Photo Caption: Twenty-two United States Coast Guard cutters served in the theater of operations during the Korean War.

The United States Coast Guard answered the country’s call to arms during the Korean War just as it had during other American conflicts. Indeed, the Coast Guard’s presence in Korea began soon after the end of the Second World War when a Coast Guard Advisory detachment assisted in the development and training of the Korean Coast Guard, which eventually became the Navy of the Republic of Korea. Once hostilities commenced between North and South, the South Korean Navy, assisted by the U.S. Navy, fought a winning battle against Northern forces along the Korean peninsula.

Other Coast Guard units played active roles supporting the United Nations (U.N.) efforts throughout the conflict, carrying on the humanitarian tradition of the United States’ oldest sea-going service. Coast Guard cutters served on open-ocean weather stations beginning in the late 1930s. Cutters serving on ocean stations Sugar and Victor near Korean waters continued in this vital meteorological duty, providing United Nations ground, naval, and air forces with information on weather patterns that affected their military actions. These cutters also served as communication support platforms and as plane guards, ready to assist aircrews who were forced down at sea. They were also in position to assist troop and supply transports on their way to Korea and back again as well as in emergencies. Twenty-two cutters served on these lonely outposts during the war.

Photo Caption: United States Coast Guard Loran Station, Pusan, Korea.

Coast Guard aircraft stationed in the Philippines also stood ready to rescue anyone in need. One heroic rescue typified that role. In January 1953 a Navy reconnaissance airplane was shot down over the China Sea and a Coast Guard seaplane, stationed at the Coast Guard’s Air Detachment at Sangley Point in the Philippine Islands, was dispatched to the rescue. The pilot, Coast Guard Lieutenant John Vukic, successfully landed the seaplane in 12-foot seas to rescue and retrieve survivors. Unfortunately one engine failed on takeoff and the seaplane crashed. Nevertheless, Lieutenant Vukic, although injured, and his crew were able to retrieve life rafts from the sinking seaplane and save most of the survivors. They were rescued by a surface vessel the next day. Five Coast Guardsmen lost their lives during the rescue.

The United States Coast Guard also supported the United Nations during the Korean War by manning and operating Long Range Aids to Navigation stations (LORAN stations) throughout the Pacific. Nine such stations provided direct navigation support to U.N. ships and aircraft engaged in the Korean War. One of these stations was based on the Korean Peninsula itself in the port city of Pusan. Two Coast Guard Cutters serviced the LORAN stations throughout the war. Additionally, the headquarters of the Coast Guard’s Far Eastern Section and a Merchant Marine detachment, headquartered in Japan, provided logistical support to the U.N. supply efforts.

On the home front, Coast Guard expertise in port security and cargo handling, including the loading of ammunition and sabotage prevention, insured the uninterrupted flow of supplies to the U.N. forces serving in Korea. All of these missions served to support the United Nations’ effort to preserve an independent and free South Korea. During the Korean War the Coast Guard was always ready to serve with the other armed services of the United States to support the country’s efforts anywhere around the globe.

During the Korean War, the Coast Guard nearly doubled in size from its 1947 low until June 1952 when 35,082 officers and enlisted men served on active duty. This figure included some 1,600 Coast Guard Reservists.

United States Coast Guard Cutters Eligible for the Korean Service Medal

USCGC Bering Strait

WAVP 382

USCGC Chautauqua

WPG 41

USCGC Durant

WDE 489

USCGC Escanaba

WPG 64

USCGC Falgout

WDE 424

USCGC Finch

WDE 428

USCGC Forster

WDE 434

USCGC Gresham

WAVP 387

USCGC Ironwood

WAGL 297

USCGC Iroquois

WPG 43

USCGC Klamath

WPG 66

USCGC Koiner

WDE 431

USCGC Kukui

WAK 186

USCGC Lowe

WDE 425

USCGC Minnetonka

WPG 67

USCGC Newell

WDE 442

USCGC Planetree

WAGL 307

USCGC Pontchartrain

WPG 70

USCGC Ramsden

WDE 482

USCGC Richey

WDE 485

USCGC Taney

WPG 37

USCGC Wachusett

WPG 44

USCGC Winnebago

WPG 40

USCGC Winona

WPG 64

United States Coast Guard Loran Stations and Shore Units Eligible for the Korean Service Medal

LORSTA Bataan
LORSTA Elmo No. 4, Pusan
LORSTA Ichi Banare, Okinawa
LORSTA Iwo Jima
LORSTA Matsumae, Hokkaido
LORSTA Niigata, Honshu
LORSTA Oshima, Honshu
LORSTA Riyako Jima
LORSTA Tokyo, Honshu

CDR Far East Section, Tokyo
Merchant Marine Detachment, Japan

For additional information contact:
U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office
2100 2nd Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20593-0001