the PUEBLO Incident
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Time magazine cover Feb. 2, 1968
Provided by John Grant
After the North Korean attack, anger and dismay flashed through the American government and military. They confronted the fact that one of their ships was gone and they had no information on what happened or where the ship and crew were. It would take five days, until Sunday January 28, before they knew for sure, where the ship was located. But, they still had no information on the crew.
Planning for a rescue mission to free PUEBLO was begun immediately. It reached a critical state when a conference of all commands involved to authorize the go or no-go for mission began. It was stopped in it's tracks. CIA could not guarantee where the crew were being held in North Korea. Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford, testifying before Congress later that spring about the decision, stated "the rescue mission would probably have resulted in the destruction of the crew!"
In Seoul, Tokyo, Honolulu and Washington the seizure of the USS PUEBLO initiated a crisis atmosphere at the offices of US Government. Armed with chronologies for both the Blue House raid and the Pueblo incident Secretary of State Dean Rusk spent the morning of January 24 on Capitol Hill briefing members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. At the Pentagon, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff held the first of literally dozens of meetings to consider a wide range of possible responses. Officers, there, at the National Security Agency and at Naval Security Group headquarters were trying to find out what classified documents and equipment Pueblo had carried. National Security Advisor Walt Rostow spent the night of January 23 in the White House Situation Room. The President would call down to ask "What’s new on Pueblo?" or later he would just utter one word "Pueblo"! The Soviet Union was contacted by Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson and asked to intercede with the North Koreans, they refused. Ambassador Arthur Goldberg requested an urgent session of the UN Security Council. Requests were sent to over 100 countries by the State Department asking them to intercede with North Korea. Various military schemes and responses were proposed but were ultimately dismissed under their own weight. The US Navy assembled a task force centered around the carrier USS ENTERPRISE in the Sea of Japan and President Lyndon Johnson called up fourteen Air National Guard, eight Air Force Reserve and six Navy Reserve units, a total of 14,787 men. In the days and weeks to come the task force would include three cruisers, 5 carriers in addition to Enterprise, eighteen destroyers, Pueblo’s sister ship USS BANNER AGER-1 and it would be accompanied by GIDROLOG, a Soviet AGI trawler. In the DMZ, at Panmunjom, at the green-felt table, things were quiet.
In early February 1968 at a banquet for visiting Rumanians in Pyongyang’s Ongynu Hall, Kim Kwang-hyop, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Korean Workers’ Party, delivered what at first seemed to be just another scathing attack against the United States. "That the US imperialists have illegally brought the Pueblo case to the United Nations, though there is precedent for the treatment of such cases at Korean Military Armistice Commission, is a premeditated intrigue for covering up the criminal act and misleading world public opinion." This was an obvious reference to a 1964 incident involving two US Army helicopter pilots who had crossed the DMZ inadvertently and been imprisoned for nearly a year. The United States had been forced to sign a paper admitting that they had violated North Korean territory. At 8AM on the morning of February 2 Admiral Smith faced General Pak, in a private meeting, across a round table in the small building at Panmunjom normally used by the members of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission. General Pak insisted the United States had committed a criminal act and repeated his earlier demands - the so called "Three A’s" formula.
By March 4 the United States and North Korea had met ten times at Panmunjom. General Pak had finally provided the names of the dead and wounded from Pueblo. Nothing else had been settled. He also provided proof of Pueblo’s intrusions. It consisted primarily of Pueblo’s navigational records and working logs. One fix placed the ship 32 miles inland; another credited Pueblo with a speed of over 2500 knots.
The North Koreans insisted, "the US must admit, apologize, assure" - accept the "Three A’s."
Trevor Armbrister: Matter of Accountability
Washington Post Jan 27, 1968 "Uncertainty Held Back U.S. Planes"
Time magazine February 14, 1969 "PUEBLO & LBJ" the Rescue Attempt
US State Department
Exactly one month after the attack the US State Dept. released it's first public statement.
THE PUEBLO SEIZURE AND NORTH KOREAN INTRUSIONS
Sec. of State Dean Rusk, on PUEBLO & North Korea oral history, LBJ Library
Congressional Salute to the crew of the USS PUEBLO
Congressional quotes about USS PUEBLO
Congressman William (Bill) J. Scherle (R) Iowa
Chronology of the North Korean capture and detention of the U. S. intelligence ship Pueblo and her crew: (Philadelphia Enquirer, December 23, 1968)
Jan. 23--Four North Korean patrol boats capture the Pueblo in the Sea of Japan off North Korea's eastern coast. U. S. officials describe incident as "a matter of the utmost gravity" and insist ship was 25 miles off coast.
Jan. 24--Secretary of State Rusk describes seizure as "in the category of . . . an act of war" and warns the North Koreans to cool it." North Korean radio broadcasts an alleged confession by Pueblo Capt. Bucher that he deliberately violated North Korean waters.
Jan. 25--President Johnson orders 14,787 Air Force and Navy. reservists to active duty and announces American military forces in and around South Korea will be strengthened.
Jan. 26-UN Security Council meets on Pueblo crisis but finds no solution.
Feb. 6--The United States withdraws the carrier Enterprise from the position it had taken near the North Korean port of Wonson.
Feb. 12--North Korean radio reports Bucher makes second "confession" of
violating North Korean waters.
March 4--President Johnson receives an open letter purported to be from Pueblo crewmen asking United States to frankly admit the vessel had violated North Korean territory.
March 22--April 2-North Korea circulates series of letters allegedly written by captive men and warns United States failure to apologize could cost lives of crew.
June19--State Department discloses talks on crew release make no progress.
Sept. 13--Japanese newspapers report news conference at Pyongyang at which crewmen allegedly said they had been ordered to intrude in the three-mile limit.
Dec. 19--Congressional sources in Washington say agreement reached for crew release.
Dec. 22-State Department announces crew to be released Sunday night.
By January 28, 1968The United States government knew where USS PUEBLO was in Wonsan.
A CIA operation Black Shield A-12 Oxcart aircraft made three daylight Mach 3 high speed passes over North Korea on January 26.
source: Richard A. Mobley's Flash Point North Korea
( The January 28 date is based on the transfer back to the Kodak Company in the US for development of the film. Editor )
Photo supposedly from the A-12 control panel. The position and Ground Speed indication are both suspect as to where the aircraft was when photo was taken.
This is one frame from the A-12 film roll. It shows PUEBLO in Wonsan harbor. Taken 26 Jan. 1968. Note: the ship was moved away from the pier and port facilities and placed in mid-harbor.
President Lyndon Johnson during the PUEBLO crisis
(White House Photo)
CIA pilot Jack W. Weeks, Dutch 29,
finds USS PUEBLO 26JAN1968
Photo from the Oxcart flight is in the correct north/south orientation versus other photos.
(Click on photo to see full size.)
FLASH TO ALL COMMANDS: FIND PUEBLO