A Matter of Accountability

Title:                      A Matter of Accountability

Author:                 Trevor Armbrister

Armbrister, Trevor (1970, 2004). A Matter of Accountability: The True Story of The Pueblo Affair. Guilford, CT: Lyon’s Press

LCCN:    2004063339

VB231.U54 A76 2004


Date Updated:                     June 9, 2016

The updated (2004) edition is reviewed by Kirkus.

The ill-fated Pueblo sails again, “an unfit ship with an inexperienced crew on an unsuccessful, perhaps unnecessary mission,” into unexpected hot water and humiliating capture off the coast of North Korea. Though Commander Bucher himself has told the true story as perceived aboard Pueblo (p. 628), journalist Armbrister has collared enough Navy, Defense, and State Department officials to be able to fill in with inglorious detail and many direct quotes what was going on (and not going on) back at headquarters, command stations, and the Pentagon. Less complete than Bucher’s record on the crew’s experience under North Korean attack and in North Korean prisons, this still offers a surfeit of unextraordinary information on the Pueblo men and their backgrounds and much dull, documentary detail on the Pueblo’s pre-crisis days. Bucher, though obviously smarting and critical of Navy negligence, didn’t try to fix the blame in his book. Armbrister, under less constraint, agrees with Representative Otis Pike that “there’s blame enough for everybody here.” The preface is quite outspoken in faulting the “system”—“By focusing on that system as it functioned—and malfunctioned—before, during, and after the seizure of USS Pueblo, I hope to enable readers to understand more fully the illness which afflicts the military today” —but the body of the book doesn’t quite live up to this truculent overture. The narrative points out some mistakes and misjudgments as they occur, yet it’s not till the epilogue that Armbrister returns, briefly and inconclusively, to the larger questions: the rigidity of the military establishment, the cumbersomeness of the military-civilian command structure, the limitations of American power. The compleat reporter, Armbrister reconstructs the events and raises the right issues, but there’s no ardent advocacy or reforming zeal.

The following is a review of the 1970 edition by George C. Constantinides[1]

Armbrister, an American journalist, has produced a first-rate piece of work considering the relatively short time between the event he describes and the book’s appearance.

The work has the distinction of identifying and spelling out the errors and omissions in the planning for this intelligence mission that ultimately led to considerable loss of U.S. intelligence data and equipment. Until an account of this affair is written that includes more precise information on the “damage assessment” in regard to intelligence-related material, this is probably the best book by a nonparticipant on the intelligence aspects and lessons learned. But, Armbrister should have attempted to discover how the lessons learned from the attack on the Liberty in 1967 affected the planning for this mission.

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[2]

Armbrister asks why a combat-oriented naval bureaucracy sends an unfit intelligence ship, commanded by an ill-informed officer, on a confused mission into dangerous waters near the Korean coast, and sets off a dramatic international incident that rocks the world and leads the U.S. to the brink of war? With this provocative question as a start, the author provides an informative and interesting book, well-researched, readable, and objective. The Pueblo case offers invaluable lessons for the student, manager, and practitioner of intelligence.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[3]

Journalist Armbrister interviewed and traveled widely ta accumulate data on the PUEBLO affair, and was assisted by Commander Bucher himself. The book does not emphasize the intelligence aspects of the Pueblo but provides insight into the approval and risk assessment procedures incidental to intelligence missions.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 63-64

[2] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature (7th ed Rev.). Washington, DD: Defense Intelligence School, p. 3.

[3] 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 A Matter of Accountability

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

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