USS Mt. Baker (AE-4) Collision with ROKN Apnok (PF 62)- MAY 1952
From the Personal Log of Bill Yarborough, USS Navasota....Wednesday, May 21,1952
"About 2130(9:30pm) the USS Mt. Baker (AE-4) and the ROKN Apnok-PF62 collided. The quartermaster who was assigned to the rescue detail was on watch so I volunteered to go on the motor launch to pick up injured and dead Korean sailors. We picked up 7 casualties and took them back to the Navasota. We did not have a doctor but we did have a Chief Petty Office who was a medic. The Apnok was almost broken in half just aft of the bridge. The Korean Captain and the men on watch stayed aboard. Several ships had sent Damage Control Men to the Apnok and they were trying frantically to keep it from sinking, at least until all the injured could be evacuated. They succeeded in keeping it afloat and later it went into some port. I sent the signal "We have 7 casualties" by Morse Code with a flashlight I had borrowed when I volunteered to go on the launch.
I got seasick on the motor launch but made it back to the ship before I threw up. Part of my sickness was bringing the injured, some who had bad burns, and there was a burned flesh smell. Due to language differences, the Apnok officer had misinterpreted the Mt. Baker's message on a course change and they changed the wrong way.
After a short while they discovered they had turned the wrong way and turned back. By then the Mt. Baker was right on top of them. When we were in Korean waters we always steamed under "Darken Ship" conditions which meant we had no lights showing. We were in North Korean waters so we were in darken ship condition.
By the time I got into the motor launch, all the ships had searchlights on the Apnok and surrounding area. After all the injured and dead were taken off the Apnok, we immediately headed for P'Ohang in South Korea to unload the casualties. We had 5 dead on our ship and they were kept in our walk-in freezer. We had missed the Mt. Baker by only about 450 yards which for two large ships was a close call. The Mt Baker is an ammunition ship and the Navasota is a fleet tanker. We had aviation fuel in our forward tanks. If we had hit them with their ammo and our aviation gas and napalm and diesel fuel, it would have been a disaster for both ships.
As soon as our officer of the deck was informed of the collision, the Mt. Baker also ordered him to "shear off to right." He did that and also ordered "all engines back full." The ship shook and vibrated very badly. Everybody jumped out of their rack and went up on deck. I didn't know what was happening but I knew I did not want to get caught down in the living quarters."
May 22, 1952
"At P'Ohang--unloaded casualties. Jarheads (Marines) came out in Duwks and took them to shore. Twenty-four (24) members of the Apnok crew were killed in the collision last night. (I have later learned that 25 died and 21 injured of the Apnok crew according to the Dept. of the Navy)
A memorial service was held May 22, 1952 aboard the USS Navasota (AO-106) for the Apnok casualties. Some of the injured were heard to be saying what was thought to be Christian prayers. To my surprise, I later learned that Christianity was the largest religion in South Korea. Among other things, the following scripture was read:
Romans 8: 35-39
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor
principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate
us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
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Photo- The ROKN Apnok
Photo- USS Mt. Baker AE-4
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