Fifty years ago, on 23 January 1968, the North Korean Navy opened fire on the U.S. Navy in international waters off North Korea’s east coast in the Sea of Japan. The one-sided battle lasted almost two hours and left one U.S. sailor dead, more than a dozen others injured, the ship captured, and the surviving crew taken hostage. The first shots were fired at about 1332 (local time). The Koreans brought two sub chasers, three torpedo boats, and a couple of MiG fighters to the battle. The U.S. Navy brought the USS Pueblo (AGER-2)—virtually unarmed and outfitted as an electronic surveillance platform.
At the time, I was a 24-year-old lieutenant (j.g.), one of six officers on board the Pueblo, serving as first lieutenant and the ship’s operations officer. (We had a naval security group detachment on board supervised by its own operations officer.) I had the morning watch that day and the day before when we were first approached by North Korean civilian fishing boats. I drafted our initial situation report confirming that contact.