USNS Michelson TAGS-23
Oceanographic Detachment/Unit Three

Significant Operations
SS Grand Rescue

Pacific Voyageur Account of Rescue
Michelson Ship's Newspaper January 1965

This January trip began with a bang for OcDet Three and the crew of the USNS Michelson. Less than a day out of port, the ship received a call for help sent by the SS Grand, a Chinese merchantman, and proceeded to her aid.

Late that afternoon the stricken ship came into view along with the SS Japan Bear which was also answering the Grand in her call for help. The Japan Bear was the first to reach the sinking ship and radioed that she would spread oil to help calm the waters near the Grand and launch a life boat to rescue those still on board. Shortly thereafter it was reported that many of the stricken ship's crewmembers were scattered in the water around the ship. Upon receiving this information the Michelson moved in closer and began rescue operations.

Evidently the forward section to the Grand had broken away and sunk without warning thus throwing everyone on that section into the water. The break also released large quantities of fuel oil which covered everything still afloat.

The sea temperature in the low sixties, the wind was cold and blowing strongly, and the seas were running high. All these factors, while not too severe, proved to be fatal for many of those cast into the water.

There had apparently been no time for the Grand to properly launch her life boats since only one overturned boat was sighted in the water. Her other boat, assuming she had only two, was still aboard sitting on the after section and apparently in such a position that it could not be launched by those left on board.

Both the OcDet and the Michelson's crew pitched in whole-heartedly as the rescue operations began. Due to the sea conditions the Michelson could not safely launch her own boats; therefore, the ship had to be maneuvered in strong winds to pick up the survivors. Before nightfall five survivors had been plucked from the grasp of the sea. Three of the OcDet crew members, Ben Gorman, Smokey Stover, and Ray Tullos, were major contributors to the rescue in that they went over the side to place lines around survivors.

Shortly after dark the sixth man was picked up when his shouts were heard near a light thrown over earlier. The search continued through the night with the aid of search lights and flares dropped by aircraft. All the next day the area was crossed and recrossed by ship and aircraft but to no avail. The sea currents and wind had scattered all signs of any survivors or debris.

The crew of the Grand consisted of 43 men. The USNS Michelson picked up 6 men out of the water, the Japan Bear rescued 9 from the sinking ship, and the Colorado Maru, which arrived shortly after the Michelson, picked up 7 from a raft and 1 out of the water. Of the 43 total there were 23 survivors, 6 known dead, and 14 missing (presumed dead).

The disaster which sank the grand was a grim reminder to all on the Michelson that the sea can be deadly if the men who sail over her are not ever vigilant and constantly mindful of safety.

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