Russian Shipwreck Near Olympic National Park During WWII

B&W photo of ship on its side amongst rocks and crashing waves
The Russian Shipwreck Lamut.

United States Coast Guard

A network of coastal defenses lined the Olympic Coast in World War II. Although coastal lookout activities along the Olympic Peninsula generally proved to be routine and unexciting, one of the most memorable events in the brief history of the beach patrol occurred in the La Push unit in the early spring of 1943.

Near midnight on April 1st, rain, wind and heavy seas drove the Russian steamship Lamut ashore behind a jagged cluster of rocks just off Teahwhit Head. In the early morning light on April 2nd, patrolmen found wreckage on the beach, and walking south along the beach sighted part of the grounded ship lodged between a hundred foot cliff and a small jagged rock island. Survivors of the wreck huddled high on the steeply sloping deck. High seas rendered a sea rescue impossible, so immediately coast guardsmen decided to attempt a rescue by land.

By late morning members of the rescue party had cut their way through thick underbrush bordering the beach and ascended slippery boulders to the top of the cliff above the smashed ship. Using gauze bandage weighted with a rock, a light line was lowered to the eager hands of the stranded crew aboard the Lamut. Tying heavier line to the gauze, one line succeeded another until a life line strong enough to support the weight of a single person was stretched between the ship and the cliff. One by one survivors were raised to the cliff top and finally assisted down the landward side of the rocky ridge to the beach below. As darkness approached, the last of the Lamut survivors emerged from the swampy beach trail to waiting coast guard trucks and ambulances. The rescue of the Lamut crew was among the most dramatic events in the annals of World War II beach patrol history.

On March 29, 1944, the beach patrol ended and a week later the unit decommissioned. Portions of trails in the Mora subdistrict of Olympic National Park probably date from the era of World War II beach patrol activities. One small, collapsed wood frame cabin located at Teahwhit Head is believed to be associated with World War II beach patrolling activities in the La Push unit.

*this article in an excerpt from the Olympic National Park Historic Structures Report.

Last updated: December 1, 2015