Korean War Legacy Project

Burley Smith

Bio

Burley Smith was born in Islip, New York on January 9, 1929. As a child during the  Great Depression, his family moved around but he spent most of his elementary and high school years in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He does not remember learning about Korea in school, but his strong interest in learning about what was happening in the world fueled his love for reading newspapers and learning about Korea. Shortly after graduating from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York, he was assigned as a Junior Third Mate to the SS Meredith Victory in Norfolk, Virginia. During his six month assignment in Korea, his vessel was part of the convoy for General MacArthur’s infamous Inchon Landing and the revered Hamheung Evacuation.

Video Clips

Riding the Waves of a Typhoon

Burley Smith provides an account of the hours before the historic landing in Incheon Harbor by MacArthur that cut off the North Korean Army. The SS Meredith Victory was the last ship in General MacArthur's convoy. The night before the landing, he remembers seeing waves breaching the side of the vessel and realizing that they were in a typhoon. Due to the intensity of the waves, he recalls Captain Leonard LaRue having to crawl up to the bridge and giving the orders. He shares that miraculously and with a little luck, they were able to bring the ship back in line and into Incheon Harbor.

Tags: 1950 Inchon Landing, 9/15-9/19,Incheon,North Koreans,Weapons

Share this Clip +


Share YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnuBv-0kS4o&start=2395&end=2740

Share from this page:
https://koreanwarlegacy.org/interviews/burley-smith#clip-1

Embed:

We Loaded as Many as We Could

Burley Smith provides an account of the role the SS Meredith Victory played in the evacuation of around fourteen thousand civilians during the 1950 Hamheung Evacuation. Throughout the process of the evacuation, he admires the behavior of the refugees during the evacuation and notes the bravery they exhibited. He notes that the ship was most likely sent there to load equipment but they ended up only loading people. He elaborates on the process of loading refugees into the holds and the living conditions they endured during the trip.

Tags: 1950 Hamheung Evacuation, 12/10-12/24,Busan,Hamheung,Civilians,Cold winters,Living conditions,North Koreans

Share this Clip +


Share YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnuBv-0kS4o&start=3845&end=4142

Share from this page:
https://koreanwarlegacy.org/interviews/burley-smith#clip-2

Embed:

The Level of Trust was Remarkable

Burley Smith explains issues the SS Meredith Victory faced trying to dock and unload the refugees. He recalls the fear of plague delaying the ability to dock and resources being to be brought to the vessel. Through it all, he remembers the excitement the refugees exhibited and the remarkable level of trust they had in the crew.

Tags: 1950 Hamheung Evacuation, 12/10-12/24,Hamheung,Civilians,North Koreans

Share this Clip +


Share YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnuBv-0kS4o&start=4216&end=4354

Share from this page:
https://koreanwarlegacy.org/interviews/burley-smith#clip-3

Embed:

It is Remarkable It Happened Without Any Incidents

Burley Smith gives details about the minefields of Hamheung harbor. He recounts how the United States Navy marked the minefield for them to navigate around the mines. He describes the United States Navy minesweepers maneuvering beside them to mark the minefield which allowed them to navigate through the mines. Along with this, he shares that the refugees were never searched and could have overtaken the ship at any time. For these reasons, he shares that it is remarkable that it all happened without any incidents.

Tags: 1950 Hamheung Evacuation, 12/10-12/24,Hamheung,Fear,North Koreans,Weapons

Share this Clip +


Share YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnuBv-0kS4o&start=4440&end=4587

Share from this page:
https://koreanwarlegacy.org/interviews/burley-smith#clip-4

Embed:

Hitchhiking Their Way Home

Burley Smith reminisces about the time he and a fellow merchant marine, Merl Smith, become stranded on a trip to see the front line. After hitching a ride up to the front, their pilot receives orders to head to Japan. He elaborates on their journey back to the SS Meredith Victory, which includes a ride in a Sherman Tank and an encounter with bed check charlie.

Tags: Busan,Hangang (River),Seoul,Suwon,Cold winters,Front lines,Rest and Relaxation (R&R),Weapons

Share this Clip +


Share YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnuBv-0kS4o&start=1446&end=1681

Share from this page:
https://koreanwarlegacy.org/interviews/burley-smith#clip-5

Embed:

Photos

Meredith Victory

Preserver

Meredith Victory

Meredith Victory

Rifle Light

Meredith Victory

Meredith Victory

Arch

Meredith Victory

Meredith Victory

Tank

Meredith Victory

Meredith Victory

Rifle Light

Meredith Victory

Meredith Victory

Banner

Meredith Victory

Meredith Victory

Rifle Light

Meredith Victory

Meredith Victory

Monument

Meredith Victory

Burley Smith

Medal

Burley Smith

General Kim Chee-Ho

General Kim Chee-Ho