In December of 1950, the crew of the SS Meredith Victory, a modestly-sized Merchant Marine ship, performed what the Guinness Book of World Records refers to as “the greatest rescue operation ever by a single ship.” The crew of the, “Ship of Miracles,” as is came to be known, evacuated 14,000 refugees using a vessel designed and equipped to carry a tiny fraction of that number. One of the last surviving members of the crew, Admiral J. Robert Lunney, recounts the unlikely and amazing journey that began in Hungnam harbor on December 23, and ended on December 26, when 14,000 refugees, and 5 babies born during the voyage, safely arrived on the island of Koje Do. That’s the focus of this special edition of  Wilson Center NOW.

Rear Admiral J. Robert Lunney (NY Naval Militia – Retired) enlisted in the Navy at the age of 17 and his more than 30 years of service includes duty during both WW II and the Korean War. His highly-decorated career included 10 years of service in Naval Intelligence, three tours in command of Judge Advocate General Corps units, and  tour as Staff Judge Advocate at Readiness Command Region Two, Scotia, NY. He was appointed to the National Naval Research Policy Board by the Secretary of the Navy and in 1994 received the highest form of public service bestowed by the Navy when he was decorated with the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award. Among his many  honors are the Merchant Marine Gallant Ship Citation and the Korean Presidential Unit Citation that recognizes his “courage and resourcefulness” while participating in “one of the greatest marine rescues in the history of the world” at Hungnam, North Korea, in December 1950.

John Milewski is the executive producer and managing editor of Wilson Center NOW and also serves as director of Wilson Center ON DEMAND digital programming. Previously he served as host and producer of Dialogue at the Wilson Center and Close Up on C-SPAN. He also teaches a course on politics and media for Penn State’s Washington Program.