SS Columbia Eagle incident The SS Columbia Eagle incident
refers to a mutiny
that occurred aboard the U.S. flagged merchant vessel Columbia Eagle
in March 1970 when two crewmembers seized the vessel with the threat of a bomb and handgun, and forced the master to sail to Cambodia
. The ship was under contract with the Military Sea Transportation Service
to carry napalm
bombs to be used by the U.S. Air Force
during the Vietnam War and was originally bound for Sattahip
. During the mutiny, 24 of the crew were forced into two lifeboats and set adrift in the Gulf of Thailand
while the remainder of the crew were forced to take the ship to a bay near Sihanoukville
, Cambodia. The two mutineers requested political asylum from the Cambodian government which was initially granted but they were later arrested and jailed. Columbia Eagle
was returned to U.S. control in April 1970. This is the only mutiny of a United States Ship
in recent history.
The Columbia Eagle
was a Victory-type
cargo ship constructed by Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation
of Portland, Oregon in 1945 for the U.S. Navy and originally christened SS Pierre Victory
. She was designed to carry all types of dry supplies and munitions to Pacific theaters of World War II. SS Pierre Victory
survived three separate kamikaze
attacks by the Japanese in 1945.
After World War II the Pierre Victory
was converted to a livestock
ship, also called a Seagoing cowboys
ship. Pierre Victory
made 6 trips with 780 horses on each trip to war torn Poland
SS Pierre Victory
served as merchant marine ship supplying goods for the Korean War
. Like most of the ships of the Victory-type, Pierre Victory
was decommissioned after the war then sold to commercial shipping company. In 1968, she was purchased by the Columbia Steamship Company, renamed Columbia Eagle
and contracted out to the Military Sea Transportation Service for the purpose of hauling supplies and ammunition to Southeast Asian ports in South Vietnam and Thailand during the Vietnam War.
Because Columbia Eagle
was a U.S. flagged ship, she was a part of the Merchant Marine
fleet and therefore eligible under government contracting rules to haul military supplies to the war zone.
Clyde McKay was born on 20 May 1944 near Hemet, California
. His father was in the military at the time and often had duty away from the family. While a teenager, he suffered a misdiagnosed bowel obstruction and was seriously ill for a year. Because of this, he lost a year in school and never finished high school and decided to join the merchant marine. McKay received his merchant marine documents
on 23 October 1963 and joined the Seafarers International Union
Alvin Leonard Glatkowski
Alvin Glatkowski was born on 11 September 1949 at Augusta, Georgia
. His father was also in the military at the time of his birth but shortly after Glatkowski was born, his father abandoned the family. His mother married a Navy third-class machinist mate named Ralph Hagan when Glatkowski was three. Hagan was abusive to Glatkowski when he was home, but was often on duty or cruises and Glatkowski learned to be independent at an early age. As a teenager, Glatkowski assumed the role of head of the household when Hagan was at sea and this made Hagan very angry when he returned home. He often took out his frustrations on Glatkowski violently, which led him to leave home at eighteen. Glatkowski went to New York and enrolled in the Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship
operated by the Seafarers International Union
. Lundeberg School taught the skills needed to get deck, engine and steward jobs on merchant marine ships. On 17 April 1967, Glatkowski received his merchant mariner papers stating he was eligible for entry-level jobs on U.S. flagged ships.
On 14 March 1970, McKay and Glatkowski used guns they had smuggled aboard to seize control of their ship, SS Columbia Eagle
, in the first armed mutiny
aboard an American ship in 150 years. The ship had been sailing on a Department of Defense
supply charter carrying Napalm
to the U.S. Air Force
bases in Thailand
for use in the Vietnam War
The mutineers claimed that there was a live bomb on board the ship, and forced the captain to order 24 of the crewmen to abandon ship in the lifeboats. The ship's cargo, 3,500 500-pound bombs and 1,225 750-pound bombs, gave this threat credibility.
When the crewmen departed in lifeboats, an SOS
was transmitted. A Lockheed P-3B
Crew 6, the "Scalf Hunters", operating from U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield
, Thailand, was directed to launch a search and rescue
(SAR) mission to find the SS Columbia Eagle
and assist as needed. Upon arrival at the ship, they found a small crew and the presence of small arms, and immediately reported their assessment that the ship had been hijacked and was heading for Cambodia. Crew 6 maintained communications and status reporting until the ship anchored in Cambodian waters. Afterwards, they were relieved and other P-3 Orion aircrews kept the Columbia Eagle
under constant surveillance from outside Cambodian territorial waters.
The merchant ship Rappahanock
picked up the lifeboats and crew members and broadcast the news of the mutiny. The United States Coast Guard
was the first US military vessel to pursue the Columbia Eagle
. The amphibious transport dock USS Denver
was diverted to relieve Mellon
in its pursuit. The destroyer, USS Turner Joy
, was detached from station at I Corps
to pursue the Columbia Eagle
at flank speed and to intervene. However, the Columbia Eagle
reached Cambodian waters before any U.S. naval ships could intercept.
With only 13 crewmen remaining aboard besides the mutineers, they sailed into Cambodian waters, where they assumed they would be welcomed as heroes. They anchored within the 12 miles (19 km) territorial limit claimed by Cambodia on the afternoon of 15 March.
At 09:51 on 16 March, Denver
anchored 15.6 miles (25.1 km) from the coast in the Gulf of Siam
, remaining outside Cambodian waters. Mellon
joined shortly thereafter with Commander, Amphibious Squadron Seven, as the senior officer present. Two CH-53 Sea Stallion
helicopters landed on Denver
from bases in South Vietnam
to assist in visual surveillance. Meanwhile, the mutineers had turned the ship over to Cambodia's Prince Norodom Sihanouk
's government, declared themselves anti-war revolutionaries, and been granted asylum.
On 17 March, the helicopters were detached and Denver
, with Commander, Amphibious Squadron Seven, departed for Singapore
, passing on-scene command to Mellon
remained on station in a cruising pattern within shipping lanes and in sight of the harbor channel.
On 18 March at 06:36, Denver
reversed her course; Prince Sihanouk had been deposed by a coup
led by the pro-U.S. Sirik Matak
and Lon Nol
. If the Cambodians could be persuaded to release Columbia Eagle
s flight deck could help the rescued crew members rejoin their ship. The coup was unfortunate for mutineers, McKay and Glatkowski; as they had hoped to find asylum in a pro-Communist country; instead, they became prisoners of the new Cambodian government. At 23:59 on 18 March, Denver
anchored in the Gulf of Siam 17 miles (27 km) from the coast of Cambodia.
Sihanouk, now in exile, charged that the CIA had masterminded the mutiny to deliver weapons to Lon Nol. Both the mutineers and U.S. officials denied his charges.
When it became clear that Columbia Eagle'
s release was not imminent, Denver
was detached to proceed to Da Nang
McKay and Glatkowski were held by the post-coup Cambodian government for several months after their capture. A United Press newspaper interview from August 1970
describes them as living under guard in "a rusting World War II landing ship moored in the Mekong River
," regularly using marijuana supplied by their guards, and making statements supporting the Manson Family
and violent overthrow of the United States government. Both claimed they were supporters of Students for a Democratic Society
. Mr. McKay said to a reporter: "We are sympathetic with the Asian people and, while I'm not an authority on the war in Vietnam I respect the opinions of people who were authorities like Bertrand Russell and Jean Paul Sartre who said the war in Asia was genocide." and "I intend to carry on my actions against the American Government."
In June both men were indicted in absentia by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles on charges of mutiny, kidnapping and assault.
After months of imprisonment Glatowski was released and, after seeking asylum at the Chinese and Russian embassies he turned himself in at a US Embassy in Phnom Penh
and was extradited to the United States to face trial. He was charged with mutiny, kidnapping, assault and neglect of duty, was convicted, and served his sentence. He has admitted to mistakes in the hijacking but remained unapologetic about their goal of interrupting the napalm shipment. United States federal judge Manuel Real
heard the testimony of four psychiatrists; three of the psychiatrists
reported that Glatkowski was currently sane and was sane at the time of the mutiny incident. On 2 March 1971 Glatkowski pled guilty in a Los Angeles District Court to mutiny and assault. He was sentenced by Judge Manuel Real to 10 years in Federal prison
and served seven of the ten years in a Lompoc, California federal prison
McKay escaped from his captors along with U.S. Army deserter Larry Humphrey in October 1970
and sought out the Khmer Rouge
He was officially declared accounted for with a date of Loss on 4 November 1970
and has never been located by the authorities. However, Richard Linnett and Roberto Loiederman, co-authors of The Eagle Mutiny
, wrote an article, entitled "The Last Mutineer",
for the February 2005 issue of Penthouse
in which they report that remains brought back from Cambodia
were positively identified as Clyde McKay's at the Central Identification Laboratory - Hawaii (CILHI), the U.S. Navy's forensic lab in Hawaii. Subsequently, the remains were cremated and the ashes were buried in the family plot in Hemet, California
, where McKay had spent his youth.
- ^ Andrews, Evan, "6 Famous Naval Mutinies," 6 November 2012, History in the Headlines newsletter, retrieved 1 March 2018 from History.com .
- ^ Cronkite, Walter, and Nelson Benton, "Columbia Eagle / Mutiny / Cambodia," segment #208707, in transcript: CBS Evening News for 1970-03-16, from the Vanderbilt Television News Archive, Vanderbilt University, retrieved 1 March 2018.
- ^ Hoffman, Fred S., Associated Press, "U.S. Bomb Ship Seized in Mutiny: Anchored Off Cambodia", 16 March 1970, San Bernardino Sun, San Bernardino, California, Volume 76, Number 137, pp.1-2, photocopy at retrieved 1 March 2018 from OCR transcription in California Digital Newspaper Collection.
- ^ "Mutiny Involved 5: Captain,", 19 March 1970, Nashville Tennessean, Page 13 retrieved 1 March 2018 from OCR transcription in Newspapers.com.
- ^ "U.S. Asks Return of Ship," 25 March 1970, (appended to end of subsequent 26 March 1970 article "Two Who Say They Support S.D.S. Tell How They Hijacked Ship,") in New York Times archives, retrieved 1 March 2018.
- ^ Emery, Fred, "Two Who Say They Support S.D.S. Tell How They Hijacked Ship," 26 March 1970, New York Times archives, retrieved 1 March 2018.
- ^ Associated Press, "2 American Ship Hijackers Want to Quit Cambodia," written 3 July 1970, published 4 July 1970, New York Times, retrieved 1 March 2018 from the Harold Weisberg Archive, Hood College, Maryland.
- ^ Pierre Victory and landlock state, 14 February 2019
- ^ Heifer International
- ^ Sea going cowboys
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- ^ Who were the Seagoing Cowboys, by Jackie Turnquist
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- ^ Linnett, pp 67–68
- ^ Cutler, p 142
- ^ Linnett, pp 13–15
- ^ Linnett, pp 43–56
- ^ a b c d e "1970 Command History of USS Denver (LPD-9)" (PDF). Command Operations Reports. US Navy Naval History and Heritage Command. pp. 2–3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
- ^ "Commander, Naval Forces Vietnam (April 1970)" (PDF). Monthly Historical Summary, April 1970. Naval Historical Center, U.S. Navy. pp. 31–32. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- ^ "Manson Hero to Hijackers". Reading Eagle. 26 August 1970. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
- ^ NY Time wo Who Say They Support S.D.S. Tell How They Hijacked Ship, By FredD Emert, March, 26, 1970
- ^ a b Lipsman, Samuel; Doyle, Edward (1984). Fighting for Time (The Vietnam Experience). Boston Publishing Company. p. 141. ISBN 9780939526079.
- ^ True Crime and Punishment: Mutinies, By Barry Stone, page 314
- ^ Baltimore Sun, Echoes of 1970 in Lindh case, by Roberto Loiederman, 25 February 2002
- ^ Fourth Arm of Defense: Sealift and Maritime Logistics in the Vietnam War, By Salvatore R. Mercogliano, page 57
- ^ Pomona Progress Bulletin Newspaper Archives, Thursday, 25 February 1971, Page 50
- ^ Biography of L. Humphrey in pownetwork.org
- ^ Linnett, pp 228–232
- ^ POW MIA Accounting Agency Listing Civilians
- ^ Richard Linnett and Roberto Loiederman, "The Last Mutineer", Penthouse. February 2005. Retrieved on 22 October 2016.
- ^ in the year 1991
- ^ Cronkite, Walter, and Nelson Benton, "Columbia Eagle / Mutiny / Cambodia," segment #208707, in transcript: CBS Evening News for 1970-03-16, from the Vanderbilt Television News Archive, Vanderbilt University, retrieved 1 March 2018.]
- ^ Hoffman, Fred S., Associated Press, "U.S. Bomb Ship Seized in Mutiny: Anchored Off Cambodia", 16 March 1970, San Bernardino Sun, San Bernardino, California, Volume 76, Number 137, pp.1-2, photocopy at retrieved 1 March 2018 from OCR transcription in California Digital Newspaper Collection
- ^ "Mutiny Involved 5: Captain,", 19 March 1970, Nashville Tennessean, Page 13 retrieved 1 March 2018 from OCR transcription in Newspapers.com]
- Cutler, Deborah W. and Thomas J. Cutler (2005). Dictionary of Naval Terms. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-150-8.
- Linnett, Richard and Roberto Loiederman (2001). The Eagle Mutiny. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-522-5.
Last edited on 9 April 2021, at 15:42
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