The Korean War was between the Republic of Korea (South Korea, supported by the United Nations), and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea, supported by the Chinese and the Soviet Union Communists or Reds). The North Koreans invaded South Korea June 25, 1950, and rapidly conquered most of South Korea.
When the Communist invaders captured Inchon, a city on the west coast of Korea a short distance from Seoul, they took over the Inchon Christian Orphanage, which had been established in 1946 by Holiness Church Missionaries.
The children were left to fend for themselves. Kwak Sun Yong, a Holiness missionary took some of them to the island of Fushi (Fussito, Fusshi-do), where he and his wife began caring for the group, which consisted of 34 little boys in addition to his own family.
Meanwhile, the battles of the Korean War were far to the south in Korea in what was known as the Pusan Perimeter. General Douglas McArthur, in charge of the United Nations troops, planned to launch an invasion force at Inchon far to the north of the North Korean invaders to cut their supply lines and hence defeat the North Korean Communists.
So, in August 1950, the U.S.S. St. Paul found itself in Inchon Harbor shelling Red-held road and rail networks in preparation for the upcoming invasion. The St. Paul was near Fushi-to, which was supposed to have a working lighthouse, but didn’t. So, the ship sent Lt. Bahr with a landing a party to investigate (Lt. Bahr had been a prisoner of the Japanese in WWII and knew some of the language) What the party found was the orphanage of Kwak Sun Yong with 45 children ranging in age up to 14 years, desperate for
food, shelter, warm clothing, and medical care.
When the party returned to the St. Paul and told of the orphanage, a collection was immediately taken and the next morning the ship’s whaleboat headed to shore with clothing, rice, and a whole assortment of other items collected from the sailors. One of the St. Paul’s doctors, Dr. Linehan, also went. What he found was pneumonia, malnutrition, rickets and beriberi. Soon the orphans were washing with Navy soap, dressed in cut-down Navy dungarees, wrapped in Navy wool blankets, eating a Navy meal, and laughing at Navy songs. Ship’s tailors measured the children so that they could be fitted with real clothing and shoes made from Navy supplies. Later ship carpenters repaired the damaged buildings.
On September 15, 1950, the invasion planned by General McArthur took place and the North Korean defenders were quickly defeated. When Inchon was secure, the St. Paul’s men went ashore and found a pot-bellied stove that they took to the Fushi-to orphanage for warmth. A well was reclaimed so they could have clean drinking water. They purchased some vegetable seeds for them to begin to grow their own food.
Soon boxes for the orphanage began arriving from the sailor’s families in the United States. The parish of the Cathedral in St. Paul, MN and also became involved and provided needed supplies to the Fushi-to orphanage.
This story about the U.S.S. Saint Paul and the orphans of Fushi-to is documented by the U.S. Navy’s Chaplains. The orphans survived the Korean War and the orphanage has moved back to Inchon.
The U.S.S. St. Paul went on to participate in other actions in the Korean War, and later was involved in the Vietnam War. She fired the last volleys in WWII and Korean. The Saint Paul earned one battle star for World War II service, eight battle stars for Korean service, and nine battle stars for Vietnam service. She was sold for scrap in 1980, but one of her anchors is on Harriet island and the ships bell is outside of the mayors office in a park in St. Paul MN.
~ Dick Pfahler, Member of KWVA Chapter 169