a few minutes, although I can't remember who.  We could hear the lifeboat but could not see it.  We made as much noise as we could and kept hearing the life boat circling around.  After maybe 10 or 15 minutes they saw up and pulled us over the side.  I remember the life boat was pretty full.  I think the other life boat we had was cut in half by a boat davit as the ship went down and the only other equipment we had was two life rafts.  I think we circled around for some time to see if we could find anyone else then guided on the search light at Panmunjom which someone said would take us back toward Wonsan.  If I remember right, the engine quit after 4 or 5 hours and we drifted until we were found.  The USS Competent AM316 picked us up about 6:00 a.m.  As I came over the side of the Competent one of its crew members hollered out my name.  It turned out he was from Bensen, Illinois, where I used to live.
     
  • September 4, 1952 - Back in Sasebo.
     
  • September 9, 1952 - Started back to the US onboard the USS Prairie AD15.  I remember stopping in Pearl Harbor but not being able to leave the ship because we did not have dress uniforms.
     
  • October 1952 - Returned to Treasure Island Naval Station in Oakland for reassignment.
     
  • December 18, 1952 - Assigned to the USS Point Cruz CVE 119 in Seattle, WA.
     
  • December 25, 1952 - Had Christmas dinner with a Sarsi survivor but I can't remember his name.  We went to his girlfriend's house for supper.
     
  • February 2, 1953 - Transferred to the USS Norton Sound in Oxnard, CA.
     
  • April 14, 1953 - Discharged.

Wommack, Hines L. - Warner Robins, Georgia

The USs Sarsi accepted me as SA on November 9, 1950.  I was a member of the deck crew approximately seven months, then I was assigned to work with Lavin (SK).  On March 21, 1952 I enrolled in Storekeepers School in San Diego.  This was a nine week course of study.  The Sarsi departed for the Far East just days after I enrolled in the school.  There was a snafu in late May and June, so the Navy didn't send me to rejoin my ship until July.  Guess I spent about six weeks divided between San Diego and San Francisco.  I do recall that I was aboard the USS Butler on the 4th of July, steaming toward Yokohama.  When I finally arrived in Sasebo, the Sarsi was out at sea so I waited several days on our luxury liner, the USS Dupage.  By then, I had enjoyed more than two months with more R and R then hard work.  Enjoyed having time to read and follow the convention battles (Taft-Eisenhower/Kefauver-Stevenson) but I was ready for Y'all.

I recall that our final mission in Korean waters was my first (had more there on the Chickasaw in '53).  It seems that our departure from Sasebo was rather sudden and that some of you had to be rounded up, liberties (and who knows what) interrupted.  Sarsi had experienced a population explosion since March.  My former office (below forward starboard) was now the headquarters for Kunsch.  In fact, I believe he was sleeping there.  Demarest was not assigned to the Sarsi.  He was hitchhiking to rejoin is ship (wasn't it one of the ships that rescued us?)  The supply records were at this time temporarily kept in the yeomen's office.  I believe Demarest was there when the ship sank.  I had talked with him there until after 10 p.m. when I went back to our sleeping quarters.  I was scheduled to stand watch 4-8 a.m.

We had a problem getting our big raft (portside) unhinged.  I was among the very last to get to the ract when we finally got it in the water.  Don't know who it was that lent a hand and pulled me to the raft (just as I don't recall who had restrained me from going back below for my money.)  We tied a rope to the motor launch and headed away from land.  I was one of 13 on, in and hanging around the raft.  There were, I believe, 26 in the boat.  We spent 7-8 hours in this arrangement until we were rescued by, I think the Competent.  During this time, I was able to lose one shoe and my dungarees.  Otherwise, I was dressed to the nines.  Thanks to gentle massaging by my life jacket with generous rations of saltwater, I earned the right to be called a redneck.

Arrived at Pearl Harbor in November, 1952 and was accepted as a member of the Chickasaw (ATF older sister to the Sarsi).  Transferred to the USS Pollux (?) (AK54) in October 1953.  Honorable discharge in June 1954.  Slattery came aboard the Sarsi soon after I did (late '50 or early '51).  he was a likeable guy.  Carter had been kind to me on several occasions.  Don't remember much about Parrish.  The Exec. Officer I remember best was McBain.  Gilliam and Escobar kidded me (razzed) me when I first came aboard.  They also gave me my first guided tour of Tiajuana.  Gilliam and Escobar perceived that Swanson, a boatswain retread from WWII was somehow this greenhorn's protector.  That's how I got my nickname "Swanee."  Our French chef, Johnnie Germaine, gave me my first guided tour of Sasebo (for about 1000 yen).

Since 1952, my contact with Sarsi mates had been almost non-existent until Jim O'Connell called.  Moysey recognized me on an Atlanta street around 1960.  We talked briefly.  He told me he had seen or heard from somebody, perhaps Chastain.  It was around 1982 that I met a former crew member of the USS Competent.  He was dating a woman who worked with me.  Naturally, he remembered rescuing us.  Don't know if he is still in Albany.

A very busy year was 1974.  It included first and only child, first and only marriage, another degree, a job change in a new town.  Our daughter turned 21 in November.  During the years (1954-1996) I have spent most of the time in Georgia.  Exceptions include two years in Nigeria, 2 years in Indiana, one year in Alabama, two brief study summers in France and vacation travel in various parts of the US and Europe.  A sixteen year old German exchange student spent a year with us (1983-1984) and our relationship quickly became like parents and son.  We plan to see him this summer.  My recent retirement is from the Georgia Teachers Retirement System.  I do part-time or temporary work but presently I'm between jobs.  I hope to put a tracer on Roberson and Wood before going back to work.  Also, would like to assist in planning a Sarsi survivor reunion.  There is a possibility of meeting with O'Connell this spring.  Are any of the Sarsi survivors living in Florida? - Hines Wommack

Worden, Terry

A Night I Can't Forget - I was awakened from a sound sleep by a tremendous explosion that seemed to rock the world.  The date was August 27, 1952; the time, eleven fifty; the place, somewhere off the coast of Hungnam, Korea.

I jumped from my "rack" and was fairly calm while dressing, even tying my shoes before going topside to see what the commotion was about.  As I walked forward, the afterpart of the ship seemed to rise as the forward part seemed to fall.  I grabbed my life jacket and raced topside.  Men were running in all directions trying to lower boats, trying to cut life rafts loose and trying to help in any way possible.

It took me a few minutes to realize what had happened, and when the ship kept going down I still couldn't believe that she was sinking.  When everyone started jumping over the side I decided it was time for me to go, and over the side I went.  I had been told many years before that a sinking ship creates a vacuum and tends to pull a person down with it so I swam like I never swam before.  When I felt I was a safe distance away, I turned and watched my home, for exactly a year, sink beneath the sea.

As I looked around I couldn't see any of my shipmates so I started yelling.  Soon, I heard some shouts to my left and quickly swam in that direction.  Two of my shipmates were swimming with one life belt so we joined forces and swam in the only direction possible, away from the new infested communist shore.  We swam for an hour before finding an overcrowded life raft.  Clinging to the side with the other men, we helped battle the tide that was pushing us toward shore.

After eight exhausting hours of paddling and praying, dawn started to break.  The most beautiful sight I have ever seen was the Navy helicopter that swooped down and acknowledged us as the sky burst into light from the morning sun.  It was just a matter of minutes before a Navy ship (USS Zeal, AM131) came into view and picked us up.

We had been in the water over eight hours, but we weren't too exhausted to find out what had happened.  Our rescuers said we had hit an enemy mine a  half mile from the shore and the ship had gone down in ten minutes.  Of the 96 men aboard, 91 had been picked up.  The survivors "hit the sack" and slept the clock around.  This is one experience I will never forget. - Terry Worden EM3


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News Articles from Booklet

  • Kickapoo Sailor - George Nader
  • Colby Telegram/Two Killed, 3 Missing
  • Navy Reports 2 Dead
  • Deardorff Tells
  • 92 Saved/Worden Survives Collision
  • Ensign Phelan Home
  • Sunken Ships
  • Navy Tug Hits Mine
  • Ensign Santangelo Survives

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Casualties of the Sinking of the USS Sarsi

  • CARTER, HAMPTON CURTIS, Sandusky, OH
    E5 Carter was declared dead 08/27/52 by an explosive device (grenade, mine, booby trap, etc.).  Birth date 07/31/1926.
  • DEMAREST, HERBERT ELWOOD, Clifton, NJ.
    YN3 (E4) Demarest was on temporary duty aboard the Sarsi and scheduled to be returned to his regular assigned ship within a day or two.  Birthdate: 07/12/1928.
  • KUNSCH, CHARLES H. JR., Omaha, NE
    E6 Kunsch, USN, served in the U.S.S. Sarsi-ATF-111. His ship was sunk in enemy action in North Korea. He is listed as missing in action, 08/27/52.
  • PARRISH, RAYMOND S., Chicago, IL
    E7 Parish, USN, served in the U.S.S. Sarsi-ATF-111. His ship was sunk in enemy action in North Korea, and he was killed in that action, 08/27/52.
  • SLATTERY, ROBERT T., Milford, MA
    E5 Slattery, USN, served in the U.S.S. Sarsi-ATF-111. His ship was sunk in enemy action in North Korea. He is listed as missing in action, 08/27/52.

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Links to Other Websites with Information about the USS Sarsi:

Visit http://www.uss-sarsi.org/.


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Ship's Log

USS SARSI ATF 111 - Ship Movements February 12, 1949-August 27, 1952
Courtesy of George Cornell
 

Date Activity
February 12, 1949 Pearl Harbor to Long Beach, CA
Long Beach to Colon, Panama
Colon, Panama to San Diego, CA
San Diego to San Francisco
San Francisco to Long Beach
Long Beach to Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor to Guam
Guam to Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor to San Francisco
San Francisco to San Diego
San Diego to Mare Island, Vallejo
Mare Island to San Diego
February 18, 1950 Underway for Adak, Alaska
February 28, 1950 Arrived Adak
March 4, 1950 Underway for Dutch Harbor
March 6, 1950 Dropped one tow at Cheunofski
March 7, 1950 Arrived Dutch Harbor
March 8, 1950 Underway for Adak
March 8, 1950 Headed Back to Dutch Harbor
March 9, 1950 Arrived Dutch Harbor
March 9, 1950 Underway for Adak
March 11, 1950 Arrived Adak
March 24, 1950 Underway for Amchitka
March 26, 1950 Arrived Amchitka
March 26, 1950 Underway for Adak
March 27, 1950 Arrived Adak
April 13, 1950 Underway for and arrived Sand Bay
April 13, 1950 Returned to Adak
April 20, 1950 Underway for Dutch Harbor
April 22, 1950 Arrived Dutch Harbor
April 24, 1950 Underway for Adak
April 25, 1950 Arrived Adak
May 10, 1950 Underway for Dutch Harbor
May 11, 1950 Arrived Dutch Harbor
May 14, 1950 Underway for Adak
May 15, 1950 Arrived Adak
May 18, 1950 Underway for Attu
May 20, 1950 Arrived Attu
May 20, 1950 Underway for Adak
May 21, 1950 Arrived Adak
June 23, 1950 Underway for Attu
June 24, 1950 Arrived Attu
June 25, 1950 Underway for Adak
June 26, 1950 Arrived Adak
July 5, 1950 Underway - Search for missing B17.  Found one body & some debris.
July 11, 1950 Underway for Atka
July 12, 1950 Arrived Atka
July 12, 1950 Underway for Umnak
July 13, 1950 Arrived Umnak
July 13, 1950 Underway for Dutch Harbor
July 13, 1950 Arrived Dutch Harbor
July 16, 1950 Underway for Adak
July 17, 1950 Arrived Adak
August 2, 1950 Underway for Attu
August 3, 1950 Arrived Attu
August 5, 1950 Underway for Amchitka
August 6, 1950 Arrived Amchitka
August 7, 1950 Underway for Adak
August 8, 1950 Arrived Adak
August 9, 1950 Underway for Kodiak
August 13, 1950 Arrive Kodiak
August 15, 1950 Underway for Seattle
August 18, 1950 Bob Henderson taken off ship by plane at Doyle Is. appendicitis
August 22, 1950 Arrive Seattle
August 22, 1950 Underway for San Francisco
August 26, 1950 Arrived San Francisco
September 1, 1950 Underway for Long Beach
September 3, 1950 Arrive Long Beach
September 3, 1950 Underway for San Diego
September 3, 1950 Arrive San Diego
October 2, 1950 Underway for San Francisco
October 4, 1950 Arrive San Francisco
October 5, 1950 Underway for Seattle
October 8, 1950 Arrive Seattle
October 12, 1950 Underway for San Diego
October 16, 1950 Arrive San Diego
November 1, 1950 Underway for Vallejo
November 5, 1950 Arrive Vallejo
November 6, 1950 Underway for San Diego
November 8, 1950 Arrive San Diego
   
January 18, 1951 Underway for Mare Island
January 21, 1951 Arrive Mare Island @1500
January 21, 1951 Underway for Hunters Point.  Arrive @ 1800.
January 25, 1951 Underway with USS Independence CVL-22 which will be sunk at the Farralone Islands.  Sunk with two torpedo charges strapped at center on keel.  Sunk in 20 min.  Continue to San Diego.
January 25, 1951 Arrive San Diego
January 29, 1951 Underway for Seattle
February 1, 1951 Arrived Seattle
February 5, 1951 Underway for Kodiak via Inland Waters
February 10, 1951 Arrive Ketchican, Alaska
February 14, 1951 Arrive Kodiak
February 16, 1951 Underway for San Diego
February 23, 1951 Arrive San Diego
April 2, 1951 Underway for Kodiak
April 10, 1951 Arrive Kodiak
NO LOG FOR MAY  
June 18, 1951 Underway for San Diego @ 110 RPM- Sharp.  Depart 0900
June 25, 1951 Arrive San Diego @ 1900 DEAF
July 17, 1951 ON LEAVE 25 DAYS
August 11, 1951 Return from leave
August 23, 1951 Underway for Long Beach Ship Yard
August 24, 1951 Arrive Long Beach Dry Dock
November 23, 1951 Underway for San Diego
November 24, 1951 Arrive San Diego
December 7, 1951 Underway for Mare Island
December 9, 1951 Arrive Mare Island
December 10, 1951 Underway San Diego
December 13, 1951 Arrive San Diego
   
January 14, 1952 Underway for Bremerton
January 18, 1952 Arrive Bremerton
January 22, 1952 Underway for Panama
February 15, 1952 Arrive Balboa, Panama
February 18, 1952 Underway for San Diego
February 27, 1952 Arrive San Diego
March 24, 1952 Underway for Pearl Harbor
April 1, 1952 Arrive Pearl Harbor
April 4, 1952 Underway for Sasebo, Japan
April 18, 1952 Arrive Sasebo
April 27, 1952 Underway Wonsan Harbor, Korea
April 30, 1952 Arrive Wonsan
May 1, 1952 Underway for Sacho-ri
May 1, 1952 Arrive Sacho-ri
May 1, 1952 Back to Wonsan
May 17, 1952 Underway for Sasebo via Sacho-ri
May 19, 1952 Arrive Sasebo
May 22, 1952 Underway to tow a Korean frigate which had a collision with a Navy sub to Pusan, Korea
May 23, 1952 Arrive Pusan
May 27, 1952 Underway for Sasebo
May 28, 1952 Arrive Sasebo
June 2, 1952 Underway for Pusan, Korea
June 3, 1952 Arrive Pusan - hit fishing boat
June 6, 1952 Underway for Sasebo with frigate in tow
June 7, 1952 Arrive Sasebo
June 10, 1952 Underway for Pusan
June 11, 1952 Arrive Pusan
June 13, 1952 Underway for Kunsan, Korea
June 14, 1952 Underway for Kure, Japan with a merchant ship with rudder problem.  Sarsi's new paint on both sides wiped off while maneuvering to set up for tow.  Rammed another boat & ran aground.  Chief Parrish tears page out of Nav book.  Capt. Howard pees his pants.  Merchant ship's name is Coastal Sentry.  Capt. Howard leaves can to get rain coat.
June 17, 1952 Arrive Kobe, Japan
June 18, 1952 Underway for Sasebo
June 20, 1952 Arrive Sasebo
June 29, 1952 Underway for Choto, Japan
July 1, 1952 Arrive Choto
July 11, 1952 Underway for Inchon
July 12, 1952 Arrive Inchon
July 12, 1952 Underway for Phengnyong-do
July 13, 1952 Arrive Phengnyong-do
July 15, 1952 Underway for Taech'ong do
July 15, 1952 Arrive Taech'ong-do
July 15, 1952 Underway for Taeyongp'yong do
July 15, 1952 Arrive Taeyong'yong do
July 15, 1952 Underway Paengnyong do
July 15, 1952 Arrive Paengnyong do
July 16, 1952 Underway for Sasebo
July 19, 1952 Arrived Sasebo
July 27, 1952 Underway for Pusan
July 28, 1952 Arrive Pusan, Korea
August 1, 1952 Underway for Moji, Japan with merchant ship in tow
August 2, 1952 Arrive Moji
August 2, 1952 Underway for Sasebo
August 3, 1952 Arrive Sasebo
August 9, 1952 Underway for Muture Shima
August 10, 1952 Arrive Muture Shima, Japan
August 11, 1952 Underway escorting the Tawasa ATF 92 and tow through the Shimonoseki, Kaikyo Straits
August 11, 1952 Return & arrive Sasebo
August 19, 1952 Underway for Wonsan
August 20, 1952 Arrive Wonsan, Korea
August 21, 1952 Underway for Nanpo-do, Korea
August 22, 1952 Arrive Nanpo Do
August 22, 1952 Underway for Wonsan
August 22, 1952 Arrive Wonsan
August 27, 1952 ATF Sarsi ATF111 sunk by contact mine off Hungnam, China @approx. 11:40 p.m.
August 28, 1952 USS Platte AO24 returns to Wonsan area to pick up survivors off the Sarsi.

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