Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pueblo Wives Remember


Pueblo Wives Remember
By Steve Liewer

40 years ago, capture dragged crew's families through nearly a year of unbearable agony.

American Forces Network radio chattered in the background as Pat Kell fed and dressed her four children in Japan the morning of Jan. 23, 1968.

A month earlier, her husband – Chief Petty Officer James Kell – volunteered for a secret mission aboard a World War II cargo ship newly refitted with communications gear. The vessel deployed from Yokosuka, Japan, after a voyage from San Diego. Through the broadcast buzz, Pat Kell thought she heard the name of her husband's ship: Pueblo.

That can't be right, she thought. None of the crew members' families had known where the ship was going. In fact, few in the Navy had heard of the operation.

Pat Kell and the other crewmen's spouses would learn the sketchy details first from the media, not the Navy: The Pueblo was a spy ship. North Korean navy boats seized it in international waters near that nation's coast. One sailor was killed during the incident and 82 shipmates were taken prisoner by the communist regime.

“I was only 27, I was in a strange country and I was so scared,” said Pat Kell, who lives in Chula Vista. She recalled the crisis during a recent interview in San Diego with several Pueblo survivors and their wives.

Forty years ago today, the Pueblo crew began an ordeal of interrogations, beatings, starvation and humiliation that would stretch for 11 months. The U.S. government finally secured the crew's release with a sham apology to North Korea.

The shipmates flew to San Diego on Dec. 24, 1968, to a public that greeted them as heroes and a Navy that treated them as outcasts for surrendering their vessel without a fight.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember this incident very well, I was in junior high and I remember how it conicided with the Vietnam War, the Tet Offensive would come, I believe a few days after this happened and overshadowed the Pueblo story. The American crew were indeed treated horribly, they were tortured and made to make ''confessions'' before news cameras. The way the world learned of this is when being filmed by the North Koreans, at great risk to himself, he used his eyes lids to blink in Morse Code the word ''torture'', CIA anaylists wacthing the film picked it up. God bless these men and their wives. Good on you Donal for putting this up today. J'Mac.

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, typo, meant to say "Captain Bucher used his eye lids..'' J'Mac.

3:12 PM  
Blogger VerityINK said...

My J'Mac, you DO know your history! I'd forgotten that he'd blinked in Morse Code! Good for you for remembering!

3:14 PM  
Blogger The Merry Widow said...

I remember...
And it was a disgraceful episode for the north koreans and especially the navy. How the heck Capt. Bucher was supposed to fight is beyond me...what did they want him to do? Scuttle the ship with all aboard?
I'm back folks.


4:11 PM  
Blogger VerityINK said...

Well, how nice! You've been terribly missed!

6:28 PM  
Blogger CHOMP said...

Hi All...Welcome back, Merry Widow. Blogging just isn't the same without you!

I was working at Miramar NAS when the crew of the Pueblo came back. I don't remember that much. There was a lot of people, probably mostly family.

Just thought I would share that. I read that Cmdr Bucher lived in San Diego, and passed away in 2004 in Poway ( about 20 miles north of San Diego.)

6:59 PM  

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