USS Pledge – AM-277
In 1944, at the age of seventeen, I joined the U.S. Navy for a two year tour; then in 1948 I re-enlisted. I was assigned for duty aboard the USS Pledge—a minesweeper. The function of a minesweeper was to cut the cables on underwater mines, and when they came to the surface we destroyed them with our guns.
* * * * * *
After the liberation of Seoul, in the later part of September, the UN forces headed north. On the 9th of October, the invasion of North Korea began, with I Corps going up the western side of the peninsula and the Tenth Corps taking the eastern side. However, amphibious landings would be required of the Tenth Corps. The Marines 1st Division would be landing at Wonson and the U.S. Army’s 7th Infantry Division would land at Iwon.
In preparation of the landings at Wonson, the Navy sent in minesweepers to handle the difficult and hazardous task of clearing an area two-thousand yards wide and fourteen miles in length. One of the minesweepers involved was us—the USS Pledge.
On October 12th, after aiding in the clearing of two minefields, the Pledge entered a third. Suddenly the lead ship, the USS Pirate, hit a mine and within minutes she was gone. We quickly lowered a boat and cut loose our sweep gear to help retrieve survivors. Immediately we were fired on from shore batteries from Sin-do Island. Equipped with 3-inch guns and two Twin 20 mm guns, we returned fire—silencing at least three of the batteries.
I was on the second deck on one of the 20mm guns, when we tried to turn out of the minefield; as she turned she struck a mine on the starboard side of the bridge superstructure. The blast buckled the deck. I was injured. Everything was done to save the ship, but within sixty minutes she had met the same fate as the Pirate—she sank.
I don’t recall how long I was in the water, but it must have been around four or five hours. While in the water I clung to a net with floats, as the shore batteries opened fire on us; thereby, making rescue attempts very difficult. We were finally picked up by crews from the USS Endicott. The USS Doyle was also in the area, but I can’t recall the names of the other ships or how many.
That afternoon the Pledge lost seven men—one dead and six missing—and another forty wounded. We were taken to the hospital ship, the USS Repose, where I would be a patient for two weeks. Then I was transferred to a U.S. Naval hospital in Yokosuka, Japan.
All survivors of the Pledge were granted a thirty-seven day furlough; then on the 23rd of December we were to report for duty and reassignment. I was able to spend Thanksgiving Day—in Marshall, Minnesota—with my family.
* * * * * *
After returning to the west coast I was assigned to the USS Estes, an Amphibious Force Flagship that was brought out of mothballs and re-commissioned on January 31, 1951—then back to Korea.
* * * * * *
At a later date I was attached to the Atom Testing and was aboard the Estes for the first hydrogen bomb tests. I had a brother on the Estes at the same time. However, in 1958 I transferred to the Air Force where I ended my military career in 1969.