Rev. Charles Hoffacker
In December 1950, United Nations troops, including United States Marines, were evacuating North Korea. But what about the Korean refugees who were waiting to flee? North Korean troops would certainly view them as American
sympathizers and slaughter them.
Leonard LaRue, captain of the cargo ship SS Meredith Victory was asked if he would help. He did not hesitate to get involved. Without an escort, his ship traveled past enemy submarines and stayed in harbor for thirteen hours. He and his crew of 35 hurried on board 14,000 refugees.
The Meredith Victory still carried its original load of jet fuel. It lacked so much else: food, heat, sanitation facilities, lighting in the holds, mine detection equipment. There was no doctor or interpreter on board. The only weapon available was LaRue’s pistol. Yet the ship made it safely to a small South Korean island in time for Christmas. No one died during this escape. The Meredith Victory adventure remains the largest ever human rescue by a single ship. Among the refugees were the future parents of the current South Korean president Moon Jae-in.
Within a few years, Captain LaRue left the shipping business and entered a Benedictine abbey in New Jersey where he eventually became Br. Marinus. He avoided celebrity status and devoted himself to prayer and service. Br. Marinus died in 2001.
Although usually with much less drama, all of us are given opportunities to impact lives in one way or another. What opportunities will you have to do so today?
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington