Lyndon Johnson, North Korea, and the Capture of the Spy Ship Pueblo
Written by: Jack Cheevers
Narrated by: Jeffrey Kafer
Originally Reviewed: 07-06-17 on audible.com
Rating: 2 – Interesting interlude during the Armistice, worthy of all who study warfare
An Unfortunate Episode Exacerbated by Ineptitude
I previously knew nothing about this incident and thought our biggest Naval ‘acts of war’ since Vietnam era were the USS Liberty (cited in this book) and the USS Cole.
My father actually ran into one of the former USS Pueblo crewman, Dale Rigby, in St. George, Utah and gave him my challenge coin; he called to thank me and I’m looking forward to meeting him in person in a few weeks.
This book primarily follows the ship Captain, Lloyd Bucher, from his pre-Pueblo sub-mariner days through the Pueblo Incident and after his repatriation to the US. There’s anecdotal passages regarding the other crew members, but mostly focuses on Commander Bucher.
This is good since he was at the forefront as well as responsible for everything that happens on his ship. However, much is missing from other crew-members’ perspectives and experience (especially while in DPRK captivity); although it seems a mild attempt to get their stories was manifested.
The “…Exacerbated by Ineptitude” isn’t a slight at Commander Bucher, rather a typical occurrence in military operations when higher command doesn’t value or simply dismisses the assessment of a subordinate commander regarding ‘needed support’.
The Pueblo was put into a situation that it shouldn’t have been without that support, but it seems (from this account) that the global situation (e.g., Vietnam, ongoing Cold War with USSR) predicated much of that dismissal, but really should have been more thoroughly reviewed prior to dispatching this ship on its intelligence mission.
The author mitigates much of the overall responsibility for the mishap away from Bucher, but at the end of the day, he was the one responsible for his ship, the mission and crew.
He deserves some of the criticism he received, but really was placed in a no win situation. The fact that most of the crew survived the ordeal is a direct reflection of Bucher’s actions, perspectively ignoble as they may seem to another military commander.
I usually listen at 3x speed and had no problems with this narration.
Other works for consideration:
1. Nothing to Envy, by Barbara Demick
2. Turn the Ship Around, by L. David Marquet
3. East of Chosin: Entrapment and Breakout in Korea, 1950, by Roy E. Appleman
4. Article for Soldiers, by Jonathan Love