Copyright © 2012-2015 by Charles Bird
Korea in Flames
The characters, localities and happenings in this story are the products of the author's imagination or, are used fictitiously. The story is copyrighted and is the property of the author and may not be copied, reproduced or retransmitted without his express permission.
From Chapter 10: While Joe was enjoying his "cruise" Gyles and Toby were struggling to keep the profit line in the "black". Toby had made contact with the American Navy Supply System and had been fairly busy running cargos from the West Coast of North America to the far flung bases the United States Navy operated throughout the Pacific area. Gyles had landed a long term contract to haul rice and other grains to Japan and Taiwan. His contract had another two years to run, so he was going to be busy into 1953. The small ships had been keeping profitable, supplying the small islands of the Pacific Ocean with food and needed materials. It wasn't going to make them rich, but it was paying the bills.
In January of 1951, The United States found itself at war in South Korea, the Communist forces had had taken the capitol and the call went out to mobilize shipping. One of the requirements when Turner Marine Services had acquired the Mariner Class ships was that they had to agree to haul emergency cargos for the American Government.
Joe was already busy hauling grain and The Joe was diverted to Gunsan Harbor in South Korea. The grain was a godsend to the South Koreans and Joe would run a regular route from Australia to Gunsan Harbor for the next three years.
The grains and foodstuffs that The Joe carried to South Korea was likely the cause of that country being able to hold out against the Communist forces pouring through North Korea from China. It would be a long effort to stop the Communists and, even years into the future, the border between the North Korea Communists and South Korea would remain unstable.
Toby picked up a cargo of military vehicles and ammunition in Honolulu for delivery to Pusan and both The Turner and The McPherson began ferrying American Troops to Pusan Harbor.
Billy Fable was now commanding The Turner and he prayed he would not be put to carrying the wounded. He had been a young Third Mate on The McPherson in 1945 and he still heard the cries of the wounded in his sleep at night. He still had a small American Flag that a dying soldier had given him. He never knew the boy's name or where he was from, but every night as he went to sleep he saw the young boy's eyes staring at him. It had kept him on "the straight and narrow" ever since.
Joel Tate, a recent hire, was Captain on The McPherson and he was rushed to Oakland Army Terminal on San Francisco Bay, where he loaded out with tanks and wheeled guns. The news was so grim, he pushed The McPherson up to twenty-six knots as soon as he passed under the Golden Gate Bridge.
All five of the Mariner ships were fully invested in supporting the Americans in South Korea, the inter-island trade was left to the smaller ships, The Trekker, Camel and Hauler were in constant motion as the building boom in the South Pacific continued, despite the war in Korea.
Manpower was at a premium and the Second Mate on the Toby suddenly quit. There were no mates available, and nobody answered the advertisement in the paper and the phones calls that Toby and James made, did not yield a new Second Mate. They could sail without a Third Mate, but a Second was vital, so Toby had no choice but apply for an Emergency Upgrade for Lomo.
The Consulate in Sydney handled the paperwork and, before The Toby finished loading the Australian Rangers and their equipment, Lomo was acting Second Mate on the SS Toby!
The Australian Government never hesitated, they joined the Americans in pushing back the Chinese Communists in Korea, they loaded a complete Ranger Division on The Toby and all its equipment. There were Aussie Rangers sleeping the forward hold, the other three holds were filled with tanks, wheeled guns and crates of ammunition.
The Camel was to follow with food and medical supplies for the Australian Troops. It would be many days before the troops' food caught up to them. They were down to emergency rations before the Camel got to them.
The two ships left Sydney Harbor together, but The Toby soon outdistanced the little Camel and left her behind. As The Toby sailed northward, Toby, who had been forced to take command because of a shortage of Captains, drilled Lomo on his duties as Second Mate. The most important was cargo handling.
The First and Second Mates would split cargo duties as they would be offloading around the clock in Pusan.
Lomo was a huge man, fully six and a half feet tall and shoulders to match. He had a pleasant personality that had already won the entire crew and the embarked Aussie Rangers were soon under his spell as well.
Toby watched as his son won the hearts of the Rangers, it was a relationship that would come in handy as they offloaded in Korea. Cargo handling facilities were minimal in Pusan and the Rangers would be needed to move their equipment as soon as they hit the pier.
As they finished offloading the Rangers and their equipment, that which Toby feared most, was dropped in his lap. There were two thousand wounded and walking wounded soldiers needing transport to Hawaii.
The most seriously wounded had already been flown out, but those who remained to be transported would have been "Emergency Cases" anywhere else! Their wounds were growing septic in the heat and the foreword hold soon smelled like an open grave.
Toby put Lomo in charge of embarking the wounded soldiers, he figured Lomo's sunny personality and kindness would make the wounded men feel better about being placed in the forward hold. Fortunately, he was right! Lomo could walk between the tiers of wounded soldiers, calling each by name and say something that would get a smile or even a little laugh out of the wounded man.
Lomo made sure every wounded soldier was comfortable and that he had everything he needed for the voyage. Lomo arranged showers, around the clock, food and snacks and laundry services. The ship's laundry was working around the clock and Lomo saw to it that the several laundrymen were recognized for their efforts. He would carry a wounded soldier to the showers and would gently wash the man in warm water and put clean, dry underwear back on him before returning him to his refreshed bunk.
Lomo was a whirlwind of activity, between his watch duties and seeing to it their passengers had everything they needed, the young mate seemed to have little time for sleep and his own personal needs, but every wounded soldier knew who Lomo was and every wounded soldier knew that Lomo was his friend.
His efforts did not go unnoticed by the Troop Commander, Lt. Colonel Blain. Colonel Blain made mention of the young Ship's Officer to Captain Turner and Toby beamed in pride as he said, "That is Lomo Turner, my son!"
The Colonel was surprised, he saw that Lomo was a Pacific Islander and Toby looked hardly old enough to have an adult son, but, when he looked at the licenses posted outside the First Mate's cabin, it surely said, Lomo Joseph Turner, acting Second Mate!
The Toby entered the harbor at the Pearl Harbor Naval Base and was directed to tie up at the Foxtrot Piers, directly next to the Naval Station Command Offices.
Lomo had the bridge as the first wounded men were carried down the gangway, he reached over and gave the ship's horn a mighty blast and waved at the men from the bridge wing. Every wounded soldier waved back as they were carried off the ship, the name. "Lomo Turner" was known to them all.
They refueled The Toby and sailed back to Pusan the next night with a load out of ammunition, jeeps and trucks, along with another two-thousand soldiers in the forward hold.
This was going to be their job for the next several years. The Peace Treaty would eventually be signed at Panmunjom with 38th parallel reset as boundary between communist North and the anti-communist South.
Cold War tensions would continue unabated for a very long time and there would be momentary flare-ups of gunfire from across the border for many years.
All five Turner Mariner ship and the little Camel served their time in Korean waters and a few shells would be lobbed in their direction, but, no Turner ship was hit and no member of any of their crews was hurt. Any of their ships would be a tempting target, but they all escaped serious hurt.
When Peace finally came in July of 1953, the Turner ships were employed carrying construction materials and food supplies needed to rebuild a shattered South Korean nation.
FAR EAST TENSIONS
The relations between North and South Korea remained fractious and so also were the relations between mainland China and Taiwan.
The Crown Colony of Hong Kong was hanging on and almost everything had to be imported. Food, clothing, medicines, even building materials were critical to their survival.
The five Turner Mariner class ships were fully employed and the Southeast Asia was also booming, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia all embarked on expansions.
The Joe was kept busy hustling cotton from the United States to feed the growing garment industries of Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Building materials and lumber were needed in Singapore and Malaysia on an urgent basis, the civilian population was living in tents, under bushes or almost any place they could find shelter from the rain common throughout the tropics.
Foodstuffs, rice and other grains from the United States and Australia were carried on any ship they had available.
Construction machinery, tractors, trucks and railroad equipment was ordered by the Philippines and there was a steady stream of heavy cargoes streaming into Philippine ports.
Return cargos from The Philippines consisted of raw materials, lumber, manufactured clothing, and cheaply made mechanical and electrical equipment. James had a fulltime staff of schedulers, tariff clerks and marine specialists to keep track of the cargos and the ships.
Even the little ships, The Trekker, Camel and Hauler were allowed no rest, if a ship stayed in port for more than two days, it was because they had suffered a breakdown, which, unfortunately, was becoming more common as time passed.
Lomo sat for his examination to Second Mate and passed it, so Toby made his appointment as Second Mate on The Toby permanent. It was a toss-up who was more proud, Lomo or his Dads! Toby sent a Marconi to The Gyles telling Gyles of Lomo's passing his examination and being appointed permanent Second Mate on The Toby.
They got an immediate reply, "Start studying for your First Mate Exam, son!"
The year changed into 1954 and the boom continued in the South Pacific. The pace became more hectic as the populations of those countries increased. They could not increase their food production, so the increase had to be absorbed by the ships.
The little ships, The Camel, Hauler and Trekker were getting old and they feared a breakdown was just waiting to happen. It finally did, The Camel suffered a major breakdown as it was leaving Sydney Harbor for a run to the Island Nations.
They towed The Camel back to the Turner pier and transferred the cargo to The Trekker.
When the mechanics opened up the main engine, they had to tell James that she was a goner. The bedplate was broken and the whole upper structure of the engine was cracked. No repairs were even possible.
Toby and Gyles were due in to Sydney in the next several days, so James delayed making a decision until both men were in port. The ship was sold out for the rest of the year and it also had great sentimental value to them.
Both Toby and Gyles toured the poor, tired old ship and came to the same conclusion as the mechanics, she could not be fixed. They looked around and could not find a ship that would meet their needs for inter-island freight, so they contacted Todd Shipbuilding in San Francisco about building them a new, inter-island trader.
They finally decided on a nine-thousand ton, shallow draft vessel, twin screws and diesel engine powered. The ship was to have four passenger cabins, two holds and the living areas were to be air conditioned.
Todd Shipyards worked up plans and sent them to Sydney. The two brothers were delighted and authorized construction to begin immediately. Their business was hurting seriously with The Camel out of service and they feared that some of their customers might even go hungry. They were the sole source of food for many of the small islands.
The construction would take a year to complete and Lomo began studying furiously for his First Mate's ticket. He planned on being the new ship's second Captain! Both Toby and Gyles suspected what their son was up to and they both encouraged him.
The loss of The Camel put extra strain on the two remaining small ships, they were hardly ever in port and island deliveries slowed down a bit as a result of one less ship in the Turner Fleet.
The entire Southeast Asia was in the flames of revolution, governments were being changed like underwear. The French were being driven out of Vietnam, the Brits were leaving Malaysia, Thailand was taken over by a strongman and Cambodia threw off the French and became a kingdom.
Through it all, trade and commerce thrived in the area. The new countries needed trade to survive and cotton, rice, machinery and building supplies poured into the new countries, while clothing, small appliances and artistic goods were being exported.
It was an ideal situation for the two remaining small ships and they were booked out a year in advance!
The new Camel II could not get there soon enough! Many of the island nations thought they were in pretty good shape, but the folks at Turner Shipping knew better. All it would take was a major storm and island populations would begin to suffer and die! They just could not grow enough food to feed their expanding populations. It was the usual cycle, times would improve and more babies would be born. It had been that way for thousands of years.
Billy Fable was selected as the prospective Captain of the Camel II and he agreed that Lomo was a good choice as First Mate. Lomo doubled his efforts in studying, and, as soon as he had sufficient time on his Second Mate's ticket, he was at the American Consulate in Sydney filling out the papers to take the First Mate Examination!
Six weeks before the scheduled launching of the Camel II, Lomo received notification that he had passed the examination and the Consulate had his License for him to pick up.
Lomo was so excited, Joe had to take him into Sydney to pick up his new License immediately. That evening, the Marconi Operator at Turner Marine was sending out a message to The Toby and The Gyles that Mr. Lomo Joseph Turner was appointed First Mate on the MS Camel II! There was a clatter of replies from all the Turner ships congratulating Lomo Turner!
Before his Daddies could get back to Sydney, Lomo, Billy and Chris McDevitt, along with the framework of a crew, were flying out to San Francisco to take possession of their new ship, The Camel II. They would fill in their crew by hiring locally and sail as far as Honolulu empty.
They had a contract to load specialty vehicles; four wheel drive trucks, petroleum survey vehicles and motorized drill stands for Phillips Petroleum Company, to be delivered to Kuantan, Malaysia. It would a little bit more cargo than the Camel II could place in the holds, but it was the good weather season and the remainder could be carried as deck cargo.
It was a proud Lomo Turner who backed the Camel II out of the outfitting slip at Todd Shipyard, under the watchful eye of Captain Billy Fable, and crossed San Francisco Bay, headed for the Golden Gate.
Once beyond the reef outside the "Gate", Lomo ordered all ahead full and the throb of the two Nordberg Diesel Engines could be felt all over the ship.
The Camel II was running like a young bride! She was headed for a lifetime of carrying freight for those who depended on her for their livelihood. She carried a proud name that came down to her from recent history and people cheered as she entered a harbor, filled with vital food and goods that allowed people to live on the island of their forefathers.
Their stop in Honolulu was uneventful; they loaded the machinery for Phillips Petroleum and then proceeded to cross the Pacific Ocean to the Philippine Sea and crossed into the South China Sea to get to the Port of Kuantan.
Billy allowed Lomo to conn the Camel II into the small port of Kuantan. Lomo negotiated the narrow opening into the harbor and docked the Camel II at their factor's pier without any problem or mishap. Billy was sure now, that he could count on his new First Mate in any situation.
Billy knew, when the time came, he would be able to turn command of the Camel II over to Lomo, so that he could assume command of one of the Mariner ships that he had been promised.
They remained in Kuantan long enough to load the Camel II with rough boards of tropical hardwood, to be made into fine furniture in Sydney. The lumber was heavy and the Camel II was down to her load line.
As Lomo backed away from the pier, he could feel the weight the ship was carrying. He slowed the engines way down and crawled out the narrow channel to the open sea.
Once in the open sea, he ordered "All Ahead Full" and he could feel the engines laboring as they came up to full revolutions.
Lomo charted his course south to traverse the Sunda Strait and circle around Australia to Sydney. Eight days later, The Camel II came into Sydney Harbor and headed for the Turner Piers.
Both The Gyles and The Toby were already tied up as he headed for Pier No. 3. Lomo nosed The Camel II alongside the pier and "burped" the engines twice astern before the lines were made fast to the bollards on the pier.
As the last line was made up, he gave the air horn a blast and was answered with two blasts from The Toby and The Gyles!
He had passed his most important test, his Daddies' approval! It was a proud Island Man who walked down the gangway and threw himself into the arms of Captains Toby and Gyles!
Joe was watching from the office window, he turned to James and said, "There is the next Turner Fleet Commodore!" (A Civilian Fleet Commodore was an honorary title bestowed upon the most senior ship Captain, or sometimes upon the best or most famous ship Captain)
The 1950s will turn into the 1960s and will be accompanied by yet more revolution, strife and battles. The Turner ships will be needed to supply the island nations, keep the allies supplied, fed and rescued during the battles against the Communists and allow Turner Marine Services to grow and thrive.