The Capture of the USS Pueblo in 1968 

The USS Pueblo, a converted coastal freighter serving as an NSA-Naval Security Group SIGINT platform, was attacked and captured by the North Koreans on 23 January 1968. The officers, crew, and NSG civilians were held in North Korea for 11 months.

Armbrister, Trevor.

1. A Matter of Accountability: The True Story of the Pueblo Affair. New York: Coward-McCann, 1970.

Pforzheimer found this book to be "informative and interesting..., well-researched, readable, and objective." However, he notes that Armbrister "cannot make a comprehensive assessment of the considerable loss of U.S. intelligence data and equipment." This weakness is also noted by Constantinides, who generally accepts A Matter of Accountability as "a first-rate piece of work considering the relatively short time between the event he describes and the book's appearance."

2. "The Pueblo Crisis and Public Opinion." Naval War College Review 24 (Mar. 1971): 84-110. [Petersen]

Armed Forces Journal. Editors.

1. "Pueblo Trip Necessary." 106 (3 May 1969): 6-7.

2. "Pueblo: What Went Wrong." 106 (9 Aug. 1969): 9-10.

3. "No More Pueblos?" 106 (16 Aug. 1969): 10 ff.

Brandt, Ed. The Last Voyage of the USS Pueblo. New York: Norton, 1969.

Bucher, Lloyd M.

1. with Mark Rascovich. Bucher: My Story. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1970. New York: Dell, 1970. [pb]

The commander of the Pueblo tells his story.

2. "The Pueblo Incident: Commander Bucher Replies." Naval History 3, no. 1 (Winter 1989): 44-50.

The Pueblo's commander is responding to critical remarks contained in an earlier article: Naval History, Editors, "Pueblo Incident." 2, no. 4 (Fall 1988), 53-59.

Buhite, Russell D. Lives at Risk: Hostages and Victims in American Foreign Policy. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1995.

Surveillant 4.4/5 notes that the author's case studies include the Pueblo crisis, the hostages in Iran, and the torture of CIA station chief William Buckley in Beirut in 1984.

Cheevers, Jack. Act of War: Lyndon Johnson, North Korea, and the Capture of the Spy Ship Pueblo. New York: NAL Caliber, 2014.

Crawford, Don. Pueblo Intrigue: A Journey of Faith. New York: Pyramid, 1969.

Gallery, Daniel V. [RADM/USN (Ret.)] The Pueblo Incident. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1970.

McWhirter, Life, 21 Aug. 1970, sees this as a "short, testy and exceedingly grumpy book"; but the author produces a "clear sequence of the incident."

Harris, Stephen R. [LTCDR/USN], with James C. Hefley. My Anchor Held. Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1970.

Holschuh, Howard [CAPT/USN (Ret.)]. "The Day the Pueblo Crew Returned Home." Naval Intelligence Professionals Quarterly 20, no. 1 (Feb. 2004): 26-27.

The author was senior NAVINTCOM representative for the debriefing of the Pueblo crew. Included here are some thoughts on what the interrogation team learned. He concludes that this incident "was the worst security disaster this nation has ever experienced."

Koh, B.C. "The Pueblo Incident in Perspective." Asian Survey 9 (Apr. 1969): 264-280. [Petersen]

Lentner, Howard H. "The Pueblo Affair: Anatomy of a Crusis." Military Review 49 (Jul. 1969): 55-66. [Petersen]

Lerner, Mitchell B. "A Failure of Perception: Lyndon Johnson, North Korean Ideology, and the Pueblo Incident." Diplomatic History 25, no. 4 (Fall 2001): 647-675.

A distilled version of the author's more broadly developed book, The Pueblo Incident (2002).

Lerner, Mitchell B. The Pueblo Incident: A Spy Ship and the Failure of American Foreign Policy. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2002.

Brennock, NWCR, Autumn 2002, notes that the author's "hard-hitting analysis ... does not exonerate the commanding officer of the Pueblo.... However, of all those who may have been culpable, Commander [Lloyd M.] Bucher emerges a hero and is no longer the scapegoat his superiors made him out to be. Exhaustive research ... leads Lerner to place blame evenly on the shoulders of the Navy chain of command, the intelligence community, and [President Lyndon] Johnson's foreign policy advisors, due to their misunderstanding and underestimation of the North Korean-Soviet Union relationship."

For Mobley, Proceedings 128.7 (Jul. 2002), the author "provides two major services.... First, his comprehensive account ... instructs on so many levels. Second, there is much new information." Similarly, Van Nederveen, Air & Space Power Journal, Summer 2003, believes that "Lerner ... breaks new ground in this book. His conclusions, although harsh, may be true -- certainly, the facts as recounted in the book support them.... The Pueblo Incident, which has become required reading in new Cold War courses at major academic institutions around the country, makes for spellbinding, provocative reading."

Luoma, I&NS 18.1, views this as "a remarkable work of scholarship" that "is imaginatively conceived" and "easy to read." The author's "failure to provide a scholarly discussion for the US Navy's case against Commander Bucher and the other members of his crew following their release from captivity and return is a curious omission." To Freedman, FA 82.2 (Mar.-Apr. 2003), "[t]his lively account, backed by extensive research, demonstrates the multiple flaws in the mission's planning that put the crew in such a parlous position." But the author "also credits Lyndon Johnson with the patient diplomacy that brought about the eventual resolution."

Lerner's case that "the basic failure of the whole operation was the U.S. government's inability to realize that all communist countries were not totally under Soviet control and that North Korea had the ability to act ... independently of Moscow" is accepted by Bath, NIPQ 18.4. Nevertheless, the reviewer finds that Lerner has engaged in some "unnecessary and unwarranted Navy-bashing" and is somewhat short in military knowledge.

Liston, Robert A. The Pueblo Surrender: A Covert Action by the National Security Agency. New York: M. Evans, 1988.

Clark comment: Conspiracy theory runs wild in this book. Kross, IJI&C 5.1, comments that the author's "provocative ... assumptions ... are not backed up by fact"; nevertheless, the book is "well written." [Clark comment: "Well-written" fiction is still fiction.]

Mobley, Richard A. [CDR/USN (Ret.)]

1. Flash Point North Korea. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2003.

Brooks, NIPQ 19.4, says that the author "has put together an excellent chronology and analysis of the Pueblo incident and the North Korean shoot-down of our EC-121."

2. "New Insights into the USS Pueblo Seizure and EC-121 Shootdown." Naval Intelligence Professionals Quarterly 19, no. 4 (Dec. 2003): 38-39.

The author offers a quick look at some of the questions raised by these two incidents.

3. "Lessons from the Capture of the USS Pueblo and the Shootdown of a US Navy EC-121 -- 1968 and 1969." Studies in Intelligence 59, no. 1 (Mar. 2015): 1-10.

"The two incidents are best considered together because they reveal related systemic flaws in indications and warning, intelligence analysis, military planning, and command and control."

Murphy, Edward R., Jr., with Curt Gentry. Second in Command: The Uncensored Account of the Capture of the Spy Ship Pueblo. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1971.

Naval History. Editors. "Pueblo Incident." 2, no. 4 (Fall 1988): 53-59.

Some of the U.S. naval officers involved voice criticisms of the actions of Lloyd Bucher, the Pueblo's commander, who responds in: Lloyd M. Bucher, "The Pueblo Incident: Commander Bucher Replies," Naval History 3, no. 1 (Winter 1989), 44-50.

Schumacher, Frederick Carl, and George C. Wilson. Bridge of No Return: The Ordeal of the U.S.S. Pueblo. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1970.

Schumacher was the Pueblo's Operations Officer.

U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Armed Services. Special Subcommittee on the USS Pueblo. Inquiry into the USS Pueblo and EC-121 Plane Incidents. 91st Cong., 1st sess., Mar.-Apr. 1969. Washington, DC: GPO, 1969.

See also, Inquiry into the USS Pueblo and EC-121 Plane Incidents, Report No. 91-12, 91st Cong., 1st sess., 28 Jul. 1969 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1969).

U.S. Department of State. Office of the Historian. Gen. ed., David S. Patterson. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968. Vol. XXIX, Part 1. Korea. Ed., Karen L. Gatz. [Available at:]

See documents 212-331.

Weinraub, Bernard. "In the Matter of Lloyd Mark Bucher." New York Times Magazine, 11 May. 1969, 25-27 ff. [Petersen]

Wilson, George C. "Pueblo Crew Fitted to Spy on Russia." Washington Post, 2 Mar. 1969. A1, A6. [Petersen]


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