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DOD Press Release No. 257-60, 8 March 1960

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USS Kearsarge Rescues Four Soviet Soldiers Adift in Pacific Ocean for 49 Days

Four Russian soldiers adrift in a small boat for 49 days were rescued at 11 P.M. (EST) Sunday night 3 March 6, 1960, by the Navy aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge about 1,000 miles west-northwest of Midway Island.

All four were exhausted and emaciated but reportedly in good spirits and coherent when they were brought aboard the Kearsarge by helicopter from their storm-tossed 50-foot landing craft, a Soviet version of the Navy's LCM (Landing Craft Mechanized).

The soldiers had been at the mercy of the seas since the night of January 17 when their boat became crippled in a severe storm off Etorofu-to Island in the Kuriles, just north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido. It is estimated they had drifted about 1,020 miles.

The Russians gave their names as: Master Sergeant Victor Zygonschi, 21; Private Anthony Kruchowske, 22; Private Philip Poplavski, 20; and Private Fredor Ivan, 20.

They had only three cans of jerky beef and one loaf of bread throughout their 49-day ordeal. The only water they had was gathered from rainfall. Each man had lost from 35 to 40 pounds and were described as "emaciated and malnourished" by the medical officer aboard the Kearsarge.

Captain Robert L. Townsend, USN, the carrier's Commanding Officer, reported by message to Pacific Fleet headquarters at Pear] Harbor that the drifting boat was sighted by a lookout in fading twilight. As the carrier approached the boat the four occupants, wearing green uniforms with red stars on their caps, were huddled on the raised after deck. The well deck was flooded with from two to three feet of water.

The soldiers were picked up by rescue gear of the helicopter and brought to the Kearsarge. They were immediately taken to the Ship's sick bay for treatment.

None of the soldiers spoke English. Using broken Russian, members of the ship's crew learned their identity and a brief account of their fight against the sea.

They learned that three times the soldiers had sighted ships in the distance but their small craft apparently had not been seen in the deep troughs of the waves and all the ships passed over the horizon. The Russians had no means of communication.

At the time of their rescue the soldiers had no food or water left. Although weak and exhausted, their spirits were apparently revived by the rescue. All were able to walk when they were brought to the Kearsarge and all tried willingly to make themselves understood in their native language.

After emergency treatment, the men were soon asleep in their sick bay bunks. They will be kept under medical care until the Kearsarge docks at San Francisco about March 15.

The aircraft carrier was proceeding direct to the west coast, having left Yokosuka, Japan, on March 3.

The State Department notified the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., of the rescue Monday evening, March 7.


Published: Fri May 04 07:16:22 EDT 2018