The crew of the USS Pueblo that was captured by North Korean forces 20 years ago gathered Saturday to swap sea stories and express support for the sailors patrolling the Persian Gulf aboard the USS Vincennes.
The 906-ton intelligence ship, the first U.S. naval vessel captured at sea since 1812, was seized by North Korean patrol boats on Jan. 23, 1968.Cmdr. Lloyd "Pete" Bucher and 81 crewmen were released Dec. 23, 1968, after spending 11 months in captivity. By agreement, a U.S. negotiator signed a "confession" of the Pueblo's spying against North Korea, and Washington simultaneously repudiated the document.
About 40 former crewmen and their wives attended the reunion in San Diego, their second since their release and the first in San Diego.
The dazed sailors had been flown back to San Diego 20 years earlier and plunged into a world of both support and disdain from the Navy and the nation.
"From the lower ranks," said Earl Phares, 40, San Diego, when asked if the Pueblo crew was supported by the Navy upon their return. "I think the top brass was a little against us."
Phares, who is now a senior chief petty officer in the Navy Reserve, said that failing to put up a fight put the Pueblo crew and Bucher in a bad light from admirals embarrassed by the easy capture of a sophisticated spy ship.