Korean War Legacy Project

Merl Smith

Bio

Merl Smith was born on December 25, 1927, in Broad Street Park, New Jersey. He graduated from Hamilton High School in 1946 and attended Kingspoint, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, for four years. He graduated from the Academy in 1950 and became an engineer officer. He does not recall learning anything about Korea until he experienced it firsthand aboard the SS Meredith Victory. Sailing from San Francisco to both Japan and Korea during the war, his ship’s mission was to carry supplies to Korea from Japan. His ship brought supplies to the infamous Incheon Landing and aided in the famed Heungnam Evacuation where his ship alone rescued over fourteen thousand refugees and carried them to safety. 

Video Clips

Serving as a Merchant Marine

Merl Smith discusses his role as a merchant marine in the Korean War. Merchant Marines were a civilian unit supplying troops with whatever they needed. He recounts his time at the Incheon Landing. He remembers taking on four North Koreans who wanted to surrender. He also recalls seeing the invasion from afar on his boat. He, alongside a friend, rode up to Seoul, following the American troops.

Tags: 1950 Inchon Landing, 9/15-9/19,1950 Seoul Recapture, 9/22-9/25,Incheon,Seoul,Civilians,Food,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Message to Students,North Koreans,South Koreans,Weapons

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQQzRkPaX-A&start=910&end=1209

First Impressions of Korea

Merl Smith recalls his first image of Korea. One of the first sights he remembers seeing was that of destroyed tanks. He remembers the Korean civilians he met were all very stoic and never crying. He is still amazed at how well they handled the effects of war. He recalls how each time he would cross paths with children, he would give them something and shares a warming story of giving a shivering girl his winter coat. He adds that he witnessed a totally devastated Seoul.

Tags: Civilians,Cold winters,Depression,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Poverty,South Koreans

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQQzRkPaX-A&start=1216&end=1489

Revisiting Korea

Merl Smith discusses his impressions of Korea during a visit in 2007. He recalls not believing the recovery of Seoul. He was amazed at the prosperous and happy people, which was in complete contrast to what he witnessed in 1950. He believes the Korean people are resilient people and have a positive outlook on life.

Tags: Seoul,Civilians,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Message to Students,Modern Korea,Pride,South Koreans

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQQzRkPaX-A&start=1489&end=1723

The Hungnam Evacuation

Merl Smith discusses his role in the Heungnam Evacuation. He shares that his ship saved over fourteen thousand people from Heungnam after being called to duty from Pusan. He details how the ship only had supplies for forty-eight men, did not have heat or toilet facilities, and had very little water. He remembers the Chinese blew up the port as the ship was exiting Heungnam and sailing with the Korean refugees for three days while bringing them to safety.

Tags: 1950 Hamheung Evacuation, 12/10-12/24,Busan,Hamheung,Heungnam,Chinese,Civilians,Cold winters,Depression,Fear,Food,Front lines,Living conditions,Poverty,Pride,South Koreans,Women

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQQzRkPaX-A&start=2212&end=2535

Photos

Meredith Victory Refugees

Meredith Victory Refugees

Citation by Maritime Admin Dept. of Commerce

Citation by Maritime Admin Dept. of Commerce

Merl Smith Letter Page 1 - August 10, 1950

Letter submitted by Merl Smith

Merl Smith Letter Page 1 - August 10, 1950

Merl Smith Letter Page 2 - August 10, 1950

Letter submitted by Merl Smith

Merl Smith Letter Page 2 - August 10, 1950

Merl Smith Letter - August 29, 1950

Letter submitted by Merl Smith

Merl Smith Letter - August 29, 1950

Merl Smith Letter - September 18, 1950

Letter submitted by Merl Smith

Merl Smith Letter - September 18, 1950

Merl Smith Letter Page 1 - September 28, 1950

Letter submitted by Merl Smith

Merl Smith Letter Page 1 - September 28, 1950

Merl Smith Letter Page 2 - September 28, 1950

Letter submitted by Merl Smith

Merl Smith Letter Page 2 - September 28, 1950

Merl Smith Letter Page 1 - December 10, 1950

Letter submitted by Merl Smith

Merl Smith Letter Page 1 - December 10, 1950

Merl Smith Letter Page 2 - December 10, 1950

Merl Smith Letter Page 2 - December 10, 1950

Merl Smith Letter Page 1 - Xmas Day 1950

Letter submitted by Merl Smith

Merl Smith Letter Page 1 - Xmas Day 1950

Merl Smith Letter Page 2 - Xmas Day 1950

Letter submitted by Merl Smith

Merl Smith Letter Page 2 - Xmas Day 1950