A "wolf pack" (South Korean guerrilla fighters) with their sampan in 1952.Don Jatiouk
South Korean navy patrol ship, foundered on rocks and sinking in the Yellow Sea, 1952.Don Jatiouk
Don Jatiouk's medals (left to right): Korean War 40th Anniversary Medal, Syghman Rhea, 5th Year Korean Veterans' Association (KVA) Service, Meritorious Service KVA, Korean War Medal, Korea Volunteer Service, United Nations Medal.Don Jatiouk
A typical Korean village on the friendly-held islands in the Yellow Sea off Korea.Don Jatiouk
Donald M. Jatiouk stands by the Korean War Memorial, outside The Naval Museum of Alberta. Calgary, 1991.Don Jatiouk
"I couldn’t believe it. Had to be at least 250 feet in diameter and straight up in the air for at least 150 feet, just a massive explosion. I’m certain that if we had ran over that mine that night, the ship would have been lost and with probably heavy casualties."
We were the only United Nations ship to capture a ship and the crew of the North Korean navy. This was a small minelayer, it was really a converted sampan [flat bottomed wooden boat common in Asia] but these people had navy uniforms on belonging to the North Korean navy. We were able to get in behind the small minelayer on the night that I was on duty in the Operations Room. And what happened was about 2:00 am in the morning, I had picked up a bogey [unknown or enemy radar signature] on what we called a Sperry scope radar which is a high definition radar set at the time. And spotting the bogey, I reported it to our petty officer on watch who was looking after the watch at the time and he asked me position and bearing and what have you. Then I had to mention that the bogey split in two and one part of it disappeared. And I was a little bit perplexed by this because I’d never seen this happen with any other bogey from the past. And he said, “Well, keep close eye on it.” I asked him what he thought it was, he didn’t know.
So anyways, once more this bogey split in two and one part disappeared just as the captain came into the Operations Room because by that time, action alarm had been sounded and everybody was closing up to action stations. And the captain, right at that moment, it dawned on me that this was, whatever the bogey was, was laying mines, that was the only reason for a bogey to disappear that I could think of and I was on the money on that one. And I mentioned this to the captain, that we were about 1,500 yards from where the first split bogey disappeared and he was a little bit perplexed looking at me and sort of questioning my assessment of the situation.
But anyways, he agreed and made a 20-degree turn to port and we skirted around where the object had disappeared and got in behind the minelayer before they could get ashore. Now, by the time we got in behind, they had already laid three magnetic mines. Now, magnetic mines are exploded by metal, steel, or iron ship passing over them and the magnetism from the ship detonates the mine and explodes it.
In any event, we captured the North Korean navy vessel, the crew dispersed overboard from their ship into the water, and we had our cutter [small fast boat] from our ship round them up in the water and there was one that resisted and he was shot. And another one had drifted onto a rocky outcrop which we picked up in the morning, who was in serious hypothermic condition. And the next day, we had to call in an American minesweeper and the minesweepers of course are made with wooden hulls so that they would not detonate magnetic mines. And the American sweeper was going back and forth in the area where we had spotted this operation and I was on deck when he exploded the first mine and what a tremendous explosion, I couldn’t believe it. Had to be at least 250 feet in diameter and straight up in the air for at least 150 feet, just a massive explosion. I’m certain that if we had ran over that mine that night, the ship would have been lost and out with probably heavy casualties.
When they started approaching these guys [the North Korean sailors], they went overboard, they were all in truck inner tubes as a flotation device, number one, and they picked up one or two and they came across another fellow who had a bigger insignia on his cap, I presume he had to be the ship’s captain and he had the Chinese version of burp gun,* I think they used to call them. And he started to pick that up and aim it and getting prepared to shoot at the oncoming motor cutter with our men in it. And of course, the men on the motor cutter, there was about five of six of them that were armed and they all opened fire at once. Of course, the North Korean navy captain didn’t last long, we punctured the inner tube, that blew up and many shots hit his body and he just disappeared.
It was early morning, oh, it was probably around mid-July 1952 and we got an urgent message from our South Korean patrol craft, that she had ran aground on rocks off of they called a Haejuman, sort of a gulf heading up into the Korean peninsula. And she was sinking. We were on patrol at the time in that particular area and of course, we went to her rescue. Now, the operation required that we save the ship from sinking and also we were well within range of any shore batteries [anti-ship artillery guns] that were in the area. And taking into consideration that we would be a standing target for a number of hours, it was necessary that we bring in backup. There was a British cruiser in the same patrol area called HMS Belfast, she was a big cruiser, a heavy cruiser with eight-inch guns and I think she had eight-inch.
Anyways, with her onsite within a mile of the operation, we were able to send our damage control party onboard this South Korean patrol craft and it was really funny to watch them throwing everything overboard, ammunition, all food supplies of all sorts all went into the water to lighten it as much as possible, even removed one of the guns and threw it overboard. And they were able to patch up the hole in the ship enough so it would stay afloat.
Now, we took this under tow, a side tow it was called because we literally tied that patrol craft to the side of our ship. And we didn’t break free from that rock until about 8:00, 8:30 in the morning and if the British cruiser had not been onsite with us, I’m sure by that time, all that we would have been was just a bunch of scrap metal.
But anyways, we were able to save this patrol craft and take it one of the friendly held islands called Chung Yang Do. I don’t know if you can pronounce that but anyways, a number of the crew of this patrol craft were from that island, they were extremely grateful for saving their husbands and brothers and what have you.
*Submachinegun with a high rate of fire that provided a distinctive noise when fired