Rep. William J. Scherle

 

William Scherle, a congressman from Iowa during our captivity, brought our plight to Congress's attention everyday it was in session

after the crew had been held captive for six months. For sixty minutes each day, Bill Scherle and other congressional members

would speak about the Incident for the Congressional Record to keep the issue in the minds of "those who could do something about it."

 

Captain Bucher, in a letter to The Daily Nonpareil editor stating "His persistence and dogged determination to ensure that those who served

on Pueblo were not forgotten significantly contributed to our eventual return." "Through his work, Pueblo crewmen were able to accrue many of the benefits

accorded to returning Vietnam POWS...[and] to gain deserved recognition through issuance of medals for heroism under fire and devotion to duty."

 

On the 182nd day of our captivity (eve of the sixth month anniversary of capture), Congressman Scherle reserved time

for Congress to REMEMBER THE PUEBLO. One congresswoman and over 80 congressmen spoke on this occasion

to "....pay tribute to the members of the crew of the U.S.S. Pueblo in acknowledgement of their patriotic resolve, bravery,

and Patience..." (Mr. Shriver of Kansas, Congressional Record - House, H7182, July, 22, 1968)

 

Congressman Scherle opened the session with these remarks:

 

 "Mr. Speaker we have chosen today for the special order because tomorrow marks 6 months that the 82 brave men of the Pueblo crew have remained captive in North Korean prisons.

"On January 23, 1968, In a brazen and aggressive act, the North Korean Government seized the U.S.S. Pueblo in International waters. It confiscated the ship and Imprisoned her crew.

"One crew member is dead as a result of injuries inflicted at the time of the ship's capture. We lament the loss of Seaman Duane Hodges of Creswell, Oreg. The North Koreans have thus far refused to return this brave American to his family.

"I am pleased that so many Members of this body, from both sides of the aisle, have indicated their desire to take part In the discussion today concerning the Pueblo and her crew.

"Not only Members of Congress, but other Americans, have shown concern that the U.S.S. Pueblo and her crew axe not to be forgotten. Americans in all parts of our country have shown that they remember the Pueblo and her crew.

"The Pueblo, Colo. Chamber of Commerce is distributing bumper stickers which read "Remember the Pueblo."

"In San Diego, Calif., Marcee Rethwish, a 14-year-old girl, dipped into her savings account for $41 and sold "support our GI's'' buttons. She raised enough money to rent Balboa Park's Organ Pavilion where 800 people knelt in prayer for the crew members.

"In Uniontown, Pa., a flame honoring the Pueblo crew has been lit.
"On Independence Day, the flag was flown at half mast in the city of Orlando, Fla.

"I could go on and on with stories of patriotic citizens trying to keep the memory of the Pueblo alive. I have received hundreds of letters from all over this country urging me to keep reminding our Government that the Pueblo crew is still being held in Communist prisons....

"Today we remember the men of the Pueblo, we hail their valor, and we look forward to the day when they will be released. The great outpouring of concern is evidenced by the many members of Congress who have joined in this special order today.

"America has not forgotten the Pueblo, nor will it ever forget these men who have fulfilled their obligation to us. It is now our responsibility to fulfill our responsibility to them.

"We believe that President Johnson, as commander in chief, the Defense Department, and the State Department should include in their list of top priority considerations the prompt and safe return of the Pueblo and her crew.

 Congressman Scherle opens "Remember the Pueblo" session

 (Congressional Record, July 22, 1968)

 

Article in Congressmen Scherle's Newsletter

 

 PUEBLO CREW WELCOMED HOME

Last week Commander Lloyd Bucher, Commanding Officer of the USS Pueblo, called our office in Washington to invite my wife, Jane, and me to fly to San Diego, California , to be guests of the officers and crew. A private party had, been planned for the crew by the "Remember the Pueblo" Committee, and among, those present were actors John Wayne, Pat Boone, and Phil Crosby. The entire crew was present except for the men who were unable to attend because of sickness and injuries inflicted by the North Koreans.

The highlight of the evening was the of the ship's plaques to each of the crew. I was deeply honored to be included as recipient of one of the plaques bearing the emblem of the captured ship. Inscribed on the plaque, which now hangs in my Washington office, is a citation which reads, "From the officers and crew of the USS Pueblo with deepest appreciation".

We had an opportunity to visit with many of the crew members, both at the reception and in Commander Bucher's home, where we spent Sunday afternoon watching the Super Bowl game. I was impressed by the deep devotion which Commander Bucher showed to his men and their devotion to him.

Many of the crew members mentioned Electronics Mate Clifford Nolte of Washington, Iowa, and his strong support of his native State while imprisoned. Jane and I had an opportunity to visit with Clifford about Iowa and how glad he was to be back in this country.
It was obvious from visiting with the crew members that they all endured physical and psychological hardships. One crew member spoke of being confined in a small cell which had a light burning constantly, 24 hours a day. Another told of being forced to watch a shipmate being brutally beaten. The physical appearance of many of the crew members had been drastically altered. This was most apparent by the way their old civilian clothes hung on their bodies. Malnutrition was apparent, scars were visible, and some had broken jaws and other physical handicaps. Much remains to be told.
As I flew back to
Washington, I thought about the sufferings that these men had endured and how so many in our country take their own citizenship lightly. Our freedom, in the long run, is purchased at a high price of suffering and sacrifice.

The crew of the Apollo C was hailed throughout the world for their brave flight around the moon which lasted only 7 days. Their emotional appreciation of the planet Earth and home in America made everyone thankful of the place in which we live. Yet few people comprehend the courage and fortitude of those 82 Americans who spent almost a year behind the Bamboo Curtain of North Korea, subjected to the most cruel forms of harassment and torture. For this I salute the crew of the USS Pueblo.

It is essential that Americans learn an important lesson from the capture of the Pueblo. The enemy we face is a brutal one; and in our dealings with him, we must be certain that our defenses are prepared and that ships such as the Pueblo will not again be permitted to enter hostile waters without adequate air and sea cover.

 

(Taken from "CONGRESSMAN BILL SCHERLE REPORTS FROM WASHINGTON TO THE 7TH DISTRICT OF IOWA", Wednesday January 22, 1969)

 

Bill Scherle has attended Pueblo reunions, including the 30th Pueblo Reunion in San Diego, CA in 1998.

As of October 1998, he was still speaking to school and civic organizations about the Pueblo Incident.

(B. J. Balm, The Daily Nonpareil, October 26, 1998)

 

Bill Scherle passed away August 27, 2003

 

Prepared by Harry Iredale

Copyright 1999 2010 USS PUEBLO Veteran's Association. All rights reserved.