Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Gerard B. Palmer Journal, 1953

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, October 1996

Summary Information
Title: Gerard B. Palmer journal
Creator: Palmer, Gerard B.
Inclusive dates: 1953
Extent: 331 pages
The Gerard B. Palmer journal consists of short entries and sketches by a Unites State Navy Lieutenant at the end of the Korean War.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

Donated 1992. M-2865.1.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Gerard B. Palmer Journal, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


In 1953, Lieut. J.G. Gerard B. Palmer served aboard the U.S.S. Owen under the command of Commodore Mayberry. Proceeding from San Diego by way of Hawaii and Japan, the Owen arrived off the North Korean coast in March, apparently attached to Task Force 77, the Seventh Fleet Striking Force. After a brief shore leave in Yokosuka, on April 12, the Owen returned to patrolling the North Korean coast, providing support for a limited covert assault by South Korean Marines from allied-controlled Yang Do Island. Apparently of little consequence, the assault resulted in the neutralization of an unspecified target with no loss.

On April 22, the Owen was ordered to participate in the bombardment of Wonsan Harbor, a major port on the eastern coast of North Korea that had been under siege for almost two years. During this engagement, they sustained a direct hit from a North Korean shore battery, but suffered no casualties. They remained off the North Korean coast through June, providing support for at least one covert intelligence-gathering mission, and generally taking part in the blockading. Near the end of that month, the armistice in place, they left Korean waters for the states via the Suez Canal.

Collection Scope and Content Note

With the exception of a two week period in April, when engaged at Wonsan Harbor, North Korea, Gerard Palmer's diary entries are very short and slight. Many dates are left entirely blank, either for fear of censorship, lack of time, or simply from never having developed the regular habit of keeping a diary. Although scant in detail, the diary provides some information useful in reconstructing the chronology of U.S. naval operations on the North Korean coast during the final months of the Korean War, and Palmer's pen drawings of naval life are as entertaining as they are roughly hewn.

Of particular interest among the illustrations is Palmer's pencil-sketch plan of Wonsan Harbor, labeled confidential. This drawing indicates the positions of North Korean gun emplacements and the American base of Yo Do, as well as notes on the areas of operation for U.S. ships, and it is accompanied by the densest description in the diary, documenting the activities of the Owen during a period of relatively heavy action. Palmer's sketch of South Korean Marines huddled on shore during a covert raid to gather intelligence is also worth noting, as are the humorous pair of sketches of an officers' club and serviceman's club in Singapore.

Subject Terms

    • Espionage.
    • Korean War, 1950-1953--Naval operations.
    • United States. Navy--Sea life.
    • Wonsan (Korea)--History.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Marines.
    • Shellbacks.
    • Suez Canal (Egypt)
    • United States--Armed Forces--Officers' clubs.
    • United States. Navy--Sea life.
    • Wonsan (Korea)
    Genre Terms:
    • Cartoons (humorous images)
    • Diaries.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    Gerard B. Palmer journal,  1953 January 12-August22
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Field, James A. History of United States Naval Operations, Korea (Washington, D.C., 1962)

    Partial Subject Index
    Caricatures and cartoons
    • 1953 May 1
    • 1953 July 2, 3, 8, 13, 16, 23
    • 1953 August 6, 12
    Covert operations
    • 1953 April 16-18
    • 1953 May 13-14
    Korean War, 1950-1953--Naval operations
    • passim
    Maps--Korea, North
    • 1953 April 24-25
    • 1953 May 13
    • 1953 April 12, 21
    • 1953 July 8
    Suez Canal (Egypt)--Illustrations
    • 1953 July 23
    United States--Armed Forces--Officers' clubs--Illustrations
    • 1953 July 2
    United States--Armed Forces--Service clubs--Illustrations
    • 1953 July 3
    United States. Navy--Sea life--Illustrations
    • 1953 July 13, 16
    • 1953 August 6, 12
    Wonsan (North Korea)--History--Siege, 1951-1953
    • 1953 April 21-May 5
    Wonsan (North Korea)--Illustrations
    • 1953 April 24-25
    Yang Do (North Korea)
    • 1953 April 16-18