(1945-1975) HMNZS Taupo in Korea

Chief Petty Officer Mason-Riseborough was the Chief Boatswains Mate of the frigate HMNZS Taupo during active service in Korea in 1952. Taupo spent considerable time patrolling the east coast of Korea bombarding shore targets such as bridges and railway tunnels. Here he describes one particular action off the Island of Yang-do.


Chief Petty Officer Mason-Riseborough was the Chief Boatswains Mate of the frigate HMNZS Taupo during active service in Korea in 1952.  Taupo spent considerable time patrolling the east coast of Korea bombarding shore targets such as bridges and railway tunnels.  Chief Petty Officer Mason-Riseborough describes one particular action off the Island of Yang-do.

“Fairly near the end of our sojourn up there, when we were patrolling on the Eastern Coast and there was one Island there that contained a small American Garrison – it was the island of Yang-do.  There were also a few hundred, a couple of hundred South Korean Army personnel there as well as far as we knew.  We patrolled around this Island as required and everything seemed to be pretty quiet and an American destroyer was due to come and relieve us of that duty.  This Island is in fact off North Korea even though it was manned by the American garrison, the small American garrison plus these South Korean Army people.

We set off, very slowly, southwards, early in the afternoon expecting to meet up sometime the next morning with the American destroyer.  However about 11 o’clock or midnight a garbled message came through to the effect that this Island of Yang-do was being attacked.  We turned about and went back at our best speed which in those frigates was about 19 and half knots.  We got there just as dawn was breaking and went in between the island and the mainland and it would appear that our radar was being affected by “snow”, that is “snow” on the screen.  In fact all those white blobs wasn’t snow at all it was in fact an invasion Fleet of motor boats towing barges.

The intention of course was to take us over completely by numbers, and we arrived right smack in the middle of them.  We started a turkey shoot immediately.  I particularly enjoyed that part of it.  The Gunnery Officer of the ship was Lieutenant Saull, later to be Admiral Saull, and the arrangement was that he looked after the 4 inch and he left the close range weapons to me, which consisted of 4 Bofors and a pom-pom, a 4 barrel pom-pom.  The instructions to the Gun’s Crews were quite simply “get on with it” which they did.  Great piles of empty rounds, you have never seen anything like it in the vicinity of all these weapons and we totally cleared the area of everything that floated.  Dawn was breaking quite quickly and there were one or two in their boats quite handy to us.

We suddenly became a very enticing target for the shore batteries that commenced to do their best to put us under.  Their firing was pretty accurate.  The first lot being a straddle, as I remember.  Of course the Captain naturally said “full speed ahead of everything” and let’s get the hell out of this fast.  We wiggled and wound our way out while Lieutenant Saull had a bash with the old 4 inch at the shore batteries and we got out of there as quickly as we could.  However we had sustained some small damage, around about the water line which was causing water to enter the engine room and we went around the other side of the island well out of sight of the shore batteries.

We watched the battle being in progress on the Island, while the defenders and the attackers, because a lot of them had already got ashore before we arrived during the night.  It was interesting to see them fighting each other.  Wandering around, creeping around the outcrops and such like, tossing hand grenades and all that sort of thing, it was like watching a film.  We couldn’t do a damned thing about it, except watch it.

However about 5 o’clock in the evening our relief turned up, the American destroyer.  Our Captain said to the American Captain “I would suggest that you people do not enter the area between the Island and the mainland, as the shore batteries are both very fast and very accurate”.  He described our action that we’d had, and that we had sustained some damage, not very serious but some damage.  The American replied “this is just what we are designed for, we have got the latest quick firing multiple 3 inch” I think he said, “just what we want,” and with that proceeded to go in between the Island and the mainland and disappeared from our view.  Well we heard the noise going on from in there, sounded like a hell of a lot of firing going on and a few minutes later the American Destroyer came out of the other side of the Island.  I think that she was doing about a thousand miles an hour, certainly going as fast as she could move.  Unfortunately the shore gunners had had some good luck with their shooting because they had in fact destroyed one or two of the bearing mountings of multiple weapons, which were supposed to deal with things like shore batteries at reasonably close range and there were casualties.  She had a dirty great hole in her starboard side and in fact we were quite amazed to see a man stand up in this starboard hole, it was so large.  That really was the last time a ship went in between the Island there on that patrol anyway”

Lieutenant Commander Hall was a Sub Lieutenant in HMNZS Taupo during operations in Korea in 1952.  After the incident at Yang-do Island when Taupo was involved with an invasion fleet of junks attempting to take over Yang-do Island, Sub Lieutenant Hall and the Taupo Supply Officer `Happy Day’ were designated to go and join the USS Endicott for a liaison visit.  Lieutenant Commander Hall picks up the story:

“The second day we were doing a sweep between Yang-do and the mainland in daylight to make sure that the situation had returned to normal.  The Endicott was leading another American Fletcher-class destroyer and suddenly the whole of the sea around us erupted with near misses as the shore batteries opened up.  Fortunately they straddled the Endicott without any hits.  I was on the bridge at the time and I looked aft and the Fletcher-class behind us was hit in B Gun Turret which blew completely off the ship.  They were very fortunate that the flash didn’t extend down into the magazines and blow the whole ship up, but they lost their Gun Turret and all the crew in it.  I can recall the Executive Officer turning to the Captain of the Endicott at one stage.  The Captain was an ex Submariner and had a cigar clumped tight in his mouth and was giving conning orders and got up to full ahead and the Exec said “Gee Captain these salvoes are getting closer Captain, they are getting closer, they are getting closer, they are getting ever closer, Captain they are getting closer”.  The Captain turned around to the Exec, took the cigar out of his mouth and said “What the God damn hell do you expect me to do, submerge?”