Commemoration of "Sitting Ducks" - Inchon - 9/14/00
Remarks by Captain Robert A. Schelling USN (Ret)
I am speaking to you today as a pinch-hitter for Captain Harvey Headland who cannot make it to Inchon this time because of his health. Captain Headland is the senior living Sitting Ducks veteran.. As some of you know, Captain Headland commanded our flagship MANSFlELD which led us up Flying Fish Channel and into Inchon three times, the last one between two and five AM on a dark moonless night to open up D-Day.
I address the Sitting Duck sailors, here today and to those who were not able to cross the Pacific this time and join us -- proud Tin-Can sailors with a bond of service in a bold attack against aggressor forces. I also speak to the other servicemen present who participated in the Inchon operation.
Our Sitting Duck event today is the result of a lot or planning and some great execution on the part of several people, whom we thank. Planning by those in the US-Korea 2000 Foundation -- Retired Rear Admiral Jim Montgomery, and retired Marine Colonel Warren Wiedhahn -- and by a later-year DEHAVEN sailor named Dan Wisner. We owe the execution to Rear Admiral Sullivan, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Korea and his staff. We also thank the people of Inchon for their gracious courtesy and hospitality to us all.
We are here today to reflect on an event that took place exactly 50 years ago yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We're also here to remember those shipmates who sailed with us into harm's way and who an no longer among us.
We recall the historical background. MacArthur conceived the plan for an amphibious assault that would end-around and cut off the enemy, enabling our forces to break out of the Pusan Perimeter and take the offensive. MacArthur was smart to choose our navy to set the table and our US Marines to make their amphibious assault landing and defeat the enemy.
There were navigational hazards: 30-foot tides, 5-knot currents, a 35-mile narrow channel with mud flats all around, and, as we found, mines. These hazards were manageable.
But there was a problem. The 30o-foot high island of Wolmi-do commanded the harbor entrance. It was judged to be fortified and would have to be reduced before the landings could take place. What guns did it have and where were they located? Six destroyers would be sent in on D-2 day to find out the hard way -- draw fire in order to reveal guns' positions and take them out if we could. The nickname later given to our ships for this mission was "Sitting Ducks".
Our "reconnaissance in force", as it was called, was a gutsy response by the sailors of the MANSFIELD, DEHAVEN, LYMAN K. SWENSON, COLLETT, GURKE, and HENDERSON, who took their ships into harm's way, really into the unknown, anchored there, and slugged it out toe-to-toe. A young officer in the DEHAVEN's gun director saw through his spotting glass an enemy gun crew getting ready to fire, and beat them to the draw, thus starting the hour-long fray. We found guns and took many or them out. By D-Day the fortifications were reduced so that our Marines could land and do their great job with minimal casualties.
To emphasize the significance of our role: at our departure conference just before we left Sasebo, I remember our boss and Gunfire Support Group Commander, Rear Admiral John M. Higgins, highlighting a statement in the operation order: "Wolmi-do must be taken at all costs" Yes, the success of the entire Inchon operation depended upon our paving the way. You accomplished that missioin gallantly and earned your ships the Navy Unit Commendation.
We were spared both major damage and heavy casualties -- thanks to the grace of God and to your own aggressiveness and courage. WELL DONE, Destroyermen!
May God bless you all, and my God bless our Sailors and Marines wherever they may be. Thank you.