USS Pueblo (AGER-2)


USS Pueblo (AGER-2)
USS Pueblo (AGER-2)

USS Pueblo (AGER-2) in October 1967
Career (US) Flag of the United States.svg
Launched: April 16, 1944
Commissioned: May 13, 1967
Captured: January 23, 1968
Fate: Active, in commission, currently held by North Korea
General characteristics
Displacement: 550 tons light, 895 tons full, 345 tons dead
Length: 177 ft (53.9 m)
Beam: 32 ft (9.7 m)
Draught: 9 ft (2.7 m)
Propulsion: twin diesel
Speed: 12.7 knots (23.5 km/h)
Complement: 6 officers, 70 men
Armament: 2 × Browning .50-caliber machine guns

USS Pueblo (AGER-2) is an American ELINT and SIGINT[1] technical research ship (Navy intelligence) which was boarded and captured by North Korean forces on January 23, 1968, in what is known as the Pueblo incident or alternatively as the Pueblo crisis or the Pueblo affair. Occurring less than a week after President Lyndon B. Johnson's State of the Union Address and only weeks before the Tet Offensive, it was a major incident in the Cold War.

North Korea stated that it strayed into their territorial waters, but the United States maintains that the vessel was in international waters at the time of the incident.

Pueblo, still held by North Korea today, officially remains a commissioned vessel of the United States Navy.[2] It is currently moored along the Taedong River in Pyongyang, where it is used as a museum ship. It is the only ship of the U.S. Navy currently being held captive.

Contents

Initial operations

U.S. Army Cargo Vessel FP-344 (1944). Transferred to the Navy in 1966, she became USS Pueblo (AGER-2)

The ship was launched at the Kewaunee Shipbuilding and Engineering Company in Kewaunee, Wisconsin, on April 16, 1944, as United States Army Freight and Passenger (FP) FP-344. Army redesignated the FP vessels as Freight and Supply changing the designation to FS-344.[3] The ship, commissioned at New Orleans on April 7, 1945, served as a Coast Guard manned Army vessel used for training civilians for the Army. Her first commanding officer was LT J. R. Choate, USCGR, succeeded by LTJG Marvin B. Barker, USCGR on September 12, 1945.[4]

She was transferred to the United States Navy in 1966 and was renamed USS Pueblo. Initially, she served as a light cargo ship, AKL-44, but shortly after resuming service was converted to an intelligence gathering ship, or what is colloquially known as a spy ship, and redesignated AGER-2 on May 13, 1967. AGER (Auxiliary General Environmental Research) denoted a joint Naval and National Security Agency (NSA) program.[5]

USS Pueblo Incident

Commander Lloyd M. Bucher, Commanding Officer of the Pueblo

On January 5, 1968, Pueblo left Yokosuka, Japan in transit to Sasebo, Japan from where she left on January 11, 1968 headed northward through the Tsushima Strait into the Sea of Japan. She left with specific orders to intercept and conduct surveillance of Soviet naval activity in the Tsushima Strait and to gather signal and electronic intelligence from North Korea.[6]

On January 20 at 5:30pm a North Korean modified SO-1 class Soviet style sub chaser passed within 4000 yards (4 km) of the Pueblo, which was about 15.4 miles (24.8 km) southwest of Mayang-do at a position 39°47'N and 128°28.5'E.[1]

In the afternoon of January 22, the two North Korean fishing trawlers (Lenta Class) Rice Paddy 1 and Rice Paddy 2 passed within 30 yards (30 m) of Pueblo. That day, a North Korean unit made an assassination attempt against the South Korean President Park Chung-hee, but the crew of Pueblo were not informed.[1]

According to the American account, the following day, January 23, Pueblo was approached by a sub chaser and her nationality was challenged; Pueblo responded by raising the U.S. flag. The North Korean vessel then ordered her to stand down or be fired upon. Pueblo attempted to maneuver away, but was considerably slower than the sub chaser. Additionally, three torpedo boats appeared on the horizon and then joined in the chase and subsequent attack. The attackers were soon joined by two MiG-21 fighters. A fourth torpedo boat and a second sub chaser appeared on the horizon a short time later. The ammunition on Pueblo was stored below decks, and her machine guns were wrapped in cold weather tarpaulins. The machine guns were unmanned, and no attempt was made to man them. An NSA report quotes the sailing order:

(...) Defensive armament (machine guns) should be stowed or covered in such manner so that it does not cause unusual interest by surveyed units. It should be used only in the event of a threat to survival (...)

and notes

In practice, it was discovered that, because of the temperamental adjustments of the firing mechanisms, the .50-caliber machine guns took at least ten minutes to activate. Only one crew member, with former army experience, had ever had any experience with such weapons, although members of the crew had received rudimentary instructions on the weapons immediately prior to the ship's deployment.[1]
Reported positions of USS Pueblo
North Korean chart showing where they claim to have captured USS Pueblo

U.S. Navy authorities and the crew of the Pueblo insist that before the capture, Pueblo was miles outside North Korean territorial waters; the North Koreans claim the vessel was well within North Korean territory. The mission statement allowed her to approach within a nautical mile (1852 m) of that limit. North Korea, however, claims a 50-nautical-mile (93 km) sea boundary even though international standards were 12 nautical miles (22 km) at the time.[7]

The North Korean vessels attempted to board Pueblo, but she maneuvered to prevent this for over two hours and a sub chaser opened fire with a 57 mm cannon, killing one member of the crew. The smaller vessels fired machine guns into Pueblo, which then signaled compliance and began destroying sensitive material. The volume of material on board was so great that it was impossible to destroy all of it. In his book The Pueblo Surrender - A Covert Action by the NSA, author Robert A. Liston points out that weakly armed spy ships operating alone, and dangerously close to enemy territorial waters normally carry little if any sensitive material on board, to minimize the risk of anything important falling into enemy hands.[8] The crew inside the security space on board the Pueblo had over an hour to destroy sensitive material before the ship was boarded. A NSA report quotes Lt Steve Harris, the officer in charge of Pueblo's Naval Security Group Command detachment:

".. we had retained on board the obsolete publications and had all good intentions of getting rid of these things but had not done so at the time we had started the mission. I wanted to get the place organized eventually and we had excessive numbers of copies on board..."

and concludes

Only a small percentage of the total classified material aboard the ship was destroyed.[1]

Radio contact between the Pueblo and the Naval Security Group in Kamiseya, Japan had been ongoing during the incident. As a result, Seventh Fleet command was fully aware of Pueblo's situation. Air cover was promised but never arrived. The Fifth Air Force had no aircraft on strip alert, and estimated a two to three hour delay in launching aircraft. The USS Enterprise was located 510 miles south of the Pueblo, yet its four F-4B aircraft on alert were not equipped for an air-to-surface engangement. Enterprise's captain estimated that 1.5 hours were required to get the converted aircraft into the air.[1] By the time President Lyndon B. Johnson was awakened, Pueblo had been captured and any rescue attempt would have been futile.

Pueblo followed the North Korean vessels as ordered, but then stopped immediately outside North Korean waters. She was again fired upon, and a U.S. sailor, Fireman Duane Hodges, was killed. The ship was boarded by men from a torpedo boat and a sub chaser. Crew members had their hands tied, were blindfolded, beaten, and prodded with bayonets. Once Pueblo was in North Korean territorial waters, she was boarded again, this time by high ranking North Korean officials.

There was dissent among government officials in the U.S. regarding how to handle the situation. Rep. Mendel Rivers suggested the President issue an ultimatum for the return of Pueblo on penalty of nuclear attack, while Senator Gale McGee said the U.S. should wait for more information and not make "spasmodic response[s] to aggravating incidents."[9] According to Horace Busby, Special Assistant to President Johnson, the President's "reaction to the hostage taking was to work very hard here to keep down any demands for retaliation or any other attacks upon North Koreans," worried that rhetoric might result in the hostages being killed.[10]

Aftermath

Pueblo was taken into port at Wonsan and the crew was moved twice to POW camps, with some of the crew reporting upon release that they were starved and regularly tortured while in North Korean custody.[11] This treatment was allegedly worsened[12] when the North Koreans realized that crewmen were secretly giving them "the finger" in staged propaganda photos.[13]

Commander Lloyd M. Bucher, Commanding Officer of the Pueblo, was tortured and put through a mock firing squad in an effort to make him confess. Eventually the Koreans threatened to execute his men in front of him, and Bucher relented. None of the Koreans knew English well enough to write the confession, so they had Bucher write it himself. They verified the meaning of his words, but failed to catch the pun when he said "We paean the DPRK [North Korea]. We paean the Korean people. We paean their great leader Kim Il Sung".[14][15] (The word "paean" sounds identical to the term pee on.)

Following an apology, a written admission by the U.S. that Pueblo had been spying, and an assurance that the U.S. would not spy in the future, the North Korean government decided to release the 82 remaining crew members, although the written apology was preceded by a verbal statement that it was done only to secure the release.[16] On December 23, 1968 the crew was taken by buses to the DMZ border with South Korea and ordered to walk south one by one across the "Bridge of No Return". Exactly eleven months after being taken prisoner, the Captain led the long line of crewmen, followed at the end by the Executive Officer, Lieutenant Ed Murphy, the last man across the bridge. The U.S. then verbally retracted the ransom admission, apology, and assurance. Meanwhile the North Koreans blanked out the paragraph above the signature which read: "and this hereby receipts for eighty two crewmen and one dead body".[clarification needed]

Bucher and all the officers and crew subsequently appeared before a Navy Court of Inquiry. A court martial was recommended for the CO and the Officer in Charge of the Research Department, Lt Steve Harris.[17] But the Secretary of the Navy, John H. Chafee, rejected the recommendation, stating, "They have suffered enough." Commander Bucher was never found guilty of any indiscretions and continued his Navy career until retirement.[18]

In 1970, Bucher published an autobiographical account of the USS Pueblo incident entitled Bucher: My Story. [19] Bucher died in San Diego on January 28, 2004, partly as a result of complications from the injuries he suffered during his time as a prisoner of war in North Korea.[18]

Pueblo is still held by North Korea. In October 1999, it was towed from Wonsan on the east coast, around the Korean Peninsula, to the Nampo on the west coast. This required moving the vessel through international waters. With no Carrier Battle Group available nearby, no attempt to recapture the Pueblo was made. This move was done just before the visit of U.S. presidential envoy James Kelly to the capital Pyongyang. The Pueblo was again relocated to Pyongyang and moored on the Taedong River on the exact same spot that the General Sherman incident took place, next to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum. It is currently the only American naval vessel held in captivity in the world. It has been used since as a museum ship.[20]

Pueblo was named after Pueblo County, Colorado. It is the third US Navy ship to be named after the city of Pueblo or Pueblo County. Today it remains the third-oldest commissioned ship in the US Navy, behind USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides"), and the USS Enterprise (CVN-65). It is widely, but incorrectly, believed to be the first American ship to have been captured since the wars in Tripoli (On 8 December 1941, the river gunboat USS Wake (PR-3) was captured by Japanese forces while moored in Shanghai.[21])

Aftermath: Capture and Repatriation
The Pueblo crew being released by the North Koreans across the Bridge of No Return in the Joint Security Area of the DMZ in Panmunjon on December 23, 1968.  
Crew of USS Pueblo
upon release on December 23, 1968.  
Official Navy photograph of the USS Pueblo crew taken on the grounds of the Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego shortly after their arrival.  
USS Pueblo in North Korean custody at Wonsan on Jan 26, 1968 (CIA A-12 Imagery)  

Tourist attraction

USS Pueblo is a primary tourist attraction in Pyongyang, North Korea, having attracted over 250,000 visitors since being moved to the Taedong River.[22] Pueblo is now anchored at the very spot where the General Sherman Incident is believed to have taken place in 1866.

Often tourists are led through the ship by a guided tour. Participants will first enter the ship for a fifteen minute video shown from a small TV set mounted in the ceiling, explaining how the North Koreans captured the ship, with contemporaneous film footage. All areas of the ship are shown, including the secret communications room full of encryption machines and radio equipment, still in a partly disassembled state after they were inspected by North Korean technicians. One highlight of the guided tour is a photo opportunity where visitors may have their pictures taken while holding the rear mounted machine gun.

USS Pueblo in Pyongyang, North Korea
 
 
 
 

Offer to repatriate

During an October 2000 visit to Pyongyang by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, North Korean negotiators reportedly presented an offer to repatriate the USS Pueblo as part of a proposed process of normalizing diplomatic relations between the two nations. However, the Department of State is unable to confirm this claim.

During an August 2005 diplomatic session in North Korea, former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Donald Gregg received verbal indications from high ranking North Korean officials that the state would be willing to repatriate the USS Pueblo to United States authorities, on the condition that a prominent U.S. government official, such as the Secretary of State, come to Pyongyang for high level talks. While the U.S. government has publicly stated on several occasions that the return of the still commissioned Navy vessel is a priority, the current overall situation of U.S. and North Korean relations makes such an official state visit seem unlikely. It seems likely that the U.S. government considers the USS Pueblo a low priority, compared to issues such as North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions, human rights record, and its relations with South Korea.[23]

Lawsuit

Former Pueblo crewmembers William Thomas Massie, Dunnie Richard Tuck, Donald Raymond McClarren and Lloyd Bucher sued the North Korean government for the abuse they suffered at its hands during their captivity. North Korea did not respond to the suit. In December 2008, U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. in Washington DC awarded the plaintiffs $65 million in damages, calling their treatment by North Korea "extensive and shocking."[24] The plaintiffs, as of October 2009, were attempting to collect the judgment from North Korean assets frozen by the US government.[25]

Representation in popular culture

The Pueblo incident was dramatically depicted in the critically acclaimed 1973 ABC Theater televised production Pueblo. Hal Holbrook starred as Captain Lloyd Bucher. The 2-hour drama was nominated for three Emmy Awards, and won two awards.[26] [27]

See also

References

Sources
Notes
  1. ^ a b c d e f Robert E. Newton (1992). "The Capture of the USS Pueblo and Its Effect on SIGINT Operations". U.S. Cryptologic History, Special Series, Crisis Collection, Vol. 7, NSA. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB278/03.PDF. Retrieved 2010-02-19. 
  2. ^ "Naval Vessel Register webpage on USS Pueblo - AGER-2". Nvr.navy.mil. http://www.nvr.navy.mil/nvrships/details/AGER2.htm. Retrieved 11 June 2009. 
  3. ^ http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-us-cs/army-sh/usash-ag/fp344.htm | Naval History and Heritage Command Online Library of Selected Images: U.S. Army cargo ship FP-344 (1944-1966) Later renamed FS-344
  4. ^ http://www.uscg.mil/history/webcutters/FS_Vessels.asp | World War II Coast Guard Manned U.S. Army Freight and Supply Ship Histories: FS-344
  5. ^ Pueblo History. Navy
  6. ^ "Attacked by North Koreans". Usspueblo.org. http://www.usspueblo.org/v2f/attack/attacked.htm. Retrieved 11 June 2009. [dead link]
  7. ^ American Society of International Law. Proceedings of the American Society of International Law: at its sixty third annual meeting held at Washington, D.C. April 24–26, 1969. "Questions of international law raised by the seizure of the U.S.S. Pueblo."
  8. ^ "The Pueblo Surrender - A Covert Action by the NSA". Bantam. http://www.amazon.com/dp/0553292617. Retrieved 3 November 2009. 
  9. ^ Published: 1968. "N. Korea Seize U.S. Ship, 1968 Year in Review". UPI.com". http://www.upi.com/Audio/Year_in_Review/Events-of-1968/N.-Korea-Seize-U.S.-Ship/12303153093431-9/. Retrieved 11 June 2009. 
  10. ^ “Interview with Horace W. Busby, 1981.” 04/24/1981. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
  11. ^ "South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com". Sun-sentinel.com. http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sfl-2004obits.gallery,0,6869671.photogallery?coll=sfla-home-utility&index=128. Retrieved June 11, 2009. 
  12. ^ Iredale, Harry; McClintock, Ralph. "Compound 2 'The Farm'". USS PUEBLO Veteran's Association. Archived from the original on 30 September 2010. http://www.webcitation.org/5t7pEndvD. Retrieved 30 September 2010. "The treatment would become better or worse depending upon the day, the week, the guard, the duty officer or the situation." 
  13. ^ Stu, Russell. "The Digit Affair". USS Pueblo Veteran's Association. Archived from the original on 30 September 2010. http://www.webcitation.org/5t7qPfttm. Retrieved 30 September 2010. "The finger became an integral part of our anti-propaganda campaign. Any time a camera appeared, so did the fingers." 
  14. ^ Bush lauded for handling of EP-3 incident WorldNetDaily
  15. ^ End of North Korea? The Palm Beach Times
  16. ^ Probst, Reed R. (16 May 1977). Negotiating With the North Koreans: The U.S. Experience at Panmunjom. Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania: U.S. Army War College. http://www.nautilus.org/foia/NegotiatingwithNK.pdf. Retrieved 17 December 2009. [dead link]
  17. ^ Published: 1969. "1969 Year in Review". Upi.com. http://www.upi.com/Audio/Year_in_Review/Events-of-1969/Chappaquiddick/12303189849225-7/#title. Retrieved June 11, 2009. 
  18. ^ a b "Lloyd Bucher, captain of the Pueblo, buried in San Diego : North County Times - Californian 02-04-2004". Nctimes.com. February 3, 2004. http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2004/02/04/news/top_stories/2_3_0422_03_54.txt. Retrieved 11 June 2009. 
  19. ^ Bucher, Lloyd M.; Mark Rascovich (1970). Bucher: My Story. Doubleday & Company. ISBN 0-3850-7244-98. 
  20. ^ USS Pueblo PRI's The World. Retrieved August 8, 2009
  21. ^ Wake History. Navy
  22. ^ Caroline Gluck, "North Korea drags its feet", BBC, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/1626579.stm . Retrieved January 23, 2007.
  23. ^ "www.shippingtimes.co.uk "Saturday feature: Old flag for an old spy ship"". Shippingtimes.co.uk. http://www.shippingtimes.co.uk/item479_uss_pueblo.htm. Retrieved June 11, 2009. [dead link]
  24. ^ Washington Post, "Damages Awarded In USS Pueblo Case", December 31, 2008, p. 5.
  25. ^ Wilber, Del Quentin, "Hell Hath a Jury: North Korea Tortured the Crew of USS Pueblo in 1968. 4 Victims Fought for Solace in the Courts", Washington Post, October 8, 2009, P. C1.
  26. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070573/
  27. ^ http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/128338/Pueblo/overview

External links

Coordinates: 38°59′28″N 125°43′31″E / 38.99111°N 125.72528°E / 38.99111; 125.72528


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