The USS Pueblo is about to be put on display as the star attraction in the refurbished North Korean war museum in Pyongyang. The occasion is the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the Korean War.
The ship was seized by North Korea in 1968 and the crew taken prisoner. They were eventually released after 11 months in captivity. The USS Pueblo was popularly termed “a spy ship,” and it was indeed engaged in surveillance activities on behalf of the US government.
Although its capture is a reality, it’s a reality that the Pentagon has yet to come to terms with. So it continues to regard the ship as “commissioned” and still in the US Navy.
But captured it was, by a large number of enemy ships with MiG air support. Since the attack was unexpected, the crew was not able to completely destroy all the sensitive material on board, the consequences of which is still not fully known.
Of course, the crew was interrogated, sometimes brutally. Earl Phares from Ontario, California said: “The Koreans basically told us, they put stuff in front of us, they said you were here, you were spying, you will be shot as spies. He added: “Everybody got the same amount of beatings in the beginning.”
After a lot of public posturing from both sides, with threats and counter threats, the prisoners were released just before Christmas, after 335 days of captivity.
The Navy briefly considered a court-martial for the captain for not adequately defending the ship, but this was overruled by Secretary of the Navy, John H Chafee, who considered that the captain and crew had: “suffered enough.”
In 2002, there was talk of a deal to return the ship, but the political climate changed and the negotiations ceased. Now, it’s obvious that the ship is never coming back to America.
The USS Pueblo will ignominiously continue its life in a museum in Pyongyang, a relic of a war barely remembered.