, Newburyport, MA


August 3, 2013

Shribman: Remember the Pueblo


Indeed, we are examining 1968 and the seizure of the Pueblo only because of another anniversary — the 60 years that have passed since the signing of the armistice that ended the most forgotten of American wars, the Korean conflict. President Barack Obama had the good grace the other day to offer a crisp little commemoration, saying that the veterans of that war “deserve better,” which they did and do.

But in Pyongyang, where a fantasy-eyed 29-year-old ruler is outdoing his progenitors in the ludicrous, the festivities were more lavish, the rhetoric more ridiculous and the ballistic missiles planted on mobile launchers more menacing.

That 60-year commemoration was extended a few days last weekend when the North Koreans unveiled the ship, smartly freshened with a new coat of paint for a new star turn on the global stage. It’s the centerpiece of the country’s Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum, though tourism in North Korea, until now focused on the straw-thatched cottage where the country’s founder was born, is as fanciful a notion as the ideology of Kim Jong-un.

Unspoken is the torture endured by the men of the Pueblo. They thought they were going to be shot at dawn the day after they reached land. One remembered an interrogator clicking a gun at his head. Another never recovered from the frantic kicking he received.

“When we had fresh guards, they were apprehensive of us, but as they understood us better, they became more brutal,” Donald R. Peppard, a former cryptologic technician, recalled in a telephone conversation last week.

“They were brutal because they could (be) — and this was an entire country that believes the United States is the most evil nation on Earth,” said Peppard, 76, who retired from the Navy in 1977 and now heads the Pueblo Veterans Association.

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