Lieutenant Commander | United States Navy


Whaleboat operations in Korea were a daring task for only the bravest sailors, and such an adventure was appealing to Bill who had braved the high seas as a Merchant Mariner in World War II.  He participated in the Murmansk Run and operations in the Mediterranean before commissioning in the Navy and sailing for Korea on the minesweeper Murrelet.  While sweeping of the coast on night, the crew caught some suspicious sampans on radar and dropped a whaleboat on volunteers to investigate.

To slip through inky waters in a small wooden craft made the men feel vulnerable compared to the security of the steel hull they called home, but it was the best way to assault sampans over shallow, mine laden waters.  This particular night was one that none of the crew forgot - in hours they were steaming back with two of their own wounded and dying.  Were it not for the quick thinking of Gillen and the rest of his crew, there would likely have been more devastating results.  The death of one sailor was enough tragedy.