Press Conferences and Propaganda
The first press conference to include PUEBLO enlisted men was held August 13th. It was for North Korean press only and was supposedly televised to the nation. An intentional press conference held September 12th was for the world press. Thats "communist world" press. It included a reporter named Lionel Martin from the "New York Guardian!" Both times innuendos and archaic and corny Americanism language was inserted into the KORCOM forced prepared statements to thwart their propaganda.
After the September Press Conference --- SUPER C became "Glorious General" with one gigantic star on each of his shoulder epaulets.
In late August, photography sessions of each room were staged. The Hawaiian Good Luck Sign was exhibited by many crew members in defiance and contempt.
News from Home
The only news from home, other than the one mail call, was news that one of the men's wives had a child and that "Madam Rose," CDR Bucher's wife was pressing for the crew's release. They announced that Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King had been assassinated. The crew learned that the battleship USS NEW JERSEY had been sunk by the North Vietnamese..!! One day the announcement went out that a member of the crews brother, a US Marine, had been killed in Vietnam. In late October the Koreans presented a man with an offical Absentee Ballot for the 1968 Presidential Election! The men found out then that VP Humphrey and former VP Nixon were running for President. They preferred Nixon.
Examples of the crew's sense of humor that helped sustain them are given in these anecdotes.
I Remember: Fly Flying and Netting.
Bucher's Bastards Bucher's Bastards the Video!
the poem by Earl "Murray" Kisler
North Korea, September 1968
It's time for the "Gypsy Tea Room", or "What the heck is this?" In late September, nearly all of the men were singly taken across the dirt soccer field, to what became know as the Gypsy Tea Room, for a session with North Korean officers dressed in civilian clothes! Treats such as candy and beer were served by traditionally costumed women. Each man was asked about his health, his opinion of the DRPK, would he come back as a tourist some day, and if he would mind if a man named Kim contacted him!
"Gypsy Tea Room"
The Crew become "Tourists"
In October the men were put on buses and driven into Pyongyang to the Grand Theater of the People It was filled with North Korean military men. Interpreters were seated throughout the crew to translate the opera "How Glorious the Fatherland". (Unwilling to ask to "go to the head" in this arena, one man was forced to urinate in his seat.") More excursions rapidly followed, one to a circus performance of acrobats, tumblers and a man who put his head in the mouth of a bear. It was followed by a concert by the Peoples Army Band and Chorus.
But the last, an overnight train trip, to the "Museum of Imperialist Atrocities" at Sinchon near the DMZ.
In it's October 18, 1968 issue, Time Magazine exposed the true meaning of the Hawaiian Good Luck Sign when it published and explained a photograph taken in August of the men in room 13!
Anecdote: Hell Week Begins
On December 12th, Hell Week began. The men and their bunks were crowded twelve to a room. Then the men of room 13 were taken to separate rooms for interrogation. "Why are you not sincere?", "Who is the CIA agent?", Who are the instigators?", "What did you do to make us lose face?" "Who plotted the escape?" Those were some of the questions that were fired at the men. The North Koreans were truly serious this time as it was no holds barred. Men were beaten with fists, and kicked, hit with clubs and boards, on all parts of the body, and made to kneel down with poles behind the knees while guards jumped up and down on the ends of the poles. Then other suspected instigators and eventually, every crew member was interrogated and beaten during
Hell Week. Suddenly, it abruptly ended! Thank you God the men asked.
Anecdote. One Hellish Experience
Glorious General (aka Super G) held a meeting with the crew on December 19th and again was a good guy and restored their privileges. The PUEBLO men were given one more chance to repent and be sincere by writing new confessions.
Final, Final, Final Confession from Captain Bucher.
And, they got a beauty....!
Excerpts - Captain Bucher's final, final - - FINAL confession.
Men's wounds were treated and they were given hard boiled eggs & steamed towels to roll on their bloodshot eyes to breakup the clots. And, the diet improved! An EGG!!!
On December 22nd, each man was stripped naked and searched in every orifice. Then new clothing was issued. All were then brought to "the Club." Glorious General stated that the US was apologizing. The men wanted to believe that they were going to be released, but they were afraid this might be another ruse to attempt to make them angry at the US leaders when "they changed their minds at the last minute." Later that day the men were taken by bus to the railroad station and put on a train. It was not hard to tell, this train is headed south. To the DMZ ?
On December 23, 1968, eleven months to the day of capture, CDR Bucher led his crew, one every 15 seconds, across the Bridge of no Return to freedom and the opportunity to live the rest of their lives.
But, only a part of the Pueblo incident was over for the crew.
Prepared by Harry Iredale, Ralph McClintock
The books "A Matter Of Accountability" and "Bucher: My Story"
were referenced and correspondence with crew members
was used to prepare this section.
Copyright © 2016 USS PUEBLO Veteran's Association. All rights reserved.
Compound 2 "the Farm"
Diagram of the "Farm" circa 1968
Imprisoned: 42 weeks
Upon arrival at the second compound, to be christened "the Farm," the crew was told that "this will be your home until you are sincere and admit the crimes you have committed;" and the United States apologizes! They were then grouped in rooms of eight men each, except for one room of four. Captain Bucher and the other officers were placed in their own separate rooms.
The "Rules of Life" were to be followed at all times.
Anecdote: The Farm
The daily routine was awake at 0600, wash the floors with filthy rags and water- no soap, morning calisthenics in a hallway, usually led by Charlie Law whom the Koreans considered a leader. Eat breakfast in the "mess hall." It appeared to be designed as a meeting room about twenty five by forty feet in dimension. Shifts were used for the enlisted men of each floor while PUEBLO officers ate as a group. The crew was ordered to have heads bowed to their chins at all times while in the presense of North Korean officers and guards. After breakfast it was time to read the provided English language propaganda materials "Pyongyang Times" and the picture magazine "Korea Today." Any scrap of information to be gleaned from these publications which might possibly be relavent to the crew's situation became instant gossip in the mess hall. In reality, the publications were just filled with more and more propaganda about the glories of life in the DPRK. Lunch commenced at 1200 then exercise outside on the dirt playing field at 1300 for one hour, weather permitting. Then it was back to read the same propaganda tripe. Supper was at 1800 after which "free time" in each room from 2000 to lights out at 2200. Always under the watchful eye of the AK-47 toting karate kicking guards. Sleep, to most men, brought freedom.
Breakfast consisted of two slices of brown bread and rancid butter. Lunch, initially was watery turnip soup, later it became a tea saucer of barely milled rice for four people and a sliced turnip. Dinner, more watery turnip soup but heavy with oil and occasionally the remnants of a slaughtered pig. Fatty skin with long hair attached or an eyeball with a slice of bread. Sometimes "sewer trout" returned and was served instead of soup. The food followed the Korean growing cycle. In late June sliced cucumber appeared. As the weeks went on the vegetable became larger and softer eventually to become pickled cucumber, then none.
About every 6 weeks, the crew by room was marched to the bathroom and given one basin of hot water with which to bathe. Each man's clothes consisted of the uniform he wore. Of course the crew members first talked of the probability of getting out of North Korea alive, cars, girls, food and things they had done instead of "studying" the propaganda materials. As time wore on the topics centered on possibility of release, or escape, and food, but mostly they dozed from boredom when not under a period of heavy harassment. Kalmagi cigarettes were rationed to each room. Even non-smokers claimed to smoke so that those who did would have more cigarettes. When the stress was too much, they too took a few puffs, and inhaled! The second night in their new quarters, the crew were taken to "the Club" for movies. Movies were shown irregularly. All were North Korean films showing them killing US Imperialist Warmongers.
A cyclic pattern of calm and harassment was established: The PUEBLO crew would become bolder in their daily activities and their captors would clamp down when they were considered "insincere" by strictly enforcing the rules of life and applying harsher than usual beatings for violations.
Anecdote: Mess Duty
Education for the Crew
Each room was issued a ration of "hue gee", toilet paper made from roughly processed wood pulp paper. It was handed out in four foot squares which the men tore into individual sheets. It was neither soft, nor adsorbent. It splintered! The men had been issued pencils with which to write their propaganda letters. Crew members with language and knowledge in other subjects began circulating daily lessons written on hew gee to those interested via the bathroom conduit. Soon, the Japanese katakana script, Spanish, Russian, algebra and trigonometry lessons were circulating until the North Koreans became cognizant and confiscated the pencils. The crew was being "insincere." The men were not studying the provided propaganda materials! Bi-weekly history lessons were given to each room by its North Korean "room daddy," a North Korean junior officer. These consisted of outrageous lectures on US history from the robber baron days insisting that it still applied today, and on the revolutionary zeal of the Glorious Fatherland of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and it's Dear Leader, Kim Il Sung.
the "Sincerity" thing
When the crew was found to be "Not Sincere" Super C would initiate a tirade in the meeting room with the warning "as spies, you can be shot." Hints about a trial before the people's court was usually brought up. Returning to the rooms the crew were in for a week of humiliations and beatings. These were usually performed by the junior officers and the duty guards. Some of these got very serious. The result after five or six days of this was always the same. "Super C" (the senior colonel responsible) would hold another of his marathon six or seven hour lectures. "You must to do an idea to speed your repatriation with your beloved families." That always meant, letters or a press conference. Speaking through his personal interpreter "Silver Lips" he attempted to mimic the famous Fidel Castro rants in a test of endurance for the assembled audience. Super C spewed his endless retoric as Silver Lips attempted to keep up! Bucher, sitting front and center, whipped his head back and forth, one to the other. The result was always the same. The crew would comply with "it's idea." Then would begin a week of write, rewrite, rewrite the rewrite, re-re-re-rewrite. For press conferences the Super C setup a crewmember committee! Love that committee idea! It became a game of "how can we phrase this", "what if we use this word instead" or "do yah think they know about........."
The treatment would become better or worse depending upon the day, the week, the guard, the duty officer or the situation. Usually worse. A favorite of some guards was to catch a lone prisoner in a hall and practice karate kicks on the man's head.
Anecdote: the Carousel of Pain
"What a Luck!"
(Silver Lips favorite saying when explaining a new KORCOM propaganda scheme)
In two short movies shown in June, people on the street in London were shown giving the finger to the North Korean cameraman. It became obvious that these people did not know the meaning of this symbol of contempt, and that they were also unfamiliar with current western "culture", or colloquialisms. In the coerced letters written to families, friends and political figures, and in subsequent "press" conferences the PUEBLO men now attempted to use this knowledge as a means to discredit their captor's propaganda efforts.
But, in November it all hit the fan. It was known as the "Digit Affair"
"You Imperialists smell!"
New uniforms were handed out by the North Koreans in early July to replace the stinking blue quilted winter outfits first distributed five months before in the Barn. Distribution was preceeded by a meeting where Super C who through Silver Lips spewed "even though you are criminals and should be shot as spies, the kindness of the people of the DPRK allows you to have new uniforms."
Almost every crew member received heavily censored mail on July 16th.
Crewmember Bob Hill models a selection from the winter 1968 Kim Il Sung collection.
(Photo taken by the NK at the "Farm")
Staged basketball game. During a "Press Conference" for Korean press
Press conference where men rose to
repeat prescripted lines stating their crimes
and the leniency of the Korean people!
Note: This section is rich with links
to crewmember anecdotes and,
the Digit Affair.
smuggled out of North Korea by Pueblo crewman
Titled "The Joyous Life in the DPRK!"
(from NK propaganda film)
Bridge of No Return, Panmunjom, DMZ, Korea
December 23, 1968
NBC Laugh-In Show
"Son of PUEBLO!"
Yes, that is Goldie Hawn!
The "Farm" Google Earth 2010
(click for full view)
The North Koreans are having a hard time proving to the world that the captive crewmen of the USS PUEBLO are a contrite and cooperative lot. Last week Pyongyang’s flacks tried again - and lost to the U. S. Navy. "In this class-reunion picture, three of the crewmen have managed to use the medium for a message, furtively getting off the U. S. hand signal of obscene derisiveness and contempt."
Time Magazine October 18, 1968