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.
I can believe that. I finally figured out that most politicians and their "political decisions" are bad for morale and usually get people killed.
Yep, Your right, I saw it when it was aired. Holbrook did a good job. I knew we never got the ship back but didn't know they were using it as a tourist attraction.
Quite the mess here this morning. Five inches of new snow in my driveway and a slippery drive to work. Wasn't what I had in mind for election day here!
The Navy put the Pueblo into harms's way with no protection and then tried to make Cmdr. Bucher a scapegoat. A couple of aircraft could easily have chased away the N.K.'s.
Sounds like some of the same drivel we're hearing about Iraq.
Punishing them just breaks my heart after reading about what they went through. They were very brave, and all but one lived through it! I'm so proud of them for doing that, and managing to show their defiance despite vicious retaliation. The NKs are savages.
The Navy put the Pueblo into harms's way with no protection and then tried to make Cmdr. Bucher a scapegoat.
We seem to have a habit of doing things like that.
THE FIRST SABRE VERSUS MiG-15 COMBAT
The following account has been reviewed by Colonel Bruce H Hinton for accuracy.
Poor weather over Korea kept the Sabres on the ground until late morning on December 17,1950. F-86A-5s from the Fourth flew their first combat patrol that day from Kimpo. Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Hinton, the commander of the 336th Fighter Interceptor Squadron and a veteran pilot, led a flight of four F-86s north to patrol MiG Alley near Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from Antung, China. Colonel Hinton used F-80 radio call signs, flying patterns and altitudes to deceive and entice the MiGs into combat. The trick worked. While the Sabres patrolled in a finger four formation at 25,000 feet, four MiGs took off from Antung to attack. The MiGs approached at 18,000 feet climbing in a southeasterly direction near Sinuiju. Colonel Hinton radioed the other Sabres to release their droptanks, but his own radio was not working. They did jettison their droptanks, however, and dove on the MiGs as the MiGs paralleled the Yalu River. As Colonel Hinton banked to close behind the MiGs, he became separated from his flight. The Sabres closed at 410 knots and 20,000 feet while increasing their airspeed at maximum power. The MiGs dove and then began a climbing left turn. Colonel Hinton's airspeed on his early F-86A exceeded the red line on his machmeter at this point. Then the MiGs broke. Colonel Hinton fired a long burst from his six .50 calibre machine guns hitting the second MiG-15 in its right wing and fuselage. Leaks were seen from the MiG which began smoking. Colonel Hinton then fired a long burst and saw fire exit the MiG's tailpipe as smoke was seen coming from the rest of the enemy plane. He fired another long burst, and fire covered the entire rear of the MiG's fuselage. As the MiG slowed, Colonel Hinton opened his dive brakes and throttled the engine back. The MiG was given another long burst. Pieces flew off as the MiG rolled on its back and went down. The stricken MiG-15 crashed ten miles southeast of the Yalu River. Colonel Hinton fired 1,200 rounds on his attack. One other MiG was damaged by Captain Morris Pitts, but all three remaining MiGs outran the Sabres across the Yalu River to Manchuria. Colonel Hinton later flew a victory roll as he returned to Kimpo.
The Port treaties of the 1920's..which enabled commerce on the inland rivers of China.
The many "Gunboats" serving on China Station so that companies like Standard Oil could explore resource possibilities in China.
The current dilemma of Iraq has been the norm for a hundred years as envious peoples attack progess in the name of nationalism.
oil/commerce and Communist China...oil/commerce and Islam.
not much change in 100 yrs
Using military force to protect commerce has gotten a bad name, unfairly so in my opinion. Think about it. The primary destablizing countries who triggered WWII, Germany, Italy and Japan, have all decided that getting rich is more fun than fighting wars. If we can persuade the Arabs that this is so, we will have come a long way toward winning the war on terror.