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.)