Thursday, January 23, 2014
The USS Pueblo - January 23, 1968
I was 13 years old when the USS Pueblo, AGER-2, was seized off the North Korean coast and towed into port, where the crew was charged with Espionage. For the next 11 months the 83 man crew would be held prisoner by the Republic of North Korea under the most inhumane conditions. Wounds received during the initial confrontation with the Koreans were left untreated for the duration. Even when one crewman became so ill that surgery was unavoidable, that surgery was performed without the benefit of anesthesia.
I have always held serious reservations concerning the how and why behind the capture of the Pueblo. I had hoped to be finished with a book I am reading on the subject in time to post a review of it here today. That review will be posted here next week on Monday.
In the meantime I felt that I should at least commemorate the day in some fashion. While looking at the material available on You Tube I came across this little film which is kind of like a documentary, but with a twist.
“Bucher’s Bastard’s” is the title of a poem written by Pueblo crew member Murray Kisler while in captivity. It is satirical in nature, poking fun at the North Koreans and even making sport of themselves in reference to their unfortunate circumstances.
While I have serious questions about the way the Pueblo was apparently “set up” to become the victim she became, I have nothing but admiration for her Captain and crew, who were pawns in a deadly Cold War game involving Vietnam, the Soviet Union, China and even Israel which had attacked our ship USS Liberty in June of 1967. That unprovoked and un-avenged attack inadvertently sent a signal to countries such as North Korea that America did not possess the resolve necessary to back up its actions.
The crew of the Pueblo was returned to the United States 2 days before Christmas 1968. The Johnson administration was on its way out and Nixon was on his way in. The only other time I remember the timing of something like this coinciding with a change in leadership in Washington, D.C. would not happen again until the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979. Those captives at our Embassy in Tehran would also not be released until Jimmy Carter had lost his bid for re-election to Ronald Reagan. It was later shown that negotiations for their release had been held up until a change in American leadership.
This begs the question of whether or not something similar may have been in the works concerning the crew of the USS Pueblo. As I said, I am just finishing up reading the book “Act of War” by Jack Cheevers and plan to post the review next Monday. In the meantime, enjoy this film and marvel at the ability of America’s fighting men to keep a sense of humor; and even honor; when faced with the most trying of circumstances, as these men were.