The story of the United Nations naval operations in the Korean waters cannot be written without mentioning the efficient and invaluable services rendered by that group of smart and gallant men of the U. S. Navy Helicopter Unit, who contributed considerably to the success of the ships’ gunnery actions.
Without any protection in their slowly moving kite-cages, they were often exposed to deadly enemy fire. Nevertheless, they fulfilled their duty cheerfully and enthusiastically, setting a fine example of high morale and fighting spirit to anyone in the Forces.
They always did the trickiest jobs, rescuing the crews of friendly aircraft, shot down behind the enemy lines, and evacuating casualties from the battlefield.
Particularly one of them, whose identity was never revealed, was closely linked to H.N.M.S. Evertsen by bonds of friendship, emanating from daily contact during the coastal bombardment operations in the Wonsan area. Hovering over the target, he guided the ship’s fire as a “spotter,” giving his corrections on the R.T.
Although the American pilot never set foot aboard the Netherlands destroyer and they never met, the friendship grew closer every day of action, when he was at his dangerous post with never failing loyalty, somewhere in the blue Korean sky, soaring over the target and giving his comment on what he saw from his “belvedere” sightseeing cupola, in his own, cheerful manner.
The conversation of “Queen Windmill” and “Tread”—as were the helicopter’s and the destroyer’s call-signs respectively—was always marked by a cheerful spirit and excellent team work.
“Queen Windmill, this is Tread. Can you hear me? Over!”
“Tread, this is Queen Windmill. I can hear you five-by-five, go ahead! Over!”
In terms of radio telephony, the expression “five-by-five” means that the reception is loud and clear.
When the game was on, Evertsen would send her shells hurtling to the target, sowing death and destruction in the enemy lines. Her guns would blaze away at the invisible bridges, viaducts, railway-emplacements, and enemy concentrations. Every time after a salvo had been fired, the Netherlands warship would notify the spotter:
“On the way from Tread! . . . , ”
which meant that the shells were on their way to the target and the next impacts would be from Evertsen.
The American pilot would eagerly observe the result and give his corrections if necessary. When a hit was scored, his cheerful voice sang out, jubilantly and enthusiastically:
“Beautiful hit! Fire for effect!”,
and after a few more salvo’s:
“No change. Fire for effect. Keep them coming, excellent shooting!”
His keen enthusiasm was exceedingly inspiring to the officers and men of H.N.M.S. Evertsen, who could not see the result of their efforts themselves and were entirely dependent on his eye-witness report.
Incessantly, the ship’s main armament was pounding the shore of Wonsan, blazing hell into the communist lines. Meanwhile, their American friend would be hovering over the target, soaring from place to place, like a giant grasshopper looking for another tasty bit. He would stick to his duty, showing a sublime disdain for the bullets of the snipers pinging close to his kite.
“Tread, a hundred yards to the right will bring you right on the target. Over!”
On board the destroyer the gunnery officer made a fast calculation. The guns were loaded. With a clang the breeches were closed, ramming home the shells and cartridges. In the transmitting station, on the dashboard white electric lamps would start glowing.
The sharp crack of the salvo tore the air. —A big crrrump rolled over the waters as Evertsen’s guns blasted away. Short flames angrily leaped from the gun-muzzles.
The slender hull of the destroyer elegantly veered back after the recoil of the guns, poising like a dragon-fly balancing on the leaf of a water-lily. The smell of cordite filled the air.
“Queen Windmill, on the way from Tread! Over!”
A profound silence fell. Seconds were ticking against the backdrop of eternity. Binoculars were pressed to the eyes, but the target was too far away to be seen. Eagerly they waited for the spotter’s report. There he was:
“Well done, Dutchies!: right on the target! The gun-pit has completely vanished. We’ll shift to another target...”
Other indications followed, and on board of the destroyer new calculations were made. Hastily the guns were trained into position.
Time ticked on, and after refilling twice the emptied ammunition-stores, H.N.M.S. Evertsen fired 2159 shells in about a week’s time in the Wonsan area.
When the operation was over she returned to Sasebo. However, the entire crew felt that they simply could not leave without saying goodbye to the pilot of the helicopter, whom they never met, but whose keen and cheerful voice had become so familiar to them on the R.T., that he was considered to belong to the Evertsen family.
So, before leaving the Korean waters, a radiogram was sent to the commanding officer of the destroyer flotilla, to the effect that the pilot of “Queen Windmill” be asked to come over the Netherlands ship to pick up a parcel. Maybe he wanted to grumble in his beard, cursing them for the nuisance to let him go so far out of his way to collect a parcel, which could have been sent by next mail.
He did come, anyhow, and hovering over the ship, he lowered his bag.
On deck, ready hands grasped it, and put the parcel into it: a bottle of genuine, old “Bols” gin, a specimen of the world-famous national produce of Holland, as a farewell present, neatly labelled: “With the compliments of the Captain and Officers of H.N.M.S. Evertsen."
As usual after a broadside had been fired, on the R.T. the radio-operator chanted the familiar cry:
“Queen Windmill: on the way from Tread!
On board Evertsen over two hundred pairs of eyes were fixed on their American friend, as he pulled up his bag, still unaware of the parcel’s nature and destination. The next moment he was seen bending out of his kite, triumphantly waving the bottle at them.
On the R.T. his familiar, cheerful voice came, as usual in radio-telephony phraseology:
“I received your parcel five-by-five! ...”
On a certain day, early in 1951, news came to H.N.M.S. Evertsen, announcing that the pilot of “Queen Windmill” had failed to return to his base. He had been killed in action. . . .
On board the destroyer the startling news of his death was received with dismay. Conversation stopped abruptly, and silence fell. A gramophone, playing Evertsen’s favorite tune: “Blue-Skirt Waltz,” was broken off in the middle of the melody.
Every man in the Netherlands warship felt that he had lost a gallant and most loyal friend. . . .