Judge Awards Pueblo Survivors, Families $2.3B in Damages
A federal judge ruled in February that the 61 surviving crew members and 110 family members of the USS Pueblo (AGER-2) are entitled to $2.3 billion in compensation for the 11 months of captivity and brutal torture they endured at the hands of North Korea in 1968.
The Pueblo and her crew were conducting research in international waters off North Korea’s east coast, in the Sea of Japan, when they were attacked by the North Korean Navy. A two-hour pursuit ended with the Pueblo surrendering with one dead and ten wounded. While in captivity through 1968, Pueblo crew members were starved and beaten regularly, as well as being forced to participate in North Korean propaganda efforts.
Lead attorney for the plaintiffs Mark Bravin told USNI News that the damages awarded “are among the largest ever awarded in a state-sponsored terrorism case.” The money will be paid from the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which is supported by fines levied and sanctions placed on individuals and corporations from states that conduct or support terrorist activities.
The Pueblo’s operations officer at the time of her capture, Lieutenant F. Carl “Skip” Schumacher, wrote a first-person narrative of the ordeal for Naval History (“Hell and Back,” January 2018, pp. 42–47), for which he was posthumously awarded 2018 Naval History Author of the Year (he passed away in May 2018, a few short months after his article was published). He closed his article noting: “In a sense there never has been closure to the incident. They still have our ship, and though the crew did an extraordinary job during their 11 months of captivity, there has never been a formal apology or official thank you from the Navy.”
Though the United States may never get its ship back, the Pueblo’s Chief Cryptologic Technician, Don Peppard, released a statement through his attorneys, saying, “Even though we didn’t expect anything, it is a relief to be recognized for what we went through. Maybe now it is finally settled, and we can move forward.”
Naval Institute Author of the Year Awards Announced
The U.S. Naval Institute is pleased to announce the
recipients of its 2020 Author of the Year Awards.
The Naval History Author of the Year is Mark R. Folse, former U.S. Naval Academy Navy/Marine Corps history instructor and now a historian at the Center for Military History, for his articles “‘The Common Will Triumphant’” (February) and “The (R)Evolutionary Tenure of Commandant Lejeune” (August).
The Proceedings Author of the Year honors go to Captain Walker Mills, U.S. Marine Corps. Captain Mills’ prolific contributions in 2020 included feature articles, columns, and book reviews. Highlights include: “White Ships for the Gray Zone” (February), “In the Arctic, Look to the Coast Guard” (August), and “Warfighting Risks Becoming Irrelevant” (October).
The recipient of the Naval Institute Press Author of the Year Award is Skip Finley, author of Whaling Captains of Color: America’s First Meritocracy. Best-selling historian Nathaniel Philbrick hailed Whaling Captains of Color as “a prodigious work of scholarship . . . highly recommended.” WoodenBoat magazine called it “an excellent primer of the whaling industry, and a salute to the men of color who helped to sustain it for 150 years.”
The three winners of the Naval Institute’s 2020 General Prize Essay Contest (funded by Andrew and Barbara Taylor) also have been announced. They are:
First Prize—Captain Sam Tangredi, U.S. Navy (Retired), for “Sun Tzu versus AI: Why Artificial Intelligence Can Fail in Great Power Conflict”; Second Prize—Lieutenant Commander Evan Karlik, U.S. Navy, for “Diving Off the Platform-Centric Mind-set of Navy Force Structure Planning”; and Third Prize—Chief Petty Officer Phillip Null, U.S. Coast Guard, for “The Fallacy of Presence.”
George F. Bass, ‘Father of Underwater Archaeology,’ Remembered
The passing of Dr. George F. Bass on 2 March at the age of 88 reminds the naval community of a legacy that profoundly influenced archaeology’s look at naval heritage.
The last decades have seen major discoveries of lost warships with amazing insights into those ships and crews. Bass, often referred to as “the father of underwater archaeology,” was at the vanguard of the emerging discipline. Serving two years in the U.S. Army as a first lieutenant in Korea, he had received his MA in Near Eastern archaeology at the Johns Hopkins University. He might have remained in that archaeological branch—but the discovery of an ancient shipwreck, which turned out to be the world’s oldest-known wreck at the time, would change his career and, as a result, the field of archaeology.
Assigned to the task of codirecting the excavation of the Cape Gelidonya wreck off Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, Bass worked with fellow archaeologists Joan du Plat Taylor, Honor Frost, and journalist Peter Throckmorton to conduct the first complete scientific archaeological excavation of an ancient ship from the seabed.
The pioneering approach taken on the project introduced the world to the new discipline of nautical archaeology. It also stressed, as Bass fervently believed and demonstrated throughout his career, that archaeology was archaeology, and it needed to be done to a rigorous scientific standard whether wet or dry.
Founding the Institute of Nautical Archaeology and the Nautical Archaeological Program at Texas A&M University, Bass mentored hundreds of students, wrote prolifically for academic and public audiences, and lectured widely. His scholarly and popular outreach was profound, but his legacy also is measured by the many projects undertaken by Bass and his students.
That legacy includes naval projects, among them the first archaeological examples of Byzantine rowed galleys (likely warships) from Istanbul’s Yenikapi site, early armed ships of the 16th century in the Caribbean, a survey of wrecks in Rockley Bay in Tobago of ships lost in a Franco-Dutch naval battle of 1677, the excavation of the Revolutionary War privateer Defence in Maine, the Civil War blockade runner Denbigh off Galveston, Texas, and the survey of the underwater wreckage of the B-24 Liberator “Tulsamerican” off Vis, Croatia.
—James P. Delgado, archaeologist, author,
and senior vice president, SEARCH Inc.
Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum Shuttered; U.S. Marine Corps Ends Financial Support
The U.S. Marine Corps’ decision to end financial support to the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum in San Diego has forced the museum to close its gates permanently.
The 29 March closure marked the end of the museum’s 21-year presence at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and quashed the hopes of museum supporters who urged Marine Corps officials to reconsider the decision.
The museum, first established at the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California, in 1989, was one of only three Marine Corps command museums. Its collection includes 30,000 artifacts and 48 aircraft on display and in a nearby restoration hangar. (See “Museum Report,” June 2020, pp. 62–63.)
In recent years, the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation sought to build a large, permanent museum at Miramar, but the Marine Corps rejected those proposals. The nonprofit foundation ran daily operations and covered the costs of maintaining and restoring the aircraft.
The museum is the only one “dedicated to Marine aviation and it houses many great stories. However, in many ways that story may be better told through new locations and new audiences,” said Captain Matthew Gregory, a Miramar spokesman. The air station “is responsible for the building, infrastructure, maintenance, landscaping, utilities, and salaries of our permanent employees.”
Miramar officials decided to redirect those funds in the air station’s operations budget to support equipment modernization and operational force readiness. Much of the $460,000 annual expense pays for five museum employees, who now are tasked with finding new homes for the aircraft or processing them for sale, donation, or disposal.
Gregory said the air station has been reaching out to museums that have expressed interest in some artifacts and aircraft, all owned by the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia, or the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.
For now, the aircraft remain at Miramar. “We don’t expect anything to move for several months,” said retired Major General Mike Aguilar, Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation executive director. Some historically significant aircraft already are eyed for relocation, but those that “don’t find a home for will end up possibly being disposed” or scrapped.
Foundation officials hope the museum isn’t grounded for good. “We are working with two different locations right now to see if something might be possible,” Aguilar said. They also plan to continue support of the foundation’s popular children’s programs, spousal recognition awards, and other events. “They are in the process right now of rebranding themselves and figuring out how they are going to move forward,” he said.