New

Palm Beach AGER-3 - History

Palm Beach AGER-3 - History

Palm Beach

(AGER-3; dp. 938; 1. 179'10"; b. 32'; dr. 9'3"; s. 12 k.; cpl. 67; cl. Banner)

One of 18 small freight supply ships laid down by Higgins Industries, Inc. in New Orleans for the Army Transportation Corps, she was delivered in December 1944 and designated FS-217, an Aireraft Repair and Supply Vessel. Based first at San Francisco, she later served in the Caribbean where, following World War II, she participated in coastal survey work in the Lesser Antilles and off Central America. She was based at Balboa, Canal Zone, before being placed in reserve 17 February 1956.

Acquired by the Navy 18 May 1966, she was named Palm Beach and designated a Light Cargo Ship (AKL-45) 18 June. She was brought to Puget Sound Naval ShiDyard 11 July for conversion to an Environmental Researeh Ship; redesignated AGER-3 on 2 May 1967; and commissioned 13 May, Lt. Comdr. Albert D. Raper in command. Fullowing shakedown, Palm Beach departed Bremerton, Wash. for her homeport, Norfolk, where she arrived 21 November. This ship's mission is to conduet technical research operations in an ocean environment to support oceanographic, electromagnetic, and related research projects. She deployed to Holy Loch, Scotland 20 May 1968, visiting several Norwegian ports before returning to Little Creek 17 October. After several months of material maintenance and upkeep, she departed for the Mediterranean 19 April 1969 where she remained into July. She was struck from the Naval Vessel Register 1 December 1969.


How North Korea Captured a U.S. Spy Ship in 1968

The humiliating seizure of the USS Pueblo by North Korean gunboats in 1968 provided a searing indictment of America’s Cold War policy.

Key Point: The U.S. military sent an aging, leaky, refurbished cargo ship into hostile waters without adequate protection or contingency plans for emergencies.

The humiliating seizure of the American spy ship Pueblo on January 23, 1968, by North Korean gunboats proved both an enormous intelligence setback and a searing indictment of America’s Cold War policy. With their opening salvo of cannon and machine-gun fire aimed almost point-blank at the ship’s pilothouse, the North Koreans blew away both Pueblo’s main line of defense and the time-honored respect for the freedom of the seas. The attack also revealed the defenseless nature of the ship, her mission, and the entire concept behind it.

The stain on American honor started with Naval Intelligence and the National Security Agency (NSA), the originators of the spy ship program and Operation Clickbeetle, which sent the poorly armed Pueblo into hostile waters off North Korea’s east coast in the first place. Also coming in for a share of the blame were the planners who assessed Pueblo’s mission as one of minimal risk, the chain of command in Hawaii and Washington that seconded it, and the Lyndon Johnson administration’s unsophisticated interpretation of international relations as a bipolar rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Had American policymakers regarded North Korea as a country with its own national agenda, rather than as an auxiliary serving a global communist conspiracy headed by the Soviet Union, the Pueblo incident might have been avoided or resolved more effectively. The warning signs were there for all to see: the hostile actions of the North Koreans in 1967 alone—they violated some 542 times the 1953 armistice agreements that ended the Korean War, killing and wounding a number of American and South Korean soldiers alike—should have alerted American planners that the North Koreans’ supreme leader, Premier Kim Il-sung, was more than ready to act unilaterally, especially after severe economic hardships and political dissent compelled him to find a way to distract his people from their plight.

In the nine months before Pueblo’s capture, 20 South Korean fishing vessels had been illegally seized by the North Koreans for allegedly entering their territorial waters. The North Koreans violated the armistice terms 40 more times just in the first month of 1968, and 40 hours prior to the attack upon Pueblo dispatched a 31-man commando team across the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas in a brazen, though unsuccessful, attempt to assassinate the president of South Korea, with the United States Embassy as a secondary target.

With one day remaining on Pueblo’s first mission, which had been uneventful to that point, it was decided not to inform her captain, Lloyd “Pete” Bucher, of the hostile North Korean action, a grave miscalculation that had horrendous repercussions for the tiny ship’s crew, operating alone and unsupported in hostile waters. Bucher later wrote that, had he known of the commando attack, he would have immediately moved Pueblo 30 miles out to sea, where the enemy’s sub chasers and torpedo boats probably would not have ventured. The crisis might have been averted.

The AGER Program

During the Cold War the United States maintained an extensive intelligence-collecting effort aimed at communist countries within the Sino-Soviet sphere of influence. The Soviet Union, for its part, developed a program of ocean-going trawlers outfitted as electronic surveillance platforms. Throughout the 1960s, these trawlers trailed ships of the U.S. Navy’s surface fleet, inserted themselves into the center of U.S. fleet exercises, and operated in the open just outside U.S. territorial waters intercepting electronic communications.

The United States depended on aircraft, submarines, and low-altitude earth-orbiting satellites to provide a good portion of the intelligence efforts directed at communist countries the flaw with these collection assets was their inability to remain on station for long periods of time. Looking at the apparent success of Soviet trawler operations, the Navy in conjunction with the NSA began development of the Auxiliary General Environmental Research (AGER) program to provide platforms that could remain inconspicuously on station for extended periods of time.

AGER ships were conceived as small, unarmed or lightly armed intelligence ships. Manned by U.S. Navy crews, communications technicians from the Naval Security Group, and civilian oceanographers, they would provide an equivalent capability to Soviet trawlers as well as be less costly to convert and operate. The United States already had a series of World War II-era Liberty-class ships serving as intelligence platforms the USS Liberty (AGTR-5) was a member of this series and was a success at its primary intelligence missions, but it was large and costly to operate.

A smaller ship that appeared nonconfrontational in nature might be able to remain on station longer and receive less attention than a large or heavily armed craft. To test the theory, one light auxiliary cargo vessel was selected for conversion it was refitted and christened USS Banner (AGER-1). During her operations in 1967-1968 off the coasts of the Soviet Union and China and the west coast of North Korea, Banner’s efforts were considered successful, and the Navy was authorized to convert two more auxiliary vessels into AGERs. These ships became the USS Pueblo (AGER-2) and USS Palm Beach (AGER-3). Pueblo was slated to join Banner in the western Pacific.

Hazardous Mission for the Aging USS Pueblo

The ship that became Pueblo was built in 1944 as U.S. Army cargo vessel FP-344 at 850 tons she was used as a general-purpose supply vessel during World War II and the Korean War. Laid up in 1954, she remained inactive until April 1966, when she was transferred to the U.S. Navy and renamed Pueblo (AGER-2), after which she began a lengthy conversion at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, for her new role as an intelligence platform. After training operations off the western coast of the United States, Pueblo departed for the Far East in November 1967 with a first-time captain and an inexperienced crew. While in Pearl Harbor and at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, the ship needed additional repairs, especially of her antiquated steering engine, which had failed 180 times in three days during pre-mission trials in San Diego.

While Pueblo was docked in Japan, Bucher asked his boss, Rear Admiral Frank Johnson, for TNT charges with which to scuttle the ship in an emergency. He was offered thermite instead, which Bucher refused, knowing it to be extremely hazardous as well as against naval regulations. Bucher didn’t pursue the matter, he wrote later, because he didn’t want his superiors to think they had a commander who was obsessed with blowing up his own ship. Pueblo was crammed with highly classified material and equipment, yet possessed only rudimentary equipment for destroying her secrets in an emergency. Bucher requested installation of an emergency destruct system but was refused—it was too costly, superiors said.

After the tragic and deadly attack upon Liberty by Israeli air and naval forces in June 1967, during the Six-Day War, the American chief of naval operations declared that all spy ships, no matter their size, would be armed immediately. Pueblo was authorized to carry a relatively large 50-mm cannon. But, overburdened with men and equipment, the vessel had neither the deck space nor qualified gunners to man the heavy weapon. Instead, Pueblo was supplied with two Browning .50-caliber machine guns, which were mounted on the starboard and stern rails without armor protection and wrapped in cold-weather tarpaulins, the ammunition stored below decks. Admiral Johnson was against arming Pueblo altogether, suggesting to Bucher in December 1967 that he point the covered guns downward or, better yet, store them below deck so as not to appear provocative.

Pueblo was never intended to fight her protection lay in international law and the freedom of the seas. Like Liberty, Pueblo operated under the assumption that help would be available if needed. The American Seventh Fleet, U.S. forces in Korea, and the Fifth Air Force in Fuchu, Japan, were all informed of Bucher’s mission, but because of the minimal risk assessment, the Navy made no specific requests for emergency support. Brig. Gen. John Harrell, Air Force commander in South Korea, asked the Navy if planes should be kept on “strip alert” for a possible rescue operation, but the Navy declined. When Fifth Air Force personnel questioned the lack of request for strip alert statue for Pueblo, they were also informed that it wouldn’t be needed. All requests by Bucher to upgrade his mission assessment to “hazardous” likewise were refused.

The Capture of the Pueblo

On the afternoon of January 20, 1968, a North Korean SO-1 class Soviet-style sub chaser passed within 4,000 yards of Pueblo. Two days later, two North Korean fishing trawlers passed within 30 yards of Pueblo. That same day, a 31-man North Korean commando team infiltrated across the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas and attempted to assassinate South Korean President Park Chung-hee and other senior government officials, penetrating as far as the presidential grounds before being halted. Oddly, Bucher and the men on Pueblo were not informed of the commando attack.


Hurricane Season is Here!

“Hurricane season brings a humbling reminder that, despite our technologies, most of nature remains unpredictable." – Diane Ackerman.

Virtual Sensory Story Time

People of all abilities are encouraged to participate in this inclusive story time experience through stories, songs and sensory-focused activities. Once registered, Virtual Sensory Story Time Kits can be picked up at each of our branches starting Mon, Apr 26. Call the branch's children's department for kit availability. While supplies last. All ages.

LAMP Pass

The exploration of our Palm Beach County Museums continues: Summer of 2021! Light up your child's world with a FREE Library Adventure Museum Pass!

BookSquad

Looking for your next great read? Our BookSquad is here to help! Complete our online form and we will email you a personalized list of suggested titles.


Our Newsletter

Product Description

USS Palm Beach AGER 3

"Personalized" Canvas Ship Print

(Not just a photo or poster but a work of art!)

Every sailor loved his ship. It was his life. Where he had tremendous responsibility and lived with his closest shipmates. As one gets older his appreciation for the ship and the Navy experience gets stronger. A personalized print shows ownership, accomplishment and an emotion that never goes away. It helps to show your pride even if a loved one is no longer with you. Every time you walk by the print you will feel the person or the Navy experience in your heart (guaranteed).

The image is portrayed on the waters of the ocean or bay with a display of her crest if available. The ships name is printed on the bottom of the print along with the type of ship it was. What a great canvas print to commemorate yourself or someone you know who may have served aboard her.

The printed picture is exactly as you see it. The canvas size is 8"x10" ready for framing as it is or you can add an additional matte of your own choosing. If you would like a larger picture size (11"x 14") on a 13" X 19" canvas simply purchase this print then prior to payment purchase additional services located in the store category (14x11 Print Enlargement) found to the left of this page. This option is an additional $12.00. The prints are made to order. They look awesome when matted and framed.

We PERSONALIZE the print with "Name, Rank and/or Years Served" or anything else you would like it to state (NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE). It is placed just above the ships photo. After purchasing the print simply email us or indicate in the notes section of your payment what you would like printed on it. If we do not hear from you regarding your personalization we will process yopur order without any.

United States Navy Sailor
YOUR NAME HERE
Proudly Served Sept 1963 - Sept 1967

This would make a nice gift and a great addition to any historic military collection. Would be fantastic for decorating the home or office wall.

The watermark "Great Naval Images" will NOT be on your print.

This photo is printed on Archival-Safe Acid-Free canvas using a high resolution printer and should last many years.

Because of its unique natural woven texture canvas offers a special and distinctive look that can only be captured on canvas. The canvas print does not need glass thereby enhancing the appearance of your print, eliminating glare and reducing your overall cost.

We guarantee you will not be disappointed with this item or your money back. In addition, We will replace the canvas print unconditionally for FREE if you damage your print. You would only be charged a nominal fee plus shipping and handling.

Check our feedback. Customers who have purchased these prints have been very satisfied.

Buyer pays shipping and handling. Shipping charges outside the US will vary by location.

Thanks for looking!


Powered by
The free listing tool. List your items fast and easy and manage your active items.


Aftermath [ edit | edit source ]

Pueblo was taken into port at Wonsan and the crew was moved twice to POW camps. The crew reported upon release that they were starved and regularly tortured while in North Korean custody. This treatment allegedly turned worse ⎜] when the North Koreans realized that crewmen were secretly giving them "the finger" in staged propaganda photos. ⎝]

Commander Lloyd M. Bucher was psychologically tortured, such as being put through a mock firing squad in an effort to make him confess. Eventually the Koreans threatened to execute his men in front of him, and Bucher relented and agreed to "confess to his and the crew's transgression." Bucher wrote the confession since a "confession" by definition needed to be written by the confessor himself. They verified the meaning of what he wrote, but failed to catch the pun when he said "We paean the DPRK [North Korea]. We paean their great leader Kim Il Sung". ⎞] ⎟] (The word "paean" sounds identical to the term "pee on" in American English.)

Negotiations for the release of the crew took place at Panmunjom. At the same time, U.S. officials were concerned with conciliating the South Koreans, who expressed discontent about being left out of the negotiations. Richard A. Ericson, a political counselor for the American embassy in Seoul and operating officer for the Pueblo negotiations, notes in his oral history:

The South Koreans were absolutely furious and suspicious of what we might do. They anticipated that the North Koreans would try to exploit the situation to the ROK's disadvantage in every way possible, and they were rapidly growing distrustful of us and losing faith in their great ally. Of course, we had this other problem of how to ensure that the ROK would not retaliate for the Blue House Raid and to ease their growing feelings of insecurity. They began to realize that the DMZ was porous and they wanted more equipment and aid. So, we were juggling a number of problems. ⎠]

He also noted how the meetings at Panmunjom were usually unproductive, due to the particular negotiating style of the North Koreans:

As one example, we would go up with a proposal of some sort on the release of the crew and they would be sitting there with a card catalog. If the answer to the particular proposal we presented wasn’t in the cards, they would say something that was totally unresponsive and then go off and come back to the next meeting with an answer that was directed to the question. But there was rarely an immediate answer. That happened all through the negotiations. Their negotiators obviously were never empowered to act or speak on the basis of personal judgment or general instructions. They always had to defer a reply and presumably they went over it up in Pyongyang and passed it around and then decided on it. Sometimes we would get totally nonsensical responses if they didn’t have something in the card file that corresponded to the proposal at hand. ⎠]

Ericson and George Newman, the Deputy Chief of Mission in Seoul, wrote a telegram for the State Department in February, 1968, predicting how the negotiations would play out:

What we said in effect was this: If you are going to do this thing at Panmunjom, and if your sole objective is to get the crew back, you will be playing into North Korea's hands and the negotiations will follow a clear and inevitable path. You are going to be asked to sign a document that the North Koreans will have drafted. They will brook no changes. It will set forth their point of view and require you to confess to everything they accuse you of. If you allow them to, they will take as much time as they feel they need to squeeze every damn thing they can get out of this situation in terms of their propaganda goals, and they will try to exploit this situation to drive a wedge between the U.S. and the ROK. Then when they feel they have accomplished all they can, and when we have agreed to sign their document of confession and apology, they will return the crew. They will not return the ship. This is the way it is going to be because this is the way it has always been. ⎠]

Following an apology, a written admission by the U.S. that Pueblo had been spying, and an assurance that the U.S. would not spy in the future, the North Korean government decided to release the 82 remaining crew members, although the written apology was preceded by an oral statement that it was done only to secure the release. ⎡] On 23 December 1968, the crew was taken by buses to the DMZ border with South Korea and ordered to walk south one by one across the "Bridge of No Return". Exactly eleven months after being taken prisoner, the Captain led the long line of crewmen, followed at the end by the Executive Officer, Lieutenant Ed Murphy, the last man across the bridge. The U.S. then verbally retracted the ransom admission, apology, and assurance. Meanwhile the North Koreans blanked out the paragraph above the signature which read: "and this hereby receipts for eighty two crewmen and one dead body". [ Clarification needed ]


Bucher and all the officers and crew subsequently appeared before a Navy Court of Inquiry. A court-martial was recommended for the CO and the Officer in Charge of the Research Department, Lt. Steve Harris. But the Secretary of the Navy, John Chafee, rejected the recommendation, stating, "They have suffered enough." Commander Bucher was never found guilty of any indiscretions and continued his Navy career until retirement. ⎢]

In 1970, Bucher published an autobiographical account of the USS Pueblo incident entitled Bucher: My Story. ⎣] Bucher died in San Diego on 28 January 2004, at the age of 76. James Kell, a former sailor under his command, suggested that the injuries suffered by Bucher during his time in North Korea contributed to his death. ⎢]


Sunday Ship History: Freight Supply Ships

Once upon a time, the biggest "fleet" in the world belonged not to the U.S. Navy, but rather to the U.S. Army.

That is, if you count hulls of all types, of course. Largely, the Army fleet was a logistics fleet. If you count combatant ships, the U.S. Navy in WWII was big. Really big.

On the other hand, what wins wars is not always the point of spear, but rather the ability of spear to keep moving forward, constantly sharpened, replenished and sustained. And to do that, well, you need a great big logistics force. The Army Transport Service, with its 127,000 hulls of various types helped do the job.

And among these hulls were some little ships, unnamed but numbered as Freight Supply (FS) ships. They served in the South Pacific, where their shallow drafts made them good ships for resupply mission among the island groups. They served in the Aleutians, they served off Okinawa where they fought kamikazes. They were torpedoed, bombed, strafed and generally, like much of logistics, ignored until needed. They did the day to day work getting supplies to the troops.

A large contingent of these Army ships were manned by Coast Guard crews. In the Coast Guard records there is a list of such ships and among that list are reports of the accomplishments of some of the crew:


****
FS-158
The Coast Guard-manned Army vessel FS-158 was commissioned 17 May 1944 at Los Angeles, California, with LT Sloan Wilson, USCGR, as first commanding officer. He later became a famous author and his works included The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. LT Wallace E. Cooke, USCGR succeeded him on 26 September 1945. LTJG Robert J. Pate, Jr., USCGR subsequently succeeded him. She was assigned to and operated in the Southwest Pacific area.
***
FS-255
The Coast Guard-manned Army vessel FS-255 was commissioned at Wheeler Shipyard, Whitestone, NY on 6 June 1944. On 10 May 1945, the FS-255 had proceeded to Taloma Bay with the Davao Gulf First Re-Supply Echelon with a cargo of 155-mm ammunition on board, for the use of the 24th Division, U.S. Army in their operations against the enemy. On the night of 10-11 May 1945, she was anchored in 17 fathoms of water, 1000 yards, 140 degrees from the pier at the head of Taloma Bay, Davao Gulf, Mindanao, Philippines. Both #1 and #2 hatches were open and about 80 tons of ammunition were still on board. The ship was dark and the quartermaster on watch was on the bridge and the security watch on #2 hatch, the engineer on watch in the engine room. It was rainy and the weather was thick when at 0030 on 11 May 1945 she was struck by a torpedo on her port quarter in the after crew's compartment. The commanding officer, LT George A. Tardif, USCG, was in his berth at the time, but immediately went on deck with a battle light to ascertain the cause of the explosion and extent of damage. He found that the torpedo had hit her on the port quarter, ordered all hands checked and a search for injured men. The main engines were nearly flooded and water was pouring into the engine rooms from the bulkhead aft which was badly ruptured. The 140 mm gun had been blown off and one ready ammunition box belonging to it was found on the forecastle head near the anchor winch, with 140 mm shells about forward of #1 hatch. The ship had buckled between #2 hatch and the bridge structure with foot high ridges in the deck plating, extending down the sides of the ship into the water. . Out of a total enlisted complement of 20, 16 survived. All four officers also survived.
***
FS-265

The Coast Guard-manned Army vessel FS-265 was commissioned at New York on 1 September 1944. On 5 April 1945, while on course, a floating horned mine was sighted dead ahead in position 05° 43' S, 147° 09' E drifting across a heavily traveled shipping lane through which an aircraft carrier had been seen to pass not more than half an hour before. The FS-265 maneuvered into a position from which it was possible to explode the mine with machine gun fire. The damage to the FS-265 from the exploding mine was slight, consisting of a few jammed doors and locks, short circuits in the radio transmitter and a leak in the hydraulic rudder angle indicator. All of this damage was subsequently repaired.
***
FS-280

The Coast Guard-manned Army vessel FS-280 was commissioned on 9 December 1944 at Wheeler Shipyard, Whitestone, NY .

Shortly after 2200 on 10 July 1945, the sky at Zamboanga, Philippines was illuminated by a column of flame that climbed 200 feet in the air. The entire fuel dock appeared ablaze. All hands on the FS-280 mere awaiting the explosion of the two large tankers known to be moored there. LT Waldron, commanding officer of the FS-280, assembled a fire and rescue party consisting of himself and five Coast Guard enlisted man and proceeded to the scene, two miles away in the motor launch. As they approached, the fire seemed to be slackening in intensity and they were able to distinguish the source of the blaze, which were dolphins to which the inboard tanker USS Stonewall (IX-185) was secured. Flaming oil filled the area between the dolphins and the fire encompassed a total area of 300 square feet with 2 or 3 small fires on the decks of the two tankers 200 feet from the outboard tanker, M. V. China, a native vinta was observed aflame 75 feet of f the bow of the Stonewall. The flames were 3 feet high and appeared to arise from three distinct sources of fuel within the vinta. The Coast Guardsmen proceeded down the seaward side of the China and observed a lifeboat overcrowded with an excited Chinese crew. Going alongside they quieted the Chinese and directed them to follow them to the fuel dock. Swinging under the stern of the Stonewall they observed that four hoses were hooked up on the port side aft and fire fighters aboard the Stonewall were directing three streams at a surface oil fire, 50 feet long, blazing under the counter and along the port quarter. The other hose was cooling the mid-ship sides, dock, and dolphins that it could reach. The launch headed in and attempted to douse the flames by splashing water with floorboards ripped from the launch, but the blaze spread and they ware forced back. A hose was requested and lowered and the flames under the port quarter were extinguished within five minutes. Flames still leaped from a forward dolphin just beyond reach of the ship's hose and the Coast Guardsmen requested another hose and easing under the dock that drenched the only remaining dolphin afire. Approaching within 20 feet with a third length of hose their solid stream made short work of the blaze. Going aboard the Stonewall, after the hull and remaining dolphins had been drenched to cool them off, it was learned that an accidental discharge of five barrels of aviation gasoline had been set afire by sparks from a native boat. Only the courageous action of the fire fighters on board the two tankers had prevented them from being blown "galley west." It had been touch and go with hundreds of gallons of gasoline within 50 feet of the last flame to be extinguished. The five Coast Guardsmen who worked with LT Waldrop for an hour to save the two tankers acted in the best traditions of the Coast Guard and were recommended for recognition. They were:

Paul T. Doyle
Lawrence Bendoski
Philip C. Hayes
Robert A. Mulford
Isadore Weinstein

The Coast Guard-manned Army vessel FS-309 was commissioned at New York on 10 April 1944 . FS-309 proceeded to New Guinea, via Honolulu and Ellice Islands. At Milne Bay, New Guinea she unloaded and reloaded for Hollandia and joined a convoy for the Philippines.

As she approached Leyte the crew was notified that "enemy air attack can be expected at any time," but they sailed up Leyte Bay without firing a shot. A few days later, however, on Christmas Eve, 1944, the airfield at Tacloban was attacked and she began shooting at enemy planes along with shore batteries.

Sailing shortly afterward for Mindoro, the FS-309 was subject to concentrated attacks from enemy kamikazes while steaming through the Surigao Straits, the Mindanao Sea, the Sulu Sea and the Mindoro Straits on 28 December 1944. The convoy shot down some 26 enemy planes. The FS-309's guns fired into one Zero, putting her ablaze shortly before she banked into the ammunition-laden USS Porcupine (IX-120) 200 yards ahead. A terrific explosion followed, the concussion picking everybody several feet off the deck of the FS-309 and tearing the flying bridge to pieces with all shatter proof windows which were not down being completely pulverized. As the smoke rose from the Porcupine, the remnants of the ill-fated ship were seen falling from the sky into the sea as shrapnel littered the deck, with booms, life rafts, hatches, etc. of the ill-starred ship dropping not 20 feet ahead of the FS-309. Out of the smoky area, three huge, mountainous waves were seen approaching and two men were seen frantically waving and shouting in the water. The FS-309 maneuvered closer and Francis L. Owens, USCGR, of the FS-309's crew jumped overboard. He carried lines to them and they were rescued. The two men turned out not to be from the Porcupine, but from a Navy vessel in the column to the left of the FS-309. They had been blown overboard in the Porcupine explosion. The enemy had scored three hits. The Porcupine had entirely disappeared except for a floating body and two others were seen abandoned and burning in the distance. Attacks continued while anchored off Mindoro Island and the FS-309 went to the aid of a burning gasoline tanker hit by suicide divers and rescued her crew. On 31 January 1945, the FS-309 pulled into the partially wrecked Wawa River Wharf at Nasugbu Bay where the last 300 defenders of Bataan and Corregidor had been landed and held prisoner for many days, many of them dying for want of medical care. Here enemy "Q" boats--small fast speedboats carrying two depth charges aft and attacking shipping at anchor with suicidal intent were known to be operating. The FS-309 was the first United States vessel to remain overnight. A raft extending out from the ship was accordingly built to provide additional protection. Five days later, the expected "Q" boat attack came. Shortly after 1 AM, a watch sighted three helmeted Japanese in a motorboat. He gave the alarm and the searchlight was turned on them. Not 50 yards away they became confused and ran into the raft near the fantail. The explosion that followed blew the Japanese and the "Q" boat into the air and lifted the stern of the FS-309 out of the water. So great was the explosion that a lifeboat on the FS-309's boat deck was completely filled with sand and water. Crewmembers just starting for their battle stations were thrown violently on deck while water poured into their quarters through weather doors and passageways. The men thought an enemy aerial bomb had hit the ship. No one was hurt and the ship was comparatively undamaged thanks to the protective raft. The bodies of a Japanese captain and lieutenant were found, indicating the importance of the mission. If they had succeeded the dock would have been rendered useless for some time.
***
FS-367
The Coast Guard-manned Army vessel FS-367 was commissioned April 29, 1944, w. She reached her final destination in the Philippines on 30 December 1944. In Operation L-3, near San Jose, Mindoro Island, Philippines, she anchored 500 yards off Bulong Point midway between Blue and White beaches. The USS Mariposa, Navy X-126, Liberty-type, converted oil tanker, dropped anchor about 300 yards away and some 800 yards from shore. At 1530 Japanese planes, in a sudden and devastating attack of shipping in the harbor sunk or damaged 24 ships. One crashed the USS Arturus, a PT-boat tender, which sank almost immediately. A second made a low level strafing and bombing attack on a group of LSTs unloading at White Beach blowing the stern off one of them and than turned on the Mariposa, into which it crash dived. The tanker immediately burst into flames and a number of the crew either were blown or jumped into the water. The FS- 367 went to her assistance. At the same time a third Japanese plane made a low-level attack on the destroyers outside the harbor, straddling two destroyers with bombs and finally crashing into the USS Ganesvoort, which immediately began to burn and settle in the water, being assisted by two other destroyers, in a sinking condition. Proceeding to assist the Mariposa, the FS-367 took several men aboard with her boarding net and James D. Ellis sighting a man struggling in the water and calling for help, dove into the water and supported him until both were picked up by an LSM. The FS-367 stayed alongside the Mariposa until all survivors had been taken off. About 1900 the FS-367 withdrew out of the line of fire of guns that were about to shell the Mariposa. Later, this was cancelled and the Ganesvoort launched 2 torpedoes into her. Immediately thereafter a great amount of burning gasoline spread over the bay making the FS-367's anchorage unsafe. As she was preparing to move, the Ganesvoort requested she come alongside and take off her crew. By the time she had reached the destroyer, however, the gasoline had spread so widely that the Ganesvoort was in immediate danger of being engulfed. The FS-367, instead of stopping to take off personnel, warped alongside the destroyer and began towing her to a safe anchorage. While so occupied another alert sounded and a Japanese plane was shot down immediately overhead. The FS-367 finally got the Ganesvoort to safety several hundred yards off White Beach. The next day the Ganesvoort was abandoned by her crew in a sinking condition. No casualties were suffered by the FS-367.

Of the non-Coast Guard manned ships (of which there were man, but not much in the way of written history exists), one crewman serving in the Aleutians also gained some fame as a writer, Gore Vidal served, it seems, as first mate on an FS. The experience prompted the writing of his first book, Williwaw.

Although Thomas Heggen, the author of the book Mr. Roberts, never served in an FS (he served in USS Virgo, a cargo ship (AKA-20) later converted into an ammunition ship (AE-20)) the movie Mr. Roberts did use an FS (or in Navy terms an "AKL") as a set. Apparently there is some controversy about exactly which AKL was used, with one side asserting it was USS Hewell (AKL 14)(formerly FS-391) and another group claiming it was USNS New Bedford (T-AKL-17) (formerly FS-289), now known as Sea Bird, a fishing vessel based in San Diego. Whichever, the vessel will live on forever in a great Navy movie.

Another collection of FS/AKL ships that will live forever in history began their lives as FS 344, FS 217 and FS 345. These eventually became Navy ships and were converted into USS Pueblo (AGER-2), USS Palm Beach (AGER-3) and USS Banner (AGER-1)- "environmental research ships" (with a mission described as "electronic intelligence collection and other duties").


As most of you know, Pueblo currently resides in the custody of the North Koreans.

Others of these ships probably plied the waters of the Pacific until they could no longer go on. A few others helped usher in the space age and missile testing, as set out here concerning the testing of the "Snark" missile:

The Air Force saw rockets as unreliable, inaccurate, and too small to deliver the massive nuclear bombs of the era. Instead, Cape workers focused on subsonic, jet-propelled cruise missiles. One such missile was the Snark, which would become the United States' first intercontinental missile. At the Cape, though, the Snark is best remembered for its numerous failures. So many of these missiles hit the drink off Cape Canaveral that locals began referring to that section of the Atlantic as "Snark-infested." But the Snark eventually achieved its intended long-range capability, (roughly 5,500 miles), and in so doing, it forced the construction of the tracking stations that would become the Eastern Test Range.

The West Indies stretch 1,600 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral and were perfectly placed for Snark tracking. Beyond these islands, though, range planners had 3,000 miles of unbroken ocean to contend with before tiny Ascension Island came into view. If a Snark went haywire during this leg, the only sign of its demise would be its failure to appear on Ascension's radar screens.

In 1956, Air Force officials, in an attempt to plug this gap, went to the mothballed World War II fleet. From there they selected six ships of the "FS" class ("Freighter, Small"). (James Cagney's much-maligned ship in the movie Mr. Roberts was an FS.) The ships were nameless, but the Air Force gave them call signs-- Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, and Kilo - and sent them off for a facelift. For one thing, the port and starboard gun mounts had to go. In their place, shipyard workers installed telemetry antennas. (White radomes covered these antennas, and the resulting assembly came to be known as the ship's bra.) Belowdecks, a cargo hold became the ship's electronics center. It contained all the equipment necessary to lock onto the Snark's beacon and record the data for later mailing back to the Cape.

By October 31, 1957, the ships were in position, ready to track the first Snark to travel the entire length of the range.

You might note the FS working in the Snark program has a USAF hull number. Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force. These little ships got around.

So offer up a salute to the brave men who served in these sea-going cargo trucks and who fought them in hot war, cold war and in the service of their country.

UPDATE: An email sent me to a site at which Vietnam service for at least one AKL is demonstrated. The site is here, the vessel being USS Brule (AKL-28) (formerly FS-370) - although the site asserts it was a T-AKL, in the photos, I see indications of it being a commissioned Navy ship and not USNS or MSC. See also here, for site run by Albert Moore devoted to Brule. Mr. Moore also notes that USS Mark (AKL-12) served in the Riverine Navy. Mr. Moore has a bit of her Vietnam combat history:

In 1968 the USS Brule sustained seven rocket hits while on one of her normal runs. Despite extensive damage to the superstructure and electrical cabling, Brule suppressed the enemy fire and proceeded on schedule. The true spirit of the Officers and Men of Brule was exemplified by their own words reporting the damage, "ship and crew ready to haul cargo or fight and not necessarily in that order."

Although small and unprepossessing in appearance, this gallant little ship was definitely considered a stellar and vital performer in the "Brown Water Navy" of the Mekong Delta area of South Vietnam. Notes of interest: Far from being one of the glamour ships of the fleet, the USS Brule (AKL-28) had a unique personality of her own. A small crew of 43 enlisted and 5 Officers maintained her 176 feet by 32 feet of hull. Occasionally she may have been spotted with deck red, in a constant effort to keep her looking like a "lady", but whether her cargo was fizzies or civic action items, she traveled thousands of miles of rivers and oceans to carry out her support and to fulfill her motto: SERVICE-OUR MISSION FOR FREEDOM."

USS Satyr (AKL-23) was also one of the former FS's that served in the waterways of Vietnam. My apologies for leaving them off the original post. Good site for some additional background is Brownwater Navy from whence comes the photo of Brule.

UPDATE2: More discussion about the ship used in making Mr. Roberts here, with photographic evidence and "eyewitness" testimony here. Big hat tip!


Station HYPO

The text of this narration, written by LCDR Ron Samuelson, is based entirely upon the recollections of Communications Chief James Kell, USN.

Jim Kell was a member of the crew of the USS Pueblo and recounted his experience to LCDR Ronald A. Samuelson, USNR. They were both station on Oahu in 1969 and lived close to each other in Navy housing near Pearl Harbor. LCDR Samuelson would make drawings based on Chief Kell’s narratives, and show them to Chief Kell who would make recommendations to improve their accuracy. Chief Kell was the senior enlisted member of the “Research Department” aboard the USS Pueblo. Unfortunately, the mutual effort of CTC Jim Kell and LCDR Ron Samuelson was never completed as LCDR Samuelson was sent to Vietnam in latter 1969 and the CTC Kell sent to his new duty station in San Diego. They lost contact with each other and never completed their mutual project. Because of this there is no story line and only fragmented chronological flow. The collection of drawings and accompanying narrative is the sum of their aborted efforts.

Besides CTC Kell, LCDR Samuelson had other ties with the Pueblo in that he was a friend of the Officer in Charge of the Research Department, having attended Russian Language School with Steve Harris in 1964. In addition, LCDR Samuelson was the “Issuing Officer” (Officer-in-Charge) of the Registered Publications Issuing Office (RPIO Honolulu) located at Pearl Harbor, and personally provided Steve Harris with all of the cryptologic material (code, etc.) that would be needed for the Pueblo’s operations in the Far East. Samuelson’s last words to Steve Harris as he departed the RPIO were, “Bon voyage.”

The Pueblo itself was originally launched in 1944 as a U.S. Army general purpose supply ship. It went through various transformations, became a U.S. Navy ship in 1966, and renamed USS Pueblo after the Colorado City of that name. It was ultimately classified as an Auxiliary General Environmental Research vessel and designated AGER-2. Two other vessels were also in this class, the USS Banner (AGER-1) and the USS Palm Beach (AGER-3). There were five other, similar intelligence gathering vessels designated Auxiliary General Technical Research vessels, one of which was the USS Liberty (AGTR-5). Each was lightly armed and intended to conduct surveillance and collect electronic and communications signals close-in to foreign shorelines. However, the AGER program was a unique, joint program between the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Navy, and its tasking was accomplished not through normal Navy channels, but through the Navy Security Group Command. RPIO Honolulu, noted above was also affiliated with Commander Naval Security Group (COMNAVSECGRU) and the NSA.

The USS Banner had conducted the initial AGER mission in Asian waters. It was a successful undertaking, but precautions were taken such as aircraft were on strip alert and two U.S. Destroyers were within fifty miles of the vessel. After the Pueblo incident, the Banner and the Palm Beach were designated by the Navy as “stricken.” The Pueblo’s name remains on the list of U.S. Navy ships and part of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. The Navy also struck the AGTR ships. The USS Liberty, only seven months before only voyage of the USS Pueblo, was badly damaged by Israeli warplanes as it patrolled in combat zone waters during the Six Day War in June, 1967. 34 men were killed and 172 wounded, including the Commanding Officer. The Israelis contended that they thought the Liberty was an Egyptian ship.

Pueblo’s Mission

The Pueblo weighed 906 tons, mounted two .50 caliber machine guns, and had a crew of 83 officers and men, including two civilian oceanographers. Its mission included intercepting and locating coastal radar, determining North Korean and Soviet reaction to overt intelligence collection, and collection intelligence on Soviet Navy units. The three operating areas along the North Korean East coast in which the Pueblo would conduct its operations were named Pluto, Venus, and Mars. Upon completion of operations there the Pueblo would return to Sasebo, Japan and while en route, conduct surveillance on Soviet Navy units in the Tsushima Straits. The timetable was to depart Sasebo on January 8, arrive in operating area Mars about January 10, depart the operating areas on January 27 and return to Sasebo by February 4. Although CDR Bucher unsuccessfully tried to have the Pueblo’s mission raised to Hazardous, the mission was designated as “low risk” by United States Commander-in-Chief Pacific Fleet (U.S. CINCPACFLT). Within the CINCPACFLT staff was a Navy Security Group Department which represented the Commander, Naval Security Group who played a major role in the operations of the AGERs.

North Korea Vessels Approach

After departing Sasebo on January 11, the Pueblo steamed to the northern operations area Pluto in the vicinity of Chogjin and Songjin. Then the Pueblo started to patrol southward through operations Venus, and then into Mars off the coast of Wonsan, remaining outside of North Korea’s territorial waters. On January 22 two Russian built North Korean fishing trawlers approached and circled the Pueblo, one coming within 25 yards. CDR Bucher decided to break EMCON (emission control – radio silence) to send a SITREP (situation report) to COMNAVSECGRU informing them of the close encounter. However, the message was not received until 14 hours later because of poor atmospheric conditions. In their response, COMNAVSECGRU did not inform CDR Bucher that the North Koreans attempted an assassination of the South Korean President Park Chung-hee at the President’s executive mansion, known as the “Blue House.”

North Korea’s Attack

The following day on January 23, the Pueblo was 15.8 miles outside North Korea’s territorial limits, when she was approached by a North Korean SO-1 submarine chaser, capable of 40 knots, followed by three P-4 torpedo boats. The SO-1 signaled, “HEAVE TO OR I WILL FIRE.” Shortly after that order two North Korea MIG-21 fighters conducted a low fly over. A second SO-1 submarine chaser along with a fourth torpedo boat then approached the Pueblo. Attempting to avoid confrontation, the Pueblo attempted to depart the area at maximum speed. However, responding to the maneuver the first SO-1 came alongside and again indicated “HEAVE TO OR I WILL FIRE,” following with firing its 57mm cannon at the Pueblo wounding CDR Bucher and two other men. After the first assault, a P-4 torpedo boat sprayed the Pueblo’s superstructure with their machine guns and uncovered its torpedo tube. With the superior fire power by North Koreans and Pueblo’s 50mm gun frozen in ice and ammunition stowed below desks, it was clear the Pueblo could not defend herself against the North Korean attacks.

Emergency Destruction Called

CDR Bucher ordered the destruction of classified material, an order that would only partially be carried out since there were inadequate means to quickly accomplish this. In attempt to destroy classified material some was jettison overboard by Firemen Hodges and two others, but the men were wounded by gunfire in this heroic attempt. Shortly later Firemen Hodges died of his wounds – the only man who lost his life in the entire Pueblo drama. Throughout the attack, the Pueblo was in radio contact with the Navy Security Group in Kamiseya, Japan. The Pueblo was told “Some birds winging your way.” However, no air support or any other support arrived.

Pueblo Captured

North Korean Army troops from one of the torpedo boats came aboard and took control of the Pueblo, blindfolded the crew and forced them to sit in the well deck and on the fantail. They were jabbed, kicked, and poked with bayonets. Once inside territorial waters more North Koreans came aboard and a North Korean pilot sailed the ship at maximum speed to the port of Wonson, North Korea. A jeering crowd awaited the Pueblo crewmen when they arrived. The nightmare of the members of the USS Pueblo had begun!


Palm Beach AGER-3 - History

The humiliating seizure of the American spy ship Pueblo on January 23, 1968, by North Korean gunboats proved both an enormous intelligence setback and a searing indictment of America’s Cold War policy. With their opening salvo of cannon and machine-gun fire aimed almost point-blank at the ship’s pilothouse, the North Koreans blew away both Pueblo’s main line of defense and the time-honored respect for the freedom of the seas. The attack also revealed the defenseless nature of the ship, her mission, and the entire concept behind it.
[text_ad]

The stain on American honor started with Naval Intelligence and the National Security Agency (NSA), the originators of the spy ship program and Operation Clickbeetle, which sent the poorly armed Pueblo into hostile waters off North Korea’s east coast in the first place. Also coming in for a share of the blame were the planners who assessed Pueblo’s mission as one of minimal risk, the chain of command in Hawaii and Washington that seconded it, and the Lyndon Johnson administration’s unsophisticated interpretation of international relations as a bipolar rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Had American policymakers regarded North Korea as a country with its own national agenda, rather than as an auxiliary serving a global communist conspiracy headed by the Soviet Union, the Pueblo incident might have been avoided or resolved more effectively. The warning signs were there for all to see: the hostile actions of the North Koreans in 1967 alone—they violated some 542 times the 1953 armistice agreements that ended the Korean War, killing and wounding a number of American and South Korean soldiers alike—should have alerted American planners that the North Koreans’ supreme leader, Premier Kim Il-sung, was more than ready to act unilaterally, especially after severe economic hardships and political dissent compelled him to find a way to distract his people from their plight.

Pueblo originally was harbored at the port of Wonsan, but now is kept at the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, where she is promoted as a tourist attraction.

In the nine months before Pueblo’s capture, 20 South Korean fishing vessels had been illegally seized by the North Koreans for allegedly entering their territorial waters. The North Koreans violated the armistice terms 40 more times just in the first month of 1968, and 40 hours prior to the attack upon Pueblo dispatched a 31-man commando team across the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas in a brazen, though unsuccessful, attempt to assassinate the president of South Korea, with the United States Embassy as a secondary target.

With one day remaining on Pueblo’s first mission, which had been uneventful to that point, it was decided not to inform her captain, Lloyd “Pete” Bucher, of the hostile North Korean action, a grave miscalculation that had horrendous repercussions for the tiny ship’s crew, operating alone and unsupported in hostile waters. Bucher later wrote that, had he known of the commando attack, he would have immediately moved Pueblo 30 miles out to sea, where the enemy’s sub chasers and torpedo boats probably would not have ventured. The crisis might have been averted.

The AGER Program

During the Cold War the United States maintained an extensive intelligence-collecting effort aimed at communist countries within the Sino-Soviet sphere of influence. The Soviet Union, for its part, developed a program of ocean-going trawlers outfitted as electronic surveillance platforms. Throughout the 1960s, these trawlers trailed ships of the U.S. Navy’s surface fleet, inserted themselves into the center of U.S. fleet exercises, and operated in the open just outside U.S. territorial waters intercepting electronic communications.

The United States depended on aircraft, submarines, and low-altitude earth-orbiting satellites to provide a good portion of the intelligence efforts directed at communist countries the flaw with these collection assets was their inability to remain on station for long periods of time. Looking at the apparent success of Soviet trawler operations, the Navy in conjunction with the NSA began development of the Auxiliary General Environmental Research (AGER) program to provide platforms that could remain inconspicuously on station for extended periods of time.

AGER ships were conceived as small, unarmed or lightly armed intelligence ships. Manned by U.S. Navy crews, communications technicians from the Naval Security Group, and civilian oceanographers, they would provide an equivalent capability to Soviet trawlers as well as be less costly to convert and operate. The United States already had a series of World War II-era Liberty-class ships serving as intelligence platforms the USS Liberty (AGTR-5) was a member of this series and was a success at its primary intelligence missions, but it was large and costly to operate.

Captured crew members surreptitiously give the finger to their North Korean captors in this staged propaganda photo.

A smaller ship that appeared nonconfrontational in nature might be able to remain on station longer and receive less attention than a large or heavily armed craft. To test the theory, one light auxiliary cargo vessel was selected for conversion it was refitted and christened USS Banner (AGER-1). During her operations in 1967-1968 off the coasts of the Soviet Union and China and the west coast of North Korea, Banner’s efforts were considered successful, and the Navy was authorized to convert two more auxiliary vessels into AGERs. These ships became the USS Pueblo (AGER-2) and USS Palm Beach (AGER-3). Pueblo was slated to join Banner in the western Pacific.

Hazardous Mission for the Aging USS Pueblo

The ship that became Pueblo was built in 1944 as U.S. Army cargo vessel FP-344 at 850 tons she was used as a general-purpose supply vessel during World War II and the Korean War. Laid up in 1954, she remained inactive until April 1966, when she was transferred to the U.S. Navy and renamed Pueblo (AGER-2), after which she began a lengthy conversion at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, for her new role as an intelligence platform. After training operations off the western coast of the United States, Pueblo departed for the Far East in November 1967 with a first-time captain and an inexperienced crew. While in Pearl Harbor and at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, the ship needed additional repairs, especially of her antiquated steering engine, which had failed 180 times in three days during pre-mission trials in San Diego.

While Pueblo was docked in Japan, Bucher asked his boss, Rear Admiral Frank Johnson, for TNT charges with which to scuttle the ship in an emergency. He was offered thermite instead, which Bucher refused, knowing it to be extremely hazardous as well as against naval regulations. Bucher didn’t pursue the matter, he wrote later, because he didn’t want his superiors to think they had a commander who was obsessed with blowing up his own ship. Pueblo was crammed with highly classified material and equipment, yet possessed only rudimentary equipment for destroying her secrets in an emergency. Bucher requested installation of an emergency destruct system but was refused—it was too costly, superiors said.

After the tragic and deadly attack upon Liberty by Israeli air and naval forces in June 1967, during the Six-Day War, the American chief of naval operations declared that all spy ships, no matter their size, would be armed immediately. Pueblo was authorized to carry a relatively large 50-mm cannon. But, overburdened with men and equipment, the vessel had neither the deck space nor qualified gunners to man the heavy weapon. Instead, Pueblo was supplied with two Browning .50-caliber machine guns, which were mounted on the starboard and stern rails without armor protection and wrapped in cold-weather tarpaulins, the ammunition stored below decks. Admiral Johnson was against arming Pueblo altogether, suggesting to Bucher in December 1967 that he point the covered guns downward or, better yet, store them below deck so as not to appear provocative.

Pueblo was never intended to fight her protection lay in international law and the freedom of the seas. Like Liberty, Pueblo operated under the assumption that help would be available if needed. The American Seventh Fleet, U.S. forces in Korea, and the Fifth Air Force in Fuchu, Japan, were all informed of Bucher’s mission, but because of the minimal risk assessment, the Navy made no specific requests for emergency support. Brig. Gen. John Harrell, Air Force commander in South Korea, asked the Navy if planes should be kept on “strip alert” for a possible rescue operation, but the Navy declined. When Fifth Air Force personnel questioned the lack of request for strip alert statue for Pueblo, they were also informed that it wouldn’t be needed. All requests by Bucher to upgrade his mission assessment to “hazardous” likewise were refused.

The Capture of the Pueblo

On the afternoon of January 20, 1968, a North Korean SO-1 class Soviet-style sub chaser passed within 4,000 yards of Pueblo. Two days later, two North Korean fishing trawlers passed within 30 yards of Pueblo. That same day, a 31-man North Korean commando team infiltrated across the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas and attempted to assassinate South Korean President Park Chung-hee and other senior government officials, penetrating as far as the presidential grounds before being halted. Oddly, Bucher and the men on Pueblo were not informed of the commando attack.

Pueblo’s final day of monitoring, January 23, began uneventfully. Early in the afternoon, a North Korean patrol vessel was spotted advancing toward Pueblo at high speed, and as it drew nearer it raised signal flags, demanding Pueblo identify her nationality. The intercepting crew was at battle stations. While his men hoisted three American flags, Bucher verified by radar that his ship was in international waters, farther than 13 nautical miles from shore. As three more North Korean torpedo boats approached, the sub chaser signaled the alarming message that sealed the fate of Bucher and his crew: “HEAVE TO OR I WILL FIRE.”

As two Soviet-made North Korean MiG fighters buzzed Pueblo and two more patrol boats appeared, Bucher made for the open sea, avoiding one North Korean boarding attempt. The aging cargo ship could muster only 12 knots, however, and was quickly caught and surrounded. Bucher’s distress call reached the Naval Security Group in Japan, and he was promised fighter support.

A hail of .57-mm explosive cannon rounds and machine-gun fire from the smaller, faster North Korean patrol vessels rocked Pueblo, and in minutes the tiny spy ship’s maiden voyage came to a terrifying and abrupt end. After eight high-explosive cannon shells penetrated Pueblo’s superstructure, leaving her leaking and damaged and with several crew members wounded, all that was left was an undefended ship with no hope of escaping to the open sea. Bucher gave the order to begin emergency destruction, but the crew found that their sledgehammers and axes had trouble penetrating the metal-encased electronic equipment. Adding to the difficulty, the ship’s incinerators and shredders were inadequate to destroy the enormous amount of classified material that remained on board. Finally, under fire, the crew resorted to throwing classified material overboard.

Bucher and his crew are forced to reenact their surrender two weeks after the North Korean sneak attack.

Pueblo was taken into port at Wonsan and the crew transferred to POW camps, where they were regularly starved, deprived of medical attention, and tortured. Bucher was put through a mock firing squad in an unsuccessful effort to make him confess. Only after the North Koreans threatened to execute his men in front of him did he relent. Finally, following an apology, a written admission by the United States that Pueblo had been spying (later recanted), and an assurance that the United States would not spy in the future, North Korea released the 82 remaining crew members on December 23, 1968, exactly 11 months after their capture.

A Massive Intelligence Coup

The loss of Pueblo was an intelligence failure of enormous proportions. One intelligence estimate concluded that the Soviet Union had gained between three and five years on the United States in the ongoing race for state-of-the-art communications technology. Just hours after Pueblo arrived at Wonsan harbor, a North Korean aircraft flew from Pyongyang to Moscow, carrying between 800 and 1,000 pounds of cargo salvaged from Pueblo. Among the many items lost were a detailed account of top-secret U.S. intelligence objectives for the Pacific, classified communications manuals, a number of vital NSA machines and the manuals that detailed their operation and repair, and the NSA’s Electronic Order of Battle for the Far East. Also lost were information on American electronic countermeasures, radar classification instructions, and various secret codes and Navy transmission procedures. An NSA report described the loss as “a major intelligence coup without parallel in modern history.”

The loss of Liberty and Pueblo within 18 months of each other made it clear how poorly such ships could be defended and how vulnerable their highly secret listening equipment was. Providing adequate protection to ships like Pueblo would greatly increase the costs of an already expensive program. The ships were summarily removed from service and the program dismantled.

Press coverage of the Pueblo incident was extensive. Here, Commander Lloyd M. Bucher graces the cover of Time magazine.

The premature end of the Navy’s intelligence collection ships was deeply felt in the intelligence community—spy ships could do a lot that other platforms could not. Beyond direct support to local commanders and national authorities, the ships had the capacity to locate, collect, and report sophisticated foreign electromagnetic signals to the national database of known characteristics of electronic emitters. Such knowledge could aid in development of electronic warfare countermeasures. While other platforms could do much of this work, probably no other vehicle could do it as well. Certainly, no other sensor could cover a target as thoroughly as Pueblo had done.

“There’s Plenty of Blame to Go Around”

A formal Navy court of inquiry used Bucher as a scapegoat to cover up the fact that the military and intelligence community had sent his ship—an aging, leaky, refurbished cargo ship, top-heavy with men and equipment, poorly armed, and barely seaworthy—into hostile waters without adequate protection or contingency plans for emergencies and without the means to destroy classified material and equipment on board. With the odds stacked overwhelmingly against her, Pueblo’s chances for a safe and successful maiden voyage turned out to be very slim indeed.

Despite the preceding spate of hostile North Korean actions, no American fighter aircraft stationed in South Korea, Japan, or on a nearby carrier, USS Enterprise, in the Sea of Japan was put on alert status. One of the admirals who served on the court of inquiry said disingenuously, “There’s plenty of blame to go around.” But South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond put it more succinctly. “Sending poorly armed surface reconnaissance ships into dangerous waters without air cover, naval escort, or emergency plans for adequate support was a serious error in judgment,” Thurmond said. He was right.


Learning from history’s lessons

Being a member of a Palm Beach pioneer family, I developed an early appreciation of history, and I am particularly interested, as a cartoonist, in what it can teach us about human motivations.

We may think we know history but our modern sensibilities get in the way so that we often end up misinterpreting the true nature of things in the period. This aspect of human foibles has inspired many of my cartoons, including my Dec, 13, 1992, cartoon in which the ancient pyramids were thought to be a result of zoning setback regulations.

An example of how we might misunderstand historical context today involves the principle of constitutional separation of church and state. In present day, we tend to think of the subject mostly along ideological lines, arguing about words in the Pledge of Allegiance or whether prayer should be allowed in public settings, but if you consider the context of the period, it&rsquos possible to see how constitutional separation was adopted for practical reasons.

Since ancient times, churches have been religious and organizational centers for their communities. Hereditary rulers did not concern themselves with the lives of commoners, so churches by and large kept the community records, including family genealogies. This quasi-governmental aspect could also be a source for oppression, especially during the period of religious upheavals after the Reformation and when the philosophy of territorial religion took hold in the Church of England prior to the colonization of America.

It&rsquos commonly understood today that the separation of church and state was enacted to sunder ties that had previously been used for oppression. But we seldom consider that the constitutional framers also realized a Democratic Republic must inherently assume certain roles that were traditionally handled locally by churches, such as maintaining the census and providing a forum for local representation and discourse.

One can imagine under the circumstances, post-revolutionary Americans probably looked on this separation with a sense of relief and on their newly autonomous churches as symbols of freedom. Indeed, religion flourished in America.

In many ways, popular history is very much like legend until we take the initiative to add pieces to the puzzle for a more complete picture. Only then can we use it as a guide for a more practical future.

If you&rsquore curious about the offbeat view of local history my past editorial cartoons offer, why not check out my 20-year retrospective book, Billionaires and Butterfly Ballots, a 20-Year &lsquoCartoonspective&rsquo currently on sale, along with original cartoons and prints, at PalmBeachCartoons.com?

Join me at Palm Beach Daily News Editorial Cartoon Page on Facebook for more stories and cartooning news.


USS Palm Beach (AGER-3) Redirected from USS Palm Beach

She was laid down as FS-217 one of the 18 specialized Design 427 variants of the Army Freight and Supply type, officially Vessel, Supply, Aircraft Repair, Diesel, Steel, 180', at Higgins Industries in New Orleans. ΐ] FS-217 was delivered to the US Army Transportation Corps operation under technical control of the United States Army Air Forces in December 1944. At some point, after delivery, the Army Air Forces named the repair vessels with FS-217 being named Colonel Armond Peterson. ΐ] Α] [note 1] The ship was first based in San Francisco, but later engaged in coastal surveys off the Lesser Antilles and coast of Central America. The ship was based at Balboa, Canal Zone before being placed in reserve status on 17 February 1956. Ώ]

Colonel Armond Peterson was acquired and converted by the United States Navy and redesignated as Light Cargo Ship Palm Beach (AKL-45) on 18 June 1966. She was converted to a Banner class environmental research ship at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and reclassified as AGER-3. The Palm Beach was commissioned on 13 October 1967 and served two years as an ELINT/SIGINT ship, deploying in the Mediterranean and in the North Sea. She was decommissioned and later struck on 1 December 1969. Ώ] She was sold to a private owner, then resold to a Panamanian company and renamed MV Oro Verde. The ship was eventually involved in drug smuggling and ran aground in the Cayman Islands. She was sunk by the Cayman Islands government as a SCUBA dive wreck. Β]


Watch the video: History u0026 Culture. On The Town in The Palm Beaches (January 2022).

Video, Sitemap-Video, Sitemap-Videos