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Some Notes on HMCS Iroquois In the Korean War
by John M. MacFarlane 2016
HMCS Iroquois in Drydock at Sasebo Japan to repair damage after being hit by enemy gunfire off the coast of Korea in 1952 (Photograph from MacFarlane collection.)
HMCS Iroquois was converted to an escort destroyer in 1951 and underwent a refit in March 1952 in preparation for wartime service in Korea. Iroquois sailed from Halifax on April 21, 1952 under command of Commander William Landymore RCN. She sailed via the Panama Canal to Korea arriving in Sasebo Japan on June 12, 1952.
The Blockade of Wonsan, also known as the Siege of Wonsan, was carried out from February 16, 1951 to July 27, 1953, during the Korean War, and was the longest naval blockade in modern history, lasting 861 days. United Nations naval forces, primarily from the United States, successfully kept the strategically important city of Wonsan from being used by the North Korean Navy.
As part of Canada’s participation in the Korean War, destroyers were successively deployed to Korean waters. They were intended to support the blockade of the North Korean coastal ports and to support land actions. HMCS Iroquois was the fifth of six Tribal– class destroyers to serve in Korea and arrived in June 1952 under the command of Commander William Landymore RCN.
Commander William Landymore RCN (in brown duffel coat) directing refueling reprovisioning operations. (Photo from the MacFarlane collection.)
Commander William Landymore RCN conferring with crew. (Photo from the MacFarlane collection.)
Iroquois undertook daytime screening of aircraft carriers off the west coast of Korea in late June and July. At night she patrolled off Pengyong–do and Chodo. She usually operated with HMS Belfast. While operating with HMS Ceylon and HMS Amethyst she shelled the southern tip of the Ongjin Peninsula where enemy forces were moving in on land and the coastal defences on the approaches to Haeju. In August she began a patrol at Haeju–man which included a bombardment of Mu–do.
HMS Ocean (Photo from the MacFarlane collection.)
HMS Ocean (Photo from the MacFarlane collection.)
HMS Ocean (Photo from the MacFarlane collection.)
Helicopter from HMS Ocean (Photo from the MacFarlane collection.)
In September, with HMS Belfast she joined Operation Siciro she participated in a raid on the Chongdong Peninsula. This was a raid in support of 350 Yongmae–do guerillas who travelled in motor sailing junks. After shelling the shore positions the guerrillas moved in, successfully attacked, and withdrew under air cover at daybreak across mudflats and shallow water capturing three enemy agents.
HMCS Iroquois – the ASW Division. (Photo from the MacFarlane collection.)
HMCS Iroquois arrived in the Song–jin area of North Korea (now known as Kimch’aek, it is located on the Pyongra Line railway in North Korea (on the west coast). HMCS Iroquois relieved HMS Charity in the East Coast Task Unit on September 27th, 1952. Almost immediately she came under fire from enemy gunfire. HMS Charity had already destroyed a railway train and some track at a location near Songjin known by its tactical code name ‘Package One’. The railway line was a series of five tunnels and the line between each of them was called a ‘Package’.
‘Package One’ had a bad reputation and was dangerous place. Numerous US Navy vessels had been hit there (with casualties) by effective shellfire from North Korean batteries in previous months, including:
- USS Charles S. Perry (DD–697) damaged by 3 hits from a shore battery at Songjin, North Korea, 23 December 1950
- USS Thompson (DMS–38) extensively damaged after being hit by a shore battery at Songjin, North Korea, 3 killed and 4 wounded, 14 June 1951
- USS Hoquiam (PF–5) slightly damaged after being hit by a shore battery at Songjin, North Korea, 1 casualty, 7 May 1951
- USS Endicott (DMS–35) minor damage after 2 hits from a shore battery at Songjin, North Korea, no casualties, 4 February 1952
- USS Shelton (DD–790) moderate damage after 3 hits from a shore battery at Songjin, North Korea, 15 casualties, 22 February 1952
- USS Wisconsin (BB–64) insignificant damage after 1 hit from a shore battery at Songjin, North Korea, 3 casualties, 16 March 1952
- USS Endicott (DMS–35) minor damage after 1 hit from a shore battery at Songjin, North Korea, no casualties, 19 April 1952
- USS James C. Owens (DD–776) considerable damage after 6 hits from a shore battery at Songjin, North Korea, 10 casualties, 7 May 1952
- USS Swallow (AMS–26) slight damage after 3 hits from a shore battery at Songjin, North Korea, no casualties, 25 May 1952
- USS Murrelet (AM–372) slight damage after being hit by a shore battery at Songjin, North Korea, no casualties, 26 May 1952
- USS Thompson (DMS–38) minor damage in the vicinity of the bridge after an air burst and near misses from a shore battery at Songjin, North Korea, 13 casualties, 20 August 1952
- USS Hanna (DE–449) moderate damage from 1 hit after receiving 60 rounds from a shore battery at Songjin, North Korea, 1 casualty, 24 November 1952
After each attack the Chinese and North Korean armies would put workers on the track to repair the damage. Since HMS Charity had caused damage HMCS Iroquois was tasked with attacking the repair parties. Each working party had to be inspected with high powered binoculars to ensure that they did not include Prisoners of War. An attack on the repair party increased the length of time that the railway was out of operation and unable to move strategic war supplies and so this was a tactic used to keep the line closed down.
Commander William Landymore and Lieutenant George MacFarlane search for and select gunnery targets during action on the Korean coast. Although Commander Landymore is not wearing a helmet he is sporting earplugs to lessen the impact of the guns firing. They are both wearing anti–flash gear to protect exposed skin. (Photo from the MacFarlane collection.)
At action stations, officers of HMCS Iroquois search for targets to shoot up. Commander Landymore in cloth cap, Lieutenant George MacFarlane on right scanning with binoculars. (Photo from the MacFarlane collection.)
On the afternoon of October 2nd, 1952 HMCS Iroquois, in company with three US Navy destroyers were patrolling the coast. The USS Marsh, was detailed with keeping the railway repair crew disrupted and holed up in the tunnel. The Marsh bombarded all morning but gun crews on land were managing to land shells close to her on a number of occasions. Calling for help, HMCS Iroquois responded and sailed into the fire zone, signalling to the USS Marsh to provide support. For about two hours Iroquois fired shells into the entrance to the tunnel.
At 1600 the order was given to ‘check fire’ (cease fire) and she began a long slow turn to seaward. When Iroquois was fully broadside to the North Korean shore batteries they opened fire. The first two shells straddled the ship and the third hit the B–gun located on the bow (just below the bridge). The effect was devastating. Every member of the gun crew was knocked down and some were knocked unconscious. Three men were killed or mortally wounded. Two were severely injured and eight others were wounded by splinters. In spite of the impact the crew managed to get the gun back into action, and loaded both barrels. Meanwhile the A–gun went back into action and continued to fire until the guns would no longer bear on the target. The shore batteries continued to fire but none hit their target.
There were casualties:
- Lieutenant– Commander John Quinn RCN; (killed)
- Able– Seaman Elburne Baikie RCN; (killed)
- Able– Seaman W.M. "Wally" Burden RCN; (died later of wounds)
- Able– Seaman J.A. Gaudet RCN; (seriously wounded)
- Able– Seaman E.M. Jodoin RCN; (seriously wounded)
The USS Marsh departed without firing a shot, leaving HMCS Iroquois at the scene, after observing the the firefight between the ship and shore batteries. Her job had been to provide cover for the Iroquois.
Commander Landymore made a run to a Danish hospital ship the Hope, because some of the casualties were in particularly serious condition. The USS Marsh had fled the scene after watching, but not participating in, the gun duel with the shore batteries and did not fire a shot. Able–Seaman Burden died of his wounds before they reached the Hope. At that point the wounded were transferred to the USS Chemung, a tanker bound for Sasebo Japan and the Iroquois replenished. Only two wounded crew members were transferred – the others chose to remain with their ship.
After a short memorial service Iroquois returned to Package One. Attacking at speed, HMCS Iroquois hit the main batteries and then working with a spotter aircraft they picked off the smaller batteries. All targets were hit and put out of action.
The dead from HMCS Iroquois were buried in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Hong Kong.(Photo from the MacFarlane collection.)
On October 8, 1952 the three dead crew members were buried with full military honours in the Commonwealth Cemetery near Yokohama Japan. By 26th November 1952, her tour of duty was completed and she arrived back in Halifax on 8th January 1953.
The radioteletype (RTTY) text of the official message release of information is captured in the copy straight off the radio room teleprinter in HMCS Iroquois while in Asian waters. (The text is all in upper case print as radio teletype could only transmit in upper case.) (Scan of original document from MacFarlane collection)
The Canadian Government issued a press release to announce the details:
-R- 040545Z FM PLMK DAWD LIZW TO FRAL INFO CZGD CAGT VANP PZVM TUME FABS LUIT LUJI TUME DIAL CNS HQ OTTAWA // THE FOLLOWING IS FOR PRESS RELEASE. DURING A DAYLIGHT BOMBARDMENT IN THE SONJOIN AREA OFF THE EAST COAST OF KOREA COMMA HMCS IROQUOIS WAS HIT BY A SHELL FROM ENEMY SHORE BATTERIES ON 2ND OCTOBER WHICH CAUSED CASUALTIES ABOARD. ONE OFFICER AND TWO RATINGS WERE KILLED AND SEVERAL OTHER RATINGS WERE WOUNDED BY SHELL FRAGMENTS. NEXT OF KIN ARE BEING INFORMED. 2. HMCS IROQUOIS WAS SERVING IN COMPANY WITH USS NAVY DESTROYERS AND DESTROYER ESCORTS CONSISTING OF UNITS OF THE ROYAL NAVY. ON THE FOURTH DAY OF THE PATROL IROQUOIS COMMA TOGETHER WITH THE USS MARSH WAS BOMBARDING A SECTION OF THE NORTH KOREAN RAILWAY LINE SKIRTING THE COAST WHICH HAD BEEN PREVIOUSLY HIT AND WHICH THE COMMUNISTS HAD BEEN ATTEMPTING TO GET BACK INTO SERVICE FOR SOME TIME. 3. IROQUOIS AND MARSH BLASTED THE TARGET FOR ABOUT AN HOUR AND EXCELLENT RESULTS WERE OBSERVED COMMUNIST WORKING PARTIES BEING DISPERSED AND REPAIR WORK BEING HELD UP. 4. AS THE TWO SHIPS TIED TO SEAWARD BREAKING OFF THE ENGAGEMENT COMMA SHORE BATTERIES OPENED FIRE AND SHORTLY AFTERWARDS A FULL SALVO BRACKETED THE SHIP. ALTHOUGH TAKING EVASIVE ACTION AND MAKING SMOKE COMMA THE SHIP WAS SUBSEQUENTLY HIT AND THE CASUALTIES PREVIOUSLY MENTIONED WERE SUFFERED. 5. IROQUOIS AGAIN OPENED FIRE AND THE COMMUNIST BATTERY WAS SILENCED. USS MARSH WAS NOT FIRED UPON DURING THE LATTER STAGES OF THIS ACTION. 6. THE MORALE OF THE SHIPS COMPANY REMAINS EXCELLENT DESPITE THEIR LOSS. THE DEAD WILL BE BURIED IN THE BRITISH COMMONWEALTH CEMETERY YOKOHAMA ON TUESDAY COMMA &TH OCTOBER //
Editor’s Notes: The call signs at the beginning of the message denote -
- PLMK DAWD LIZW: was the Flag Officer Second i/c Far East Station
- FRAL: was the Commander–in–Chief Far Eastern Station
- CZGD: was HMCS Iroquois
- CAGT: was ADMTS
- VANP: was the Commander US Army Far East
- PZVM: was the Flag Officer in Command Hong Kong
- TUME FABS: was the British Naval Attache Tokyo Japan
- LUIT: was the Australian Commonwealth Naval Board
- LUJI: was the New Zealand Naval Board
- TUME DIAL: was the British Naval Attache Washington DC
- CNS HQ OTTAWA: was the Chief of Naval Staff Ottawa
HMCS Iroquois remained with TE 95.22 for eleven more days after being hit, and continued to bombard enemy positions. On October 14th she turned over command of TE 95.22 to USS Carmick, and HMCS Crusader arrived to relieve HMCS Iroquois which sailed on to Sasebo, Japan, for repairs.
Images of HMCS Iroquois while in Korea
Lieutenant–Commander John Quinn (later killed in action), John Carling, and Hal Fearon enjoying a lighter moment before going into action. (Photo from the MacFarlane collection.)
Lieutenant Park, ROK Navy Liaison Officer (Photo from the MacFarlane collection.)
Chief Petty Officer Gerald Edwin Jamieson DSM RCN. In 1938 he joined the Navy as a Boy Bugler RCNVR. He was later appointed as an Ordinary Seaman RCNVR and promoted to a Leading Seaman RCNVR. (He transferred to the RCN). He was promoted to Petty Officer RCN. In 1952 he was serving in HMCS Iroquois as a Gun Captain for Korean War service and was wounded in action. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for putting his gun back into action after the crew was killed or wounded. (Photo from the MacFarlane collection.)
USMC and ROK Marines Aboard HMCS Iroquois after successful raid. (Photo from the MacFarlane collection.)
Lieutenant G.R. MacFarlane scanning and selecting targets ashore. He was the Principal Armament Control Officer and Squadron TAS Officer. (Photo from the MacFarlane collection.)
Robert Hanna writes, "The large pedestal mounted binoculars are a pair of Second World War era Japanese Navy 20x120 mm binoculars on a crude improvised mounting presumably made up on board. It was one of the serious weaknesses of the RN, RCN, RAN and USN that we did not field any comparable instruments before or during the Second World War, nor for some time afterwards. The Japanese fielded thousands of similar units and their night–fighting ability was highly dependent on those optics. The closest was the Ross 10x70 binocular gunsight. The one weakness of the Japanese binoculars was that they lacked the red, yellow and gray filters which the Ross gunsight had and which did much to reduce glare at sea.".
Lieutenant Earl McConechy RCN and Ordnance Lieutenant Percy Buzza RCN with some of the ship’s armament. (Photo from the MacFarlane collection.)
A personal note: After HMCS Iroquois departed Halifax without fanfare, my mother took my sister and me to live with our grandparents in Victoria BC. I received a couple of letters from my dad in Korea which are now in the collection of the Vancouver Maritime Museum. He and 100 of the ship’s crew disembarked in Victoria on their way home to Halifax. It was just in time for Christmas and I was on the dock in Esquimalt to see the ship arrive. My sister (much younger) did not recognize my father, but I was thrilled to see him after such a long time.
Some of the only publicity in the press about the departure was an announcement that we were moving to Victoria BC while my dad was in Korea. (Photo from the MacFarlane collection.)
To quote from this article please cite:
MacFarlane, John M. (2016) Some Notes on HMCS Iroquois In the Korean War. Nauticapedia.ca 2016. http://nauticapedia.ca/Articles/Iroquois_in_Korea.php
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