Battle of Korea Strait
The Battle of Korea Strait was a small naval battle fought on the first day of the Korean War, 25-26 June 1950, between the navies of South Korea and North Korea. A North Korean troop transport carrying hundreds of soldiers attempted to land its cargo near Busan but was encountered by a South Korean patrol ship and sunk. It was one of the first surface actions of the war and resulted in an important South Korean victory.
The Korean War began with a massive North Korean invasion of South Korea which nearly overran the country. During the invasion, the Korean People's Navy was assigned to insert troops along the peninsula's southeastern coast. The North Korean steamer was one of the vessels. Formerly an American merchant ship of 1,000 tons, she was armed with machine guns and loaded with 600 soldiers of the 766th Independent Infantry Regiment.
It was early morning when the South Korean Navy submarine chaser ROKS Bak Du San spotted the lone enemy steamer eighteen miles from Busan. The chaser was the lead vessel of the South Korean Navy and was also formerly an American ship, built in 1944 as USS PC-823, decommissioned after World war II and transferred to the Merchant Marine Academy as "Ensign Whitehead" and finally sold to South Korea in 1949.
Bak Du San first challenged the steamer with signal lights and received no response. But when the South Koreans turned on their searchlights, the North Koreans opened fire, hitting the Bak Du San 's bridge. The helmsman was killed and the officer of the deck seriously wounded. Bak Du San returned fire with her main 3-inch anti-aircraft gun and six .50-caliber machine guns.
After the North Koreans began taking hits, the ship attempted to flee the engagement. In a running battle the Bak Du San chased the enemy steamer down and it sank near Tsushima Island with heavy loss of life. The victory, though unintended, was a major strategic gain. Busan was vital but only lightly defended and if it had fallen the North Koreans would have been one step closer to completely overrunning the country.
- J. Marolda, Edward (26 August 2003). "Naval Battles". Naval History & Heritage Command. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
- Rottman 2001, p. 171
- "ROK Navy Ships: Pak Tu San (PC-701, 1950–60)". Naval History & Heritage Command. 17 October 1999. Archived from the original on 5 December 2010. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
- Rottman, Gordon (2001), Korean War Order of Battle: United States, United Nations, and Communist Ground, Naval, and Air Forces, 1950–1953, Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, ISBN 978-0-275-97835-8