Please go here for some recently uncovered photos of the mine damage supplied by the family of BTC Jack Ray Huffman.
The USS MANSFIELD, a unit of DesRonNINE, was under the operational control of ComTaskGrp 95.2 (ComCruDiv in HELENA) upon departure from Sasebo, Japan on 26 September 1950. The ship proceeded with the Task Group, consisting of the HELENA, MANSFIELD and L.K. SWENSON, to the East Coast of Korea for blockade and gunfire support duties. En route a rendezvous was made with the USS BRUSH, which was returning to port following mine damage, and other blockade ships in her company (USS WORCHESTER, USS DEHAVEN, USS BOLSTER).
For the next three days and nights the MANSFIELD was accompanied by the USS SWENSON in providing a coastal traffic block at points up to Chumunjin Lat 37°56'N. Interdiction gunfire was carried out at night but no enemy traffic was indetified. The rapid advance of the ROK forces northward up the coastal highway, at this time, required great caution in selecting shell fire targets. The task was rendered more difficult by an operation order to remain outside of the 50 fathom curve due to suspected mines in the area. However, by observation and speaking to the coastal fishing boats waving ROK flags, and exchange of intelligence with other ships of the task group the gunfire targets were delineated safely.
In addition to the L.K. SWENSON in company with the MANSFIELD, the task group ships in the coastal area included the USS HELENA, USS ENDICOTT, USS S.N. MOORE, USS THOMAS, and USS MADDOX with ComDesDiv 92 embarked.
About 1230I on the 30th, an urgent dispatch directed the MANSFIELD and SWENSON to proceed at best speed possible to Lat 38°45'N, Long 128°15'E to assist a B-26 aircraft reported down at that point. The distance was about 60 miles north of the MANSFIELD. At 1445I the ship went to General Quarters and set Material Condition Able, executing this routine exercise with more thatn usual vigor upon hearing from the SAR plane on the scene that small arms fire had been received from the beach. At 1450I the ship reported on the scene and commenced searching. At 1500I, with the L.K. SWENSON lying to outside the 50 fathom curve, to cover our approach, the entry to Choson Ko begun. The approach was made at slow speed, heading so that the reported position of the plane wreckage would be on the starboard bow. A second plane was now on the scene, a B-178 with a rescue boat. The SAR plane, when requested to make another pass over the wreckage it had reported approximately 500 yards east of Toi To Island, again drew machine gun fire which could clearly be heard on the ship.
The ship had stopped engines at 1535I, and at 1536I both engines were backed to bring the way off, at a point 2,200 yards from the reported wreckage, in 12 fathoms of water. Some objects were now visible in the cove near the beach; a raft of logs about 3,000 yards to port, some net buoys about 3,000 yards ahead. At 1539I a sonar contact was identified as shoal, Chu Rai.
No sign of the suspected wreckage was seen by the many lookouts and officers on the bridge of the MANSFIELD. Neither was anything seen in the water near the ship. The mine lookout, recently stationed in the eyes of the ship with rifle and binoculars, reporting nothing.
Suddenly, a high order explosion was soon heard under the bow of the ship. A geyser of water rose up on the port side to the height of the gun director. While many of the watch were temporarily stunned by the detonation, the Commanding Officer backed both engines full. The ship was steered, while backing, through the same water she had entered. The engineering officer promptly left his station at repair central and rushed forward to begin damage control and rescue injured personnel. The bow was clearly observed to be sinking as soon as the explosion subsided.
After backing clear to the vicinity of the L.K. SWENSON, a distance of about 4 miles, engines were stopped and an account made of the casualties and damage. Radio reports were sent to cognizant commanders. Early analysis of the damage accurately established the water tight bulkhead forward at frame 48. This bulkhead was shored while wounded were carried to the battle dressing station in the wardroom. the Commanding Officer called repeatedly for an estimate of casualties particularly dead and missing. Finally an all hands muster on abandon ship parade confirmed the previous on-battle-station muster of NONE missing or dead. After this cheerful report was passed to all hands, the work of treating the twenty-eight wounded, of building shores, and of pumping tanks proceeded with greater expedition. Three weeks after the explosion the fact that not a man was lost of even crippled remains a miracle.
The labors of the MANSFIELD repair parties in this action are worth of note. The bow was clearly observed to be sinking, the damage control parties first efforts were to remove the wounded and shocked, them to determine the extent of the damage. The party penetrated the smoke and debris forward on the main deck and found that level relatively undamaged. Then thy tested the first platform deck, finding that deck above water but badly holed in the CPO mess room. When an attempt was made to go below that deck, the compartments were found to be flooded to a depth of several feet. Thus it was quickly determined that the first platform and the bulkhead at frame 48 was the water tight boundaries, and shoring was immediately begun on all decks. The wood shores provided on the ship were used early in this emergency, and in searching for more material for such use, the awning stanchions and magazine stowage supports proved of ideal value when set in place with a welding torch.
As no free-surfaced tanks were permitted in the accordance with standard instructions, the only need immediately evident was to pump forward tanks empty and after tanks full to keep the bow trim up. This was accomplished in short order using the emergency tank ejectors. The port anchor was jettisoned, resulting in a 3-4 inch rise of bow trim. Shoring of the deck with vertical welded stanchions was carried on. It is believed these damage control methods contributed much toward saving the damaged bow section.
"On 9/30/1950 we received word that one of the destroyers in our squadron, the USS Mansfield, had struck a mine while on patrol duty off the Korean coast. 5 members of her crew were listed as missing and 48 were wounded *. It brought home to all of us that this was real and we were not indestructable. After returning to our home port in Sasebo, Japan, I went to the drydock where the Mansfield had been brought and this is a picture of her. You could drive a city bus through the hole in her keel."
Please visit George's website for more first hand accounts of his Navy days during the Korean War.
*Update from Rich Bowman 3.22.01: "The personnel casualties sustained as a result of the 30 September 1950 mining incident totaled twenty-eight. Nine of whom required transfer to the USS Helena and later to a hospital for emergency treatment. The wardroom was used as a battle dressing station, our commanding officer (Cdr. Headland) called repeatedly for an estimate of casualties particularly dead and missing. Finally an all hands muster on abandon ship parade confirmed the previous on-battle-station muster of NONE missing or dead. (Other official sources can be found at: Official War Diaries of the USS Mansfield and USN Operational Archives documents)"
Countless little stories of heroism and humor are bared in the two destroyers' logs of their important roles in Korean fighting.
In addition to naval and civilian officials, the 13th naval district's band was on hand, playing both Christmas and military tunes as the mine-damaged vessels slipped into Pier 4 berths in Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. The welcoming was in contrast to that accorded the vessels when they first returned to the states from Korea last week.
No public or press reception was held in San Francisco. Yesterday, however, both newspaper and movie newsreel cameramen and reporters swarmed through the reception scene. Oddly, the seventh Korean patrol made by the Mansfield flagship of commander destroyer division Nine, was the unluckiest.
On Sept. 30 the Mansfield suffered 20 casualties in striking a mine north of the Chumonshin area as it searched for a ditched B-26. Only the ship's mascot, a mongrel dog named Pohang, was lost. The ship's historian, with a touch of ironic humor, recorded in vital statistics: "Number of enemy mines destroyed, 1 (by ramming)."
One of the outstanding heroes of the mine blast was William L. Corcoran, gunner's mate, second class, of Boston, Mass. Corcoran, who has been awarded the Silver Star, was credited with saving the lives of many crewmen by removing from the damaged bow area.
The Mansfield is most famed for her role as on of the five "sitting ducks". She and sister destroyers stood off Wolmi Island to draw enemy fire - so that guns could be spotted and destroyed - before the successful Inchon landing.
The Mansfield participated in a little mining activity herself, putting ashore on the east coast of Korea, a demolition team which mined a mile-long railroad tunnel.
A North Korean train touched off the mines to halt some of the flow of material from northern industrial plants.
The Mansfield's damaged bow was removed at the Sasebo, Japan shipyard and a temporary bow was affixed. The damaged bow came back aboard a cargo vessel and was transferred to the USS Achernar (AKA-53) for the final leg of the journey here.
The Brush suffered heavier casualties in a mine blast Sept. 27 off the northeast coast of Korea. The death toll now stands at 13, in addition to the injured and missing. E.N. Mitchell, fireman now on leave, was one of the five men swept over board. He made a two-mile swim to a small island and was eventually picked up by the destroyer USS Maddox. A second man was saved when he utilized a life raft dropped by a sea rescue plane until a vessel could pick him up. The other three still are listed as missing. The Mansfield and Brush berthed for repairs of battle damage and general overhaul after discharging their ammunition at Bangor naval ordnance depot. They were the first battle-damaged vessels reporting here since the World War II era when PSNS built, outfitted, repaired and overhauled a total of 394 ships.
Among them were the "five old ladies of Pearl Harbor," the battleships USS California, maryland, Nevada, Tennessee and West Virginia. Also, the carriers USS Franklin and Bunker Hill - Japanese suicide plane victims - and the Enterprise, Lexington, Saratoga, Ticonderoga and Wasp.
Other battlewagons entering PSNS in wartime were the USS New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Washington, and Britain's HMS Warspite.
In the cruiser class, the PSNS record lists the Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Wichita.
00 168228 - ljm - 3/28/51 - Prepared - Signed 19 APR 1951
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the SILVER STAR MEDAL to
for service as set forth in the following
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as Squadron Materiel Officer of Destroyer Squadron NINE, on board the U.S.S. MANSFIELD, in action against enemy aggressor forces in Korea on 30 September 1950. When his vessel struck an enemy mine in North Korean waters with resultant explosions and severe damage to the forward part of the ship, Lieutenant Commander Hickey calmly led the way into compartments filled with fumes, smoke and debris, and conducted the daring rescue of the wounded from the Chief Petty Officers' quarters. In addition, he rendered valuable assistance to the Damage Control Officer in ascertaining the extent of the damage and in maintaining the effectiveness of the ship as a fighting unit. By his prompt and courageous actions, he aided materially in securing ready medical attention for the wounded and in providing effective control of the damage sustained, thereby upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
For the President,
/s/ Francis P. Matthews
Secretary of the Navy
PubInfo, BuPers (2)
Ref: ComNavForFarEast, Ser 839 of 1/30/51; (temp citation)
|Recently Declassified Photos of the Mine Incident
Photos courtesy of QM2 Richard Bowman (48-50)
from the NavSource Naval History Destroyer Archive Photographic History of the United States Navy
Taken in dry dock Sasebo, Japan. Japanese yard workers assembled for briefing on bow removal.
Severe mine damage below water line from mine explosion.
Bow being separated from main part of destroyer.
Bow being removed by crane.
Stub bow being installed.
Stub bow being installed.
Stub bow completed.
Underway after completion of repairs.
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