Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers The USS PUEBLO HiJacking (1/23/1968) - Nov. 4th, 2003
Posted on 11/04/2003 12:00:24 AM PST by SAMWolf
are acknowledged, affirmed and commemorated.
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The USS Pueblo was originally constructed in Kewaunee, Wisconsin in 1944 as FP-344, a U.S. Army Transportation Corps general purpose supply ship. This designation was later changed to FS-344 and the ship was eventually retired from active service in 1954. In April 1966, it was transferred to the control of the U.S. Navy and was commissioned as USS Pueblo AKL-44 (Auxiliary Light Cargo). The ship was given its name after Pueblo, Colorado. Finally, in May 1967, the Navy gave the ship its final designation of AGER-2, an environmental research vessel. Lieutenant Commander Lloyd M. Pete Bucher was the first commanding officer of the USS Pueblo.
USS Pueblo (AGER-2)
After the Pueblo was commissioned, it departed its home in Bremerton, WA in September 1967. After making a liberty call in San Francisco, it was enroute San Diego. After more sea trials and training, the Pueblo left San Diego in early November. It stopped in Pearl Harbor, HI to replenish supplies, to repair the ship's steering engine, and to receive intelligence and operational briefings. After a three day visit, it was off to Japan, where it arrived December 1, 1967 in Yokosuka.
Until this point, the majority of the crew did not know what Pueblo's real mission was. In fact, the newly-appointed CDR Bucher told the crew just prior to leaving on its first mission that their mission and destination were none of their business but not to worry about it. Only CDR Bucher, a few officers on board, and the Communications Technicians (CTs) knew the details of Operation Clickbeetle and where they would be operating. Due to its new mission and the joint program with NSA, Pueblo was tasked not through the typical Navy channels but instead through the Naval Security Group Command. Before departing Japan, Pueblo was given its official mission orders. The Pueblo departed Sasebo, Japan around January 11, 1968 enroute North Korea's east coast. The three primary operating areas in which Pueblo would be operating were given the celestial code names of Op Area Pluto, Venus, and Mars. According to its new mission orders, Pueblo was tasked to:
According to the United States Commander-In-Chief Pacific Fleet (US CINCPACFLT), Pueblo's mission was assigned a risk assessment of Minimal. This was primarily due to the lack of valuable information on North Korean forces. CDR Bucher tried to get the assessment raised to Hazardous but his request was denied. Another reason the mission was assigned a Minimal assessment was because the Pueblo was instructed to remain in international waters, as clearly stated in the mission orders. However, when the USS Banner was tasked to conduct similar missions, it was assigned a Hazardous risk assessment and Air Force fighters were on strip alert as well as two Navy destroyers were located within 50 miles of the Banner's operations. Only a few military units knew of Pueblo's mission: the U.S. Seventh Fleet, which is responsible for Navy operations in the Pacific theater, U.S. Forces Korea, which commands American forces stationed in South Korea, and the U.S. Fifth Air Force out of Fuchu, Japan. The U.S. Fifth Air Force personnel even questioned the lack of strip alert status for Pueblo's support but they were verbally informed that such measures would not be needed. Furthermore, due to the Minimal risk assessment, the U.S. Navy made no specific requests for support for the Pueblo.
While transiting to the first operation area, Pluto in the vicinity of Chongjin and Songjin, Pueblo encountered a severe winter ice storm as is common in the Sea of Japan. Also enroute, Pueblo managed to conduct training on its recently-installed shipboard weapons, the .50 caliber machine gun. The .50 caliber might be effective against a very small vessel, but certainly did not pose a threat to a patrol boat or larger vessel; but since it was the only weapon Pueblo was equipped with, the crew had to make due with what was available. While operating in Op Area Pluto, Pueblo did not encounter any significant visual or electronic contacts. The only contacts it reported sighting were Russian and Japanese freighters but at least the oceanographers were able to collect their data. Since there was a lack of activity in Op Area Pluto, Pueblo transited southward down the coast to Op Area Venus, which was in the area of Mayang Do. The only significant activity in Op Area Venus came on 21 January when a North Korean (modified Soviet variant) SO-1 subchaser passed within 1,600 yards of Pueblo traveling about 25 knots. Pueblo had been operating in strict emmisions control (EMCON) to avoid being detected and indentified. Since the SO-1 also emitted no radar, there was no reason for Pueblo to break its radio silence and contact the threatening vessel. Shortly thereafter, Pueblo departed Venus and transited south yet again to Op Area Mars, which was off the coast of Wonsan. Almost immediately, the amount of electronic intelligence (ELINT) increased. On 22 January, Pueblo was approached by two North Korean, Russian-built fishing trawlers. The trawlers approached twice; the first time, they circled Pueblo about 500 yards away but after leaving, they returned and circled Pueblo as close as 25 yards. Concerned, Pueblo broke EMCON and tried to send off its first situation report (SITREP) to USNAVSECGRU to infom them of the close encounter. The message took nearly 14 hours to send because of the difficulty in maintaining a communications frequency. USNAVSECGRU had no knowledge of Pueblo's status until 10:00 AM on 23 January.
Fireman Duane Hodges
The same day, 31 North Koreans dressed in South Korean uniforms crossed the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and got to within one block of the South Korean presidential palace, the Blue House. However, the raid was detected and the men were executed. Since it had only one day left on station off the North Korean coast, the decision was made not to inform Pueblo of the foiled attempt. Instead, Pueblo received National Basketball Association scores.
After assuming its night position of 25 nautical miles offshore, on 23 January Pueblo moved to 15 miles from the nearest land, which was Yo Do, an island near Wonsan. In this new area, there was an increase in ELINT. While eating lunch in the wardroom, CDR Bucher was interrupted twice to be informed of an approaching ship 8 miles away and about three minutes later, informing him that the ship was five miles away and approaching very fast. The ship was identified as a North Korean SO-1 subchaser traveling at 40 knots. In order to appear legitimate and conduct oceanographic research, two civilian oceanographers went topside where they could be seen and began to take ocean observations. Signal flags were also hoisted to indicate that was what was going on.
The crew of the subchaser could now be seen and were observed to be at battle stations. When the SO-1 closed to within 1,000 yards, it asked the Pueblo's nationality. In response, the Pueblo immediately hoisted the American flag. Then, at 12:10 PM, a message from the SO-1 to shore was intercepted; it said, "The name of the target is GER-2. I judge it to be a reconnaissance ship. It is American guys. It does not appear that there are weapons and it is a hydrographic mapping ship." Following that, three North Korean P-4 torpedo boats were approaching. The SO-1 closed to 500 yards and signaled "HEAVE TO OR I WILL FIRE." At this point, Pueblo was not moving and the nearest land was 15.8 miles, well outside of the 12-mile territorial waters boundary afforded states according to international law. Pueblo responded to the order, "I AM IN INTERNATIONAL WATERS." Then, two North Korean MiG-21 fighter jets did a low flyover of the area. To make matters even more serious, another subchaser and another torpedo boat were approaching; that made a total of two SO-1 subchasers, four P-4 torpedo boats, and two MiG-21 fighters.
Poor-quality photograph of a chart of the Wonsan area, North Korea. The chart was exhibited by the North Korean government to support their claim that USS Pueblo (AGER-2) had entered that state's territorial waters off Wonsan before she was attacked and captured by North Korean forces on 23 January 1968.
In an attempt to depart the area to avoid a confrontation, the Pueblo got underway. Nearly an hour after the first one, another message was intercepted from the SO-1 to shore saying "...according to present instructions we will close down the radio, tie up the personnel, tow it and enter port Wonsan. At present, we are on our way to boarding. We are coming in." Just then, Pueblo observed men apparently from the North Korean Army (NKA) armed with AK-47s transferring from one of the subchasers to one of the torpedo boats. The P-4 then approached Pueblo's starboard side. To prevent the men from boarding, Pueblo moved and attempted again to depart the area doing close to its top speed. The initial harrasser, the SO-1, came alongside again indicating "HEAVE TO OR I WILL FIRE" and did fire its 57mm guns at the Pueblo while the torpedo boats fired machine guns at Pueblo's superstructure. CDR Bucher and two other men were wounded when the 57mm explosive rounds hit the radar mast and the flying bridge. While this was happening, Bucher instictively ordered the destruction of classified material on board and he also ordered a modified General Quarters posture to allow no personnel topside.
However, the Pueblo had too much classified material onboard that even with every method of destruction possible being used, it was obvious that not all the material could be destroyed. Pueblo continued on an eastward track when the two MiGs flew over again while the SO-1 and P-4's continued firing; one of the P-4's uncovered its torpedo tube. Although Pueblo was equipped with two .50 caliber machine guns, it was helpless compared to the superior North Korean firepower. Pueblo's gun mounts were still covered and frozen and the ammunition was stored below decks. To attempt to man the mounts would have been suicidal so CDR Bucher ordered no such attempt.
Hole in side of Pueblo where Duane Hodges was mortally wounded.
The Pueblo stopped and consequently, the firing stopped. The subchaser signaled to the Pueblo, "FOLLOW ME HAVE PILOT ON BOARD." Pueblo started to follow slowly, then increased speed, then stopped again to try to buy more time to destroy more classified material. This provoked the North Koreans to begin firing again and claiming the only casualty of the incident, Fireman Duane Hodges. Hodges was dumping material overboard when he and several others were hit. In order to obey the North Koreans' order to follow and keep them from firing, the Pueblo proceeded slowly so it could also continue classified destruction. During this time, Pueblo was in constant radio communications with the Naval Security Group in Kamiseya, Japan, who sent its last message saying "Some birds winging your way," giving the idea that air support was enroute.
The SO-1 signaled the Pueblo to stop in order for the P-4 with the North Korean Army troops onboard to come alongside and board. Once aboard, they gathered the Pueblo crew on the fantail and the forward well deck of the ship where they were blindfolded and forced to sit with their hands tied. Any crewmember who resisted was kicked, punched, and jabbed with bayonets by the NKA troops. Once the Pueblo was inside territorial waters, Pueblo was stopped to embark higher ranking officers. After they boarded, a North Korean civilian pilot drove the ship at its highest speed setting toward Wonsan. A North Korean colonel made an inspection of the ship and had the Pueblo crew members put into the forward berthing quarters.
Another hole from 57mm cannon
North Korean propaganda film frames
The Pueblo was docked in Wonsan, where a crowd of North Koreans had gathered, shouting anti-American slurs. The Hispanic crewmembers were thought to be South Koreans and were attacked by the North Korean soldiers. The crew was then put on buses with covered windows, which took them to a train station where they would board a train also with covered windows. The train took them to the capital, Pyongyang, where the press was waiting to photo the North Korean's prize. From the train station, the crew was again put on a bus that took them to the first compound that they would go to during their time in captivity.
This incident marked the first time that an American Naval vessel had been hijacked since the Civil War. Up until this point, and during the Cold War, such a feat was unimaginible, especially from an inferior power like North Korea so the U.S. was not prepared for a response. And with the Vietnam War nearly at its peak, the U.S. could hardly afford to wage another war, even if it was in the same theater of operations. However, one response that was planned was Operation Red Fox, which lasted from 23 January 1968 - 5 February 1969. Red Fox consisted of several 9th Air Force active units that deployed various types of aircraft (i.e. fighters, reconnaissance, and support) to U.S. bases in the Pacific. Additionally, six U.S. Air Force Reserve units were activated in case of escalation. Many missions were flown in order to train for action if necessary but no air strikes were conducted and Operation Red Fox turned out to be just a standby alternative.
The design of the MiG-17 was undertaken to correct the deficiencies that the earlier MiG-15 had at higher speeds. It was the first Soviet fighter to have an afterburning engine, the Klimov VK-1.
In 1949, the Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) design bureau began work on a new fighter to replace the MiG-15. Two features of the aircraft were a thinner wing of greater sweep and a redesigned tail that improved stability and handling at speeds approaching Mach 1 (speed of sound). Although similar in appearance to the MiG-15, the MiG-17 has more sharply swept wings, an afterburner, better speed and handling characteristics and is about three feet longer. The wings of the aircraft are mid-mounted, swept-back, and tapered with blunt tips. They have wide wing roots. The engine is one turbojet inside the body and has a round air intake in the nose. It has a single, small exhaust. The fuselage is short, thick, cigar-shaped and tapered to the rear. It has a blunt nose and bubble canopy. The tail fin is swept-back and tapered with rounded tip. Flats are high-mounted on the tail fin, swept-back, and tapered. Flats and fin overhang the exhaust.
The prototype MiG-17 (NATO code name Fresco) first flew in January 1950 and was reported to have exceeded Mach 1 in level flight. Production began in late 1951, but the aircraft were not available in sufficient quantities to take part in the Korean War. Deliveries to the Soviet Air Force began in 1952. Five versions of the aircraft eventually were produced. Early production MiG-17s were fitted with the VK-1 engine, a Soviet copy of the Rolls-Royce Nene. The VK-1F, an improved version with a simple afterburner and variable nozzle, was developed for the main production version, the MiG-17F (Fresco C). In 1955 the radar equipped MiG-17PF (Fresco D) entered service as a limited all-weather interceptor. The MiG-17PFU was armed with four AA-1 "Alkali" radar-guided missiles, making it the Soviet Union's first missile armed interceptor. Even though it was considered obsolete by the mid-1960s, the MiG-17 gave a good account over Vietnam, being flown by most of the top North Vietnamese pilots, including the leading ace, Colonel Tomb.
The MiG-17 served with nearly 30 air forces worldwide, including the Soviet Union, Warsaw Pact countries, China, Afghanistan, North Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Morocco, Cuba, Indonesia, and Cambodia. Though smaller than the USAF F-86 Sabre of Korean War fame, its weight and performance favorably compared to that aircraft. Soviet production of the MiG-17 ended in 1958 with over 6,000 produced. It continued to be built under license in Poland as the Lim-5P and in China as the J-5/F-4. China's first reproduced jet fighter plane, the J-5, successfully flew in Shenyang for the first time on 19 July 1956, and General Nie Rongzhen went in person to Shenyang to offer congratulations.
Country of Origin: CIS (formerly USSR)
Engine: One Valer Klimov VK-1 turbojet with 5,952 lbs. of thrust
Length: 36 ft, 5 in (11.1 m)
Span: 31 ft, 7 in (9.64 m)
Height: 12 feet, 6 inches
Weight: 14,770 lbs
Payload: 650 kg
Internal Fuel: 1143 kg
Maximum speed: 696 mph
Range: 1,290 miles
Service Ceiling: 52,366 feet / 15850 meters
In-Flight Refueling: No
Drop Tanks:2 - 400 L drop tank with 325kg of fuel for 155nm range
3 NR-23 23mm Cannon
4 8x57mm rocket pods or
2 type 250kg bombs (729nm) or
2 400 L drop tanks (936)
This story has always been so difficult to swallow. I didn't realize the USS Pueblo was never given back and is now a "museum" for these gook bastards.
"It is important to note that even to this day the capture of the USS Pueblo has resulted in no reprisal against North Korea, demonstrating remarkable restraint by the United States. Even though the USS Pueblo still clearly remains the legal property of the United States Navy, the North Korean Government has kept it on display as a sort of traveling propaganda museum."
I believe back in the 70's PBS and "Hallmark" produced a movie presentation of this illegal capture. Hal Holbrook gave a brillant portrayal of Cmdr. Lloyd Bucher.
They're beautiful, thank you.
Thank you Jimmy Carter for your total incompetence in handling this one.
Here's the Jimmy Carter Library's spin on it.
On November 4, 1979, Iranian militants stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran and took approximately seventy Americans captive. This terrorist act triggered the most profound crisis of the Carter presidency and began a personal ordeal for Jimmy Carter and the American people that lasted 444 days.
President Carter committed himself to the safe return of the hostages while protecting America's interests and prestige. He pursued a policy of restraint that put a higher value on the lives of the hostages than on American retaliatory power or protecting his own political future.
The toll of patient diplomacy was great, but President Carter's actions brought freedom for the hostages with America's honor preserved.
Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, began his reign in 1941, succeeding his father, Reza Khan, to the throne. In a 1953 power struggle with his prime minister, the Shah gained American support to prevent nationalization of Iran's oil industry. In return for assuring the U.S. a steady supply of oil, the Shah received economic and military aid from eight American presidents.
Early in the 1960s, the Shah announced social and economic reforms but refused to grant broad political freedom. Iranian nationalists condemned his U.S. supported regime and his "westernizing" of Iran. During rioting in 1963, the Shah cracked down, suppressing his opposition. Among those arrested and exiled was a popular religious nationalist and bitter foe of the United States, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Between 1963 and 1979, the Shah spent billions of oil dollars on military weapons. The real price of military strength was the loss of popular support. Unable to sustain economic progress and unwilling to expand democratic freedoms, the Shah's regime collapsed in revolution. On January 16, 1979, the Shah fled Iran, never to return.
The exiled Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Tehran in February 1979 and whipped popular discontent into rabid anti-Americanism. When the Shah came to America for cancer treatment in October, the Ayatollah incited Iranian militants to attack the U.S. On November 4, the American Embassy in Tehran was overrun and its employees taken captive. The hostage crisis had begun.