North Korean SO-1
(Jane's Fighting Ships 1974-75)
North Korean P4
(Jane's Fighting Ships1974-75)
US newspaper headlines
Jan. 23 & 24, 1968
PUEBLO in Wonsan, North Korea
photos show attack damage
Frames taken from NK Film
(from CBS News archives)
(Public Domain photo)
Depiction of North Korean attack
(from Bucher: My Story)
the PUEBLO Incident
The morning of January 23rd was relatively mild (in the 20 degrees F range), with a thin overcast and light seas. PUEBLO moved landward from its overnight position 25 miles offshore to 15 miles off the island of Yo Do. Minor ELINT was active. SITREP-2 was prepared indicating PUEBLO was no longer under surveillance and would revert to radio silence. Receipts were received for both SITREPs from headquarters in Japan around noon.
The clouds had thickened during the morning and the day had become dreary and was getting colder. Lunch in the ward room was interrupted by a call to the captain from the bridge that a ship 8 miles out was headed towards PUEBLO. Three minutes later another call came saying the ship was 5 miles out and closing rapidly. It was a North Korean subchaser, S0-1, approaching at 40 knots. The two civilian oceanographers went on deck to take ocean observations and the signal flags so indicting were hoisted. The ship's position had been verified by radar when the subchaser was first sited. As the subchaser neared it became obvious that it's crew was at battle stations. At 1000 yards it asked PUEBLO's nationality and the captain responded by raising the U. S. flag.
Message intercepted at 1210 by U. S. sources from lead North Korean S0-1 to shore:
"The name of the target is GER-2. I judge it to be a reconaissance ship. It is American guys. It does not appear that there are weapons and it is a hydrographic mapping ship." (Moody, et al)
Three P4 torpedo boats were sighted closing in from the northeastern coast.The subchaser moved to 500 yards and signaled HEAVE TO OR I WILL FIRE. PUEBLO was already dead in the water? After re-checking that the distance from the nearest land was 15.8 miles, PUEBLO replied I AM IN INTERNATIONAL WATERS. There were now four North Korean vessels of war menacing the PUEBLO, the subchaser with her 57mm and the three torpedo boats with their machine guns. And to make matters more ominous, two North Korean Mig 21s did a low flyover and a forth torpedo boat and second subchaser were sited heading towards PUEBLO. She got underway seaward with the oceanographic gear still over the side. The oceanographers hauled it in when the PUEBLO slowed for a couple of minutes.
At 1306 the S0-1 radioed ashore:
"... According to present instructions we will close down the radio, tie up the personnel, tow it and enter port at Wonsan. At present, we are on our way to boarding. we are coming in." (Moody, et al)
A group of North Korean military men with AK-47’s had transferred from one subchaser to a torpedo boat which then approached the PUEBLO's aft starboard side so these men could board. PUEBLO maneuvered to prevent this and to depart the area. With the North Korean vessels cutting across her bow she increased speed slowly to 12 knots. Unfortunately, the calm seas were aiding the smaller, but much faster boats. The first subchaser to arrive pulled along side flying the signal flags HEAVE TO OR I WILL OPEN FIRE and opened fire with her 57mm guns while the torpedo boats raked the superstructure with machine gun bullets as PUEBLO tried to maneuver in order to present as small a target as possible and still head away from the coast. The 57mm explosive rounds struck the radar mast, and flying bridge, wounding the captain and two other men on the flying bridge. It became obvious that this was not typical harassment. The captain immediately ordered destruction of all classified materials and modified General Quarters (no hands above deck.) PUEBLO continued eastward. The migs roared by overhead again. Another volley from the subchaser and torpedo boats followed. Machine gun fire continued to rake the PUEBLO. Her .50 caliber guns were mounted on the starboard and stern rails without protection, and were wrapped in frozen tarps. The ammunition was stored below. No attempt was made to man them. A torpedo boat uncovered one of its tubes. PUEBLO crew was trying frantically to destroy classified materials; burning and shredding documents and smashing equipment with hammers and axes in the Sod Hut, burning documents in an incinerator behind the stack, and even dumping stuff overboard because the volume of sensitive material on board was too great to be shredded and burned quickly.
Meanwhile PUEBLO had stopped and the firing stopped. The subchaser signaled FOLLOW ME HAVE PILOT ON BOARD. PUEBLO soon proceeded at 1/3 speed toward North Korea, then 2/3 speed, then stopped. The subchaser and two torpedo boats resumed firing. This last salvo had mortally wounded Duane Hodges and injured several other men who had been jettisoning documents over the side. PUEBLO proceeded at 1/3 speed to halt the gunfire and to permit destruction of materials. Radio contact with Naval Security Group in Kamiseya, Japan had been continual so they were aware of Pueblo’s situation. "Some birds winging your way." Was the last message PUEBLO received. The subchaser signaled her to stop and a torpedo boat pulled along side with the boarding party. The PUEBLO's men were gathered on the fantail and forward well deck where they were forced to sit blindfolded, with their hands tied. Any resistance was met with punches, kicks or bayonet jabs. Anecdote: Transition
PUEBLO again continued towards Wonson at 1/3 speed. When PUEBLO was definitely inside North Korean territorial waters when she was stopped and a group of higher ranking officers boarded from another torpedo boat. A North Korean civilian pilot rang up all ahead flank speed and took the wheel. While a brief inspection of the ship was conducted by the North Korean colonel, the PUEBLO crew was herded into the forward berthing quarters. After PUEBLO docked in Wonson, her crew, bound and blindfolded, was removed and led in front of a crowd of North Korean civilians which was yelling and screaming insults at the Americans. The Hispanic crew members were being attacked by the soldiers because they were thought to be South Koreans. Anecdote: Arrival in Wonsan
Eventually the crew were put on buses with the windows covered and taken to a train, also with windows covered, which took them to Pyongyang where the press was waiting with klieg lights and cameras at the railroad station. The crew were then taken by bus to the first compound of their imprisonment.
Prepared by Harry Iredale from "Bucher: My Story" and rememberance
Surrender photo - staged by the
North Koreans 2 weeks after the attack and capture of PUEBLO
(from CBS News archives)
Tuesday 1200 local time, DIW (dead In water)
OP AREA MARS International waters 16 NM off Yo Do Island
Weather: sun with high overcast, winds SW 15-20mph, seas 3-5', water temp 33F
Noon meal on mess deck: Turkey roll, mashed potatoes & gravy,
corn, green beans and cranberry sauce.
January 23, 1968
Copyright © 2012 USS PUEBLO Veteran's Association. All rights reserved.
This depiction from the
Ed Brandt book is very accurate.