A magazine spread featuring an illustration of a duck and a US naval destroyer.

Hunting Ducks from a U.S. Naval Destroyer During the Korean War Leave a comment

This story was initially printed as “The Wonsan Incident” within the Might 1951 challenge of Out of doors Life. The writer, Daniel Jordan Carrison, served in World Conflict II and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Fight “V” for “meritorious service as Gunnery Officer of the united statesYorktown, throughout operations towards enemy Japanese forces on the Japanese Mainland” in summer season 1945. This story, nonetheless, was written throughout his publish as Commanding Officer of the united statesO’Bannon from December 4, 1951 to April 2, 1953 in Korea. His service there earned him a Gold Star.

A number of skeptics could doubt my story, however I’ve proof that I’ve engaged in one of many strangest duck hunts within the annals of gunning. The scene is Wonsan Harbor, North Korea; the time, January, 1952; my weapon, a bolt-action Springfield of classic 1918; my duck boat, certainly one of Uncle Sam’s 2,100-ton destroyers. The field rating: eleven geese (Communist, after all), eight on the wing and three sitting.

Official press releases have given the united statesS. O’Bannon credit score for destroying quite a few targets in Wonsan. Throughout our bombardment of this North Korean visitors hub we scored hits on every part from oxcarts to locomotives; we burned buildings, destroyed bridges, sank sampans, and knocked out gun emplacements. Actually, we had orders to shoot at every part that moved—however simply how that got here to incorporate geese takes slightly explaining.

Now, maybe I ought to clarify {that a} destroyer skipper generally has time on his arms. After having been in command for a 12 months or so, the skipper who does every part himself isn’t value his salt. It’s a convention on small ships that the officer of the deck be a succesful seaman. A teen in his early twenties, a 12 months out of faculty NROTC, has extra authority as a destroyer O.O.D. than a Naval Academy graduate, class of ’38, would have on a battle wagon. Completely satisfied is the destroyer skipper who, after a 12 months’s supervision, can boast 4 younger officers who can get the ship underway, take it out and in of a harbor, and combat the ship if want be. Then his job turns into certainly one of supervision, and most of his hours are spent sitting within the “Previous Man’s” chair on the bridge, troubleshooting solely when needed.

Writer D.J. Carrison (proper) on the re-commissioning of the united statesNicholas and USS O’Bannon (DD 450) at Mare Island on February 19, 1951. Vallejo Naval and Historic Museum

By the point the O’Bannon arrived in Wonsan for her bombardment mission, I had been gently however firmly kicked upstairs by a bunch of very succesful gents who, a 12 months earlier, had been (a) a paint-and-dye salesman, (b) a junior govt in an promoting agency, (c) a school-teacher, and (d) a filling-station operator. So I’d sit in my chair on the bridge and stare on the enemy shore for targets, or stroll up and down the bridge and swap jokes with the signalmen and lookouts.

One morning the port lookout, a hawkeye who acquired his early coaching searching squirrels in Tennessee, gave me an concept. “Cap’n,” he mentioned, “I’ve been starin’ at this water for 3 days now and haven’t seen a mine but, however them gol-dern geese are gettin’ on my nerves. Each time I see a dot on the water and prepare to yell ‘Mine on the port bow,’ it simply shakes its tail and flies away.

“Now,” he continued, “ifn I had my ol’ 12 gauge shotgun, I’d repair these geese and make this an honest place for a seagoin’ destroyer.”

The one shotguns a destroyer carries are the sawed-off riot weapons that the touchdown drive takes ashore; the one ammunition is 00 buckshot. A person would possibly as properly throw rocks as attempt to hit a duck with a mix like that.

But on each destroyer bridge you can find a rifle—both an M-1 Garand or the previous trustworthy Springfield. It’s stored useful for sinking mines or any floating objects that resemble mines. The Japanese internet floats that drift round these waters have added grey hairs to most destroyer males. I’ve sunk over a dozen previously month. Mines will be taken care of properly with a Springfield—they both sink or explode after just a few well-placed hits.

By the point we began our bombardment mission, I had turn into the official ship’s sniper. Any tin can, field, internet float, or aircraft stomach tank that floated by was honest sport. It was a helpful factor to do, for after I sank every offending object that resembled a mine, it made the possibilities of recognizing the true factor that a lot higher. And don’t suppose that we who journey these waters with solely a half-inch metal plate between us and Davy Jones aren’t mine-conscious.

“So,” I mentioned to myself, “these geese are bothering my lookouts and detracting from their effectivity. By golly, they’re precise hazards to operations.”

It didn’t take me lengthy to determine that they have been official targets for my Springfield.

“Operation Duck Hunt” acquired underway instantly. I bagged three birds the primary day at ranges of about 100 yards, however they have been (disgrace!) sitting.

Now I’m not one to sneeze at capturing a sitting duck as long as I’m utilizing a rifle and the vary is lengthy sufficient to offer him a good probability. However my good friend from Tennessee would snort his displeasure.

“Sittin’ geese!” he’d mutter, simply loud sufficient for me to listen to. “The Previous Man is out of line.”

Earlier than I knew it I had a tacit settlement with Tennessee that I wouldn’t hearth till the geese have been air-borne. Although it took extra ammunition, it was additionally much more enjoyable. After two days’ blazing away I hadn’t hit something, however the geese had a brand new respect for the U. S. Navy.

Since Wonsan Harbor isn’t very large, the O’Bannon was without end altering course, dodging an island right here and there, with a purpose to hold the shoreline beneath surveillance. It additionally helped to be a shifting goal in case the Commie shore batteries determined to take a pot shot on the ship. As a matter of reality, vessels had particular directions to not cease whereas within the harbor. After lacking so many shifting targets myself, I might see the logic of that. In order we cruised round we pressed our warfare towards the shore targets fairly efficiently. However we additionally had many a spell of quiet steaming between such bombardments.

The US naval destroyer, the USS O'Bannon, in the Sea of Japan.
The destroyer USS O’Bannon within the Sea of Japan, circa 1968. After coming into service in June 1942, the O’Bannon was decommissioned in January 1970 at Pearl Harbor. Naval Historical past and Heritage Command Assortment / U.S. Navy

DURING THESE LULLS my warfare with the geese went on. Lastly I caught the knack and began to bag them on the fly. Some hits have been actually unbelievable, and although I do know that there was loads of luck concerned, I now fancy myself fairly a marksman and am simply ready for my subsequent furlough in South Carolina; if I can get ’em on the fly with a rifle I must be homicide with a shotgun.

Anyhow, when our tour in Wonsan was up, the field rating was three a-settin’; eight a-flyin’. Now, no sportsman likes to shoot sport and go away it, however I had an issue. A 2,100-ton destroyer is not any rowboat and doesn’t spin on a dime. As a matter of reality, if you placed on the brakes by backing full pace, the ship continues forward for the size of two soccer fields earlier than coming to a cease. Moreover, I had orders to not cease.

Tennessee got here up with the answer. “Cap’n,” he mentioned, “ifn you could possibly mark that duck as we handed by, we might git him the following time round.” That was a partial resolution—but it surely had its shortcomings. First there was the set and drift, as we within the Navy name the consequences of wind and present. In half an hour a floating object in Wonsan Harbor drifts about 500 yards. It took the O’Bannon a superb half hour to retrace her steps as she patrolled the harbor. However even when I might deliver the ship to the duck, how was I to retrieve it with out stopping?

A boatswain’s mate remembered a type of trout internet that was saved within the ahead maintain, so he rigged it to the tip of a ship hook. This offered a superb ten-foot attain, which wasn’t value a hoot from the fo’c’sle, the place the deck is twenty toes above water. Nevertheless it was satisfactory again on the fantail, which has solely about eight toes of freeboard.

So we labored out a plan by which we retrieved 9 out of 11 geese. Once I bagged one I’d yell “Mark, 100 yards on the starboard beam.” The quartermaster would take a fast bearing, plot within the ship’s place, and, 100 yards from our monitor, make a circle marked “Duck.” On our subsequent time across the harbor we’d enable for the duck’s drift via the water and steer for his predicted place. Once we sighted the duck we’d bead proper for it, and when it was about fifty yards useless forward, we’d put the ship’s rudder laborious proper (or left) and throw the fantail up towards the carcass. The strict lookout would nonchalantly scoop it up in our trout internet. Then we’d regular up and proceed our bombardment of the shore.

Simsuango, our Philippine steward, is a grasp cook dinner, however he virtually went over the hill after I requested him to cook dinner these geese. They smelled to excessive heaven and refused to react to roasting, stewing, frying, or another cooking process. After a bout with a kind of cussed creatures, Sim would wash his arms in a combination of water and lemon juice, and report sadly that he had thrown the duck and pan over the facet. So irrespective of how I boasted that I used to be decreasing the wardroom mess invoice with my searching prowess, a a lot anticipated duck dinner by no means materialized.

Nevertheless, Ed Brandhorst, the ex-school-teacher, is pleased. His dad mounts birds as a interest and, in keeping with Ed, has an exquisite assortment. Ed skinned every completely different species and has the skins rigorously stowed within the ship’s freeze field. “Wait until the oldsters in Denver see these,” he gloats.

I’ve one nice satisfaction from Operation Duck Hunt. Final fall a good friend of mine stored his destroyer on the Wonsan bombardment line so lengthy he began calling himself the “Mayor of Wonsan.” Since then each destroyer skipper has been making an attempt to outdo that publicity hound. Yesterday I mounted his wagon. I despatched him an image of myself standing on the bridge in a Teddy Roosevelt pose-duck in a single hand, rifle grasped nonchalantly within the different. I autographed it “Fish and Recreation Commissioner, Wonsan County.”

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