USS Whitehurst Logo by: Pat Stephens, Webmaster, DESA

Motor Vessel Sinking, Crew fighting off Sharks

By Max Crow and Bill Chung

In August 1953, the USS Whitehurst DE 634 left Pearl Harbor for a six month tour of surveillance duty in the Trust Territories of the Pacific. Her home port until February 1954 would be Apra Harbor Guam. Sometime between August and December, an SOS signal was received from from an inter island motor vessel that was foundering in the waters between Saipan and Guam. The weather was clear and the seas were almost smooth as Whitehurst rushed to the scene. When we arrived, the vessel was almost under water. The mast, prow, and something on the stern were barely above the waves. One man was standing as high on the prow as he could, a couple were clinging to the base of the mast. Three men were nearby on a bright yellow hatch cover that served as a raft. The dorsal fins of many sharks were moving ominously around the men on the raft who were fighting them off a spar.
Captain Marvin D. Jones brought the ship within 100 yards of the stricken vessel and sent the motor whale boat over to pick up the frightened victims. All were taken aboard without injury.

Sinking Motor Vessel and Struggling Victims off Saipan

After the crewmen of the stricken ship were taken safely aboard Whitehurst, some authority deemed the vessel a navigational hazard that must be removed. Captain Jones had to sink it.
This task was treated as a battle drill. The crew was called to General quarters, and the ammunition ready boxes for the 3"/50 guns were unlocked. Firing practice commenced at no more than a few hundred yards. Of course the 3" rounds went right through the wooden hull of the small ship and it quickly sank from view.
Sonarman Bill Chung who was on the bridge during the battle exercise, reported that the master of the vessel, who was also on the bridge, was crying as his ship was being fired upon. Captain Jones questioned the man who said that he had just made the last payment on his
boat and it was uninsured. The Captain asked what his cargo was and the man replied, "200 cases of American beer."
Bill Chung said, "That's when we started crying!"

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