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Publisher's Summary

In 1968, a small, dilapidated American spy ship set out on a dangerous mission to pinpoint military radar stations along the coast of North Korea. Packed with advanced surveillance equipment and classified intelligence documents, the USS Pueblo was poorly armed and lacked backup by air or sea. Its crew, led by a charismatic, hard-drinking, ex-submarine officer named Pete Bucher, was made up mostly of untested sailors in their teens and twenties.

On a frigid January morning while eavesdropping near the port of Wonsan, the Pueblo was challenged by a North Korean gunboat. When Bucher tried to escape, his ship was quickly surrounded by more patrolboats, shelled and machine-gunned, and forced to surrender. One American was killed and ten wounded, and Bucher and his young crew were taken prisoner by one of the world's most aggressive and erratic totalitarian regimes.
Less than forty-eight hours before the Pueblo's capture, North Korean commandos had nearly succeeded in assassinating South Korea's president in downtown Seoul. Together the two explosive incidents pushed Cold War tensions toward a flashpoint as both North and South Korea girded for war - with fifty thousand American soldiers caught between them.
President Lyndon Johnson rushed US combat ships and aircraft to reinforce South Korea, while secretly trying to negotiate a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Act of War tells the riveting saga of Bucher and his men as they struggled to survive merciless torture and horrendous living conditions in North Korean prisons. Based on extensive interviews and numerous government documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, this book also reveals new details of Johnson's high-risk gambit to prevent war from erupting on the Korean peninsula while his negotiators desperately tried to save the sailors from possible execution.
The backdrop of an international diplomatic poker game, Act of War offers lessons on the perils of covertintelligence operations as America finds itself confronting a host of 21st-century enemies.
©2013 Jack Cheevers (P)2013 Blackstone Audio
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Jean on 09-18-14

Mesmerizing book

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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8 of 9 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By airmech41 on 03-30-17

Very well done

I was like most people today, never heard of the Pueblo story. I'm glad to be up to speed now. Very well told. Important history for every American to know. You should read to too. You won't be disappointed.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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