Cryptologic Bytes

"On This Date in History" Calendar

1968: North Koreans captured USS Pueblo.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

23 January 1968: The North Koreans captured the USS Pueblo. Visit the link at the bottom of the page to view a page of historical papers regarding the USS Pueblo on the NSA site. You can also learn more about the USS Pueblo via the Service & Sacrifice Exhibit in a special section dedicated to the Pueblo. See the link at the end of the page.

On January 23, 1968, North Korean vessels seized the U.S.S. Pueblo and its crew. Its mission was in response to U.S. Navy tasking. It began an initial cruise in the Sea of Japan along the coast of North Korea on January 5 that year, following a track used by the U.S. Banner a year earlier.

The Pueblo, outside North Korean territorial waters about 14 miles off the Korean coast, was surrounded by DPRK torpedo boats and a submarine chaser and was ordered to heave to. An initial escape attempt by the Pueblo was met by gunfire in which one crewman, Fireman Duane Hodges, was killed and three wounded. With overwhelming local military force, the North Koreans boarded the ship, capturing the remaining 82 aboard and all the ship’s contents.

Although the Pueblo’s crew had made an attempt to destroy the classified equipment and publications aboard, the volume of classified material on board was great and destruction means inadequate. Considerable amounts of classified material fell into North Korean hands. Hodges was killed as he attempted to destroy classified material. The Pueblo’s crewmen were imprisoned in the DPRK's capital city, Pyongyang, where they endured 11 months of torture and harsh treatment before their release on December 23, 1968, exactly 11 months after the Pueblo's capture. That day, the surviving 82 crewmen walked one by one across the "Bridge of No Return" at Panmunjon to freedom in South Korea. They were hailed as heroes and returned home to the United States in time for Christmas.

Pictured here is the Pueblo before capture. The Pueblo is still held as a "trophy" by North Korea. She was never decommissioned after this incident.

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