Topics - Ship Accidents - 1954

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Landing Craft (LCM 5195)

On January 21, 1954, LST 456, loaded with Chinese prisoners bound for Formosa, rammed into the small landing craft LCM 5195.  Twenty-eight drowned, including 24 Marines, two soldiers, and two Koreans.  The Marines were fully armed, carrying heavy rifles, and wearing heavy boots.  The weight dragged them into the icy waters of Inchon Harbor, and they drowned.  For further information, click HERE.

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USS Bennington (CV-20)

On May 26, 1954, this ship was damaged due to an explosion and lives were lost.  To learn more about this accident, click HERE.

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SS Toya Maru

On September 26, 1954, an advance party of American soldiers from the 99th Field Artillery Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division Artillery lost their lives in the capsize of this Japanese ferry boat. There were approximately 1,159 aboard and only 150 survived.  Only one American soldier survived, Pfc. Francis P. Goedken from Dubuque, Iowa.  Due to high winds of approaching Typhoon No. 15 (Marie), the anchor of the ferry did not hold and the Toya Maru was cast adrift.  Water entered the engine room, caused the steam engine to stop, and sent the ferry out of control.  She overturned in the high waves.

2Lt. George A. Vaillancourt was awarded the Soldier's Medal posthumously:

Department of the Army
General Orders No. 11 - February 08, 1955

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Soldier's Medal to Second Lieutenant (Field Artillery) George A. Vaillancourt, United States Army, for heroism at the risk of life not involving conflict with an armed enemy while serving as officer in charge of a troop movement between the Islands of Hokkaido and Honshu, Japan, on 26 September 1954. The Toya Maru heavily laden with passengers and cargo, was buffeted by merciless, high velocity winds and floundering in raging, turbulent sea. When the ferry began to list, Lieutenant Vaillancourt sought the services of an interpreter and personally brought his men from assigned quarters below deck to the 2d Class Salon area, where life belts were issued to them. Throughout a harrowing 4-hour period, Lieutenant Vaillancourt's calm steadying influence proved a source of inspiration and courage to both the troops under his command and to the civilian passengers. His selfless concern for others and keen sense of humor prevailed during the final terrifying moments before the ship capsized, and he was last seen issuing vivid instructions and aiding fellow passengers. Lieutenant Vaillancourt's intrepid leadership and consummate devotion to duty minimized panic and afforded greater opportunity for escape from the ill-fated vessel, reflecting distinct credit on himself and the military service.

The list of casualties in the link below was compiled by Peter P. O'Brien, 61st FABn, HQ Battery, 1954-55 in August 2014 at Foxboro, Massachusetts and updated in August 2015.

To read more about the capsize of the SS Toya Maru, click HERE.


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