PUEBLO, Colo. — They survived the unthinkable. U.S. Navy sailors, beaten and starved by the North Koreans when their navy ship was taken captive 50 years ago.
This week, the crew of the USS Pueblo has gathered in Pueblo, Colorado to share stories and memories about their life-changing capture back in 1968.
“Sheer terror. You didn’t know when you were going to be taken out and beaten, you didn’t know if it was for interrogation or discipline,” said Alvin Plucker of LaSalle, Colo. He was one of 83 men aboard the USS Pueblo when it was intercepted by the North Koreans. The crew was bound, blindfolded and held prisoner of war for 11 months. They were accused of being spies, beaten almost daily, and starved.
“Well I went from 135 down to 98 pounds, and I think (that was) probably in the first three months,” Plucker said.
Their ship was named for Pueblo, Colo. And that’s why they’re here now to commemorate a half-century since their capture and their survival. Pretty much the only thing missing in Pueblo this week is the Pueblo itself. The crew got out of North Korea 50 years ago, but the ship never did. To this day, it’s docked in Pyongyang and used as a propaganda tool against the United states. These days, North Koreans are victoriously ushered through the ship, and shown the bullet holes from the day of the Pueblo’s capture.
In the years since, the Pueblo crew has actually tried to get their ship back from North Korea, and maybe even dock it in the Colorado town that bears its name, inspired by their late captain’s wishes.
“The one thing (Commander Lloyd M. “Pete” Bucher) told me was ‘You keep the memory of the USS Pueblo always in Pueblo and the state of Colorado, and you get that ship back,'” Plucker said.
Odds of that are slim. But the crew does hope things get better between our two countries.
“I was hoping that Trump could make kind of treaty or agreement with North Korea, because the North Korean people have suffered so immensely,” Plucker said.
And if anyone knows suffering, it’s these men. Like Richard Bame, who suffers from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) from his time in captivity.
“I didn’t realize I had a problem with it,” Bame told FOX 31.
He and the others are left with the memories of the toughest time of their life. Memories only the men of the pueblo – gathered right now in Pueblo – have in common.