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Original U.S. Vietnam War USS Pueblo (AGER-2) Commander Lloyd M. Bucher Collection and Research Archive

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Original Item: Only One Available. USS Pueblo (AGER-2) is a Banner-class environmental research ship, attached to Navy intelligence as a spy ship, which was attacked and captured by North Korean forces on 23 January 1968, in what was later known as the "Pueblo incident" or alternatively, as the "Pueblo crisis".

The seizure of the U.S. Navy ship and her 83 crew members, one of whom was killed in the attack, came less than a week after President Lyndon B. Johnson's State of the Union address to the United States Congress, a week before the start of the Tet Offensive in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War and three days after 31 men of North Korea's KPA Unit 124 had crossed the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and killed 26 South Koreans in an attempt to attack the South Korean Blue House (executive mansion) in the capital Seoul. The taking of Pueblo and the abuse and torture of her crew during the subsequent 11-month prisoner drama became a major Cold War incident, raising tensions between western and eastern powers.

North Korea stated that Pueblo deliberately entered their territorial waters 7.6 nautical miles (14 km) away from Ryo Island, and that the logbook shows that they intruded several times. However, the United States maintains that the vessel was in international waters at the time of the incident and that any purported evidence supplied by North Korea to support its statements was fabricated. Pueblo, still held by North Korea today, officially remains a commissioned vessel of the United States Navy. Since early 2013, the ship has been moored along the Pothong River in Pyongyang and used there as a museum ship at the Victorious War Museum. Pueblo is the only ship of the U.S. Navy still on the commissioned roster currently being held captive.

This collection includes a signed letter from Commander Lloyd M. "Pete" Bucher which states that the Khaki shirt and USS Pueblo (AGER-2) patch (also included) belonged to him. There is a vast amount of original paperwork and research all included as well as an iron plaque in dedication to Duane D. Hodges who was killed on On January 23, 1968, aboard the USS PUEBLO. Please see photos for exactly what is included.

The Pueblo incident
On 5 January 1968, Pueblo left the U.S. Navy base at Yokosuka, Japan, in transit to the U.S. naval base at Sasebo, Japan; from there she left on 11 January 1968, headed northward through the Tsushima Strait into the Sea of Japan. She left with specific orders to intercept and conduct surveillance of Soviet Navy activity in the Tsushima Strait and to gather signal and electronic intelligence from North Korea. The declassified SIGAD for the National Security Agency (NSA) Direct Support Unit (DSU) from the Naval Security Group (NSG) on Pueblo during the patrol involved in the incident was USN-467Y. AGER (Auxiliary General Environmental Research) denoted a joint Naval and National Security Agency (NSA) program.[

On 16 January 1968, Pueblo arrived at the 42°N parallel in preparation for the patrol, which was to transit down the North Korean coast from 41°N to 39°N, and then back, without getting closer than 13 nautical miles (24 km) from the North Korean coast, at night moving out to a distance of 18 to 20 nautical miles (33 to 37 km). This was challenging as only two sailors had good navigational experience, with the captain later reporting, "I did not have a highly professional group of seamen to do my navigational chores for me."

At 17:30 on 20 January 1968, a North Korean modified SO-1 class Soviet style submarine chaser passed within 4,000 yards (3.7 km) of Pueblo, which was about 15.4 nautical miles (28.5 km) southeast of Mayang-do at a position 39°47'N and 128°28.5'E.

In the afternoon of 22 January 1968, the two North Korean fishing trawlers Rice Paddy 1 and Rice Paddy 2 passed within 30 yards (27 m) of Pueblo. That day, a North Korean unit made an assassination attempt at the Blue House executive mansion against South Korean president Park Chung-hee, but the crew of Pueblo was not informed.

According to the American account, the following day, 23 January, Pueblo was approached by a submarine chaser and her nationality was challenged; Pueblo responded by raising the U.S. flag. The North Korean vessel then ordered Pueblo to stand down or be fired upon. Pueblo attempted to maneuver away, but was considerably slower than the submarine chaser. Several warning shots were fired. Additionally, three torpedo boats appeared on the horizon and then joined in the chase and subsequent attack.

The attackers were soon joined by two MiG-21 fighters. A fourth torpedo boat and a second submarine chaser appeared on the horizon a short time later. The ammunition on Pueblo was stored below decks, and her machine guns were wrapped in cold-weather tarpaulins. The machine guns were unmanned, and no attempt was made to man them. An NSA report quotes the sailing order:

    ( ... ) Defensive armament (machine guns) should be stowed or covered in such manner so that it does not cause unusual interest by surveyed units. It should be used only in the event of a threat to survival ( ... )

and notes:

    In practice, it was discovered that, because of the temperamental adjustments of the firing mechanisms, the .50-caliber machine guns took at least ten minutes to activate. Only one crew member, with former army experience, had ever had any experience with such weapons, although members of the crew had received rudimentary instructions on the weapons immediately prior to the ship's deployment.

U.S. Navy authorities and the crew of Pueblo insist that before the capture, Pueblo was miles outside North Korean territorial waters. North Korea claims that the vessel was well within North Korean territory. The Pueblo's mission statement allowed her to approach within a nautical mile (1,852 m) of that limit. However, North Korea describes a 50-nautical-mile (93 km) sea boundary even though international standards were 12 nautical miles (22 km) at the time.

The North Korean vessels attempted to board Pueblo, but she was maneuvered to prevent this for over two hours. A submarine chaser then opened fire with a 57 mm cannon, killing one member of the crew. The smaller vessels fired machine guns into Pueblo, which then signaled compliance, and its crew began destroying sensitive material. The volume of material on board was so great that it was impossible to destroy it all. An NSA report quotes Lieutenant Steve Harris, the officer in charge of Pueblo's Naval Security Group Command detachment:

    ( ... ) we had retained on board the obsolete publications and had all good intentions of getting rid of these things but had not done so at the time we had started the mission. I wanted to get the place organized eventually and we had excessive numbers of copies on board ( ... )

and concludes:

     Only a small percentage of the total classified material aboard the ship was destroyed.

Radio contact between Pueblo and the Naval Security Group in Kamiseya, Japan had been ongoing during the incident. As a result, Seventh Fleet command was fully aware of Pueblo's situation. Air cover was promised but never arrived. The Fifth Air Force had no aircraft on strip alert, and estimated a two-to-three-hour delay in launching aircraft. USS Enterprise was located 510 nautical miles (940 km) south of Pueblo, yet her four F-4B aircraft on alert were not equipped for an air-to-surface engagement. Enterprise's captain estimated that 1.5 hours (90 minutes) were required to get the converted aircraft into the air.

Pueblo followed the North Korean vessels as ordered, but then stopped immediately outside North Korean waters. She was again fired upon, and a sailor, fireman Duane Hodges, was killed. The ship was finally boarded at 05:55 UTC (2:55 pm local) by men from a torpedo boat and a submarine chaser. Crew members had their hands tied and were blindfolded, beaten, and prodded with bayonets. Once Pueblo was in North Korean territorial waters, she was boarded again, this time by high-ranking North Korean officials.

The first official confirmation that the ship was in North Korean hands came five days later, 28 January 1968. Two days earlier, a flight by a CIA A-12 Oxcart aircraft from the Project Black Shield squadron at Kadena, Okinawa, flown by pilot Jack Weeks, made three high-altitude, high-speed flights over North Korea. When the aircraft's films were processed in the United States, they showed Pueblo to be in the Wonsan harbor area surrounded by two North Korean vessels.

There was dissent among government officials in the United States regarding the nation's response to the situation. Congressman Mendel Rivers suggested that President Johnson issue an ultimatum for the return of Pueblo under penalty of nuclear attack, while Senator Gale McGee said that the United States should wait for more information and not make "spasmodic response[s] to aggravating incidents."[16] According to Horace Busby, Special Assistant to President Johnson, the president's "reaction to the hostage taking was to work very hard here to keep down any demands for retaliation or any other attacks upon North Koreans", worried that rhetoric might result in the hostages being killed.

On Wednesday, 24 January 1968, the day following the incident, after extensive cabinet meetings Washington decided that its initial response should be to:

- Deploy air and naval forces to the immediate area.
- Make reconnaissance flights over the location of the Pueblo.
- Call up military reserves and extend terms of military service.
- Protest the incident within the framework of the United Nations.
- Have President Johnson personally cable Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin.

The Johnson Administration also considered a blockade of North Korean ports, air strikes on military targets and an attack across the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas.

Although American officials at the time assumed that the seizure of Pueblo had been directed by the Soviet Union, declassified Soviet archives later showed that the Soviet leadership was caught by surprise, and became fearful of the possibility of war on the Korean peninsula. Eastern Bloc ambassadors actively cautioned North Korea to exercise caution in the aftermath of the incident. Several documents suggest that the aggressive action may have been an attempt by North Korea to signal a tilt towards the Chinese Communist Party in the aftermath of the Sino-Soviet split in 1966.
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