Copyright © 2010 USS PUEBLO Veteran's Association. All rights reserved.
by Stu Russell
Lee Roy Hayes and I had spent four days in the room when they brought us our new clothes. They ordered
us to strip under the watchful eyes of several guards and one duty officer. Our new clothes were placed on
the table and we were told that we must dress quickly. In North Korea, people are either waiting or doing
something quickly. First we donned our new underwear (a cotton brief with a draw string), followed by
what we came to call the middle wear, because it came between the undies and the sweats. The middies,
if you will, were like the shorts except they had long legs with draw strings on the ankles. Next we put on
a sweat shirt and sweat pants, followed by our padded pants and jackets. One of the unique features of this
outfit was that the pants, sweats, and middies all had flies on them, but the underwear didn't, so to take a
leak all four layers of clothing had to be pulled down, each time under the watchful eyes of people who
seemed more interested in checking us out than being concerned with security.
The ensemble was accented with padded tennis shoes. The dark green tennies did clash with our dark blue outfits, all in all we looked like a bunch of dark blue marshmallows. One of the ever-present duty officers came in and told us that we must wear all our clothes at all times and that all snaps and buttons must be closed. Being obedient prisoners, Hayes and I spent each long day bundled up like a couple of kids waiting to go out to the snow.
One day, Fetch (a duty officer) came in to discuss life in the United States. With Fetch it seemed like America was the ultimate obscenity and he could not get enough. Anyhow, as the conversation drifted between fast cars and big busted woman, two of Fetch's favorite topics after Marx and Lenin. He asked why we were wearing all our clothes and how could we stand being so hot? After telling him we thought we were to wear all our clothes at all times, he informed us that was wrong and that we were permitted to wear only what would be comfortable. When Fetch left, Hayes and I removed several layers of clothes. I stripped down to padded pants and my long sleeve cotton undershirt; Hayes opted for padded pants and the open collar sweat shirt. We were lounging in our room enjoying a smoke when one of the guards tore open the door. We jumped to attention and stood there looking at him. He was one angry boy...he tried to talk, but was so upset he could only stand there and shake, leaving as quickly as he had come in, and returning moments later with a different duty officer. The officer was enraged, why had we taken off our clothes? I told him that we had asked one of the officers if we could remove some of our clothes and had been told that we could. Which officer? Now this is one of those times that not knowing their names was a real problem. I knew that saying "Fetch" wouldn't do me any good, but then neither would, "You know, the short one with slanted eyes, black hair and jaundiced skin." So we had to cop to the fact that we had made up the story about getting permission. We hoped that we would get off with a brief lecture on how lucky we were to have these clothes, but once the duty officer got warmed up he had to tell us to be thankful for the expendables that had been issued to us.
NOT HAPPY WITH THIS
The expendables consisted of a bar of soap, a hand towel, tooth paste and a tooth brush. Also issued was toilet paper that was manufactured by the Peoples' Packing Paper Factory. It was issued in the four foot square economy sheets. This had to be torn by us into small sheets. This was done for two reasons, one to make it useable, the other to allow us to remove the larger wood chips. No point in putting splinters where they don't belong.
(Frame from North Korean propaganda film)