Operation Christmas Cargo, Korea 1950

By | December 25, 2021

[December 25, 2021]  At the end of 1950, the Korean War was not going well.  China entered the war in October of that year, pushing United Nations southward.  By December, refugees from North Korea were streaming toward the south to avoid the North Korean and Chinese armies.  Christmas in Korea was looking grim.

On December 22, Captain Leonard LaRue, of Philadelphian, peered through his binoculars from the deck of his merchant cargo vessel, SS Meredith Victory, as it approached the besieged North Korean port of Hungnam.  Thousands of shivering refugees lining the harbor were desperate to escape the Communist armies who had surrounded the city and were closing in.1

“It was a scene of ‘Dante’s Inferno. Korean refugees thronged the docks. With them was everything they could wheel, carry, or drag. Beside them, like frightened chicks, were their children” – Captain LaRue, Ship of Miracles, 2000

U.S. Navy gunships fired at the enemy on the city’s outskirts, shuddering the harbor with each salvo.  Smoke billowed into the overcast skies as U.S. troops from the 3rd Division fought to save the now encircled Hungnam.

A few days earlier, LaRue had been employed by the Navy to carry supplies during the initial months of the war.  Captain LaRue and U.S. Army officers met on board his ship to reveal plans for a Dunkirk-like rescue of the refugees.  “We can’t order you to take them,” one of the colonels said, “but we ask if you would volunteer.”  The rest is history.

Codenamed Operation Christmas Cargo, and now commonly referred to as the “Christmas Miracle,” the incredible evacuation at Hungnam by transports and merchants ships resulted in the rescue of nearly 200,000 troops and civilian refugees.

The forgotten story of the S.S. Meredith Victory and its crew, the American Army’s role, and the refugees is truly a Christmas miracle.  Designed to carry only 12 passengers and 47 crew, the ship took on 14,000-plus refugees to safety and earned herself the name “The Ship of Miracles.”

The Guinness Book of World Records describes it as “the largest evacuation from land by a single ship.”

Merry Christmas to all my readers, commenters and friends.  On these days that are sacred to so many, I offer what I hope is an upbeat article to this great and noble land known as the United States of America.


  1. https://www.inquirer.com/philly/opinion/inquirer/20151222_During_the_Korean_War__a_Christmas_miracle.html


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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

22 thoughts on “Operation Christmas Cargo, Korea 1950

  1. Pamela Mary Schlagel

    I know my father was on one of the planes that airlifted the orphans out.It broke his heart that he couldn’t do more for these poor innocent children.He saw humans that needed help.Rise up people and Love one another.

  2. Frank Graham

    This is the kind of article that gets my attention and that I print and also post on my company’s bulletin board. People stop and read it because it draws their attention. I’m known as the “leadership guy” in my section because I talk about it often. Thanks all, have a great and merry NEW YEAR.

    1. Doc Blackshear

      Thanks Frank. And all the best to you, your family, and all the readers of Gen. S’s blog. Keep up the effort to learn more about history and how it can inform us, and prevent us from making the same mistakes others have made.

  3. Mr. Savage

    MERRY CHRISTMAS …… I know I’m late writing it but my comment is still sincere. Merry Christmas to ALL.

  4. Jeff Blackwater

    Merry Christmas to all …. a day late but never too late to give my appreciation for Christmas. Always remember to keep “Christ” in Christmas. Otherwise, Christmas is no better than the Easter Bunny.

    1. Emma Archambeau

      Good comment Jeff. Yep, that is what is being taught in schools today that our religous times are bad and should be seen only as a white man’s revenge on black man.

  5. Wild Bill

    Thank you, Gen. Satterfield. Merry Christmas to all our readers and commentators here at your blog. This is indeed a place where we can give thanks for what brave men and women have done for us.

    1. Gene Bruster

      Merry Christmas Wild Bill. Good to see so many friends on this website today.

    2. Desert Cactus

      Yes, Wild Bill (love the pix and moniker) and we should all celebrate the real religious meaning of Christmas. Amazing how well that works out when you practice it. Don’t be sucked into the whirlwind of communism or socialism that hides the evil behind it.

      1. Len Jakosky

        Yes, and don’t forget that liberalism is a mental disorder because it means denying the truth.

  6. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    Generally described as an “amphibious operation in reverse”, the evacuation of Hungnam encompassed the safe withdrawal of the bulk of UN forces in eastern North Korea. It was the largest sealift since the 1945 Okinawa operation. In barely two weeks, over a hundred-thousand military personnel, 17,500 vehicles and 350,000 measurement tons of cargo were pulled out. In comparison with the retreat in central and western Korea, little was left behind. Even broken-down vehicles were loaded and lifted out. Also departing North Korea through Hungnam were some 91,000 refugees, a large number, but not nearly as many as had gathered to leave.

    1. Anya B.

      Yes, thanks Eric, as I look back on what the brave men of the Meredith Victory accomplished in 1950, I sadly recognize just how much our country has changed. While many will read this story and marvel at how the lives of 14,000 refugees were miraculously saved, others will conclude that the real miracle was that LaRue and his crew volunteered to do it at all.

  7. Tom Bushmaster

    Excellent article on an event that few know about and few appreciate. Thank you Gen. Satterfield and I wish a very Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    1. Goalie for Cal State

      Yes, merry Christmas. Keep Christ in Christmas. Too many today have forgotten or chose not to remember what Christmas is about.


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