Photo: J. Robert Lunney. Credit: Ministry of Veterans Affairs.
Rear Admiral J. Robert Lunney, who played a key role in the largest civilian evacuation out of North Korea during the Korean War, passed away on March 10. Together with his captain Leonard LaRue, then-Staff Officer Lunney coordinated the largest humanitarian rescue operation by a single ship on the SS Meredith Victory.
In December 1950 as UN forces were withdrawing from North Korea while the Chinese military advanced, more than a 100k civilians gathered at the eastern port of Heungnam 흥남, hoping to get on the boats that were evacuating the soldiers as well.
Although Meredith Victory, a supply transport, was designed to accommodate only 12 passengers, Captain LaRue decided to unload nearly all weapons and supplies to evacuate as many refugees as possible to Busan. LaRue and Lunney managed to get 14k civilians on the ship, among whom were the parents of President Moon Jae-in 문재인 대통령.
President Moon issued a statement of condolences.