THE PUEBLO INCIDENT COMES TO AN END, 1968
Since North Korea has been much in the news this past week, it would be timely to revisit the worst single incident in the long-standing-- and continuing-- Cold War standoff between North Korea and the United States: the infamous capture of the USS Pueblo and its crew by North Korean forces in January 1968. (The "Great Leader" of North Korea -- aka the DPRK-- in those days was Kim il-Sung, the grandpappy of today's heir apparent, the Michael Jordan superfan, Kim Jung-un.)
The Pueblo, officially known as AGER-2, was built during World War II, but by 1966 had been re-purposed as a Navy intelligence-gathering vessel, with a crew of 83. On January 23, 1968, it was doing exactly what it was supposed to be doing-- gathering intelligence on North Korea from off-shore, in what it claimed to be outside of that Communist-led country's territorial waters. The DPRK forces thought otherwise, and chased down the US ship, issuing demands for surrender and firing its weapons. During one salvo, one US serviceman was killed. After frantically attempting to destroy classified documents and intelligence-gathering equipment, the Pueblo's crew surrendered, the ship was boarded by DPRK forces, and the ship was led into a North Korean port.
The 82 men of the Pueblo, including their commander, Lloyd M. Bucher, were imprisoned and tortured for almost the entire year of 1968. After finally submitting a forced apology and confession, the crew was released on December 23, 1968-- exactly 43 years ago. The crew was returned, one by one, walking over the "Bridge of No Return" on the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.
The USS Pueblo--still a commissioned ship in the US Navy-- remains in the possession of North Korea, and is, in fact, a popular museum and tourist attraction in Pyongyang--pictured above. You can read much more about the incident here. BETTER STILL: Watch this segment of a terrific documentary made by North Koreans about the incident: