- Nesdale, Iris
- RAN operations, Ship histories and stories, Post WWII
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Tobruk I, HMAS Sydney III, HMAS Murchison, HMAS Condamine, HMAS Anzac II, HMAS Culgoa, HMAS Shoalhaven, HMAS Bataan, HMAS Warramunga I
- June 2007 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Commander Task Force 95 (Rear-Admiral G. C. Dyer, USN), left Sasebo on 7 April flying his flag in USS Rochester for a tour of the operational area. (Report of Proceedings, April ‘52). Bataan was ordered to escort the ship for the first part of the cruise, before relieving HMCS Nootka as CTU 95.12.4 in Task Element 95.12.
The Rochester escort became uncomfortable. The two ships had been ordered to observe a speed that would take them as fast as possible, but at 1800 visibility (due to fog) was reduced to less than half a mile. Soon afterwards it was to be reduced further, and even Rochester‘s surface-warning radar was not effective. Eventually it was impossible to see at all through the blanket of fog, and both ships had to anchor and wait off the entrance to Inchon Harbour. In the same report, reference was made to ‘Attempted Invasion Sunday 13 April’. The alarm sounded from Yongmae Do and crew hurried to action stations. Matters evidently weren’t helped by ‘continuous exchange in Korean language’, but the attempt failed ‘due to starshell illumination and accurate firing.’
At Kure on 22 April, when Bataan anchored to await the dockyard tugs, she found HMAS Warramunga and HMS Crane in the harbour. ‘I was delighted to see the Commanding Officer of Warramunga (Cdr J. M. Ramsay, RAN)’, wrote Commander Bracegirdle.
It was in fact, the first time the two Tribals had met since arriving in the area during the present commission.
Commander Warwick Bracegirdle had command of HMAS Bataan in 1952 when ‘Operation Roundup’ was planned. South Korean Marines and American Officers were to be landed at Haeju on the west coast. The landing would be carried out under protection of Bataan‘s gunfire, and the main object was to capture prisoners and destroy store dumps.
‘On the first day we sailed very close to shore,’ wrote C. J. Webber, ‘firing at anything that moved. We were so close that we were fired at by small arms from weapon pits, but these were soon silenced by our Bofors. We had an observer ashore to range our heavy broadsides on enemy troops as they approached, also giving the impression that the Peninsula was being invaded. They took the bait.
Next morning after a short but heavy bombardment, the Marines were landed, and we supported them all day’. Their mission was a success, casualties low, considerable damage to the enemy and about forty prisoners taken.
Commander Bracegirdle was justifiably pleased, but for a short time only. The Korean Marines had returned not only with prisoners, but with cattle and rice, and there was no room for all in the sampans.
‘We were surprised to hear gunfire from the beach, but the surprise turned to anger when we realised that it was the prisoners who were being shot.’ Commander Bracegirdle threatened to turn the guns on the marines, but it was too late. Of the forty prisoners taken only one was still alive.
‘When the sampans reached safety a skinny heifer was sent to Bataan, presumably to appease the general anger and disgust. The cow was tied to the torpedo-tubes for the night, and in the morning was put ashore on a friendly island.’
‘Operation Roundup’ was not regarded as a success, but as always a funny side surfaced when Cmdr Bracegirdle had a flag raised for other ships in the area – ‘Haeju Herders’.
Whilst operating about the many small islands off shore, it is remembered that Bataan earned several titles that included ‘Grey Ghost of the West Coast’ and ‘Brace’s Circus’. The Haeju round-up would surely have ensured some comment.
In his July 1952 Report of Proceedings, Commander Bracegirdle made references to the carrier USS Bataan. He also pointed out that Bataan (DD) joined Task ER 95.1.1 to give the ship opportunity to work with her namesake in the United States Navy. The arrangement had been made by the Staff of Commodore TG 95, and proved a success. HMAS Bataan steamed in company with the USS Bataan on several occasions, and regretted the large vessel’s departure for other concerns.