The Korean War was the first test of the United Nations’ resolve to stand against tyranny. The United States and 21 other nations joined South Korea in a remarkable display of solidarity to keep North Korea from sweeping down the Korean Peninsula. The Armistice signed in 1953--that remains in effect today--reminds us that we must remain ever vigilant.
Part of remaining vigilant is maintaining a well-equipped and well-trained U.S. Merchant Marine. During the Korean War, our merchant marine transported 75 percent of the men and women who served and 90 percent of our armed forces' supplies, including food and ammunition.
Merchant marine ships also helped nearly 100,000 refugees escape the oppression of North Korea in the Hungnam evacuation. And last Thursday, Maritime Administrator David Matsuda introduced to a group of Korean War veterans a documentary film, Ship Of Miracles, that tells the terrific story of the S.S. Meredith Victory, a merchant marine vessel that delivered a true Christmas Day miracle in 1950.
Led by Captain Leonard P. LaRue, the crew packed the vessel--designed for only 12 passengers--with 14,000 refugees, who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with almost no food or water. For two days they sailed icy, dangerous waters until they reached the island of Koje-Do. On Christmas morning, they unloaded all 14,000 passengers, plus five infants who were born during the voyage. Everyone survived.
Introducing the film, Administrator Matsuda said, "As history takes us farther and farther from the miracle on the S.S. Meredith Victory, it’s important that we keep this narrative alive."
And that's what filmmaker R.J. McHatton has done in this 75-minute documentary.
The Korean War won’t soon fade from our collective memory and its lessons must never be forgotten. Thankfully, stories like this one will always help us remember the the path that led to such circumstances--as well as the bravery and humanity we used to overcome them.
Today, the Republic of Korea stands as a modern, prosperous, vibrant democracy because of the courage and selfless sacrifice of United Nations forces including tens of thousands of Americans. I'm proud that the United States Merchant Marine was part of that effort and fulfilled its responsibilities with courage and honor.