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OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture

 
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OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/19/2016 4:28:56 PM   
dr.hal


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On 23 January 1968 the USS Pueblo was captured by a boarding party of North Koreans and taken to Wonsan harbor. It was the only time a US naval vessel was taken without a shot being fired in resistance to the attack. Many of you young wippersnappers may not remember the incident, however those of us who know about it usually had a very impassioned view on the subject. The crew spent almost one full year as "guests" of the North Koreans. They were released on 23 December 1968, I joined the US Navy the next year with the USS Pueblo very much on my mind. In the following years I read the various books that came out, including the CO's, the XO's, both "skewed" in the authors favor. However recently I read Jack Cheevers "Act of War" and was taken by the even-handedness of the text. It opened my eyes to some aspects of the incident that I had not given full consideration. Back in the 60s I remember being incensed that a captain could give up his ship without a fight, but I was young once and had all the answers, or so I thought.

So my question to the forum guys (and gal?) is what did you think at the time of the incident (for the few who WERE thinking at that time) and what do you think now of how the whole thing played out. I don't mean to start a book club type response, just some general thoughts on a very touchy subject in US Naval History.

< Message edited by dr.hal -- 10/19/2016 4:31:26 PM >


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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/19/2016 5:16:51 PM   
RayYoung


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Dr. Hal,

I had been in the Army from 1966 to 1968. I remember the incident as well.

I haven't read any books on the subject but I recall that it was a time when the protests over Vietnam were still raging and the attitude of the country was more or less anti-military.

I got out of the service in July 1968 on returning from Vietnam early to start college. The country was fixated on the war and this event was more or less obscured by the overall military news and reactions to it.

It was an event that didn't get the attention it deserved. America by that point had perhaps already started down the path of allowing politics to have too great an influence on the military's ability to conduct assigned missions.

Johnson spent too much time trying to micromanage the situation and Nixon was too devoted to getting out from under it.

My recollection was the sense that there was no real commitment to victory in the traditional sense and all we were really doing was treading water while lives were being wasted on an effort politicians had no wish to commit on.

Thus it was that the Pueblo incident was never dealt with as would have been historically the case had the country not lost its sense of the need to maintain its international status as the defender of democracy in general and as a country with the national will to demonstrate a willingness to confront evil.

Today, we see the evolution of the downfall when ISIS can commit atrocities against anyone with essential impunity. There is no authority left in the world with the will to stand directly against it.

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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/19/2016 5:34:42 PM   
BBfanboy


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I remember the incident as reported in Life and Time magazines - which probably got their info from official Pentagon press officers.
IIRC the N. Koreans had other ships with lots of weaponry surrounding Pueblo so there was no chance of the ship fighting its way out of there. To save his crew the Captain basically had to surrender.
I suspect the Navy and the Captain made no provisions for repelling boarders or scuttling because they just never considered that some minor power would dare to tweak the nose of the US military. The ship was supposedly in international waters but so close to N. Korean waters that it would be easy to argue either way.

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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/19/2016 6:16:10 PM   
Macclan5


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Interesting albeit I cannot contribute much.

I was not aware of the incident at all even though I was alive and very very young.

I perhaps wrongly pre-suppose / assume that the Pueblo is overshadowed by the Gulf of Tonkin incidents of 1964. At least in so much as those instances are widely studied in relationship to history / cause / effect of the Vietnam war.

Thanks for the information.

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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/19/2016 6:35:51 PM   
John 3rd


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I have a MEMBER of the Pueblo crew living here in LaSalle, CO. WE speak frequently and I just got a reunion T-Shirt as well as coin from the Pueblo Group. VERY cool! As can be expected the crewmember has very strong views of what happened, how the crew was treated, and what history has to say about it.


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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/19/2016 6:43:02 PM   
crsutton


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quote:

ORIGINAL: dr.hal

It was the only time a US naval vessel was taken without a shot being fired in resistance to the attack.


Well, one of the only times. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_U.S.%E2%80%93Iran_naval_incident However in this case the American boats were not disputed to be in Iranian waters and negotiations had the crew and boats back in US hands within a day.

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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/19/2016 7:44:44 PM   
Big B

 

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I remember that incident well, though I was only Jr High at the time (at a very young age I was attuned to world political/military events).
I agree with Ray Young and BBfanboy above.
The ship had NO chance to put up resistance, and it was a very hectic time socially and politically.

I remember that I was in a state of disbelief that they captured the Pueblo on the high seas and in international waters, and our Navy made No attempt to defend her.

I view it differently today as an adult. Our Navy did not defend the USS Liberty either just the year before (it seems the White House had the carrier aircraft coming to her aid - recalled, and left Liberty to her fate).

As an adult, what stands out to me is the Military's (or perhaps more properly Washington's) willingness to send men and ships in harms way, without regard to the ships safety, nor a willingness to display the resolve to defend our men.
North Korea was not friendly or neutral in any way - I would have hopped those in authority would have taken into account the possibility of tragedy unfolding if they were not prepared to safeguard or men.

EDIT: This topic got me reading a quick history of the incident from Wiki ... as no surprise, there was a lot more going on than the press would tell us back then.
I can only say "...geniuses" about whom ever sent the Pueblo on her mission, and the careful arrangements made on her behalf.

< Message edited by Big B -- 10/19/2016 9:33:40 PM >


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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/19/2016 7:55:42 PM   
Canoerebel


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I was only a youngster at the time of the Pueblo. I do remember there was a different feeling just five or six (or eight?) years later during the so-called Mayaguez Affair in the South China Sea or Indochina Sea (my memory is that the Mayaguez was a civilian ship, but my memory is rusty). The latter took place after the Vietnam War ended and when U.S. popular opinion was beginning to swing back towards a hawkish philosophy that culminated with the Regan and Bush years.

But in '68, popular opinion was decidedly "whipped" and weary. We didn't have the stomach for a lot of things, though the military itself and other services (CIA, NSA, etc.) remained strong.

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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/19/2016 9:08:13 PM   
Lecivius


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Mayaguez was a container ship seized by the Khmer Rouge for ransom. The ship and crew was held on an island right on the coast, and there was no military other than guerrillas. Different tactical situation, but our fearless leaders still managed to screw it up. I'll say no more so as not to lean into waters that should not be gone into in these forums.

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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/19/2016 11:19:32 PM   
dr.hal


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What struck me in the more recent rendition put forth by the book Act of War was the willingness of the brass (read admirals) to put Bucher (Pueblo's CO) under the bus to save their own skin! Also how willing some folks are to say they would have "fought back" even though such a move could only mean the deaths of many US (NOT Korean) sailors (one admiral on the Court of Inquire actually said he would have fought back no matter the odds, but of course he was not there!). There is a point at which "honor" becomes unobtainable or can only be obtained at such a cost as to make it oddly "dishonorable"!!! Yes the Pueblo was surrounded by at least one gunboat, four or five PT type boats (that did have torpedoes) and a couple of MIG fighter bombers, but was armed with only two .5 inch machine guns (that were under tarps that were frozen solid, remember this was January off Korea!). Did the Pueblo's captain and crew make mistakes? You bet they did. However what DIDN'T come out at the time, nor in many writings after the fact, was the extend of a coverup the US Navy higher ups went to in order to push as much blame on Bucher as possible thus ensuring that their own actions, or more accurately: INACTIONS, which resulted in the Pueblo being left out there all alone with no back up or help at all, were never discovered. It was a sad day for the US Navy all around. The only real glory, if one could call it that, was the conduct of Bucher and his crew while in captivity.

< Message edited by dr.hal -- 10/19/2016 11:22:33 PM >


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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/19/2016 11:52:20 PM   
geofflambert


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I thought it was terribly embarrassing. I thought there ought to some sort of escort that would fight. On the other hand I think today that spy aircraft should not be escorted over international water as it would raise the risk of a more serious incident than an intimidating fly-by.

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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/20/2016 12:24:05 AM   
AW1Steve


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quote:

ORIGINAL: geofflambert

I thought it was terribly embarrassing. I thought there ought to some sort of escort that would fight. On the other hand I think today that spy aircraft should not be escorted over international water as it would raise the risk of a more serious incident than an intimidating fly-by.

You can't escort every plane and every ship. Secondly , the United States currently has no "SPY" aircraft or ships. By very definition , to "SPY" means to penetrate either territory or airspace , and the USA does not and has not done that for a very long time. As I used to fly regularly aboard an aircraft that the press called a "spy plane" (a P-3) I can think of no reason for any member of the media to call it such ,except that they are a mindless bunch of jerks (who will be 1st up against the wall when the revolution comes) can't spell the word "reconnaissance". And any plane or ship that carries a non-blind crew and at least one pair of binoculars fits that category. Pueblo was unarmed for the best reason in the world...no legitimate , honest nation state would interfere with a ship in international water going peaceably about it's business. Till 1968. Then again no real , honest to God nation would attack and take over a guest nation's embassy , till 1979. Such things were unthinkable. BECAUSE either action was an act of war. The Koreans got away with Pueblo and the EC121 shoot down because the USA simply did not care enough to do anything about it. And for me to say anything else , would violate forum policy and venture into politics.

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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/20/2016 12:31:16 AM   
geofflambert


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Recon. You say potato and I say tomato. We still do have U-2s last I heard. How they're being used...

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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/20/2016 2:49:36 AM   
AW1Steve


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quote:

ORIGINAL: geofflambert

Recon. You say potato and I say tomato. We still do have U-2s last I heard. How they're being used...

No , we don't. We have TR-2a's. Those are built on U-2 air frames but are a whole different airplane , with a whole different mission. They use side scanning inverse synthetic aperture RADAR to look within a countries borders , without even coming close to penetrating. Now explain to me Lizard , why would anyone want to fly INTO another countries air space , at the risk of being shot down , when one could see everything a plane could by Satellite? Or if a overflight is truly necessary , why a manned plane? We've been using drones to do that since Vietnam.

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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/20/2016 4:02:32 AM   
John 3rd


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The Pueblo Museum/Memorial is located at Andersonville. Strange combination but that is where their reunions go.


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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/20/2016 5:12:05 AM   
crsutton


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Canoerebel

I was only a youngster at the time of the Pueblo. I do remember there was a different feeling just five or six (or eight?) years later during the so-called Mayaguez Affair in the South China Sea or Indochina Sea (my memory is that the Mayaguez was a civilian ship, but my memory is rusty). The latter took place after the Vietnam War ended and when U.S. popular opinion was beginning to swing back towards a hawkish philosophy that culminated with the Regan and Bush years.

But in '68, popular opinion was decidedly "whipped" and weary. We didn't have the stomach for a lot of things, though the military itself and other services (CIA, NSA, etc.) remained strong.


Well, there were mitigating circumstances involved as well. The Tet Offensive in Vietnam caught the US Flat footed and created a serious military crisis that lasted for months. The Pueblo really became a sideshow after that. However, it was in the news every day. I remember it very well being in junior high at the time. But the big news of the day was Tet. Both Tet and the Pueblo crisis represented a overall failure in our government and as a result we were caught unprepared. Quite frankly, the realities of Asian politics at the time were just beyond the capabilities of most Americans. Including our political elites.

The Mayaguez was a commercial vessel and crewed by civilian merchant mariners. My old union, the Seafarers Union, represented the unlicensed crewmen on board.

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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/20/2016 6:37:26 AM   
CaptBeefheart


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The Norks moved the ship overland to Pyongyang. It's now a tourist attraction and I know some people who have been there. It comes with a completely one-sided depiction of events as you'd expect. If I were president, some night I'd quietly send a B-2 over from Andersen and drop a 2000-lb bomb on it and then disavow all knowledge of what happened.

Cheers,
CC

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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/20/2016 2:11:20 PM   
Big B

 

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I couldn't agree with you more, +1

quote:

ORIGINAL: dr.hal

What struck me in the more recent rendition put forth by the book Act of War was the willingness of the brass (read admirals) to put Bucher (Pueblo's CO) under the bus to save their own skin! Also how willing some folks are to say they would have "fought back" even though such a move could only mean the deaths of many US (NOT Korean) sailors (one admiral on the Court of Inquire actually said he would have fought back no matter the odds, but of course he was not there!). There is a point at which "honor" becomes unobtainable or can only be obtained at such a cost as to make it oddly "dishonorable"!!! Yes the Pueblo was surrounded by at least one gunboat, four or five PT type boats (that did have torpedoes) and a couple of MIG fighter bombers, but was armed with only two .5 inch machine guns (that were under tarps that were frozen solid, remember this was January off Korea!). Did the Pueblo's captain and crew make mistakes? You bet they did. However what DIDN'T come out at the time, nor in many writings after the fact, was the extend of a coverup the US Navy higher ups went to in order to push as much blame on Bucher as possible thus ensuring that their own actions, or more accurately: INACTIONS, which resulted in the Pueblo being left out there all alone with no back up or help at all, were never discovered. It was a sad day for the US Navy all around. The only real glory, if one could call it that, was the conduct of Bucher and his crew while in captivity.



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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/20/2016 4:19:58 PM   
crsutton


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Big B

I couldn't agree with you more, +1

quote:

ORIGINAL: dr.hal

What struck me in the more recent rendition put forth by the book Act of War was the willingness of the brass (read admirals) to put Bucher (Pueblo's CO) under the bus to save their own skin! Also how willing some folks are to say they would have "fought back" even though such a move could only mean the deaths of many US (NOT Korean) sailors (one admiral on the Court of Inquire actually said he would have fought back no matter the odds, but of course he was not there!). There is a point at which "honor" becomes unobtainable or can only be obtained at such a cost as to make it oddly "dishonorable"!!! Yes the Pueblo was surrounded by at least one gunboat, four or five PT type boats (that did have torpedoes) and a couple of MIG fighter bombers, but was armed with only two .5 inch machine guns (that were under tarps that were frozen solid, remember this was January off Korea!). Did the Pueblo's captain and crew make mistakes? You bet they did. However what DIDN'T come out at the time, nor in many writings after the fact, was the extend of a coverup the US Navy higher ups went to in order to push as much blame on Bucher as possible thus ensuring that their own actions, or more accurately: INACTIONS, which resulted in the Pueblo being left out there all alone with no back up or help at all, were never discovered. It was a sad day for the US Navy all around. The only real glory, if one could call it that, was the conduct of Bucher and his crew while in captivity.




Agree as well. A leader who allows harm to come to his charges where there is nothing to be gained by the action is not qualified to lead. No matter the situation. What I forgot and really don't remember from our own media is at the very same time North Korean Commandos attacked the presidential palace in South Korea in an attempt to kill the president of the ROK! Over 20 South Koreans died in the attempt. The fact that this act did not lead to war between the two Koreas with involvement by all the superpowers (considering the tense state of global politics at the time) is sort of miraculous and gives credit to the cooler heads that navigated the events in question at the time. Suspicions, fueled by public opinion at the times was that the Soviets and Red Chinese were behind the acts. In reality they were not and they were caught very much with their pants down by the rogue actions of N. Korea. We lived in dangerous world back then.

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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/20/2016 4:47:47 PM   
dr.hal


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Sorry to say this Cody, but you are not correct, the NKDR SAILED the Pueblo around the peninsular and the US government debated whether or not to seize it while in passage. We elected not to do so for many reasons.

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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/20/2016 4:50:51 PM   
dr.hal


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CR, the attack on the president's residence, known as the "Blue House" (thus the name "Blue House Raid" put forth by the press) actually came a few days BEFORE the seizure of the Pueblo and was one of the factors that SHOULD have raised a red flag to the admirals about the safety of the ship while off the NKDR's shore. But it didn't.

< Message edited by dr.hal -- 10/20/2016 5:13:53 PM >


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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/20/2016 5:02:00 PM   
dr.hal


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Steve, technically the Pueblo WAS armed, as stated it had two .5 inch machine guns AND a whole bunch of individual arms (BARs, Thompsons, M-1s and .45 1911s) which the Court of Inquire said constituted a capable defense thus Cmdr Bucher was brought up on charges of not defending his ship when he had the capability to do so. But in truth, I agree with your intent, essentially the Pueblo was unarmed in relation to the threat it faced. In response to your statement about no "nation state" would attack a vessel on the high seas (which is exactly what happened to the Pueblo) is undone by the USS Liberty incident just the year before (June 1967)!!!!! It too was sailing in international waters. That too (note the 2 oos) should have raised a real red and BLOODY flag (34 US sailors were killed) about the safety of the Pueblo's cruise. It didn't.

< Message edited by dr.hal -- 10/20/2016 6:54:55 PM >


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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/20/2016 5:05:41 PM   
Bullwinkle58


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quote:

ORIGINAL: dr.hal

What struck me in the more recent rendition put forth by the book Act of War was the willingness of the brass (read admirals) to put Bucher (Pueblo's CO) under the bus to save their own skin! Also how willing some folks are to say they would have "fought back" even though such a move could only mean the deaths of many US (NOT Korean) sailors (one admiral on the Court of Inquire actually said he would have fought back no matter the odds, but of course he was not there!). There is a point at which "honor" becomes unobtainable or can only be obtained at such a cost as to make it oddly "dishonorable"!!! Yes the Pueblo was surrounded by at least one gunboat, four or five PT type boats (that did have torpedoes) and a couple of MIG fighter bombers, but was armed with only two .5 inch machine guns (that were under tarps that were frozen solid, remember this was January off Korea!). Did the Pueblo's captain and crew make mistakes? You bet they did. However what DIDN'T come out at the time, nor in many writings after the fact, was the extend of a coverup the US Navy higher ups went to in order to push as much blame on Bucher as possible thus ensuring that their own actions, or more accurately: INACTIONS, which resulted in the Pueblo being left out there all alone with no back up or help at all, were never discovered. It was a sad day for the US Navy all around. The only real glory, if one could call it that, was the conduct of Bucher and his crew while in captivity.


Hear, hear.

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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/20/2016 10:19:11 PM   
crsutton


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quote:

ORIGINAL: dr.hal

CR, the attack on the president's residence, known as the "Blue House" (thus the name "Blue House Raid" put forth by the press) actually came a few days BEFORE the seizure of the Pueblo and was one of the factors that SHOULD have raised a red flag to the admirals about the safety of the ship while off the NKDR's shore. But it didn't.


Yes, the Blue house incident was a few days before and should have put the US on greater alert. It was fascinating to read about. Even more fascinating was the bizarre incident that followed with the ill fated ROK Unit 684 indicating that it was not just the North Koreans that were a bit unstable in the late sixties.

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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/21/2016 1:04:00 AM   
Major Shane


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So I don't know a lot about this incident, but I do know I probably wouldn't be here without it happening.

My dad was drafted into the Army in 1967. At the time of the incident he was part of an Air Defense Unit stationed on Woldimo Island (Inchon) South Korea. He had turned-in all his gear and was only a couple days away from PCSing back to the USA to Fort Bliss, TX. But when the USS Pueblo was captured, they cancelled all PCS orders and his one-year tour was extended for another 6 months. Due to the personnel rules in place at the time, he was able to ETS from the Army before he served his full 2-years as a draftee because he involuntarily extended in an Overseas Duty area (technically ROK was Hazardous Duty Area/Combat Zone at that time).

Well that early exit from the Army brought him home to Virginia sooner than planned. When he got home he met the woman who would become his wife, my mother.

So timing is everything. Sometimes you can control it; sometimes is controls you. But without this incident my Dad would have gone to FT Bliss and arrived back home several months later. My mom would have already gone off to college before he returned and they would have never met.

Sorry, if this post isn't the type of comment or feedback you were looking for. But it's actually a story my dad had told me several times when I was growing up. Thanks for posting the topic and bringing back some great family memories.

Shane

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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/21/2016 4:46:32 AM   
dr.hal


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Shane what you wrote is EXACTLY the sort of input I was hoping for, the impact that this incident had on lives then and now...... you story is fabulous, thanks for sharing. It's inputs like yours that make this forum so interesting. Hal

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RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/21/2016 8:43:59 AM   
CaptBeefheart


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Dr. Hal: I hadn't heard that before, but it looks like you're right. Two sources say the Pueblo was towed in international waters in 1999 with U.S. acquiescence. Shameful.

Cheers,
CC

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(in reply to dr.hal)
Post #: 27
RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/21/2016 1:11:18 PM   
BBfanboy


Posts: 17608
Joined: 8/4/2010
From: Winnipeg, MB
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quote:

ORIGINAL: Commander Cody

Dr. Hal: I hadn't heard that before, but it looks like you're right. Two sources say the Pueblo was towed in international waters in 1999 with U.S. acquiescence. Shameful.

Cheers,
CC

Well, I am sure the US could have attacked and sunk her, but we don't know the intel they had on Chinese and Russian intentions at that time and place. N.Korea is pretty close to both those countries and there could well have been aircraft waiting for a US move - i.e. towing the ship was bait for an international incident.
Kremlin had pretty aggressive leadership trying to extend Russian influence worldwide by embarrassing the US and China wanted to show itself as a defender of the Far East against "imperialist aggression". Sometimes the best course is to write off a bad situation rather than risk a worse one.

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(in reply to CaptBeefheart)
Post #: 28
RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/21/2016 2:39:24 PM   
crsutton


Posts: 9590
Joined: 12/6/2002
From: Maryland
Status: offline

quote:

ORIGINAL: BBfanboy


quote:

ORIGINAL: Commander Cody

Dr. Hal: I hadn't heard that before, but it looks like you're right. Two sources say the Pueblo was towed in international waters in 1999 with U.S. acquiescence. Shameful.

Cheers,
CC

Well, I am sure the US could have attacked and sunk her, but we don't know the intel they had on Chinese and Russian intentions at that time and place. N.Korea is pretty close to both those countries and there could well have been aircraft waiting for a US move - i.e. towing the ship was bait for an international incident.
Kremlin had pretty aggressive leadership trying to extend Russian influence worldwide by embarrassing the US and China wanted to show itself as a defender of the Far East against "imperialist aggression". Sometimes the best course is to write off a bad situation rather than risk a worse one.


Except that there was no Kremlin in 1999. (yes, the Kremlin still exists but is no long used as a cold war reference point) Relations were fairly good with Russia at that time as well with China. Much better than today in fact. William Clinton was president. I think that except that retaking the ship or sinking it as an act of revenge was just not thought to be a good idea at the time. The incident was 30 years prior. I don't even think Ronald Regan would have considered it. It just did not matter.

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(in reply to BBfanboy)
Post #: 29
RE: OT- The USS Pueblo, AGER 2, capture - 10/21/2016 4:40:52 PM   
dr.hal


Posts: 3270
Joined: 6/3/2006
From: Covington LA via Montreal!
Status: offline
I wouldn't say "shameful" Cody, more along the lines of cautious. Although the NKDR didn't test nuclear weapons until 2006, it still had one of the largest military forces that is a hop, skip and a jump away from Seoul. Would the propaganda coup be worth the retaliatory response? I for one am glad we didn't do anything. The US thought that as a gesture of peace at the end of the Vietnam War (Paris peace talks) the NKDR might give the ship back, but that didn't happen. I think the only way we should get the ship back is if it is given back. Hopefully that will be as a result of a regime change in the NKDR.

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(in reply to CaptBeefheart)
Post #: 30
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