Featured picture is the Court of Inquiry opening, January 20, 1969.
At the time of its seizure, the USS Pueblo was the first Navy ship to be boarded and captured by a foreign power in a century and a half.
After the crew returned to the U.S., a Court of Inquiry of five Admirals was convened in Coronado, CA., on January 20, 1969. Members of the USS Pueblo were questioned with no lawyers present for almost two months, much of it in secret.
The Court recommended CDR Bucher be court-martialed for failing to defend his ship. LT Steven Harris, the Officer in Charge of the 29 members of the Security Group Detachment aboard the Pueblo, was to be charged with dereliction of duty for not preparing his men adequately in emergency destruction procedures of classified materials and equipment and allowing it to fall into enemy hands. The Court also recommended that charges be brought against RADM Frank Johnson, the Commander of U.S. Naval Forces, Japan, and CAPT Everett Gladding, Director of the U.S. Navy Security Group, Pacific, for failing to adequately support and protect the Pueblo. Additionally, ten Navy crew members and Marine Sergeant Robert Chicca assigned to the Security Group Detachment for this voyage, were singled out for praise for their acts resistance while in captivity.
The Secretary of the Navy Frank Chafee, considered the recommendations of the Court of Inquiry but decided to drop the charges and dismiss all of them. “They have suffered enough…” The AGERs, the USS Banner and the USS Palm Beach, were decommissioned.
The USS Pueblo was never stricken from the Navy’s roster of active ships and remains assigned to the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet. It remained in Wonson Harbor until about 1999 when the rusting hull was towed around to Korean Peninsula to Pyongyang, where it remains as a tourist attraction today.
By CAPT Ron Samuelson, USN, (ret.)
30 January 2018 at 13:48
Mario, The pix of the Vice-Adm, and his cohort trying to ramrod the Captain & Crew in a courts martial in very poor taste. LBJ and the USN sent them out in a un-armed and un-unprepared for an attack. Our military were not available when the balloon went-up. That VADM had no business putting his hand in his pocket. Shame on the USN leadership in not being prepare.
I really appreciate your reports/articles.
31 January 2018 at 00:03
Thank you for the feedback and for stopping by the blog.
7 February 2018 at 19:55
Really interesting series to read. I read today that more of the crew are suing NK. https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/05/asia/north-korea-uss-pueblo-lawsuit-intl/index.html
23 January 2020 at 23:46
Really enjoyed all seven blogs on Pueblo. Fascinating piece of personal history.
29 January 2020 at 13:33
Re. Lack of preparedness to respond to USS Pueblo capture. I was a USAF staff officer assigned to 314 AD/Air Forces Korea a few months after the capture. I had the job of reviewing all the raw documents relating to USS Pueblo capture at HQ 314 Air Division/Airforces Korea about 10 months after the capture to verify the accuracy of the initial USAF after action reports and the findings of the USAF CHECO report on the capture. Those initial reports were quite complete but a few facts about the lack of available USAF air support fin Korea were not fully explained. There were only about 4 operational combat aircraft in Korea at the time of the capture. These aircraft were configured for air to ground attack with “special weapons”. The was no way they could be rapidly reconfigured to support the USS Pueblo as there were no suitable weapons to provide air support that could be loaded on the aircraft pre-positioned in Korea. This was due a lack of a requirement for potential air support being generated by higher HQ. This failure to plan for and have air assets in position prior to the Pueblo’s mission was, in my opinion, a failure at higher level by both the USAF and the Navy. Such air support would have have come from USAF assets stationed in Japan and pre-positioned in Korea. This was because there were no USAF combat aircraft permanently assigned to Korea at the time. Any combat aircraft in Korea were TDY from Japan. Thus there was no planing for or pre-positioning of aircraft and armament to Korea prior to the Pueblo mission. In fact, according to the mornings daily operational briefing minutes, the big topic at the HQ Air Force Korea operations briefing that morning was about the possibility of building a base golf course. There was no discussion of a possible requirement to support any offshore assets such as the USS Pueblo. Thus 314 AD/Airforces Korea was caught completely unprepared when the capture occurred. Unfortunately this lesson was not well learned, in my opinion, as a year later when the EC-121 was shot down as there was still no HHQ generated requirement for combat aircraft escort of the EC 121. This escort could have been provided at that time by combat aircraft stationed in Korea at the time. In fact USAF had combat aircraft operating from bases in Korea over the area of the shoot down about 30 minutes after the event. This I can absolutely confirm as at the time of the EC 121 shoot down I was the officer who kept the continuous status for all USAF combat aircraft in Korea and in fact published the daily orders that put these aircraft on alert and specified what armament they carried. I was also the officer who during the first days after the shoot down sat next to the USAF commander in Korea and wrote the action messages and reports and these facts are from my personal memory of the events.