USS Pueblo Docked in North Korea, Propaganda Tool 50 Years Later.
On January 23, 1968, the USS Pueblo was captured by North Korea while on a “routine” surveillance mission. The US claimed it was in International waters approximately 16 miles off their coastline, but North Korea stated otherwise. Today the USS Pueblo is a Communist museum piece, docked at the Pothong River in Pyongyang, North Korea — a propaganda symbol of “American Imperialist aggression.”
The USS Pueblo found itself surrounded by North Korean patrol boats, and tried to escape. But the enemy opened fire, wounding the commander and two crew members. As the Americans stalled for time and destroyed sensitive documents, several other crew members were wounded. One of the crew members died. Eventually, the ship was boarded and taken to Wonson.
The USS Pueblo was an intelligence gathering ship and only lightly armed.
The 82 surviving crew members were marched off to a military barracks in Pyongyang. There, they were tortured, beaten, and forced to eat “rotten cabbage soup.” Eventually they were moved to a country prison, where they were forced to read propaganda materials and the torture continued.
History.com noted that at one point, the men were forced to do a staged news conference…which didn’t exactly go as planned for the captors. The men were supposed to sing the praises of their capitivity, but instead some were pictured with their middle fingers clearly showing. The North Koreans didn’t actually understand that until later. The men were beaten severely for an entire week for their defiant actions.
One civilian oceanographer crew member, an Army veteran named Dunnie Tuck, told WGNO in Mississippi,
“Major beatings, with chairs, rifles, broomsticks. I had two chairs broken over my head. I was beaten senseless twice with the chairs…What are the first three things guys talk about? First you talk about women, then you talk about cars, then you talk about food. You do that for three months and then you gotta do something else.”
So Tuck used evenings, if the guards left the lights on, to do impromptu classes in history, math, geography and oceanography. The men thought they’d be released in just a few days. But President Johnson did not retaliate, and only sent the US Navy to the Sea of Japan in response to the incident.
The officers were forced to sign “confessions” that most thinking people knew were extremely coerced. Those papers are today in a glass frame with photos of the men that signed them, symbolizing the humiliation of Americans, according to the Marine Corps Times.
President Johnson was afraid of another war, since the Vietnam War was raging, and the incident occurred during the Tet offensive. This kind of situation would likely not happen now with President Trump, and SecDef Mattis.
Eleven months later, the ship’s personnel were finally released after Maj. Gen. Gilbert H. Woodward, the US negotiator, signed a statement that acknowledged the US was in North Korean waters.
Each crew member was forced to walk separately across the “no man’s land” between North and South Korea. Tuck said that as he began his walk, one of the guards asked him if he’d like to return to North Korea one day. His response was epic:
“Yes. I’d like to come back real soon as a bombardier in a B-52!” Dunnie Tuck
Featured photo of USS Pueblo docked in Pyongyang via Wikimedia