tv 1968 North Korean Capture of the USS Pueblo CSPAN February 24, 2018 11:40pm-12:01am EST
sylla is hereby recognized as a national provide scholar -- to accurate, objective, and insightful information to the public about the united states of america possible markable founding father, alexander states of- united america's remarkable founding father, alexander hamilton." announcer: you are watching american history television, i weakened every weekend on c-span3. like us on facebook at c-span/ history. we talk aboutt, the 1968 north korean capture of the uss label. author of as the
book on american foreign-policy. this interview is about 15 minutes. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] >> mitchell lerner is a historian who was in demand these days. korean studies is on a lot of people's minds. you have written a book about a particular incident in history, therea pueblo incident, which is marking its 50th anniversary. by asking you to give the story of the pueblo. lerner: it is amazing to the extent which it has been forgotten by the american people. the uss pablo was an -- an old world war ii cargo carrier that had been retired. it was old and dilapidated.
it was meant to be carried out for electronic intelligence interception. andmechanically communicatively, it was a disaster. a good firstded mission for it would be to send it off to north korea in january of 1968. of weeks of operation but the pretty well, public was operating peacefully in international waters. pueblo was operating peacefully in international waters. harrassment happened, or so they thought.
the ship was ordered to surrender. there was no report -- support. they weren't prepared. there was a brief gun battle. one american was killed. a number were wounded. north koreans boarded the ship. the men were held prisoner in north korean prison camps for almost a year, until a diplomatic solution was reached. was really athat surprise to me when i was preparing for this. what should we take away about north korean culture than? -- culture then? mitchell: the stands as a great symbol of the cold war. the american policy and intelligence committee --
community never really thought of this as a dangerous mission. the soviets ran these kind of operations. spy, and theyould were never captured. this was treated as part of a massive communist bloc. north korea had never been like that. now, banks to access to the soviet bloc archives -- thanks to access to the soviert the --chives, recognized we recognize the extent to which korea was a problem in the soviet bloc as well. north korea has its own history,
values, ideological reasons. when you can take from the fromo -- what you can take is that a country's reasons for doing things has to be taken seriously on its own merits. going back to the story of the capture, you said there were airplanes involved. anything by a russian pilot? mitchell: we have gotten access to the soviet bloc security. north koreans did not talk to anyone about this. none of their allies knew about it or were consulted about it in advance. we have records of the soviets and east germans farriers -- furious, publicly attacking north koreans for this.
risked giving the united states american involvement in south korea. soviets are trying to get information about what is happening inside north korea in the 1960's. they can't get information because the north korean officials won't talk to them. we think of north korea as a black hole for information for the united states, and it is a black hole of information for their allies as well. mitchell: 83 crewmen were on board? susan: one of them tragically killed. what was life -- susan: what was life like for them? mitchell: horrible. for the first couple of weeks, they were beaten and tortured mercilessly. beaten with clubs, forced to sit
on radiators, terrible things in order to get confessions out of them. they wanted to humiliate the united states. family wanted to demonstrate to its people how strong they were. they would sign confessions saying they were so sorry they had done this. the american government had sent them on this terrible mission they never wanted. they were so a test with what they had seen in north korea. -- impressed with what they had seen in north korea. so for the first couple of weeks, it is pretty brutal. there is another wave of theings toward the end, most horrible experience any of them could have imagined. they are released right before christmas. them out of the
service. they are given almost no been a goal or psychological treatment or psychological treatment, no job training. some of them are alcoholics, some of them display an inability to hold jobs. this is a great tragedy. susan: speaking about the parallels of the iranian hostages in iran, how created,e" became keeping track of them every day. what was the american media doing this time -- at this time? mitchell: well, everyone is outraged. people are demanding war. are all sorts of stories about these men being captured by the soviets. there is a lot of attention on that.
but, weeks later, the tet offensive breaks out. america's attention shifts back fades-- vietnam and htis -- this fades away. we have never had a story like this. there has been silence for years. why did the navy or u.s. government not declare them prisoners of war? mitchell: the navy wanted it to go away. the navy was really culpable. u.s. intelligence and national security did a really terrible job of analyzing the situation. home, -- mencame came home, there was talk of a court-martial.
the republic hearings, congress got involved, it was a nasty situation. they wanted the captain to kate -- to take the blame. when there is public outcry, this just went away. susan: what happened to the commander? mitchell: he was tortured first. they beat him, tortured him, threatened to kill him. they held a gun to his head and pulled the trigger to get him to collapse. they threatened to kill his men and beat and tortured some of them in front of him. while he was in the camps, people back home forgot him. his wife did a good job of trying to give the american government to keep their focus on him. home, he went back
to nebraska, and did all sorts of our jobs the rest of his life. -- odd jobs the rest of his life. susan: you talk about two incidents of these men being into propaganda efforts and they manage to communicate their discussed with the situation. mitchell: the most famous is the men realized -- they were watching a north korean propaganda film. the show to the north korean soccer team competing at an international match. they showed the north korean soccer team competing at an international match. the north koreans had to bow and after losing the match. this,n, after seeing would give them the finger in
public. as the men walked in doing a they wereerence, given the finger. but some of the publicity photos the north koreans were using of the men would go out to the international media. koreans look good and healthy, but the american government recognized this gesture right away. they thought north koreans would kill the men if they knew what the gesture meant. after this, the men were beaten for a week when the north koreans found out. should we learn
about this incident that is relevant to us today? i wish we would take north korea seriously on its own merits. the communist archives has been a great tool for me to see what the other side of the cold war was like. the kim family was never a puppet of the chinese. every time i see an official talking about how china has the answer, the reality is it doesn't. north korea does things for its desiresons, usually by a from the kim family to rally people behind them and prop up their government during a time of internal weakness. you have to see all nations as independent countries that act for their own internal reasons.
the united states has looked for easy solutions to north korea for a lot of years while dismissing them as crazy or saying you see stalinism. you need to take them seriously on their own merits. susan: how concerned are you about the situation? mitchell: not as concerned as you might think. a conflict in korea would be so devastating that there is not a rational option, no matter what .he outlook is for all of our hatred of the kim family, and it is a brutal and horrible dictatorship, become family also likes life. -- the kim family also likes life. they have extensive cars and taste. if they push things too far, they are going to be wiped out.
but our waters of the century always thought for rational of the -- our wars century always fought for rational reasons? things spiralause out of control. leaders are known to be hotheaded at times, and emotional, and things spiral out of control. there would be so devastating that i don't think it is likely. susan: what are the lessons of the u.s. military from the pueblo? mitchell: every situation is unique. disasters occurred as part of the risk assessment process. extent, this is somewhat -- somewhat irrelevant, because intelligence collection has been done on such
a different level. it is clear that in this case we haven't anticipated the localized nature of the events over there. me, the most important thing i would say to the 82 good men went out there and paid a price, and they still are. step up and take care of people when they relieve the service also. susan: thank you for your time. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] about how a tweet many people were fathered by u.s. gis in vietnam? and how are they treated 45 years after the u.s. department? -- departed? onjoin the conversation facebook, at facebook.com/cspanhistopry, and
political leaders supported the movement. the naacp, leadership? nobody anywhere supported it. we asked the city council, would you at least put the measure on the ballots so the people can decide whether they want it or not, would you allow the people to vote on it yet oh didn't do that. -- would you allow the people to vote on it? they didn't do that. work something out to at least put on the ballot. getle would say, i can only four votes, i can't get five.
we had to go out and get people to sign the petition. you can get numbers of people to sign the petition, and it can't go on the ballot. we were able to get about 15,000 signatures. even though the entirety of the it, 18%ip was against of the people said they wanted it. and three --000 2003. if 80% of the people felt that way then, that sent a message to me, that leadership is totally out of touch with the people. it didn't have anything to do with me. it has to do with the message that was being resonated. people didn't believe that the
leadership was doing its job for them. >> watch this and other american history programs on her website, where all our video is -- on our website, where all our video is archived. >> >> we visited georgetown university law course which invites authors to answer student questions about their work. in this class, guest speaker thomas west talks about his book, "the political theory of the american founding." this is just under two hours. >> well, tom, i would like to welcome you to georgetown law and the seminar recent books on the constitution to discuss your wonderful new book. for the benefit of those who are watching outside the room, you are the ball ermnan potter endowed professor at hills dale college in michigan.