Although ‘Don’t Give Up the Ship’ has long been a defining U.S. Navy motto, when confronted with an impossible situation, what exactly is expected of a captain?
When Commander Lloyd M. “Pete” Bucher surrendered his ship, the USS Pueblo (AGER-2), to North Korean gunboats in 1968, he became one of the most notorious figures in U.S. Navy history. Bucher gave up his vessel without firing a shot, the first U.S. sea commander to do so since 1807. Many in the Navy’s upper echelons regarded him as a coward and a disgrace, shaking their heads in disbelief that he hadn’t done more to resist his attackers. “I would have shot the hell out of [the North Koreans],” declared retired Vice Admiral William Raborn, echoing the attitude of many old-line officers. “I would have made [them] pay a high price.” A Navy court of inquiry urged that Bucher be court-martialed, faulting him with almost palpable disdain in its report because “he just didn’t try.” 1