Coral Sea pulled into Subic Bay the morning of 29.October, but Typhoon Emma compelled the ship to put to sea for three days of evasive steaming, after which time she turned north for Hongkong. She altered course 6 November to go to the assistance of the Liberian flag freighter Loyal Fortunes at Pratas Reef, 170 miles southeast of the British Crown Colony. At about 0730, 7 November, Coral Sea launched two helicopters that shuttled between the two ships, eventually bringing off all 37 Chinese crewmen. They were disembarked upon the carrier's arrival at Hongkong the following day.
Coral Sea to rescue as ship breaks apart—37 HONGKONG CREW SAVED
Thirty-Seven Hongkong seamen of the Liberian freighter Loyal Fortunes may not be alive today were it not for the timely arrival of the American aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea, which saved them in a dramatic air rescue.
"The Loyal Fortunes was breaking apart on Pratas Reef, 170 miles southeast of Hongkong. Its crew would not have survived another night." Commander Lee Hany, in charge of the helicopter rescue operation on Tuesday morning, said yesterday. The entire rescue operation which began at 8:25 AM lasted one hour and 90-minutes, he said. The two helicopters had to make three trips apiece from the Coral Sea to the stricken vessel about 15-miles away in 70-knot winds and 30-foot high waves.
"We could not land on the Loyal Fortunes' deck as there was no room and we could not get down too close as it takes only a little water to quench the jet intakes of the helicopters." Commander Hany said. The rescue was affected by lifting the seamen one at a time from the vessel on to the helicopter, he said.
"To make sure that the seamen knew what to do, we put Chief Petty Officer William G. Steller on the ship to direct operations." he added.
According to Captain Tom Jackson, Operations Officer of the Coral Sea, his ship was about 200 miles from Pratas Reef when information was received that the Loyal Fortunes was in trouble.
"We were sailing from Subic Bay to Hongkong on a routine trip when our course was diverted by typhoon Emma." he said. The Loyal Fortunes was solidly aground on the reef and was taking a severe beating from the giant waves. "The beached vessel's radio was dead and all communication between her and the Coral Sea had to be done through the H.M.S. Manxman which was standing by." he said.
Copyright © 2019 Bert McNamee, Harleigh, PA. All rights reserved.