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USS Pueblo -A Tale of Embarrassment

Written by on Saturday, August 10th, 2013

Unless you were “a news reading adult” during the sixties, you may not know the tale of the USS Pueblo and how a U.S. Navy ship was overcome by its enemy, strafed, boarded, captured, sailed into a hostile port, its crew taken as prisoners, and its classified information compromised. Clearly this story must be a tall tale but the reality is that on January 23rd 1968, the USS Pueblo was captured without firing a shot in return, its crew was captured and the ship now is now on display in the capital of North Korea.

The USS Pueblo was commissioned as a freight and passenger ship on 7 April 1945 in New Orleans and was used by the Army for training civilians.  After the war, the USS Pueblo was decommissioned but was later transferred to the Navy where she served as a cargo ship but eventually was converted to an intelligence gathering ship and redesignated as the same on 13 May 1967. On 5 January 1968, the USS Pueblo left Yokosuka, Japan with orders to intercept and conduct surveillance of Soviet Union naval activity in the Tsushima Strait and gather signal and electronic intelligence from North Korea.

On 23 January 1968, the USS Pueblo was approached by a sub chaser and warned to stand-down or be fired upon, the Pueblo attempted to maneuver away but was considerably slower than the sub chaser. Three torpedo boats joined the chase and were soon followed by two MiG-21 fighters. Despite the threat, the USS Pueblo was ill-prepared for a conflict and all its ammunition was stored buy cialis generic below decks and her machine guns were still wrapped in cold weather tarpaulins. Eventually the USS Pueblo was fired upon by the sub chaser and one of the crew was killed.

U.S. Navy authorities and the crew of the Pueblo insist that before the capture, Pueblo was miles outside North Korean territorial waters which by international standards is 12 nautical miles but North Korea claims a 50 nautical mile sea boundary.

After surrendering the ship, the crew was taken captive and the USS Pueblo was sailed into North Korean waters. Despite the imminent capture the crew was unable to destroy the volumes of classified material on the ship. Although the Navy was aware of the events surrounding the capture, they didn’t have the resources to respond with sufficient firepower and despite being in the area the next day, the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier was not authorized to execute a rescue attempt.

After being tortured for nearly a year, the crew of the USS Pueblo was eventually released across the DMZ which required a statement from the U.S. admitting to the charges from the North Koreans that the ship was in territorial waters and was conducting intelligence activities.

Today the USS Pueblo is on display in Pyongyang, North Korean and remains as the only commissioned U.S. Navy ship that is held by a foreign country. Its decks are a tourist attraction for North Koreans and despite the years of service the North Koreans continually keep the ship in good shape as a constant reminder to the United States of the embarrassment called the USS Pueblo.

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