View Full Version : Death of Commander Lloyd Bucher of the USS Pueblo

Charles Neilson
02-01-04, 03:26 PM
I left the Corps in August 1967 to go to college and I will never forget my dilemma regarding whether or not to study for my final exams at UCLA soon after the USS Pueblo was captured by the North Koreans. Commander Bucher had been promised air support should he be attacked by the North Koreans but higher authority broke their promise and he surrendered the Pueblo in the face of extermination of all of his young crew. I can still remember thinking that President Nixon will take the bull by the horns and teach the North Koreans a lesson. With that in mind, I was expecting to be called right back into active duty and head on for North Korea.....so why study for exams? But Nooooooo....all I saw was a year full of parading the Pueblo crew around while getting their butts beat around by their captors! So much for Nixon's standing behind the US Serviceman. To add insult to injury, when the crew finally returned back to the USA, Commander Bucher got a nice surprise in the form of a Navy Court Martial for being the only ship's captain to surrender a US ship. What a kangaroo court! I always felt even worse when I learned that he had been raised as an orphan at the famous "Boys Town" institution and had made good for himself. The Navy knew how to keep a good man down when they pounced on him as the scape goat (I see why the goat is the Navy's mascot!) Had he instructed the firing of his 50 caliber machine gun at two North Korean gun boats, his crew would have been massacred. After all it was a spy ship loaded with high tech equipment and not equipped to defend itself adequately. What choice did the US Navy give Commander Bucher when they failed to keep their promise to protect his boat with air power? The Navy had far more embarrassing experiences to explain when in 1942 they lost 4 out of 5 Cruisers (sunk!) at the Battle of Savo Island because all ships captains refused to communicate with each other as each was being blown out of the water one by one by Admiral Mykawa. That stank to high heaven but I never heard of the Navy trying to destroy the reputations of 5 big shot Navy Captains who made monumental mistakes. Commander Bucher never made any mistakes except to trust his immediate authority's promise for air support when needed. I heard that Commander Bucher died last week (Jan04) and I thought I should pay tribute to him with this remembrance so that all who read it will honor him as he rightfully deserves. As a former Marine, I love the Chesty Puller's and the Iron Mike Edson's who lead men with determined spirit when things get tough. But I would have been proud to have been a Marine "spook" working on the USS Pueblo for Commander Bucher and nobody would ever change my mind about that. Perhaps enough Marines writing to the Navy Department to show support for Commander Bucher might make a dent. Charles J. Neilson MD, former Sgt USMC

02-01-04, 05:11 PM
Quite a bit of controversy in the Battle of Savo Island. Night-rain-working with ships of differentt nationalities(Aus). Not all the ships had TBS radio capability. (talk between ships) I beleive the sqdrn commander was away, meeting with Adm Fetcher aboard the main task force of BB's and carriers. Allied ships were silouetted against a burning freighter, and easy prey for torpedo attacks. The main culprit was Adm Fletcher, who withdrew from Guadacanal area prematurely in an effort to keep his fleet from being attacked from Japanese ac from Rabul. The Marines suffered mightily from this, as Fletcher hauled ass before they got the Marines' supplies and ammo all ashore. There have been recurring reports over the decades that an Australian float plane pilot had spotted the enemy earlier in the day, but landed and went to 'tea' bbefore reporting his find to the Capt of HMAS Canberra. Hard to say.

benny rutledge
02-02-04, 11:31 AM
USS Pueblo still on Display as tourist attraction in N.Korea,as a trophy of "The Great Leader" as documented on PBS. Mr.Neilson the next Military engagement will be N.Korea.When it happens (it will eventually) Our Damned Navy better bring back the Pueblo to American shores.And YES,An official apology to Lloyd Buchers Family by the CinC himself would be appropriate.Thanks for the reminder of our sometimes painfull Military past.

02-02-04, 11:52 PM
I was aboard a troopship, as part of 1st Bn., 27th Marines, when USS Pueblo was taken. For awhile, we didn't know if we were going to keep our jungle utilities, or be issued winter snuggies. There was scuttlebutt around that we were going to be diverted to N. Korea in an effort to free the crew and retake the ship, or at least destroy it to deny a political victory to the communists.

We never got rescue orders or winter gear. I guess the Tet Offensive was more important at that juncture, because we sailed south to Nam. It seems the Pueblo was deemed expendable by someone up the chain of command. Still brings a knot to my gut when I think we could have pulled them out, but didn't.

Years later, I read that Bucher's spirit was broken by the entire chain of events, but don't know how accurate that article was. There were also PBS documentaries about the Pueblo Incident. Hard stuff to see unfold on film. Sure would wear down any man to go into history that way.

Aw hell, you can't undo history, but you can give a dead man back his good name, so his kids can lift their chins off their chests.

Charles Neilson
02-04-04, 12:45 AM
Hopefully, there are alot of Marines out there who are as knowledgeable as y'all are about the Navy's scape goating of Commander Bucher and Admiral Fletcher's "need to refuel" his carrier while leaving the Marines at Guadacanal thus depriving them of proper combat unloading. It might be interesting to compile a list of such things (such as the "spy ship" USS Liberty). I have found it more worth my while to rile up our enemies rather than the Navy brass (although letting them know they are not the only ones who are aware of these things might serve some poor commander of a spy ship in the future.) I propose that all sitting duck commanders be given an "Arpege" bon voyage party....that's for those who remember the old TV commercial "Promise her anything, but give her Arpege" (perfume)......

Phantom Blooper
02-04-04, 06:39 AM
Pueblo's Bucher can rest in peace
February 04,2004

When the USS Pueblo slid into the waters of the Sea of Japan on Jan. 11, 1968, no one realized that the spy ship would soon be at the center of controversy.

Twelve days later, photographs of the Pueblo's crew, captured by the North Koreans and accused of spying, would circle the globe.

The Pueblo, a retro-fitted World War II cargo ship, was a run-down bucket of bolts with a secret, cold-war purpose - to analyze North Korean naval traffic. But the mission went awry, causing embarrassment on the part of the United States and diplomatic shuffling of the sort not seen since the 1960 capture of American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers by the Soviet Union.

Unlike the Powers case, however, which involved only one man whose sole purpose was to spy on the Soviets, the Pueblo's crew were sailors first.

Many military retirees living in this area still remember when the Pueblo was captured, rupturing the already uneasy relationship between the U.S. and North Korean governments. The ship's commander, Navy Lt. Cdr. Lloyd "Pete" Bucher, and his crew of more than 80 men became prisoners of the North Koreans - and life for the crew of the Pueblo would never again be the same.

Though tortured and abused, the crew stood proud and defiant in the early days of their captivity. One famous photograph showed several crew members expressing their derision and contempt for their captors by exhibiting "one-finger" salutes. Bucher and his men - minus one crew member who died as a result of injuries sustained when the ship was taken - initially resisted the North Koreans' attempts to force confessions.

The ship's commander even faced a firing squad at one point, and heard the words, "ready, aimÂ…" before the squad was ordered to stand down.

Still, the feisty Navy officer refused to sign. It was only later, when they threatened to kill the members of his crew, in Bucher's words, "before my eyes from the youngest to the oldest," that Bucher caved, confessing on a radio broadcast to spying for the U.S. government.

Although Bucher tried to convey his contempt for his captors with puns and a play on words, he and his crew received a less than heroic welcome when they were released by their captors after 11 months. The Pueblo, which carried only two 50-caliber guns, had been poorly outfitted for the job it was sent to do; but that didn't matter when the crew members were repatriated.

Bucher was hauled before Congress and treated like an embarrassment. Forced to defend his actions, the ship's commander recounted the torture, death threats and abuse he and his men endured while the government negotiated their release.

Thirty-six years after the capture of the Pueblo, Bucher finally is at peace. He died in the nursing home where he lived following a bout with ill health. History has vindicated Bucher and his men, and they've been awarded the prisoner of war status they were originally denied.

The Pueblo itself remains in North Korean hands, despite Bucher's efforts to bring the ship home. Reports say the ship is used as a tourist attraction, as well as a vehicle for anti-American propaganda.

The saddest chapter of this entire tragedy can never be rectified, and that's the way this incident was handled from the very beginning. The Pueblo was indisputably a ship meant to spy on the North Koreans, who were then - as now - considered enemies to the democratic way of life. Bucher and his men weren't spies - they were members of the U.S. Navy, placed in an untenable position by simply following orders. When Bucher returned, his career - and those of his men - ended.

Although eventually exonerated, history records him as a man who once betrayed his country. That's ultimately unfair. Bucher chose a course that allowed 82 sailors - not spies, but members of the U.S. Armed Forces - to survive.

He didn't betray his country. Instead, the U.S. government betrayed him.

02-04-04, 10:35 AM
Still remember the uproar and reading a book about his captivity. CDR. Lloyd Bucher, Rest in Peace.