Koelsch DE-1049

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This Month in Naval History
Koelsch DE-1049

Koelsch

John Kelvin Koelsch, born 22 December -19M in London, England, enlisted as an Aviation Cadet in the U.S. Naval Reserve 14 September 1942. Following flight training, he was commissioned Ensign 23 October 1944. He served at Naval Air Stations at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Norfolk, Va., and subsequently flew with Composite Squadron 15 and Torpedo Squadrons 97 and 18. Promoted to Lieutenant (j.g.) 1 August 1946, he became an accomplished torpedo bomber pilot. After the outbreak of Communist aggression in Korea, he joined Helicopter Squadron 1 at Miramar, Calif., in August 1950. As Officer in Charge of a helicopter detachment, he joined Princeton in October for pilot rescue duty off the eastern coast of Korea. He served in Princeton until June 1951 when he joined Helicopter Squadron 2 for pilot rescue duty out of Wonsan, Korea, then under naval blockade. He provided lifeguard duty for pilots who were downed either in coastal waters or over enemy-held territory. On 22 June he rescued a Naval aviator from the waters of Wonsan Harbor, southeast of Yo Do Island. Late in the afternoon of 3 July, he responded to a distress call from a Marine a Capt. James V. Wilkins, whose Corsair had been hit by enemy fire during an armed reconnaissance mission about 35 miles southwest of Wonsan. Capt. Wilkins parachuted from his burning plane at low altitude; and, though severely burned about the legs, he survived. Despite approaching darkness, worsening weather, and enemy ground fire, Lt. Koelsch located the downed aviator in the Anbyon Valley and began his pickup. Thick fog prevented the air cover from protecting the unarmed helicopter, and intense enemy fire downed the plane as the Lieutenant's crewman, George M. Neal, AM3, hoisted the injured pilot toward the helicopter. All three men survived the crash; and, after hiding in the mountains from enemy patrols for 3 days, they began a slow march to the coast. After 6 more days, they reached a coastal village where they were captured the following day while hiding in a hut. During his captivity Koelsch steadfastly refused to aid his captors in any manner. Though beaten and abused, he refused to submit to interrogation; and his fortitude and personal bravery inspired his fellow prisoners. He died of malnutrition and dysentery 16 October 1951. For his conspicuous gallantry, intrepidity, and heroic spirit of self-sacrifice Lt. (j.g.) Koelsch was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor 3 August 1955.

(DE-1049: dp. 3,040; 1. 414'6"; b. 44'1"; dr. 24'2"; s. 20+ k.; cpl. 239; a. 2 5", 4 tt., I ASROC, 1 DASH; el. Garcia)

Koelsch (DE-1049) was laid down by Defoe Shipbuilding Co., Bay City, Mich., 19 February 1964; launched 8 June 1965; sponsored by Miss Virginia L. Koelsch; and commissioned 10 June 1967, Comdr. John A. Buck in command.

She at present is providing valuable support to ships of the Atlantic Fleet from her homeport, Newport, R.I., because she has the capabilities both to screen attack and support ships and to operate effectively against submarines. Operating either alone or with a hunter-killer group, she can seek out and destroy enemy submarines with the most advanced ASW equipment. Moreover, as is so important in a time of unrest and potential conflict, her ability to carry out blockade, surveillance, and evacuation missions at a moment's notice adds readily to the Navy's mighty deterent force and to the continuing task of "keeping the peace."

 

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