Bucher: My Story

Title:                  Bucher: My Story

Author:                 Lloyd M Bucher

Bucher, Lloyd M. (1970) and Mark Rascovich. Bucher: My Story. Garden City, NY: Doubleday

LCCN:    77119919

VB230 .B8

Subjects

Date Updated:                     June 9, 2016

While monitoring North Korea, the ship, U. S. S. Pueblo, came under attack by North Korean naval forces, primarily motor torpedo boats, even though U.S. Naval officials and the crew have claimed the ship was in international waters at the time. North Koreans boarded the ship and took her to the port at Wonsan. For the next 11 months, Commander Lloyd M. Bucher, the ship’s captain, and his crew, were held as POWs by the North Koreans. Initially, they were treated relatively well, with good food and living accommodations. However, their treatment turned harsher when the North Koreans realized that crewmen were secretly giving them the finger, which they explained as being a “Hawaiian good luck sign”, in staged propaganda photos they had been taking of the crew. From that time on, the crew took beatings by the North Korea guards on a regular basis. In 1970, Bucher published an autobiographical account of the USS Pueblo incident entitled Bucher: My Story. In Britain it was published as Bucher and Pueblo.

Commander Lloyd M. Bucher, was given psychological tortures such as being put through a mock firing squad in an effort to make him confess. Eventually the Koreans threatened to execute his men in front of him, and Bucher relented and agreed to “confess to his and the crew’s transgression.” Bucher wrote the confession since a “confession” by definition needed to be written by the confessor himself. They verified the meaning of what he wrote, but failed to catch the pun when he said “We paean the North Korean state. We paean their great leader Kim Il Sung.”

Following an apology, a written admission by the U.S. that Pueblo had been spying, and an assurance that the U.S. would not spy in the future, the North Korean government decided to release the 82 remaining crew members. On 23 December 1968 the crew was taken by buses to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) border with South Korea and ordered to walk south across the “Bridge of No Return”. Exactly 11 months after being taken prisoner, the Captain led the long line of crewmen, followed at the end by the Executive Officer, Lieutenant Ed Murphy, the last man across the bridge. The U.S. then verbally retracted the ransom admission, apology, and assurance. Meanwhile the North Koreans blanked out the paragraph above the signature which read: “and this hereby receipts for 82 crewmen and one dead body” (Fireman Duane Hodges was killed by North Korean gunfire during the taking of the Pueblo).

No American military operations have been attempted to retrieve the USS Pueblo. The ship is still officially carried as in commission in the United States Navy’s Naval Vessel Register, although it remains in North Korea as a “tourist attraction”.

Following the release, Commander Bucher was subjected to a court of inquiry by the Navy. A court martial was recommended. However the Secretary of the Navy, John H. Chafee, intervened on Bucher’s behalf and no action was taken against Commander Bucher. Bucher supporters believe that Bucher was treated badly by the government, and no doubt his behavior is puzzling. Bucher claimed he followed his orders not to start any international incidents, and he felt that while a ship could be replaced, lives could not. Bucher succeeded in his task, as war did not result from the unprovoked attack on Pueblo. The U.S. government finally recognized the crew’s sacrifice and granted Prisoner of War medals to the crew in 1989. Commander Bucher was never found guilty of any indiscretions and continued his Navy career until retirement in the rank of Commander.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[1]

The captain of the U.S .S. Pueblo provides his own account of the mission of his ship, its capture and his imprisonment.

[1] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 123

 

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One Response to Bucher: My Story

  1. Pingback: Communications and Electronic Intelligence, Chapter 11 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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