What A Way to Cut Grass!
Shortly after a criticism on the modern, industrial character of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, each man was given a pocket knife to cut grass in the field of the compound. The absurd contrast between the boastful words and reality was underscored by this exercise in humility.
For the Pueblo men on their hands and knees, one small manner of imparting pleasure to this undertaking was to cut a long leaf of grass as if it were “the Bear” or “Super C” or any other of their less adored hosts.
An Unforeseen Response
One afternoon after a session of cutting grass on their hands and knees, the crew was confronted with a crude propaganda billboard at the end of the running track depicting a North Korean soldier pointing his bayonet at an emaciated, almost skeletal Uncle Sam. The crew, chuckling at first, then burst for with laughter accompanied by clapping and cheering.
The crudeness of the billboard acted as a catalyst for the release of tension. It remained throughout the period of captivity.
On the Beach at Waikiki
One of the North Korean officers, a first Lieutenant about 27 years old, occasionally questioned a crewman about the United States. These inquiries would occur outdoors, during an exercise or basketball session. Not wanting to be seen by other North Koreans, he would squat down behind the small podium next to the basketball court and beckon to one of the men. His two major areas of interest were supermarkets and the Bikini clad girls on the beach at Waikiki. He was delighted to hear that the only problem confronting a young man in Hawaii was one of selection rather than seduction.
What if it explodes
The great home-brew experiment was undertaken by Reed. Using a jar supplied by the mess cooks, peaches smuggled in from the small orchard on the compound, and sugar taken from the mess hall, the concoction of potential peach brandy was born. The jar was hidden beneath the bottom drawer of the wardrobe which was built into the wall in the room. Because of the lack of sugar, the fermentation process was weak. The evil looking appearance of the concoction did little to tantalize the palates of the other roommates and the mold laden liquid was disposed of by the brew master.
The Fly That Wasn’t There
Mitchell, who was assigned to clean CDR Bucher’s room, was the primary means by which CDR Bucher could “put out the word” to the crew. One day, as CDR Bucher was talking to Mitchell, the guard came into the room and demanded that he shut-up. CDR Bucher then began waving his hands and arms attempting to catch a make believe fly. As he approached the guard with his waving arms, the guard retreated. When the guard retreated backwards across the threshold, CDR Bucher slammed the door in his face and resumed talking to Mitchell.
Is Jack Warner Ready?
During the practice “run” for CDR Bucher’s radio appeal for leniency to the People of North Korea, problems plagued those in charge of the sound recording equipment located outside the door. The electrical power was cutting in and out.
“Scarface,” a full six star colonel (like “Super C”) was in charge of the affair. Although he always communicated with the Pueblo crew through an interpreter, he evidently had a competent command of the English language.
Scarface motioned to CDR Bucher to start. Bucher, nodding toward the door, queried, “is Jack Warner ready?” Scarface needed no interpreter to enjoy the wisecrack. He burst forth with a belly laugh.
The recording session was held in the conference room on the third deck. All 82 crew members were present. It was here that CDR Bucher admitted that the USS Pueblo entered into North Korean waters.
A simple Case of Lockjaw
In preparation for the second international press conference, a practice session was held several days in advance. When the time came for CDR Bucher to read his “confession,” he looked at “Super C” who was seated at the table in front of him, and uttered with great difficulty that he had a seizure of lockjaw and could not speak. Although Bucher put on a great act with unintelligible grunts and moans, it is probable that Super C was more amused than deceived.
By CAPT Ron Samuelson, USN, (ret.)