What We Need Is N AMERICAN DESK At the State Department

As long-time readers know, I was the organizer and main participant in the national Remember the Pueblo in 1969, and it cost me my Naval career. Lieutenants should be seen and not heard, and when a Navy Lt. Is quoted in Time magazine, often, and other media constantly, it is going to cost.
It was a learning experience, and the first thing I learned is that our State Department is filled with liberals who believe, as does this administration, that the United States is just too big, too powerful, and that the “foreign desks” on which the diplomatic staff sits, can best be represented by taking their side at every opportunity.

What we need at State is an AMERICAN DESK!

First, upon the seizure of the crew of the Pueblo, 81 men, by the North Koreans, my first words to Rose Bucher, the wife of the Commanding Officer of the Pueblo, CD-R. Loyd “Pete” Bucher, was, “Don’t worry Honey, the honor of the United States will not let this last 24 hours.”

I could not have been more naive. 

As my wife, Jean, Rose and I were dealing with phone calls from Pete’s friends from around the world, plus the national press (Walter Cronkite from the first day), plus the Navy Brass, we were also contacted by several mothers, fathers brothers and children of previous North Korean captives, and a helicopter pilot captive previously held.

The conversations, condensed, were: The State Department told us right after our loved ones were captured that we should be quiet, and let diplomacy work on this. We did, for years, but when we continually got the message, ‘We are working on it.'”

“When we finally got frustrated and went to the press, the press said, ‘That’s old news.’ They never listened to us.”

“Please, Please, PLEASE, do not stay silent.”

The Navy and the State Department asked us, and the pueblo families to stay quiet and let “Quiet Diplomacy” work its magic.  

I told the State Department that we would remain silent for 30 days, after which we would raise hell. That is exactly what we did.

(If you can imagine a young Navy Lieutenant giving an ultimatum to the State Department, the you can imagine why my Navy career was cut short!

We have zero idea if the furor we raised helped free the Pueblo crew, but the crew thinks so, and Pete and Rose thought so, We will never know. Within the Navy there were two schools of thought and it was best demonstrated by my being summoned to the office of the Commandant of the 11th Naval District, where the Commandant (Admiral) reamed me for an hour, after which, as I left, the Secretary told me the Commander of the Seventh Fleet Flagship wanted me aboard the flagship, USS Chicago, for lunch. The Admiral, Bernie Roeder, hugged this Lieutenant and we had a great conversation. 

The Navy tried to separate me from Pete Bucher’s wife — they thought I was some sort of evil Svengali, writing the speeches and getting national press interviews (Guilty) — so they first sent me orders to Keflivick, Iceland, and when I got the CNO to personally change those orders (I did have friends), the Forces of Evil tried to lure me away by sending me orders to the flagship of the Sixth Fleet as Navigator. (Got those changed, also.)

Meanwhile, the Navy refused to give the wife of the Commanding Officer, the addresses of the families of the crew. The spokesman sent a letter to Rose saying, “The administration does not find it useful to cooperate with those who may not be friends of the administration.”


One Response

  1. Allen,

    I shudder every time I read your accounts of the Pueblo incident. You are exactly right in that the State Department does not represent the interests of the United States and it really ticks me off when I think that many in the Navy chain of command chose to protect their career over doing the right things to bring back those men home.

    Once again, I thank you for being a man of honor.


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