USS Pueblo (AGER-2)
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2013)|
Pueblo in October 1967
|Namesake:||Pueblo County, Colorado|
|Builder:||Kewaunee Shipbuilding and Engineering|
|Launched:||16 April 1944|
|Commissioned:||13 May 1967|
|Captured:||23 January 1968|
|Status:||Active, in commission, currently held by North Korea|
|Displacement:||550 tons light, 895 tons full, 345 tons dead|
|Length:||177 ft (53.9 m)|
|Beam:||32 ft (9.7 m)|
|Draft:||9 ft (2.7 m)|
|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 Banner-class technical research ship (Navy intelligence) which was boarded and captured by North Korean forces on 23 January 1968, in what is known as the Pueblo incident or alternatively as the Pueblo crisis or the Pueblo affair. The capture, less than a week after President Lyndon B. Johnson's State of the Union Address and only a week before the start of the Tet Offensive, and subsequent 11-month prisoner drama were major incidents in the Cold War.
North Korea stated that Pueblo 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. It was moored along the Taedong River in Pyongyang, and used there as a museum ship. Pueblo is the only ship of the U.S. Navy currently being held captive.
Initial operations 
The ship was launched at the Kewaunee Shipbuilding and Engineering Company in Kewaunee, Wisconsin, on 16 April 1944, as United States Army Freight and Passenger (FP) FP-344. The Army later redesignated the FP vessels as Freight and Supply changing the designation to FS-344. The ship, commissioned at New Orleans on 7 April 1945, served as a Coast Guard manned Army vessel used for training civilians for the Army. Its first commanding officer was Lt. J. R. Choate, USCGR, succeeded by Lt. J.G. Marvin B. Barker, USCGR, on 12 September 1945. The FS-344 was placed out of service in 1954.
The FS-344 was transferred to the United States Navy on April 12, 1966 and was renamed USS Pueblo (AKL-44) after Pueblo County, Colorado on June 18 of the same year. The Pueblo is the third U.S. Navy ship to be named after the city of Pueblo or Pueblo County.
Initially, it 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 13 May 1967. AGER (Auxiliary General Environmental Research) denoted a joint Naval and National Security Agency (NSA) program.
USS Pueblo incident 
On 5 January 1968, Pueblo left Yokosuka, Japan, in transit to Sasebo, Japan, from where it left on 11 January 1968, headed northward through the Tsushima Strait into the Sea of Japan. It left with specific orders to intercept and conduct surveillance of Soviet Union naval activity in the Tsushima Strait and to gather signal and electronic intelligence from North Korea.
On 20 January at 5:30 p.m. (17:30), a North Korean modified SO-1 class Soviet style sub chaser passed within 4,000 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.
In the afternoon of 22 January, the two North Korean fishing trawlers 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.
According to the American account, the following day, 23 January, 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 it 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 (...)
- 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.
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 it to approach within a nautical mile (1,852 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.
The North Korean vessels attempted to board Pueblo, but it was 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. An NSA report quotes Lieutenant 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 ...
- Only a small percentage of the total classified material aboard the ship was destroyed.
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 nautical miles (940 km) south of the Pueblo, yet its four F-4B aircraft on alert were not equipped for an air-to-surface engagement. Enterprise's captain estimated that 1.5 hours (90 minutes) were required to get the converted aircraft into the air. 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. It 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, it 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". 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.
Although at the time American officials assumed that the seizure of the USS Pueblo had been directed by the Soviet Union, it has emerged in recent years that North Korea acted alone and that the incident actually harmed North Korea's relations with most of the Eastern Bloc.
Contrary to the above paragraph, CIA historian H. Keith Melton states on the show "Top Secrets of the CIA" (which aired on the Military Channel, among other occasions, at 04:00 CST, 5 February 5 2013) that "They [referring to the Soviets] had intercepted our coded messages, but they had never been able to read them. And with Walker providing the code cards, this was one-half of what they needed to read the messages. The other half they needed were the machines themselves. Though Walker could give them repair manuals, he couldn't give them machines. So, within a month of John Walker volunteering his services, the Soviets arranged, through the North Koreans, to hijack a U.S. Navy ship with its cipher machines, and that was the USS Pueblo. And in early 1968, they captured the Pueblo, they took it into Pusan Harbor, they quickly took the machines off... flew 'em to Moscow. Now Moscow had both parts of the puzzles. They had the machine and they had an American spy, in place, in Norfolk, with the code cards and with access to them."
Pueblo was taken into port at Wonsan and the crew was moved twice to POW camps. Some of the crew reported upon release that they were starved and regularly tortured while in North Korean custody. This treatment allegedly turned worse when the North Koreans realized that crewmen were secretly giving them "the finger" in staged propaganda photos.
Commander Lloyd M. Bucher was psychologically tortured, such as being 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 and agreed to "confess to his and the crew's transgression." Bucher wrote the confession since a "confession" by definition needed to be written by the confessor himself. They verified the meaning of what he wrote, but failed to catch the pun when he said "We paean the DPRK [North Korea]. We paean their great leader Kim Il Sung". (The word "paean" sounds identical to the term "pee on" in American English.)
Negotiations for the release of the crew took place at Panmunjom. At the same time, U.S. officials were concerned with conciliating the South Koreans, who expressed discontent about being left out of the negotiations. Richard A. Ericson, a political counselor for the American embassy in Seoul and operating officer for the Pueblo negotiations, notes in his oral history:
- The South Koreans were absolutely furious and suspicious of what we might do. They anticipated that the North Koreans would try to exploit the situation to the ROK’s disadvantage in every way possible, and they were rapidly growing distrustful of us and losing faith in their great ally. Of course, we had this other problem of how to ensure that the ROK would not retaliate for the Blue House Raid and to ease their growing feelings of insecurity. They began to realize that the DMZ was porous and they wanted more equipment and aid. So, we were juggling a number of problems.
He also noted how the meetings at Panmunjom were usually unproductive, due to the particular negotiating style of the North Koreans:
- As one example, we would go up with a proposal of some sort on the release of the crew and they would be sitting there with a card catalog… If the answer to the particular proposal we presented wasn’t in the cards, they would say something that was totally unresponsive and then go off and come back to the next meeting with an answer that was directed to the question. But there was rarely an immediate answer. That happened all through the negotiations. Their negotiators obviously were never empowered to act or speak on the basis of personal judgment or general instructions. They always had to defer a reply and presumably they went over it up in Pyongyang and passed it around and then decided on it. Sometimes we would get totally nonsensical responses if they didn’t have something in the card file that corresponded to the proposal at hand.
Ericson and George Newman, the Deputy Chief of Mission in Seoul, wrote a telegram for the State Department in February, 1968, predicting how the negotiations would play out:
- What we said in effect was this: If you are going to do this thing at Panmunjom, and if your sole objective is to get the crew back, you will be playing into North Korea’s hands and the negotiations will follow a clear and inevitable path. You are going to be asked to sign a document that the North Koreans will have drafted. They will brook no changes. It will set forth their point of view and require you to confess to everything they accuse you of… If you allow them to, they will take as much time as they feel they need to squeeze every damn thing they can get out of this situation in terms of their propaganda goals, and they will try to exploit this situation to drive a wedge between the U.S. and the ROK. Then when they feel they have accomplished all they can, and when we have agreed to sign their document of confession and apology, they will return the crew. They will not return the ship. This is the way it is going to be because this is the way it has always been.
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 an oral statement that it was done only to secure the release. On 23 December 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. 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.
In 1970, Bucher published an autobiographical account of the USS Pueblo incident entitled Bucher: My Story. Bucher died in San Diego on 28 January 2004, at the age of 76. James Kell, a former sailor under his command, suggested that the injuries suffered by Bucher during his time in North Korea contributed to his death.
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 port of Nampo on the west coast. This required moving the vessel through international waters, and was undertaken just before the visit of U.S. presidential envoy James Kelly to the capital Pyongyang. The Pueblo was again relocated to Pyongyang and is moored on the Taedong River at the spot that the General Sherman incident is believed to have taken place. Pueblo is next to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum, as a museum ship.
Today Pueblo remains the second-oldest commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy, behind the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides"). Pueblo 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 was captured by Japanese forces while moored in Shanghai and in 1814 the USS Tigress and USS Scorpion were captured in a night attack by British forces on Lake Huron.
|Aftermath: capture and repatriation|
Tourist attraction 
Pueblo is a primary tourist attraction in Pyongyang, North Korea, having attracted over 250,000 visitors since being moved to the Taedong River. Pueblo used to be anchored at the spot where it is believed the General Sherman incident took place in 1866.
|USS Pueblo in Pyongyang, North Korea|
Offer to repatriate 
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 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 unlikely.
Former Pueblo crew members 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 D.C. awarded the plaintiffs $65 million in damages, describing their ill treatment by North Korea as "extensive and shocking." The plaintiffs, as of October 2009, were attempting to collect the judgment from North Korean assets frozen by the U.S. government.
The USS Pueblo has earned the following awards -
As USS Pueblo (AKL-44 / AGER-2):
- Combat Action Ribbon
- National Defense Service Medal with two stars
- Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
- Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
- Korea Defense Service Medal
Representation in popular culture 
- The episode "The Honeymooners" from the fourth season of Archer features the main character hitting a North Korean secret agent and yelling, "And this is for The Pueblo!"
- 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.
- An earlier British dramatization for the 1970 season of ITV Playhouse starred Ray McAnally as Bucher.
- In Mad Men: "The Collaborators" (season 6, episode 3), Arnold Rosen discusses the Vietnam War and the seizure of USS Pueblo while at dinner with his wife Sylvia and neighbor Don Draper.
- The Star Trek episode "The Enterprise Incident" is loosely based on the Pueblo incident.
- The incident is also referenced in the "Gone Quiet" episode of The West Wing.
See also 
- 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, National Security Agency (NSA). Retrieved 2010-02-19.
- "Naval Vessel Register Web page on USS Pueblo – AGER-2". Nvr.navy.mil. Retrieved 11 June 2009.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pueblo History. Navy.
- "Attacked by North Koreans". Usspueblo.org. Archived from the original on 28 August 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-11.
- American Society of International Law. Proceedings of the American Society of International Law: at its sixty third annual meeting held at Washington, D.C. 24–26 April 1969. "Questions of international law raised by the seizure of the U.S.S. Pueblo".
- Published: 1968. "N. Korea Seize U.S. Ship, 1968 Year in Review". UPI.com". Retrieved 2009-06-11.
- Interviewer unknown (1981-04-24) "Interview with Horace W. Busby, 1981. 04/24/1981." WGBH Media Library & Archives, 24 April 1981. Retrieved on 2010-11-09 from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/vietnam-fa3035-interview-with-horace-w-busby-1981.
- Lerner, Mitchell; Shin, Jong-Dae (2012-03). "New Romanian Evidence on the Blue House Raid and the USS Pueblo Incident. NKIDP e-Dossier No. 5." Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, March 2012. Retrieved on 2012-04-23 from http://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/nkidp-e-dossier-no-5-new-romanian-evidence-the-blue-house-raid-and-the-uss-pueblo.
- Iredale, Harry; McClintock, Ralph. "Compound 2 'The Farm'". USS PUEBLO Veteran's Association. Archived from the original on 30 September 2010. 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."
- Stu, Russell. "The Digit Affair". USS Pueblo Veteran's Association. Archived from the original on 30 September 2010. Retrieved 30 September 2010. "The finger became an integral part of our anti-propaganda campaign. Any time a camera appeared, so did the fingers."
- Bush lauded for handling of EP-3 incident WorldNetDaily.
- End of North Korea? The Palm Beach Times.
- Kennedy, Charles S. (27 March 1995). "The USS Pueblo Incident – Assassins in Seoul, A Spy Ship Captured". The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training: Foreign Affairs Oral History Project. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
- 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. Retrieved 17 December 2009.[dead link]
- "Lloyd Bucher, captain of the Pueblo, buried in San Diego: North County Times – Californian 02-04-2004". Nctimes.com. 3 February 2004. Retrieved 11 June 2009.
- Bucher, Lloyd M.; Mark Rascovich (1970). Bucher: My Story. Doubleday & Company. ISBN 0385072449.
- USS Pueblo PRI's The World. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
- Wake History Navy.
- Caroline Gluck, "North Korea drags its feet", BBC, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/1626579.stm . Retrieved 23 January 2007.
- "www.shippingtimes.co.uk "Saturday feature: Old flag for an old spy ship"". Shippingtimes.co.uk. Retrieved 11 June 2009.[dead link]
- Washington Post, "Damages Awarded In USS Pueblo Case", 31 December 2008, p. 5.
- 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, 8 October 2009, p. C1.
- Pueblo (TV 1973) – IMDb
- "Pueblo – Trailer – Cast – Showtimes – NYTimes.com". The New York Times.
- ITV Playhouse: The Pueblo Affair (TV 1970) – IMDb
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- This article includes information collected from the Naval Vessel Register, which, as a U.S. government publication, is in the public domain. The entry can be found here.
- NKIDP: Crisis and Confrontation on the Korean Peninsula: 1968–1969, A Critical Oral History
- USS PUEBLO TODAY
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Pueblo incident|
- USS Pueblo on YouTube YouTube video taken of and aboard the USS Pueblo in Korea
- THE PUEBLO INCIDENT on YouTube "The Pueblo Incident" briefing and analysis by the US Navy
- Official website by former USS Pueblo crew members
- Complaint and court judgment from crew members' lawsuit against North Korea
- CNN.com obituary for Commander Lloyd M. Bucher
- USS Pueblo on Google Maps satellite image
- Pueblo at the Internet Movie Database – a 1973 TV movie about the Pueblo incident
- North Korean International Documentation Project
- Movie sold in Pyongyang on PUEBLO Incident on YouTube A North Korean video on the issue
- A Navy and Marine Corps report of investigation of the “USS Pueblo seizure” conducted pursuant to chapter II of the Manual of the Judge Advocate General (JAGMAN)[dead link] published as six PDF files: 1 2 3 4 5 6
- Guide to the Richard Rockwell Pratt Pueblo Court of Inquiry Scrapbook, 1969–1976 MS 237 held by Special Collection & Archives, Nimitz Library at the United States Naval Academy