Unification News for January and February 2001
Ship of Miracles
Reviewed by Hanna
Ship of Miracles by Bill Gilbert, Triumph Books, 2000
"The Ship of Miracles is the extraordinary story of what has been called ‘the greatest rescue operation by a single ship in the history of mankind." At Hung Nam at Christmas 1950, the SS Meredith, a US Merchant Marine meant to carry no more than 12 persons, rescued 14,000 Korean refugees from the port city of Hung Nam.
Ship of Miracles has special interest for Unificationists. In addition to telling the incredible SS Meredith rescue story, it tells the larger story of the whole Hung Nam United Nations operation which caused Rev. Sun Myung Moon to be liberated from prison in the labor camp at Hung Nam and also relates Rev. Moon’s personal escape to the South.
The Ship of Miracles is one of several books now being released to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. The Korean War is called by many "the forgotten war". Many feel it was ignored by the media establishment because it was a successful war against communism-not a politically correct event.
Ship of Miracles recounts the dramatic and inspiring account of the largest evacuation of military troops and a civilian population in history. Under heavy fire from Chinese militia close by and at the risk of their lives the American Navy evacuated 100,000 American troops and at the risk of their lives an additional 100,000 Korean civilians. These civilians, mostly families including children and elderly ,hearing of the Americans arrival and risked their lives to flee to Hung Nam in hopes of leaving their life in communist North Korea.
The Chinese communists had a policy to chop the heads off anyone found trying to escape south. The civilians had fled to Hung Nam in hope the United Nations forces would rescue them. The flood of 100,000 refugees begging to be rescued was totally unexpected by the United Nations forces who were trying with great difficulty to evacuate 100,000 troops themselves. Courageously, the United States Navy worked frantically while under fire from Chinese troops less than two miles away to evacuate troops and refugees by ship through the mined harbor.
Ship of Miracles devotes 4 pages to recounting the harrowing escape of Rev. Moon from Hung Nam and North Korea. Peter Kim, Larry Moffitt of the Washington Times Foundation and Michael Inglis are some of the people the author gives thanks to for their assistance in his research.
The book has a forward by General Alexander Haig who was at Hung Nam 135 miles into enemy territory. General Haig writes " Mere words cannot describe the severity of the conditions, the fury of the fighting, the numbness of the winter, the drama of the withdrawal and the heartbreaking plight of the North Korean refugees."
Captain Leonard La Rue was the captain of the SS Meredith and its tiny crew. Captain La Rue was a deeply religious Catholic who after the Korean war became a Benedictine monk. His commander in Japan told him that he did not have to go into Hung Nam harbor to rescue the civilians because the harbor was heavily mined and it meant risking the lives of aboard. However, the captain did not hesitate a second in his decision to rescue the civilians and none of his staff officers doubted or ever questions his life threatening decision.
It was a frigid Korean winter and the refugees that boarded had little food or water. During the three day voyage to the South, they had to stand mostly shoulder to shoulder in the dark holds of the ship. There were no windows and no sanitary facilities. The American crew were in awe of the stoicism, good nature and cooperation of the refugees as they went through an unprecedented ordeal. Five babies were born on the voyage and miraculously not a single life was lost.
The SS Meredith delivered its precious cargo on Christmas Day on a small island in South Korea. Captain La Rue later wrote "I believe God sailed with us those three days. By all the laws of logic, the loss of life could have been enormous. Yet not a soul perished."
I first heard about the SS Meredith rescue from Mr. Bob Lunney, a friend in ours in our hometown of Bronxville New York. Mr. Lunney was an officer under Capt. La Rue during the miraculous rescue. Coincidentally, he was later chosen as the lawyer to appeal Rev. Moon’s tax evasion conviction. Mr. Lunney, a great admirer of the Korean people, provided extensive personal testimony and photos to author Bill Gilbert.
Mr. Lunney and his son years later visited Captain La Rue when he was a Benedictine monk and asked him to explain to his son how he was able to make the decision to risk the lives of his men to evacuate the refugees. The monk simply said "The answer is there in the Holy Bible: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
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