USS Pueblo

Have you ever heard of the USS Pueblo? It was a Naval ship on an intelligence gathering mission sailing in international waters near the coast of North Korea on January 23, 1968, but it masqueraded as an oceanographic research ship. That cover did not fool the North Koreans. Forty-four years ago today, the North Koreans captured the USS Pueblo and took the 83-man crew hostage.

The Pueblo’s mission was assessed beforehand and determined to have ‘minimal’ risk. Thus the ship was not properly equipped to fend off an attack. Instead, the Pueblo crew was instructed to start shredding and burning the hundreds of pounds of classified material on board. The smoke from the burning paper only incensed the enemy more and they started firing upon the Pueblo killing one and injuring several others.

North Korean ships surrounded the Pueblo, boarded the ship, and tied-up and blind-folded the crew. They brought them to Pyongyang for what was the beginning of an 11-month hostage ordeal. After nearly a year of negotiations between the United States and North Korea, the Pueblo crew was freed two days before Christmas; something that was important to President Johnson in the waning days of his administration.

And, of course, there is a Katzenbach connection. The Pueblo incident was among the many international crises he dealt with as Under Secretary of the State Department. As you guessed, there will be more about this in the book…



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