USNS Michelson TAGS-23
Oceanographic Detachment/Unit Three

Significant Operations
SS Grand Rescue

Rescue of SS Grand Merchant Mariners January 1965

USNS Michelson T-AGS-23 arrived in Yokosuka Japan in November, 1964 and began operations that same month. We made one or two cruises in 1964. In January, 1965 after being at sea for what I remember to be a short period of time we were informed that a distress call had been received from the SS Grand, a Republic of China (Taiwan) merchant vessel that had lost power and was taking on water. We broke off operations and headed for the SS Grand. We steamed all night at full speed arriving the next day. The SS Grand was a WWII Liberty ship that had been sold to a Taiwanese Steamship company (Sincere Steamship Corp., Ltd.). She was carrying scrap iron, mostly in the form of old engine blocks, from the U.S. to Taiwan.

Just prior to our arrival, the front half of the Grand broke off and sank. There were approximately 12 - 18 sailors on that section when it broke off, sending all of them into the sea. The SS Japan Bear had arrived just ahead of us. In an ill-advised attempt to calm the huge swells she pumped a huge amount of bunker oil into the ocean. This made it more difficult for the sailors in the water to swim and to be seen as they were quickly covered with black sticky oil.

We now had to contend with huge swells, cloudy skies, cold black water, black oil and men in the water that were barely visible. We managed to rescue six crewmen from the SS Grand. Three of Oceanographic Detachment Three’s sailors, Ben Gorman ET1, Ray Tullos ET3 and Smokey Stover PH1 went over the side tethered to safety lines. They managed to pull three of the men from the water. The Michelson’s Second Officer, P. G Murray, also went over the side to rescue one of the Grand’s crewmen. His effort was captured on film, which is posted below. The others were able to grab onto the cargo net that had been hung over the port side and pull themselves up with help from the crew manning the cargo net.

Ben, Ray and Smokey received medals for their heroic actions. Unfortunately, I cannot recall which medal it was that they received. To the best of my knowledge Second Officer P. G. Murray did not receive public recognition for his heroic efforts. Hopefully these heroic men or someone that knows them will see this site and will provide additional details.

Commentary contributed by Chet Headley.

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