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On January 23, 1968 the USS Pueblo, a lightly armed diminutive spy ship was boarded by heavily armed North Korean military near Wonsan and the American crewmen taken prisoner. Jack Cheevers, a former Los Angeles Times political reporter, painstakingly and dramatically describes the seizure of the ship and crew and how close the United States came to becoming involved in a second Korean War. On January 21, 1968 North Korean commandos had attempted the assassination of the South Korean President. The USS Pueblo was never notified of this incident. The author had done meticulous research including tracking down survivors for their stories.
To avoid the potential war LBJ dispatched Cyrus R. Vance to South Korea to negotiate. Cheevers carefully tracks Vance’s delicate mission. For eleven months the Pueblo crew was regularly and savagely beaten, tortured and starved while negotiation to get them back was going on. Cheever’s reports that once freed the crew all suffered from a variety of mental and physical ailments. A Navy psychiatrist diagnosed some of the crew member with “Concentration Camp Syndrome”. (A disorders that afflicted survivors of Hitler’s death camps).
The last part of the book deals with the Navy’s inquiry of the incident. The Court of Inquiry ordered a court marshal of Cmdr. Lloyd “Pete” Bucher but the Secretary of the Navy dismissed it. Bucher and crew had to fight for their reputation the rest of their lives. Many years later, after a long fight by supporters, the crew was finally awarded the POW medal.
This book tells an important and almost forgotten incident of the Cold War. The book reads like a suspense military novel rather than a history book. Jeffrey Kafer did an excellent job narrating the book.
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If you've ever been in the military you need to read this book. If you've ever been in the US Navy you really, need to read this book. If you are a military officer especially in any kind of Billet with command and Authority you really, really need to read this book. If you are a US Naval officer if you don't read this book you probably have made one of the biggest mistakes of your career.
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