On Jan. 23, 1968, the USS Pueblo, a Navy intelligence-gathering ship, was captured by North Korea.One person from each side of the battle died, and the 83 crew members were tortured and starved for 11 months, until the ship’s commander, Capt. Lloyd Bucher, “confessed,” although his confession contained a pun.
The ship remained in North Korea, which eventually docked it near Pyongyang, and turned it into a tourist attraction. Visitors can take a tour of the ship, and then watch a 20-minute video officials filmed of the North Korean view of the capture.
But now the Pueblo is missing, NKNews.org. reports. A tour company, Koryo Tours, discovered the disappearance after employees returned from a trip. There is evidence the ship was in place on the Taedong River recently.
It could be under renovation at the Fatherland Liberation Museum, said NKNews, but they don’t know. It would seem that if such a symbolic vessel was going to be moved, the government would send a press release to people who would notice if it went missing.
Efforts to repatriate the ship to the United States have failed. In 2000, negotiators offered it during diplomatic talks with then-Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who was visiting. Later, in 2005 and 2007, Sen. Wayne Allard, who represented the ship’s namesake county in Colorado, made attempts to bring the Pueblo home. There is still no resolution.
But there have been some interesting developments. Earlier in November, Rick Rogala, who was a seaman’s apprentice on the Pueblo’s crew, spoke to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune about his letter-writing campaign to repatriate the ship.
Rogala, who is now the treasurer of the Sarasota County Veterans Commission, told the Herald-Tribune he’d like to put the incident behind him, “but knowing they’re charging admission to go aboard an American ship in a place like North Korea–it’s like an open wound that can’t heal.”
Yesterday, the Yonhap News Agency revealed that a White House delegation visited Pyongyang in August, possibly to ask them to not mess with the South Korean presidential elections.
If the conversation is confirmed, it could be a baby step toward bringing the third-oldest commissioned ship back to American waters.
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