Captured in 1968, the US Navy maintains it in its official registry of ships

USS Pueblo: the second oldest commissioned military vessel of the US is in North Korea

The United States Navy is honored to own the world's oldest active military ship, the USS Constitution frigate.

USS Constitution: this is the oldest military ship in the world that is still in service
USS Texas: a World War I battleship in dry dock for repair

Second oldest ship still listed in US Navy Official Records is the USS Pueblo (AGER-2). Launched on April 16, 1944 and officially listed as an environmental research ship, it is also the only ship built during World War II that is still active in a navy. However, the The US Navy has a problem with this ship, which it still owns: it is located in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, moored at a pier on the Taedong River and converted into a museum ship.

The USS photographed off San Diego, California, on October 19, 1967, a few weeks before its voyage to Japan (Photo: US Naval History and Heritage Command).

The first assignment of the USS Pueblo was as a cargo and supply ship for the United States Army, under the designation FP-344. She was manned by United States Coast Guard personnel, later changed to FS-344. she It was a ship of 54 meters in length and 9.8 meters in beam, dedicated mainly to training functions. Two decades after its launching, on April 12, 1964, the ship was transferred by the Army to the US Navy, being named USS Pueblo (AKL-44), and assigned the theoretical mission light cargo ship.

The crew of the USS Pueblo during a meal inside the ship in 1967 (Photo: US Naval History and Heritage Command).

Its cargo function was a simple cover: the USS Pueblo was assigned to the US Navy to serve as an intelligence ship, specifically for SIGINT (signals intelligence) missions, that is, to intercept communications. Renamed USS Pueblo (AGER-2) on 13 May 1967. AGER-1 had been the USS Banner, another "environmental research ship" that had also actually served as a spy ship. The USS Pueblo left San Diego for Yokosuka, Japan on November 6, 1967. Their mission was to patrol the Tsushima Strait, which separates Japan from the Korean Peninsula.

The USS Pueblo in a photograph from January 1968, the month it was captured by North Korea in international waters (Photo: US Naval History and Heritage Command).

When 20 minutes passed midnight on January 23, 1968, two North Korean torpedo boats confronted the USS Pueblo. The incident occurred when the American ship was in international waters and 15 nautical miles from the island North Korean Ung-Do (territorial waters only extend to 12 nautical miles). Initially the USS Pueblo avoided being boarded, but eventually two groups of armed North Korean soldiers stormed the American ship, during which they killed US sailor Duane D. Hodges and captured the other 82 crew members.

Duane D. Hodges, the US sailor killed by the North Koreans during the assault on the USS Pueblo on January 23, 1968 (Photo: National Security Agency).

In North Korea, the 82 crew members suffered constant harassment, beatings, and physical and psychological torture during 11 months of cruel captivity, ill-treatment that included simulated firing squads in order to make them talk and to bow to the demands of that communist dictatorship. During that captivity, representatives of the US and North Korea met in Panmunjom, in the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, in order to negotiate the release of the captured sailors. Finally, and after a written apology from the US for the sole purpose of obtaining the release of their men, the sailors were taken to the demilitarized zone and released on December 23, 1968.

The 82 surviving crew of the USS Pueblo upon arrival at Naval Station Miramar, California, on December 24, 1968, after spending 11 months in North Korean captivity (Photo: US Naval History and Heritage Command).

The North Koreans kept the ship and took it to the port of Wonsan, transferring it in 1999 to Nampo and from there to Pyongyang, where it continues today. The US still considers that ship its property, due to its illegal seizure in international waters, so the US Navy maintains it in its official ship list, being assigned to the Military Sealift Command (MSC).

Members of the United States Navy and Marine Corps salute the casket containing the body of Duane D. Hodges at Kimpo Air Base, South Korea, after the liberation of the 82 survivors from the USS Pueblo (Photo : Chung Tae Won/Stars and Stripes).

I dedicate this entry to the memory of Duane D. Hodges, the sailor killed during the North Korean assault on the USS Pueblo in 1968.


Main photo: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen. The USS Pueblo at its current location in Pyongyang.

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