"THE GREATEST RESCUE OPERATION BY A SINGLE SHIP

IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND"

 S.S. MEREDITH VICTORY

 

Members of The Apostleship of the Sea of The United States of America (AOSUSA) are mariners, port ministers and caring laymen and women who have a special love and concern for those who earn their daily bread from the sea. Gathered together as a body, the AOSUSA tries to provide a forum for the discussion of all phases of mariner life, including the religious, educational and charitable interests of mariners.

On January 14, 2005, John Furukawa, AOSUSA Board Representative for the East Coast, presented an award on behalf of the Apostleship of the Sea to the monks of St. Paul Abbey in Newton, New Jersey, posthumously honoring Brother Marinus/Captain Leonard LaRue for his life of service, both before and after becoming a monk.

The following addresses at the Award Ceremony were sent to us courtesy of J. Robert Lunney:

 

AOSUSA Star of the Sea Award - Captain Leonard LaRue

St. Paul’s Abbey — Newton, NJ

January 14, 2005

 

Honored Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for allowing me to be here today.

Ah-yong-ha-se-yo, my name is John Furukawa.  I am the East Coast Representative to the Board and the Merchant Marine Committee Co-Chair, the Apostleship of the Sea of the United States of America.

First of all, I’d like to thank:

The Premier of St. Paul’s Abbey, the Reverend Father Bosco Kim,

The Purser of the S.S. Meredith Victory, Captain Robert Lunney, United States Naval Reserve (Retired),

And a special thanks to Mr. Benedict Ahn, whose efforts made this presentation possible.

I bring you greetings from the 800 Port Chaplain, Cruise Ship Priests and Mariner members of the Apostleship of the Sea:

President, the Reverend Father Sinclair Oubre, National Director,

Reverend Father John Jamnicky, Bishop Promoter, the Most Reverend Curtis Guillory.

The Apostleship of the Sea is a "parish" for Catholic Seafarers away from home. Our mission statement is:

"to be a spiritual and theological resource of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States of America. The purpose of the AOSUSA is to teach and witness to the Word of God and to serve God’s people; especially seafarers, maritime personnel and people of the sea; by fostering their growth and renewal, through prayer, study and Christian service."

AOSUSA works under the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugees Services Department and the Apostleship of the Sea - International. There are AOS Port Chaplains in 65 ports throughout the U.S. and in most major ports throughout the world.

We are here to honor Captain Leonard Panet LaRue. Captain LaRue was born on January 14, 1914, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and today would have been his 91st birthday.

When AOSUSA President Father Sinclair Oubre asked me to present this award, I looked up the web site of the S.S. Meredith Victory and read about the amazing rescue voyage of 14,000 refugees and the 5 live births onboard the ship during the 4-day trip.

Here are a few interesting facts regarding the rescue mission:

  • The S.S. Meredith Victory has its chapter in U.S. History with the retreat from the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War.

  • The S.S. Meredith Victory rescue has parallels with the Christmas Story besides the events taking place during the Christmas season.  There was no room at the Inn of Pusan and the Manger was Koje-do Island.

  • The voyage of the S.S. Meredith Victory and its 14,005 refugees has parallels with Exodus and Moses and the Israelites’ escape from Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea.

  • The Church has its tradition of three miracles for an individual to be beatified.  I think there are 14,005 people that think that Captain LaRue and the crew of the S.S. Meredith Victory performed 14,005 miracles 54 years ago.

  • I regret that I did not meet Captain LaRue and honor him during his lifetime. But I believe that Captain LaRue is enjoying his heavenly reward.

    Please rise for the reading of the award:

    Star of the Sea Award is presented to Captain Leonard LaRue.

    On a late summer day in 1950 Captain Leonard LaRue stopped to pray for his ship, S.S. Meredith Victory, at Old St. Mary’s Church in San Francisco.  Completing his prayers, he left the church with his Staff Officer, returning to the vessel, they set sail for Asia.  Arriving at Inchon, Korea, on September 15, 1950, the ship discharged her cargo and spent the next three months shuttling between Korea and Japan.  In the latter part of December, Captain LaRue received orders to sail for Hungnam, Korea. Arriving there on December 20 the vessel laid at anchor until December 22, when Captain LaRue guided her through the minefield at the mouth of the port. Once docked, the crew began embarking Korean refugees who were fleeing from Chinese forces.  The process continued for the next 14 hours when the last refugee was brought aboard at 1110 hours on December 23.  By then, 14,000 Korean refugees were packed on the freighter.  Sailing from Hungnam, Captain LaRue sailed first to Pusan, arriving on December 24.   Like the Bible story though, there was no room for the ship and her human cargo.  From there, Captain LaRue sailed to the island of Koje-do where the refugees were allowed to disembark on December 26, 1950. Captain LaRue and the crew of the S.S. Meredith Victory thereby affected the greatest maritime rescue in history.

    Four years later, Captain LaRue laid down his sea bag and took up the habit of a Benedictine Brother, and then named Brother Marinus at the Abbey of St. Paul in Newton, New Jersey.  For the next 47 years he dedicated his life to prayer, service to the community, and those who visited the Abbey’s gift shop.  In recognition of the great Christian seamanship of Captain LaRue, and the dedicated life of prayer and hospitality of Brother Marinus, the Apostleship of the Sea of the United States of America bestows this very special honor.

    Signed by,

    Reverend Sinclair Oubre, J.C.L.

    President Apostleship of the Sea of the United States of America

    Signed by,

    Most Reverend Curtis Guillory, S.V.D., D.D.

    Bishop Promoter Apostleship of the Sea

    Kam-sami-da and God Bless Captain Leonard LaRue and the crew of the S.S. Meredith Victory.

     

    *    *    *    *    *

    Apostle of the Sea Star of the Sea Award to

    Captain Leonard P. LaRue (Brother Marinus, O.S.B.)

    Friday, January 14, 2005

    Remarks by J. Robert Lunney

     

    It is a great honor for me to participate in this Star of the Sea award for my Captain, Brother Marinus.  I had the pleasure of serving with him as a Staff Officer aboard the S.S. Meredith Victory during the Korean War.  We are very gratified for this noble recognition bestowed on my Captain by The Apostleship of the Sea.

    At Hungnam, North Korea, in December 1950, historical forces created the circumstances in which Captain LaRue’s noble character was fully displayed.  Upon being approached by the military, he was asked whether he would volunteer to undertake the dangerous mission of taking his ship into the port to evacuate the huddled refugees seeking escape from communist forces circling the city. We could see thousands of refugees streaming toward the sea, their only access to freedom.  He was asked to confer with his officers.  Instead, he courageously responded that he would take his ship in and take off as many refugees as he could.  The refugees were threatened with annihilation by communist forces and had little protection, since most of the American military had been pulled out. Conditions under which Captain LaRue sailed into port were appalling:  Many areas of the city were aflame, as our ship navigated through enemy minefields.  The weather was freezing and there was imminent danger of artillery attack.  However, under Captain LaRue’s confident orders, we completed the embarking of 14,000 men, women and children, including 17 wounded.

    The successful disembarkation of the refugees plus five babies born during the three-day voyage to Koje Do on Christmas Day, exemplified Captain LaRue’s later reflection, "... on that Christmastide, in the bleak and bitter waters off the shores of Korea, God’s own hand was at the helm of my ship."  This humanitarian mission has been described by Guinness World Records, as the greatest rescue operation by a single ship in the history of the world.

    At the end of the War, in 1954, having left the sea, Captain LaRue became a candidate at St. Paul’s Abbey.  On Christmas Day 1959, he took his final vows as a monk of the Abbey, having taken the name, Brother Marinus, in honor of Mary, mother of our Lord.  On occasion I visited with Brother Marinus and we would speak of our days at sea. He never thought that the Hungnam rescue was extraordinary.  He was just doing the right thing. His satisfaction was that we were successful and that those rescued would escape communism and live in freedom.  On my last visit, I asked him to explain to my son, Alexander, what motivated him to volunteer to rescue so many people in the face of such great danger, at Hungnam. He quietly said the answer is in the Holy Bible.  "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

    Over the past 54 years I have tried to save as much documentation and as many photographs as possible of our service in Korea.  However, much thanks and credit must be given to my good friend, Benedict Ahn, who has undertaken plans to dedicate a Meredith Victory Memorial and World Peace Park, here, at St. Paul’s Abbey.  Together with the prayers and support of the Abbey, especially with the help of Father Bosco Kim, we shall create a permanent tribute to Brother Marinus, together with this fine Star of the Sea award.

     

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