USS Skagit
and
Operation Passage To Freedom



Haiphong to Saigon

August 18, 1954 - May 20, 1955


"The greatest mass evacuation in world history"





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Acting under the terms of the Indochina accords of 1954, the USN and USMC assisted in the relocation of civilians and materiel from North to South Vietnam. Over the course of operation `Passage to Freedom,´ over 310,000 civilians, 88,000 tons of cargo, and 8,100 vehicles were transported. The operation involved 109 ships and craft, 59 of which were from the amphibious forces.




Images: William R. Park EN2 1951-1955





Transferring refugees to Skagit from French LSM





A normal load





A helping hand





Delegating one man as "Boss"





Time for chow





Lunch under a "Mike" boat





Tsu Fu
Grandfather






Burial at sea

An infant is Buried at sea



The following eight pictures of Haiphong
submitted by Ray Hackenberg
































The Following Picture Submitted By
Rolland Turcotte


Saigon 1954

Saigon 1954




To View Rolland's

Operation Passage To Freedom

Picture Gallery

CLICK HERE



CLICK IMAGE FOR
FULL SIZE

Image: Ray Hackenberg





USS Montague (AKA-98)

Unloading Refugees from French LSM
US National Archives Photo #(NWDNS-80-G-644449)


Passage to Freedom


The Geneva Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities divided Vietnam into two zones for the regroupment of the contending Viet Minh and French forces. Ho Chi Minh's troops concentrated north of a provisional military demarcation line established along the Ben Hai River at the 17th parallel while French and allied indigenous forces regrouped to the south of it. At the same time, Vietnamese civilians were allowed to emigrate to the zone of their choice.

The U.S Navy answered the French government's call to assist in evacuating the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and ethnic Chinese who chose to live in the predominately non-Communist South. From August 1954 to May 1955 the Navy mounted a massive sea lift between the ports of Haiphong and Saigon.

To carry out the operation, named Passage to Freedom, the Pacific Fleet concentrated 74 tank landing ships (LST), transports, attack cargo ships, dock landing ships (LSD), and other vessels in the South China Sea under Rear Admiral Lorenzo S. Sabin, Commander Amphibious Force, Western Pacific and Commander Amphibious Group 1.

The Navy's Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) provided an additional 39 transports. This large group of ships, shuttling between North and South Vietnam, was supplied and replenished by the Logistic Support Force, Western Pacific, whose oiler, cargo, provision, repair, salvage, and hospital ships were stationed at the midway point in Danang Bay. Fleet medical units and Naval Beach Group 1 elements helped ease the plight of the Vietnamese refugees encamped ashore at both ends of the transit route.

By 20 May 1955, the Navy had transported 293,000 immigrants, many of them Catholics, who soon formed the core of the anti-Communist segment of the population in South Vietnam. In addition to 17,800 Vietnamese military personnel, the American flotilla carried south 8,135 vehicles and 68,757 tons of cargo, much of it material provided to the French under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program.

Source: "By Sea, Air, and Land" Chapter 1




Operation Passage To Freedom

Participating Ships

~ SOURCE ~

Task Force 90 Final Report

Verified By

Ronald B. Frankum, Jr. Ph.D.


Millersville University of Pennsylvania


Department of History










Stores Ship (AF)


USS Karin AF 33Aug. 25 - Oct. 1954
USS Merapi AF 38Oct. 6 - Nov. 19, 1954
USS Zelima AF 49Nov. 6 - 8, 1954
USS Aludra AF 55Sept. 21 - 23, 1954


Amphibious Force Command Ship (AGC)


USS Estes AGC 12Aug. 18 - Nov. 15, 1954
USS Estero AGC 134Sept. 16 - Nov. 12, 1954


Hospital Ship (AH)


USS Haven AH 12Sept. 8 - 10, 1954
USS Consolation AH 15Sept. 4 - 27, 1954


Cargo Ship (AK)


USS Faribault AK 179Sept. 9 - Nov. 19, 1954
USS Sussex AK 213Aug. 25 - Sept. 19, 1954


Amphibious Attack Cargo Ship (AKA)


USS Andromeda AKA 15Aug. 22 - Sept. 16, 1954
USS Algol AKA 54Aug. 15 - Sept. 9, 1954
USS Uvalde AKA 88Aug. 28 - Sept. 10, 1954
USS Montague AKA 98Aug. 14 - Sept. 9, 1954
USS Skagit AKA 105Aug. 22 - Sept. 20, 1954


General Stores Issue Ship (AKS)


USS Castor AKS 1 


Light Cargo Ship (AKL)


USS Sharps AKL 10Sept. 10 - Oct. 17, 1954


Fleet Oiler (AO)


USS Cimarron AO 22Sept. 5 - Oct. 17, 1954
USS Caliente AO 53Aug. 23 - Sept. 6, 1954
USS Taluga AO 62Jan. 19 - 23, 1955
USS Tolovana AO 64Oct. 16 - Nov. 15, 1954
USS Passumpsic AO 107Sept. 23 - 24, 1954


Amphibious Attack Transport Ship (APA)


USS Bayfield APA 33Aug. 21 - Sept. 9, 1954
USS Calvert APA 32Aug. 22 - Oct. 26, 1954
USS Magoffin APA 199Aug. 22 - Sept. 16, 1954
USS Menard APA 201Aug. 15 - Sept. 5, 1954
USS Telfair APA 210Aug. 15 - Sept. 16, 1954
USS Montrose APA 212Aug. 16 - Sept. 16, 1954
USS Mountrail APA 213Aug. 12 - Sept. 11, 1954


High Speed Transport Ship (APD)


USS Knudson APD 101Aug. 22 - Oct. 2, 1954
USS Wantuck APD 125Aug. 13 - Sept. 4, 1954
USS Begor APD 127Aug. 16 - Nov. 15, 1954
USS Cavallaro APD 128Aug. 22 - Oct. 20, 1954
USS Cook APD 130Jan. 20, 1955
USS Balduck APD 132Oct. 14, 1954 -
Jan. 21, 1955


Repair Ship (AR)


USS Ajax AR 6Aug. 23 - Sept. 20, 1954


Internal Combustion Engine Repair Ship (ARG)


USS Hooper Island ARG 17 


Landing Craft Repair Ship (ARL)


USS Atlas ARL 7Aug. 28 - Sept. 26, 1954
USS Sphinx ARL 24Aug. 28 - Oct. 25, 1954
USS Askari ARL 30Oct. 29 - Nov. 18, 1954


Rescue and Salvage Ship (ARS)


USS Castor ARS 1Sept. 9 - Sept. 4, 1954
USS Grapple ARS 7Aug. 26 - Sept. 4, 1954
USS Current ARS 22Oct. 25 - Nov. 17, 1954
USS Reclaimer ARS 42Aug. 26 - Sept. 19, 1954


Fleet Ocean Tug (ATF)


USS Ute ATF 76Sept. 9 - 11, 1954


Aircraft Carrier, Escort (CVE)


USS Point Cruz CVE 119 


Destroyer (DD)


USS James E. Kyes DD 787 


Landing Craft, Utility (LCU)


LCU 531Aug. 22 - Sept. 27, 1954
LCU 539Aug. 22 - Nov. 12, 1954
LCU 810Aug. 22 - Sept. 27, 1954
LCU 877Aug. 22 - Nov. 12, 1954
LCU 1273Aug. 22 - Sept. 27, 1954
LCU 1374Aug. 22 - Sept. 27, 1954
LCU 1387Aug. 22 - Sept. 27, 1954
LCU 1396Aug. 22 - Sept. 27, 1954
LCU 1421Aug. 22 - Nov. 12, 1954


Amphibious Landing Ship, Dock (LSD)


USS Epping Forrest LSD 4Aug. 22 - Sept. 27, 1954
USS Gunston Hall LSD 5Jan. 10, 1954 -
Feb. 28, 1955
USS Tortuga LSD 26Aug. 21 - Sept. 27, 1954
USS Whetstone LSD 27Aug. 23 - Nov. 12, 1954
USS Comstock LSD 19Aug. 22 - Oct. 21, 1954


Amphibious Landing Ship, Tank (LST)


USS LST 47Dec. 14, 1954
USS LST 176Dec. 14, 1954
USS LST 516Aug. 27 - Nov. 12, 1954
USS LST 520Dec. 15, 1954
USS LST 692Aug. 26 - Oct. 16, 1954
USS LST 758Aug. 26 - Sept. 26, 1954
USS LST 772Aug. 27 - Nov. 16, 1954
USS Hampden County LST 803Oct. 24 - Nov. 14, 1954
USS Harris County LST 822Aug. 26 - Oct. 16, 1954
USS Hickman County LST 825Aug. 26 - Oct. 5, 1954
USS LST 840Oct. 29 - Nov. 18, 1954
USS Jefferson County LST 845Aug. 26 - Oct. 6, 1954
USS Jennings County LST 846Aug. 27 - Sept. 26, 1954
USS Kent County LST 855Aug. 27 - Nov. 18, 1954
USS Lawrence County LST 887Aug. 27 - Sept. 26, 1954
USS Litchfield County LST 901Aug. 27 - Nov. 7, 1954
USS Luzerne County LST 902Oct. 17 - Nov. 15, 1954
USS Pender County LST 1080Sept. 10 - Nov. 13, 1954
USS St. Clair County LST 1096Aug. 29 - Sept. 26, 1954
USS LST 1148Aug. 29 - Sept. 26, 1954
USS Tom Green County LST 1159Oct. 29 - Nov. 17, 1954


Landing Ship, Utility (LSU)


LSU 531 


Fuel Barge (YO)


USS Derrick YO 59Sept. 9 - Nov. 19, 1954


Water Barge (YW)


YW 130Aug. 28 - Nov. 15, 1954


US Coast Guard Ships (USCG)


USS General R. L. Howze T-AP-134Sept. 10 - Dec. 11, 1954
USS General Black T-AP-135Sept. 13, - -Nov. 2, 1954
USS General A. W. Brewster T-AP- 155Sept. 10 - Nov. 3, 1954


Merchant Marine Ships (USMM)


SS CulucundisSept. 8 - Oct. 27, 1954
SS DiddoDec. 25, 1954 -
Jan. 1955
SS Hawaiian BearSept. 10 - 14, 1954
SS HurricaneSept. 7 - 15, 1954
SS Jose MartiSept. 13 - Nov. 11, 1954
SS SeaborneSept. 1 - 13,
SS SplendorSept. 6 - 15, 1954
SS Steel SeafarerNov. 5, 1954
SS Steel MarkerDec. 11, 1954 - ?


The following Ships were provided by

Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS)

and

Military Sealift Command (MSC)



MSTS CodingtonDec. 28, 1954
MSTS Sword KnotDec. 28, 1954 -
Jan. 1955
USNS Arlo Olson T-AK-245Dec. 13, 1954
USNS BeauregardSept. 1 - 14, 1954
USNS Hennepin T-AK-187 
USNS Herkimer T-AK-188Jan. 22, 1955
USNS Muskingum T-AK-198Sept. 8 - Oct. 26, 1954
USS Pembina T-AK-200Sept. 9 - ?
USS Piscataqua T-AOG-80Sept. 10 - 26, 1954
USNS Marine Adder T-AP-193Sept. 11 - Nov. 14, 1954
USNS Marine Lynx T-AP-194Sept. 13 - Oct. 1954
USNS Marine Serpent T-AP-202 
USS Fentress T-AK-180Sept. 7 - Dec. 28, 1954
USS Pasig T-AW-3Oct. 13 - Nov. 15, 1954
USS T-LST 535Apr. 1955
USS T-LST 546Dec. 1, 1954
USS T-LST 548Apr. 1955
USS T-LST 578Apr. 1955
USS T-LST 629Apr. 1955




Pictures and first hand recollections of Operation Passage To Freedom are requested for this web page. If you have anything to contribute, let me know......


skagamaru@webtv.net




~ RECOLLECTIONS ~



I remember the operation in 1954.

After evading typhoon Grace along with the Magoffin, and Calvert, we finally arrived.
My LCVP and another LCVP were helping out in the operation, when we came back from the beach and were looking for Skagit, and we could not find her anywhere.

We pulled up alongside the USS Bayfield APA 33, and an officer told us that we would be coming aboard Bayfield.

That concerned us, later they told us that the Skagit left in a hurry with some VIP  Vietnamese types on a secret mission to the Philippines, and they took two of the Bayfield boats with them

We departed Indo China aboard the Bayfield, we pulled into Hong Kong on the way to Japan where we were to meet Skagit.

The crew of the USS Bayfield, God bless them, they let us have advance pay and uniforms so we could pull liberty in Hong Kong. We caught up with Skagit in Japan about a week or two later.

Darrell Daugherty (Cox'n)




Sorry Darrell that we had to leave you all on the beach. Seems like the USS Bayfield, APA 33 treated you well.
Operation Passage to Freedom was a sensitive mission for Skagit. We received special orders to leave this operational area for a high speed evacuation of government officials to the Philippines.

Rolland Turcotte (ET2) 




Sir:
I am a veteran of this operation. In 1954 I was a Marine orderly guard (one of six assigned) to Rear Admiral Lorenzo S. Sabin, Task Force 90's commander. As you may recall, the command ship was the USS Estes (AGC 12) . We plied the waters between Haiphong and Saigon during the 9 or 10 months of the operation. But, I remember we spent about half of the time in Saigon. I got out the Corps in 1958 and after college spent over 30 years outside the US managing foreign assistance programs and consequently missed many of the events that occurred between 1962 and 1993.

Until recently I hadn't thought much about the operation But deciding to do a bit of writing I chose this topic and began researching Operation Passage to Freedom. I discovered that this gigantic humanitarian evacuation was one of those mid century events that was almost completely eclipsed by later more dramatic happenings in the region. I was amazed to rediscover facts about it that I had forgotten. The most amazing was its scope. I was surprised that so many vessels had been involved. Too bad the Navy never issued a ribbon for the operation. It certainly marked a pivotal event in the long slide toward our own Vietnam war. Congratulations on your excellent web site.

Regards, Neil R. Huff




I was aboard the USS Montague during part of the evacation, in fact I think we made three loads of refugees from Haiphong up the river to Siagon.
We fed and gave them medical attention. Our ship's doctor was Dr Tom Dooley who as you probably know set up medical clinics for the Vietnamese after he left the service. He was truly a great American.
I have a few small pictures taken during the operation that I will gladly give to you for your web-site if you will e-mail me an address to send them to.

Thanks
Paul Webb




Hello,
    I was searching the web for info on the USS Knudson reunion dates, and found this web site, but have not seen any thing about the USS Knudson APD 101 being involved...so I am sending you a couple of paragraphs from the History of my Ship.
    We were anchored at the Port of Haiphong, to a buoy at the old French Naval base,
    I carried Dr. Tom Dooley and the interpreters up River to the embarkation point several times, and the boat crew and I counted the refugees as they were loaded aboard the LST's and other Landing Craft to then be loaded aboard the AKA's for the trip to Saigon.....
    Thanks for the site, the pictures bring back some great memories of my time in service.. and I will pass on the address to Old Shipmates.

Lawrence A. Gohagan Sr.
 
USS Knudson APD 101 History
 
The ship was recommissioned August 6, 1953, Lt. Comdr. J. F. Roohan Jr.. in command. After shakedown and conversion to an APD flagship, she departed San Diego, May 3, 1954 for the western pacific. Arriving Yokosuka May 23, 1954, She conducted amphibious exercises off Japan, South Korea and Okinawa. Clearing Tokyo bay August 13, 1954, She sailed for the Vietnamese coast, where she arrived Haiphong, North Vietnam, August 22, 1954.
As Flagship for the Commander, Embarkation Group, she participated in Operation "Passage to Freedom" through which the Navy evacuated almost 300,000 Vietnamese from North to South Vietnam. From August 22, 1954, to Sept. 19. 1954, she operated out of Haiphong during the loading of refugees, cargo, and military equipment by Navy ships. Then she steamed to Saigon, South Vietnam, arriving Sept. 22, 1954, continuing to Subic Bay Oct. 2, 1954. She returned to Yokosuka via Hong Kong Nov. 1, 1954, and on Nov. 7, 1954, she sailed for the United States, arriving San Diego, California Nov. 23, 1954.




Hi - my name's Chris Peterson and I live in London, England. I came across your Web site whilst researching material for a book my wife and I are doing on the mass evacuation of Vietnamese from Hanoi/Haiphong to Saigon in 1954-1955. My wife is Vietnamese - we met in 1972 whilst I was a journalist covering the Indochina conflict.
She was born in Haiphong and was four years old when she and her mother, sister and four brothers were all evacuated from Haiphong to Saigon to join her father, a senior Vietnamese customs official who had been sent south some weeks earlier. She has only hazy memories of the voyage (but she would like to say a big thank you to you and your colleagues!!). I will be going to Saigon next month to see her mother and chat to her about the migration, but in the meantime I just wonder if you had any ideas where I could get further information, particularly on the organisation and the ships involved, and also any photographs to match the treasure trove you have on your Web site?
With best regards,
Chris Peterson




It was a pleasure to come across your website today.  I have been researching Operation Passage to Freedom and the efforts of the USOM in refugee resettlement since 2000.  To date I have collected approximately 45 oral history interviewees of individuals who participated in the operation as well as a few full boxes of documents related to this incredible period of time.  I have recently finished a manuscript on the operation, which I hope to have published in the near future.
 
I am always interested in talking with those who served during the operation. As you can attest, it had a tremendous impact on the 18-20 year old American sailors and, from my interviews, remains such an important event even today. Sadly, it is rarely discussed in courses on the Vietnam War (except for me, of course:))

I just wanted to send a note of appreciation for your website.  When I began my research, there was very little available on the web.
 
Ron Frankum
 
P.s.  All of my research materials will be donated to the Vietnam Archive at Texas Tech University as soon as the book is published
 
Ronald B. Frankum, Jr. Ph.D.
Millersville University of Pennsylvania
Department of History
McComsey Hall, Room 321
Millersville, PA  17551
 
Ronald.Frankum@millersville.edu
Office (717)-872-3745




I wanted to congratulate you on your Passage to Freedom web page. USS Telfair participated in that critical humanitarian mission and was a member of Task Force 90. Telfair transported 6,470 Vietnamesee Refugees from the Haiphong area in Northern Indo-China to Saigon.
During that time four babies were born on board, and a young Vietnamese woman lost overboard while the ship was anchored in the mouth of  the Saigon River was saved.
Telfair's crew ran into the same problems as the other ships, like communication, and feeding problems, cleaning up after Refugees departures and also the terrible smell, and keeping order among the Refugees.
It was no picnic some of the crew worked long long hours.
I have been doing some reviewing of the Operation Passage to Freedom and discovered the American military personnel in the operation received the French Indo Chinese "Ribbon of Friendship" from President Diem, later changed to the Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation, in recognition of their participation.
You know Passage to Freedom was the largest evacuation operation by sea in military history.  Despite that impressive fact, the U.S.Navy never awarded any medal to the naval personnel who participated in the evacuation of more than 300,000 refugees fleeing the Viet Minh.
I now live in Ohio and I have summarized articles on OPERATION PASSAGE TO FREEDOM and e-mailed my information to US Senators George V. Voinovich and Mike DeWine of Ohio.
I feel that the sailors who participated in the evacuation of the fleeing refugees 1954 - 55 should receive the same recognition as the military personnel and be awarded the Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation medal.
That's my story

Robert S. Barklay
Former Yeoman 2nd Class
USS Telfair APA 210




Mike,
I've had this site listed under my favorites for some time, but never caught the error till today. I was aboard the USS Comstock, LSD, but it wasn't the 45. It was the 19. The 45 did not exist at that time.
 
Thanks
 
Al Mendenhall
Springfield, Il.




Sniker For Ever......

Dear Friend
My name is Henry Do (61)
Your pictures of Vietnamese evacuation touched me very much. I cannot forget the first moment I stepped onto a American ship to go to South Vietnam. A sailor handed me a candy (that time I was so young, only 11) at the moment I could not say thanks in english, but just looked at the sailor and I found out he was busy doing his job, and the Vietnamese also were worrying about where to sleep in his ship.
 
Eventually I and my brothers could eat the candy. Oh my God, it was very very delicious. It was the best candy in the world. The caramel was soft and sweet, it's chocolate coat was sweeter ....and when I bit a peanut in it the peanut brought the sweetness down to regular sweet and the crunchiness made me and my brother make a lot of noise from our mouth... who care about the noise? no american in the area full of Vietnamese and American knew well all asian make noise when we eat....
 
21 year after the sweet moment I meet the candy again at American soil (1975) and I found out my sweet lover's name is Sniker. I can eat the candy anytime I want, but I didn't eat many candy, just because my body doesn't need many sugar. I eat the candy only I want to remember the sailor, and the ship that brought me and my familly to the freedom land.
 
Henry Do




I was aboard USS Calvert APA-32 during Operation Passage To Freedom in 1954, and I appreciate your web site.
What kind of medals or patches are we entitled to?
I would also like to contact any old members of the Calvert from that time.

John Anderson
e-mail: john@janderson.us




I was abroad the Andromeda (AKA - 15) during the operation "Passage to Freedom".

Allow me to mention during the August-September 1954 experience, a few things that have always stuck with me.
 
I still remember how hot it was, the (very) hungry people, the stench in the "holds", and each trip to Haiphong to Saigon was a new experience.

I remember taking some young boys into our showers, bathing them, then giving them gum.  They began chewing the gum (wrapper and all) and of course we had to show them how to do it.

Another occasion was when we were loading up refugees and the OD told me to go help an elderly woman carry her long pole weighed down on each end with all her possessions; she could not have weighted more than 80 pounds.  I weighed about 185 and considered myself physically fit.

It was humiliating attempting to help her, as she thought we were going to take the possessions away from her, as they were already told by the communists that we were going to rape the women and then kill them at sea and give them to the sharks.

The real embarrassment came when I had difficulty carrying her possessions on board as I considered it extremely heavy.  Of course, I was laughed at by my crew members!

I remember how we would stop in Tourane between trips and fumigate the ship.  I believe the most difficult time we had was attempting to communicate with the refugees. I think we had a Catholic Priest who was Vietnamese and spoke English.

One time as a Chief and myself were attempting to bring food and tea to the refugees, they were so hungry and thirsty, they nearly mobbed us.

I learned many things by this experience in those 26 days. I think we made three trips!

Warren Carara DK3




I can't tell you how delighted I am to have found your site. My father, the late Patrick Cole Downey (Roslyn, NY), served as a radioman aboard the USS Ajax during Passage to Freedom and expressed to me on one occasion (years ago) his dismay over how he and his shipmates and other veterans were never properly recognized for their actions.

To summarize, he spoke of assisting and giving medical treatment to Vietnamese civilians who had been injured and tortured, as well as having had the misfortune to have assisted in the burial and or disposal of Vietnamese bodies aboard ship.

Moreover, one night, some twenty years ago, my father broke down at the dinner table (for no apparent reason), and related to my family how he had shot to death a Vietnamese man with his BAR, after having come under fire from a river bank while delivering mail (to whom I have no idea), in some kind of small vessel of sorts.

According to my father, after the action he was ordered to keep his mouth permanently shut (along with another sailor or two who were with him at the time), which I believe he did. Needless to say, I would be VERY interested to learn more about this incident / action. If you know anything about it, please contact me via e-mail:

Regards,

Patrick C. Downey Jr. USMC 1986-1989
e-mail: blue75280z@yahoo.com




I served on the USS Calvert APA-32 during Operation Passage to Freedom. John Anderson who has comments on this page was and is a close, lifetime friend.

Calvin Towler
E-Mail: caltowler@yahoo.com






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