In this June 22, 2006, file photo released by the North Korean government, North Korean soldiers watch USS Pueblo, which was seized by North Korean navy off the Korean coast near the Taedonggang river in Pyongyang, North Korea
(KCNA via KNS)
Some of the surviving crew of an American spy ship captured by North Korean forces 50 years ago has a message for President Trump: our worship home.
“The crew of the USS Pueblo would like to get our ship back,” Ron Berens, the lead helmsman on board and at the wheel on January 23, 1968, when North Korean MiG fighter jets and patrol boats opened fire on the American spy ship, that leads up to the first recording of a U.S. Navy ship since the War of 1812.
“We want them to deliver to Lake Pueblo,” said Bob Hill, a 19-year-old deck seaman at the time and one of the youngest on board.
A crew member was killed, 82 others are captured and held for 11 months in North Korean prisons, enduring hours of torture, about 10 days after your departure from Japan on espionage missions against the Soviet Union and North Korea.
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The U.S. Army cargo ship FP-344 (1944). Transferred to the Navy in 1966, she became USS Pueblo
“There is nothing in the current history books on the “Pueblo”,” Berens said in an interview with Fox News during a meeting of approximately 40 surviving Pueblo crew members on the 50th anniversary of their recording of this week in Pueblo, Colorado, the ship’s namesake.
Today, the Pueblo remains a commissioned U.S. Navy ship on display in the Potong River in the North Korean capital Pyongyang, where the comfort of an American spy ship hosts thousands of visitors each year.
It is an episode in the history was largely overshadowed in a year dominated by the War in Vietnam, the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, the Soviet invasion of czechoslovakia and the Apollo 8 launch.
Some of the surviving crew of an American spy ship captured by North Korean forces 50 years ago has a message for President Trump: our worship home
An even deadlier incident occurred a year later, when a North Korean MiG-21 shot down a U.S. Navy reconnaissance plane, killing all 31 Americans aboard.
23 January 1968 began with fear of the Pueblo crew with their ship just 14 miles off the coast of North Korea. The day before, a number of the communist ships approached the American spy ship to take pictures of venturing too close for comfort.
The North Korean patrol boats and sub chasers had remained, and around lunch time Sunday began firing on the Pueblo after being connected by a pair of North Korean mig’s overhead.
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Bob Hill was in his rack when he heard general quarters sound, sending the crew to their battle stations. Hill was told to help destroy top secret material on board because the crew soon found themselves surrounded.
Tim Harris, a young supply officer on board the Pueblo, said the North Koreans quickly surrounded the American spy ship and opened fire with machine guns and 40 mm cannon.
The American crew tried to escape, but the North Korean ships were relentless. After signaling the Americans to stop or “jerk”, and with their ship, badly disabled by the debilitating fire, the North Korean patrol boats swooped in and jumped aboard.
Photo from left to right: Cmdr. Josh Hill, Tim Harris, Ron Berens, Bob Hill
“We have never ceded. We stopped the ship. There was never an order to give,” Harris said. “We had so much fire.”
“We were scared s***less,” Bob Hill said recalling the feeling of seeing the North Korean sailors to take him, and its 82 crew members captive and bring them to the port city of Wonsan.
“They tied us, blindfolded us. We were all wondering if we were going to die.”
Shortly after arriving in North Korea, Hill said the American crew was met with cheers from a crowd that had gathered.
“Kill the Yankee!” she cried in English, Hill recalled.
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The American crew spent their first six weeks in North Korea in Pyongyang before it is moved to the countryside in less than an hour from the capital.
Over the next 11 months, the crew was subjected to torture routinely.
“A typical day was met with intermittent terror. If you happen to be caught, you can sleep in a world of hurt,” Hill said.
The crew learned to trust in God as another.
“Your roommates were the biggest help,” says Berens.
The surviving crew members are divided about bringing the ship back to say President Trump has more important things to worry about, such as getting North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons program.
“It’s still a slap in the face to us every day that it is still the command,” Hill said. “That bothers me a good deal.”
When North Korea has turned the Pueblo into a museum and communist propaganda piece, “I prayed when they opened that thing with all of their military officers on board, we could drop a MOAB [Mother of all Bombs] or something and blow the whole damn thing.”
He added: “the Decommissioning of that damn thing.”
“If they have the dismantling of the ship, Americans would lose face,” Berens said. “That is total surrender.”
“That is a hunk of metal. The crew is here,” Hill said about the survivors who gathered this week in Pueblo, Colorado.
“The spirit of that ship is here today at the reunion,” agreed Harris.
Cmdr. Josh Hill, 2001 U. S. Naval Academy graduate currently assigned to the Pentagon, the echo of his father’s sentiment.
“Nothing would mean more for the crew than the Pueblo returned to the U.S. for a proper decommissioning ceremony,” he said.
Surviving Pueblo crew members also want their skipper has been recognised for his heroism in the lead of all 82 men and 11 months of captivity. When they returned to the United States in December 1968, they were welcomed by a crowd in San Diego.
Back in Washington, the Navy brass demanded a court-martial to investigate why Pueblo’s commander, Cmdr. Lloyd M. Bucher, allowed his crew to be captured by North Korea. The charges were dropped weeks later, because the Navy secretary felt Bucher had suffered enough, according to Berens.
To this day, Bucher has not received a valor award for his actions, despite the crew received Purple Hearts for their wounds in captivity and during the attack at sea.
“It was his leadership under extreme conditions, that we survived,” Harris said.
Many Pueblo crew members want to Cmdr. Bucher was awarded the Medal of Honor.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Commander Bucher,” said Navy Cmdr. Josh Hill, who added that when he was commissioned in the US Navy in May 2001, Cmdr. Bucher performed a special private ceremony at the Naval Academy’s Memorial Hall.
Under Oliver Hazard Perry’s battle flag: “Don’t Give up the Ship.”
Fox News’ Andrew O’reilly contributed to this report
Luke Tomlinson is the Pentagon and the State Department producer Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews