History Timeline 1960's

Photo above: Astronaut John Glenn pictured above with President John F. Kennedy looking inside the Mercury Space Capsule in 1962. Courtesy National Archives. Right: Soyuz TMA-7 Spacecraft. Courtesy NASA.

Outer Space Treaty

U.S. Timeline - The 1960s

Civil Rights and Turmoil

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  • Timeline

  • 1968 - Detail

    January 23, 1968 - The U.S.S. Pueblo incident occurs in the Sea of Japan when North Korea seizes the ship and its crew, accusing it of violating its territorial waters for the purpose of spying. They would release the prisoners on December 22, but North Korea still holds possession of the U.S.S. Pueblo to this day.

    USS Pueblo

    The U.S.S. Pueblo, a U.S. Navy Intelligence gathering ship still in custody by North Korea after its capture in 1968. North Korea today, a rogue nation with advancing military technology, yet third world conditions for its people. The confluence of these events tells much about the story of the Communist regime nearly fifty years after the event and the stagnant nature of its history. While the rest of the nations surrounding it; Japan, South Korea, China, have prospered, the introverted, yet militaristic leaders of the Republic of North Korea has remained, as the Pueblo, stuck in a past, in a history that seems bound to repeat itself in some manner.

    In 1968, the war with Vietnam raged. It had been fifteen years since the Korean War, with 62,263 troops of the United States still stationed in the demilitarized zone between South and North Korea to defend against a second invasion. Today, there are still over 28,000 troops there. Minor skirmishes had been waged between U.S. troops and North Korean troops during the early years of the 1960's in the area of the DMZ. Early in 1968, that level increased with the Blue House Raid.

    On January 21, 1968, Unit 124 of the Korean People's Army, directed by North Korean leader Kim Il-sung to assasinate the South Korean President Park Chung Hee, attacked the Blue House, the Executive Mansion. North Korea thought, with the escalation of the conflict in Vietnam, that the United States would not be in a position to assist South Korea if an attack there could overthrow the South Korean government. Thirty-one men in Unit 124, detected at one point in their raid by two civilians, made it to Seoul, engaged in firefights and retreat, costing South Korean casualties of twenty-six killed, sixty-six wounded; four Americans were killed as Unit 124 tried to cross the DMZ in retreat. Of the thirty-one members of North Korea's Unit 124, twenty-nine were killed, one captured, and one escaped back north.

    Before the Blue House Raid had been concluded, the opportunity by North Korea to further destabilize the region occurred, which some historians contend was an opportunistic and not planned event. The USS Pueblo was built in 1944 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, used by the Coast Guard and Army for training purposes and in the South Pacific during World War II until transferred to the United States Navy in 1966. In 1968, it was being used as an intelligence gathering vessel, sent from port in Yokosuka, Japan to gather information on USSR Naval Operations and North Korea electronic intelligence. The mission was considered low risk, with no support vessels requested.

    On the two days prior to its capture, the USS Pueblo had been approached by a North Korean sub chaser and two fishing vessels; these events during the Blue House Raid, which the Pueblo had not been notified of, on purpose, because her mission had only one day to go. On January 23, a sub chaser approached the Pueblo, challenged her nationality, and ordered it to stand down.

    The USS Pueblo attempted to outmaneuver, but its chase was joined by a second North Korean sub chaser, four torpedo boats, and 2 MIG-21 fighters. Its munitions stored below deck, and its maneuvers to avoid boarding for two hours waning, the North Korean vessels opened fire, killing one crew member. The crew of the Pueblo surrendered and began to destroy sensitive material. The North Koreans contended that the ship was in their territorial waters; the USS Pueblo said they were in international waters. However, the contentions did not matter upon capture as the USS Pueblo was taken to Wonsan harbor and crew blindfolded and beaten.

    USS Pueblo and Crew Under Capture

    In port at Wonsan, the crew were taken into Prisoner of War camps, regularly starved and tortured to provide confessions to their purported crimes of sailing into North Korean waters to engage in espionage. President Johnson, urged by members of Congress for retaliation, worked for release instead, concerned that provocation would worsen the situation. There was also concern that the attack was directed by the Soviet Union; later evidence indicates that North Korea likely acted alone. A rescue mission was conceived, but the decision to conduct aborted, fearing that USA knowledge of whereabouts was not defined and that any attempt might lead to their demise.

    Negotiations for release were difficult and without South Korean involvement, which strained relations with an ally. Twenty-eight secret sessions were held. Finally, on December 23, 1968, the remaining eighty-two members of the USS Pueblo crew were released. The United States admitted that they had been spying, apologized, and said they wouldn't spy again. They also noted that they were only saying this to get the sailor's release. Once released, they retracted the statement altogether.

    The USS Pueblo Today

    The U.S.S. Pueblo remains a commissioned Navy vessel, even though still held captive by the North Korean government. It is the second oldest commissioned vessel, behind old Ironsides, the USS Constitution, in the Navy. In 1999, the ship was moved from Wonsan harbor to Pyongyang. It is part of the Pyongyang Victorious War Museum and can be boarded and visited, with exhibits from the perspective of North Korea.

    Photo above: USS Pueblo, October 19, 1967 off San Diego. Photo by U.S. Navy. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Photo below: Crew of the U.S.S. Pueblo upon release on December 23, 1968. Official U.S. Navy Photograph. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Info source: Wikipedia Commons; USSPueblo.org; Keesing's Records of World Events, "Jan. 1969, North Koreans Release Crew of U.S.S. Pueblo".

    Release of U.S. Navy in USS Pueblo affair

    History Photo Bomb