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Allen & Jean Hemphill

by Allen Hemphill (editors note: Allen Hemphill is a US Naval Academy graduate. He was a career Naval Officer)
Jean and I had known Pete and Rose Bucher since I had served under Pete on the U.S.S. Ronquil (SS-396.) He had been the XO, and I was one of his five or six officers. We had kept in touch over the years, and I visited with Pete and Rose in Yokosuka when Pete ran covert ops for submarines in the Pacific. Jean and I had been invited to his Change of Command when he took the Command of the USS Pueblo in Bremerton, but we were unable to attend because of a heavy work schedule. At the time I was Project officer for the Integrated Flagship Data System, an early Command Control and Communications computer system under development at what was then the Naval Electronics Laboratory Center on Point Loma in San Diego.

On January 23, 1968, at about 8 a.m. I was called by Jean and told that the Pueblo had been captured. I was scheduled to make a Department Head presentation at 9 a.m, and it was one of the most perfunctory presentations ever made. I went immediately to the Bahia Hotel on Mission Bay where Jean had told me Rose had been living while she awaited transportation to Yokosuka to join Pete.

Her hotel room was chaotic, with perhaps 20 video cameras and newsmen outside. I asked Rose what I could do, and she said, "Take care of the press. Walter Cronkite is out there." The first few days were a blur. The Public Affairs Officer assigned to be Rose’s liaison with the press made many excuses why he could not even meet with her for several days. He was "fired" by the Navy on about the third day and I was permitted to act on her behalf with the agreement that I would identify myself as a "friend of the family" and not as a representative of the U.S. Navy. In return the Navy agreed not to give me directions, an agreement the Navy kept even if some senior officers did not.

Subsequently, we formed the Remember the Pueblo campaign with the assistance of Barbara Norris of Pro-America in La Jolla, and agreed to lay low for a month while the State Department was engaged in what they described as "sensitive negotiations." During this period we were bombarded with pleas from widows and children of Korean POWs to mount a vigorous campaign for the release of the Pueblo crew. These people told us that they had been urged by the State Department to "keep quiet, while sensitive negotiations" were taking place, but that their loved ones had never been heard of again. After a year or more of silence they tried to get media attention, only to be told that "it is old news." We determined not to let the seizure of the Pueblo crew slip unnoticed from the public.

For the next year, with the complete support of my immediate superior, Cdr. Vern Wear we mounted an amateur but vigorous public relations campaign. I wrote speeches and did press relations, my wife Jean made more than 70 public speeches, and Rose did all radio and TV appearances.

Cdr. Wear had invented the computer system I was managing, and he did both his job and mine while I traveled with Jean and Rose. Support for our efforts in the Navy was covert, including Commander First Fleet, Vice Admiral Bernie Roeder. Opposition was much more vocal, including the Commandant of the 11th Naval District in which I served.

Efforts to break up our team were attempted, including orders assigning me to Keflavic, Iceland ­ and failing that, to lure me away by offering me an assignment as Navigation Officer on the Second Fleet Flagship. All efforts were rebuffed, but with a personal warning to Jean and Rose by the Chief of Staff of CNO that if I would not accept the Second Fleet position that my Naval career was finished. Vice-Admiral Roeder attempted to have me assigned to his Flag Staff, and his request was refused. As he told me, "When a personal request from a Vice-Admiral is denied, we are playing in the big leagues!"

Details of the year-long adventure are being written from logs, contemporary diaries, media clips, and covertly recorded telephone conversations. Excerpts may soon be available on this site.
Provided by Henry B. Johnson
Please visit Allen Hemphill's USS PUEBLO website for a lot more information.
Allen and Jean Hemphill with Pete and Rose at the
John Wayne's private party for the PUEBLO crew
Town & Country Hotel 1969