Navy Accounts of the Korean War
Loss of the USS Pirate (AM 275)

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The following information was obtained from various sources on the Internet, including the Department of the Navy - US Naval Historical Center.  To add other information, write to Lynnita.


On 14 August 1950, the U.S. Navy re-commissioned USS Pirate (AM 275) to serve in the Korean War, which had begun the previous June with the North Korean invasion of South Korea. During her service in the war, Pirate served as a minesweeper off the east coast of Korea. On 12 October 1950, Pirate, along with several other ships, was sweeping the area of the Wonsan Harbor near Sin-Do island. During her sweeping activities, Pirate was alerted of the presence of several mines and that the first confirmed mine position was close to her. As she was turning to change her course, she struck a mine. Then several moments later the same fate befell USS Pledge (AM 277). Although the Pirate sank in just four minutes and six enlisted men's lives were lost, Pirate had helped to clear the waters allowing the UN ships better access to Wonsan harbor and the continuation of their attack on North Korea.

To learn details about what happened that fateful day, as well as read the list of fatalities and survivors, continue reading "Sea War in Korea", a government document based on the After Action Report, and other sections of this page of the Korean War Educator.

Sea War in Korea

At the Hague Convention of 1907, it was agreed that all contact mines should be moored, and so constructed as to destroy themselves if they should break loose. This law was never signed by the USSR, or North Korea. The excellent U.S. Navy minesweeping forces of World War II, were literally dissolved after World War II. There were only three U.S. Naval Officers in the Pacific Fleet with mine warfare experience when the Korean War started.

In October 1950, the U.S. Navy begin the minesweep of Wonsan, North Korea Harbor, a 400-mile harbor, with many small islands, on the east coast of Korea. It was found that the 400-square mile minefield contained more than 3,000 contact type, and magnetic type mines. The sweep was to be a direct route to Wonsan, an amphibious landing route.

On 12 October 1950, Lieutenant Commander Bruce Hyatt led a formation in his flagship, USS Pirate-AM-275, with the USS Pledge-AM-277, and the USS Incredible-AM-249 following astern. Laying Dan Buoys (Dan Buoys are used to mark the edge of a swept channel), astern of the USS Pirate was the USS Redhead-AM-32,with the USS Kite-AM-22 on shotgun duty astern of the Incredible, the USS Endicott-DMS-35 steamed close astern of the sweep formation. They were passing between Yo-do and Ung-do islands.

At 1112, the fleet entered unswept waters. Three minutes later, things began to happen fast. Two mines, their cables severed by the USS Pirate, popped to the surface, then four more mines followed. The mines were 50 yards apart, and lay on a north-south line between Yo-do and Ung-do. The USS Pledge, maneuvering astern through the mines cut by the USS Pirate, swept three more mines with her port gear, then the USS Incredible in formation cut a fourth mine. A helicopter pilot above radioed a (Cabbage Patch) of mines lay dead ahead of the ships, and were bounded by the islands of Ung-do, Yo-do, Mo-do, and Sin-do.

Lieutenant Commander Hyatt made the decision to continue the course. Lieutenant Commander Hyatt, and Lt. C.E. McMullen, skipper of the USS Pirate, considered a turn at this critical point more dangerous than continuation on course. A short time later the USS Pirate's stern rose from the water. The explosion of a mine directly underneath had broken USS Pirate's main-deck into two parts. It capsized in four minutes.

The USS Pledge, skipper Lt. Richard O. Young, cut her sweep gear, and put her motor whaleboat in the water to rescue Pirate's survivors. Enemy shore batteries on Sin-do opened fire on the sinking USS Pirate and her crew in the water. The USS Pledge opened up with her single three-inch gun, and the enemy shifted its guns to the USS Pledge.

At this time there were at least 13 loose enemy mines on the surface. Lieutenant Young called for air-support, as small caliber enemy fire came from Rei-To island as well. The USS Pledge expended her three-inch ammunition, the ship was bracketed by enemy gun fire, and its position was becoming untenable. Lieutenant Young ordered left full rudder, starboard engine, ahead two-thirds. The ship turned about 30 degrees, and at 1220 struck an enemy mine. She was mined amidships, on the starboard side, near the forward engine room.

Damage was extensive. Decks and bulkheads were ruptured from keel to the open bridge. The hull split, and water rushed into the rupture. A U.S. Navy mine hunting patrol plane overhead flown by Lcdr. Randall Boyd, XO-of VP-47, radioed the USS Endicott-DMS-35, and spotted gunfire for them while they put small boats in the water for survivors and fired on the enemy guns on Cho-do island. Aircraft from the carrier USS Leyte-CV-32 arrived with napalm, rockets, and 500-pound bombs, and worked over the enemy.

Then the USS Incredible radioed all their engines were dead, and they were out of action. Altogether, there were 92 casualties from the two sunken U.S. Navy vessels.  Of these, 14 were MIA, and one died after rescue. The USS Pirate lost six crewmen:

  • FN Alfred Lewis Coleman, Lucedale, MS - KIA - son of Mrs. Lillie Bernice Taylor Coleman, Lucedale, MS
  • END1 Adrian Warren Johnson, Mt. Sterling, KY - KIA - (See Further Details section)
  • CS1 Earl Joseph Mocklin, New Orleans, LA - KIA- son of Mrs. John Mocklin, New Orleans, LA
  • FN Robert John Nelson, San Francisco, CA - KIA - son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert M. Nelson, San Francisco, CA
  • FN Gerald George Smith, Charles City, LA - KIA
  • EM3 John Norman Thomson, Baltimore, MD - KIA - son of Mr. and Mrs. John Thomson, Dundalk, MD

God bless these brave men.

The Salvage of Pirate

The next day a helicopter flying over the area spotted a number of mines around the wreckage. This meant that for salvaging to occur, a sweep of the area had to be done. Once done when diving to the wrecks could begin, the main focus was the retrieval of the onboard encryption devices. Due to imperfect weather and the ship's location, a more complete salvage of Pirate and Pledge would have taken months to complete. Thus, after the salvagers established that no classified information of use to the enemy was on board, the demolition of the ship was ordered to destroy anything of possible use left on the ship. The officer's in charge of the salvage operation decided to use routine air surveillance to insure that the enemy did not try to salvage the ship.

An Item of Value

Contrary to the belief that there was only "a small chance of obtaining any item of value" from the wreck, one artifact of great value was recovered. When Pirate went down in 1950 so did her 48-star American flag. However, Captain Cornelius E. McMullen, Commanding Officer of Pirate at the time of her sinking, received an anonymous package sometime in 1952. Along with this package was a note stating that because he had been Commanding Officer of Pirate the sender thought that he, McMullen, would like to have the package's contents--the ship's American flag. On 28 May 1985, Captain McMullen donated the flag to the Naval Historical Center, where it is presently on display in The Navy Museum's Korean War exhibit.

Crew of the USS Pirate

Ship's Officers:

  • CO - Lt. Cornelius E. McMullen, USN
  • XO - Lt. (jg). Henry E. Davies, Jr., USN
  • Gunnery Officer - Lt. (jg). Roy F. Hoffman, USN
  • Operations Officer - Lt. (jg). Robert E. Creque, USN
  • Communications Officer - Ens. John J. Eklund, USN
  • Engineer Officer - Ens. Sam W. Wright, USN

Ship's Chiefs:

  • ENC. Joseph T. Danna, USN
  • QMC. John B. Faulds, USN
  • ENC. Vivien K. Love, USN

Bronze Star Recipients

Awarded for actions during the Korean War For their work in rescuing twenty-five sailors from the minesweepers USS Pirate and USS Pledge (which were mined, shelled, and sunk by the enemy) and caring for injured men at Wonsan, the below members of Underwater Demolition Team Three received the Bronze Star Medal:

  • Lieutenant Daniel F. Chandler, United States Navy
  • Lieutenant (junior grade) Philip M. Master, United States Naval Reserve
  • Seaman Philip E. Carrico, United States Navy - [For] “heroic service in action against the enemy during minesweeping operations at Wonsan, Korea.” Seaman Carrico was credited with diving into the water under enemy gunfire and towing two injured men aboard a life raft to a nearby craft. He also assisted five other men to life rafts, and eventual safety. The survivors rescued by Seaman Carrico were from the USS Pledge and USS Pirate, which had been struck by enemy mines and gunfire. “His devotion to duty was outstanding, and in keeping with the highest traditions of the naval service.” Source: newspaper article titled ‘Frogman’ Carrico Gets Bronze Star."
  • Engineman First Class Christie J. Coleman, United States Navy
  • Stewardsman Lucio De La Calzada, United States Navy
  • Seaman William B. Derry, United States Navy
  • Boatswain’s Mate Third Edward M. Hazzard, United States Navy
  • Seaman James W. Hoag, United States Navy
  • Fireman Billie La R. Johnson, United States Navy
  • Chief Boatswain’s Mate Dennis J. Keane, Jr., United States Navy
  • Draftsman (DMSV) Robert H. Larkin, United States Navy
  • Quartermaster Second Charles F. Laws, United States Navy
  • Electronics Technician First James K. Sellers, United States Navy
  • Boatswain’s Mate First Joseph F. Staley, United States Navy
  • Seaman Willis B. Taylor, United States Navy
  • Engineman Fireman Ralph C. Voltmer, United States Navy
  • Boatswain’s Mate First Robert H. Walker, United States Navy

Source: U.S. Navy Publication All Hands, February 1952

Silver Star Recipients

Archer, Stephen Morris

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Commander Stephen Morris Archer (NSN: 0-71396), United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action as Commander Underwater Reconnaissance Element in support of naval forces conducting operations in heavily mined waters during the period 10to 22 October 1950. When the U.S.S. Pledge and U.S.S. Pirate were mined on 12 October, he conducted rescue operations for surviving personnel with disregard for his own safety in the face of enemy gunfire from shore batteries. The leadership, force, and judgment displayed by Commander Archer in directing visual and sonar searches for mines throughout this period and in supervising underwater demolition operations in the vicinity of Koto and Rei-To Islands contributed directly to the successful clearance of mine channels and anchorage areas off Wonsan, Korea. His outstanding courage and steadfast devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Davies, Henry E. Jr.

The Silver Star Medal, was awarded to Lt. (jg). Henry E. Davies, Jr., USN, 0-478746, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity, in enemy action as Executive Officer of the USS Pirate-AM-275, during mine sweeping operations in densely mined areas off Wonsan, Korea, on 12 October 1950. After his ship had struck a mine, and having been ordered over the side by his Commanding Officer, he observed crew men in the water, all of whom were either wounded or dazed. Despite the fact that the vessel's list was increasing rapidly, and danger of her capsizing was imminent, he towed the men clear and assisted them in reaching a life raft. Then, with complete disregard for the enemy gunfire and his own personal safety, he boarded a passing boat to aid in the evacuation of wounded men from a stricken sister ship.


Hyatt, Bruce M.

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to  Lieutenant Commander Bruce M. Hyatt, United States Naval Reserve, for gallantry and intrepidity in action as Commander Mine Division Thirty-Two and in tactical command of that division during minesweeping operations conducted in Wonsan Harbor preliminary to occupation of Wonsan, Korea by United Nations forces. During the period 10 to 12October 1950. The ships of his division penetrated to a depth of 19 miles from the outer mine defenses through heavily mined waters until well within range of enemy shore batteries. On 12 October he penetrated two lines of mines barring the entrance to the outer harbor and carried out the sweeping plans in the face of enemy gunfire until his flagship was mine. His leadership and professional competence contributed greatly to the efficient operation of the ships of his division and his loyalty and steadfast devotion to duty were in keeping with  the highest traditions of the U. S. Naval Service. Action Date: October 10 - 12, 1950 Service: Naval Reserve Rank: Lieutenant Commander Company: Commander Division: Mine Division 32 USS Pirate (AM-275)


McMullen, Cornelius E.

Awarded for actions during the Korean War For gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as Commanding Officer of the USS Pirate during minesweeping operations conducted in heavily mined waters and in area subjected to enemy gunfire during the period 10 to 12 Oct 1950. The inspiring leadership and professional competence constantly displayed by Lt. McMullen in the performance of this mission contributed directly to the efficient operation of his ship and to the successful clearance of mine free channels and anchorage areas off Wonsan, Korea. His loyalty and steadfastness to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Survivors List

The USS Pirate had a crew of 77.  Of those, six were MIA/KIA and 51 were injured.  The injured included three officers and 48 enlisted men.  In addition to the crew (six officers and 71 enlisted men), the Commander of Mine Division 32 and his staff of one Quartermaster were onboard the Pirate that day and survived the sinking.

  1. Brown, EM2 Issac G.
  2. Brown, GM1 Robert A.
  3. Bryant, RD1 Vernon L.
  4. Burton, SO3 Charles M.
  5. Caputo, SN John D.
  6. Carey, HM1 Richard J.
  7. Carroll, EN3 Alvin D.
  8. Carter, 1C2 Davis I.
  9. Catyb, RM1 Albert M.
  10. Coomes, QM3 Kenneth R.
  11. Creque, LT (JG) Robert E.
  12. Crook, DC2 Victor H.
  13. Daman, FC2 Sherley H.
  14. Danna, ENC. Joseph T.
  15. Davies, LT (JG)  Henry E. Jr.
  16. Demers, END3 George L. (USNR)
  17. DeRoche, QMS1 Howard J.
  18. Donatelli, SA Anthony
  19. DuRette, END2 David W. (USNR)
  20. Eklund, ENS. John J.
  21. Evans, SA William
  22. Falconer, BM1 Horace W.
  23. Faulds, QMC John B.
  24. Finn, EN3 Robert L.
  25. Flannagan, FN John W.
  26. Freudenberg, SN Ronald H.
  27. Garrow, EM1 Ernest F.
  28. Grengs, SA Ervan T.
  29. Gunn, SO3 Paul
  30. Henry, SA Robert L.
  31. Herty, EMP1 John H.
  32. Hetezel, SN Fred W.
  33. Hill, SK2 Winfred B.
  34. Hilt, EN3 Lionel C. Jr.
  35. Hoffman, LT (JG) Roy F.
  36. Hyatt, LCDR Bruce M.
  37. Jackson, SA Lawrence J. Jr.
  38. Kaul, SN Norman E.
  39. Kurtz, SN Edward A.
  40. Long, FN William C.
  41. Loutzenhiser, BT1 Howard W.
  42. Love, ENC Vivien K.
  43. Luethi, SA Jerry C.
  44. Lundin, SN Roger B.
  45. Mardon, SA Arthur L. Jr.
  46. McAnallen, SN Raymond E. - wounded.  Born 1929/died 2012.
  47. McCullough, ENFN Rex R.
  48. McMullen, Lt. Cornelius Emmett
  49. Moore, QMS1 Charles J.
  50. Parker, END1 Warren
  51. Pianowski, DC3 Ernest M.
  52. Pierce, BM2 Winston C.
  53. Reed, HM1 Charles R.
  54. Richard, YNSN Earl J. "Rick"
  55. Rites, FP3 William E.
  56. Roulhac, TN Earl
  57. Scanlon, FN Roger W.
  58. Schoonen, YN2 David H.
  59. Scruggs, EN2 Albion C.
  60. Shafer, END1 William M.
  61. Shaules, RD3 Edward F.
  62. Sloan, ET3 Deward V. Jr.
  63. Snow, SN Howard A.
  64. Snyder, QMS1 George M.
  65. Stanford, RM1 Joseph C.
  66. Stephenson, SN John P.
  67. Tottress, SD2 Elvert G.
  68. Tucker, FN Morris D.
  69. VanBuren, Ervin Leroy - (See Further Details section)
  70. Vanskike, EMC Ophir R. Jr.
  71. Wall, EM2 Paul E.
  72. Woop, SA Thomas A.
  73. Wright, ENS Sam W.
  74. Young, GMM2  William B. - gunner's mate from Rockingham, NC

Further Details - Crew

Johnson, Adrian Warren

Born on April 23, 1920, he was the son of Jesse Fisher Johnson (1877-1947) and Daisy Ford Johnson (1882-1965).  He was married to Ophelia Ann Matley in 1945, and they had a daughter, Holly Adrianne Johnson (Mrs. Michael Wenner).  Adrian's brother was Teddy Johnson of San Antonio, Texas.  Adrian, Ann and Holly lived in Houston, Texas. Adrian's widow later married Jack Gordon Wilkening and they had a daughter, Ivy Jean Wilkening.

VanBuren, Ervin Leroy

Funeral Services for Ervin Van Buren, age 87, of Norfolk and formerly of O’Neill, will be at 2:00 P.M., Thursday, June 29, 2017, at Biglin’s Mortuary in O’Neill. Visitation will be one hour earlier at the funeral home. Burial will be in the O’Neill Cemetery, with Military Rites conducted by the O’Neill American Legion Post #93. Ervin passed away on Saturday, June 24, 2017 at the Wisner Care Center in Wisner, NE. Biglin’s Mortuary in O’Neill is in charge of arrangements.

Ervin Leroy Van Buren was born on April 27, 1930, at home near Verdigre, NE, to Ralph and Gertrude Jane (Benedict) Van Buren. At the age of 8, he moved with his family to a ranch northeast of O’Neill, and attended a rural country school through the 8th grade. Ervin then worked on the family ranch until joining the US Navy in March of 1948, and served during the Korean War until March of 1951. Ervin returned to the U.S. after being wounded when the ship he was on, the USS Pirate, sank after striking a mine at Wonsan, Korea in October of 1950. When he was home on leave in 1950 he met Mildred Seger at the roller skating rink in Atkinson, NE. The two were wed on May 20, 1951 at the Methodist Church in O’Neill.

They lived on a ranch near Atkinson for a time, and their 3 children were born: Linda Mae, Sharon Kay, and Michael Ervin. Later on, they moved to O’Neill, then to Wisner and Stanton areas in late 50’s, where Ervin farmed. They made their home in Stanton, NE in 1975 and moved to Norfolk, NE in 1980’s, where Ervin later retired from Beef America in Norfolk, June of 1995. They moved to the Wisner Care Center, Wisner, NE in March of this year. Ervin enjoyed many hobbies over the years, such as playing basketball and being a boxer while stationed in the Philippines with the Navy. He liked to fish and hunt, especially catfishing and pheasant hunting, and he enjoyed camping. He also was an avid Husker fan, and made Husker lawn ornaments for family and friends. The visits from his grandchildren and great grandchildren was his favorite enjoyment. He was a member of the V.F.W. in Stanton and Norfolk, NE.

Ervin is survived by his wife, Mildred, three children; Linda Hoehne and husband, Donald, of Laguna Vista, TX, Sharon McQuistan and husband, Gayle, of Wayne, NE, Michael Van Buren and wife, Shelly, of Billings, MT, nine grandchildren; Donald Hoehne, Jr. and wife, Krista, Laura Tatpati and husband, Abraham, Christina Hendrix, Teresa Mick and husband, Jessy, Sheryl Salmons and husband, Alex Garcia, John McQuistan, Francesca Davis and husband, Jerry, Jacqualyn Van Buren and husband, Steven Milledge, Raschelle Drumheller and husband, Brad, 12 great grandchildren; Nathaniel, Alexander, and Abigail Tatpati, Brett and wife Shantel, Tom, and Matthew Hendrix, Siera and Cailee Brugger, Emil and Emily Davis, Jordan Milledge, and Britton Drumheller, three siblings; Marvella Jonas and husband, Robert, of Kernersville, NC, Wilma Buckles of Lake Havasu City, Arizona, Willard Van Buren of Ashland, NE; and one sister-in-law, Vivian Van Buren of O’Neill, NE, and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents; two brothers, Ralph Van Buren Jr. and wife, Etta, Donald Van Buren; three step brothers, Paul Benedict, Wayne Butler, and Carl Butler; and brother-in-law Frankie Buckles.


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