<<

. 39
( 118 .)



>>


218
cooling water intakes and outlets in the main engine room and cut a hole
into the auxiliary engine room from the main engine room. Once this was
done, Lacy said, the ship could go down in forty-seven minutes. But the
problem was that many of the life rafts might be shot up during an
attack; without enough life rafts, and with the bitter January water cold
enough to kill a person exposed to it in minutes, Bucher gave up on the
idea.
New flags were going up on one of the torpedo boats: "Follow in my
wake. I have pilot aboard." Then a boarding party transferred from the
SC-35 to one of the torpedo boats, and PT-604 began backing down
toward the Pueblo's starboard bow with fenders rigged. Men in helmets
with rifles and fixed bayonets stood on the deck. Next came the signal
"Heave to or I will open fire."
Bucher, hoping to somehow extricate the ship, ordered hoisted the
signal "Thank you for your consideration. I am departing the area."
Bucher knew there was no way his tub could outrun the forty-knot
torpedo boats. He considered manning the 50mm machine guns but
decided against it, believing it was senseless to send people to certain
death. He was still hoping to somehow make a "dignified" departure. Yet,
with the North Koreans about to board his ship, he still had not ordered
emergency destruction down in the Sigint spaces. Bucher gave the
quartermaster instructions to get under way at one-third speed.
As the Pueblo began to move, the torpedo boats began crisscrossing
the ship's bow and SC-35 again signaled, "Heave to or I will fire." Bucher
ordered the speed increased to two-thirds and then to full speed. SC-35
gave chase, gaining rapidly on Pueblo's stern. To the side, sailors aboard
PT-601 uncovered a torpedo tube and trained it on the ship. Down in the
Sigint spaces, Don Bailey's fingers flew over the keyboard. "They plan to
open fire on us now," he sent to Kamiseya.
SC-35 then instructed all North Korean vessels to clear the area. He
said he was going to open fire on the U.S. vessel because it would not
comply with North Korean navy instructions.
Seconds later the boat let loose with ten to twenty bursts from its
57mm guns. At almost the same moment, the torpedo boats began firing
their 30mm machine guns. The men in the Sigint spaces threw
themselves on the deck. Personnel on the flying bridge dove into the
pilothouse for cover. About four minutes later, general quarters was
finally sounded. But Bucher immediately modified the command,
forbidding personnel from going topside. He wished to keep anyone from
attempting to man the 50mm guns.
SC-35 let loose with another burst of heavy machine fire. Most of the
rounds were aimed over the ship, but something struck the signal mast.
Bucher collapsed with small shrapnel wounds in his ankle and rectum.


219
Everyone then hit the deck. "Commence emergency destruction," Bucher
ordered. Bailey notified Kamiseya, "We are being boarded. Ship's position
39-25N/127-54.3E. SOS." Over and over he repeated the message. In the
Sigint spaces, sailors were destroying documents. Bailey was pleading.
"We are holding emergency destruction. We need help. We need support.
SOS. Please send assistance." It was now 1:31 P.M.
In the Sigint spaces, the emergency destruction began slowly and with
great confusion. Fires were started in wastepaper baskets in the
passageways outside the secure unit. About ten weighted ditching bags
were packed with documents and then stacked in the passageways.
Using axes and sledgehammers, the cipher equipment was smashed.
Back at Kamiseya, intercept operators heard the subchaser notify its
shore command that he had halted the U.S. ship's escape by firing
warning shots. One of the torpedo boats then informed its base that two
naval vessels from Wonsan were taking the U.S. ship to some
unidentified location.


By now, U.S. forces in the Pacific were becoming aware of the
desperateness of the situation. Flash messages were crisscrossing in the
ether. Although some 50,000 U.S. military personnel were stationed in
South Korea, most near the demilitarized zone, the ongoing war in
Vietnam had sapped American airpower in South Korea. The U.S. Air
Force had only six Republic F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bombers in the
country. These "Thuds," the largest single-engine, single-seat fighters
ever built, were capable of carrying 18,500-pound bombs. But at the
time, they were armed only with nuclear weapons, to take out targets in
China in the event the balloon went up. Removing the nuke-alert
packages and replacing them with air-to-ground weapons would take
hours.
Also on runways in South Korea were 210 combat-ready South
Korean fighters and interceptors that could reach the Pueblo before dark.
"The Koreans requested from the United States permission to save the
Pueblo," said one U.S. Air Force fighter pilot. But the U.S. officer in
charge of American and UN forces in South Korea, Army General Charles
H. Bonesteel III, refused to allow them to launch. He feared the South
Korean air force might respond "in excess of that necessary or desired"
and thus launch an all-out war, impossible to contain.
The next closest aircraft were in Japan, where the U.S. had seventy-
eight fighters parked on runways. But because of agreements with the
Japanese government prohibiting offensive missions from bases in that
country, these were also unavailable on short notice.
Four hundred and seventy miles south, steaming at twenty-seven
knots toward Subic Bay in the Philippines, was the USS Enterprise, the


220
largest aircraft carrier in the world. On the rolling decks of the nuclear-
powered flat-top were sixty attack aircraft, including twenty-four F-4B
Phantoms capable of Mach 2 speed. But by the time the confused
messages regarding the Pueblo reached the carrier, it was too distant for
its aircraft to reach the Pueblo before it would arrive in Wonsan.
That left Okinawa, which was nearly as distant as the Enterprise.
Although it was part of Japan, at the time it was also an American
protectorate and could be used to launch hostile attacks. The island was
home to the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing, made up of combat-experienced
fighter jocks who had flown numerous missions against targets in Hanoi
and Haiphong in North Vietnam. Some wore the famous "100
Missions/North Vietnam" patch on their flight jackets. Others, who had
flown across the Red River on missions into the heart of North Vietnam,
wore the "River Rats" patch.
An orange-red flash exploded from the end of a huge J-75 turbojet
engine and a deep-throated roar vibrated across Okinawa's Kadena Air
Base. The first of a dozen F-105s screeched down the runway. The pilots
wanted to fly straight to the Pueblo, attack the North Korean torpedo
boats, and then fly to Osan Air Base in South Korea for refueling. But
instead they were ordered to refuel first at Osan.


By now Bucher realized that there was no escape. He considered that
any further resistance would result in the needless slaughter of the crew.
Depending on how well the destruction was going in the Sigint spaces, he
decided, he would offer no more resistance and would surrender the
ship. At 1:34 P.M. he ordered "All stop" and instructed the signalman to
hoist the international signal for "Protest." The 57mm fire halted but the
30mm fire continued sporadically. Bucher estimated that he was now
about twenty-five miles from the North Korean shore. "We are laying to at
present position," Bailey transmitted. "Please send assistance. We are
being boarded."
Bucher left the bridge and ran to his stateroom to check for classified
information. Finding nothing revealing the Pueblo's true mission, he
handed a few documents and his personal sidearm to someone in the
passageway and ordered him to throw them overboard. On his way back,
he looked in on the destruction taking place in the Sigint spaces and
then headed back to the bridge. On SC-35 was the signal, "Follow me. I
have pilot on board." Bucher complied and ordered his quartermaster to
make a slow, five-degree turn. Bailey notified Kamiseya, "We are being
escorted into probably Wonsan." A few minutes later he again pleaded for
help: "Are you sending assistance?" Kamiseya replied, "Word has gone to
all authorities. COMNAVFORJAPAN [Commander, U.S. Naval Forces
Japan] is requesting assistance."



221
At NSA headquarters near Washington it was the middle of the night
when the CRITIC and Flash messages began stuttering from cipher
machines. "For ten days," said NSA's Henry Millington, who conducted a
highly secret study of the incident, "nobody knew where they were."
"That happened around two o'clock in the afternoon, Korean time,"
recalled Gene Sheck of NSA's K Group, "which was like two o'clock in the
morning here. I got a call to come to work and I came in and General
Morrison was at work." At the time, Major General John Morrison was
NSA's operations chief. "And General Morrison decided that he was going
to be the guy in charge of the Pueblo, whatever problem we had with
them. He called all kinds of other people, but Morrison was kind of
running the show at that particular time." A short time later, Marshall
Carter arrived”but he didn't stay long. "You know," he told Morrison,
"there's no sense both of us standing here while this thing is trying to
work itself out. You stay here, gather all the data, and I'm going to be
back in at six-thirty or seven o'clock in the morning."
In addition to the safety of the crew, one of the chief concerns at NSA
through the early-morning hours was whether the North Koreans had
been able to capture the Pueblo's cipher material, especially old NSA
keylists, which would enable easy deciphering of U.S. material already
intercepted. These lists”one per month”explained the daily settings for
the cipher machines. Across the top of the eight-by-ten sheets of paper
were the words in bold red ink: "TOP SECRET”SPECAT": "Special
Category." The keylists consisted of instructions on which numbers to set
the dozen rotors in the machine on, and other technical details. With
these lists and the right equipment, the North Koreans would be able to
break the code of every naval unit using the same ciphers.
From Kamiseya the question went out to the Pueblo. "What keylists do
you have left? . . . Please advise what keylists you have left and if it
appears that your communications space will be entered."


At about two o'clock, Bucher suddenly ordered another "All stop" in
order to check on the progress of the destruction and to give more time
for its completion. But almost immediately SC-35 closed to a range of
about 2,000 yards and fired. Upward of 2,000 rounds pounded the ship's
thin quarter-inch steel skin. Rapid-fire bursts sent shells into the
laundry room, the small-arms locker, the wardroom, and a number of
passageways. Near the captain's cabin, Fireman Duane Hodges was
picking up some papers to destroy when he was thrown to the deck, his
leg nearly severed and his intestines torn from his lower abdomen. As he
lay dying, blood from his severed arteries washed from one side of the
passageway to the other as the ship rolled with the waves. Nearby,


222
Fireman Steven Woelk suddenly felt a burning in his chest and groin
from razor-sharp shrapnel. Blood also poured profusely from the thigh of
Marine Sergeant Robert Chicca, a linguist. Sprawled across another
passageway was Radioman Charles Crandal, jagged shards of hot metal
spiking from his leg.
In order to stop the firing, Bucher ordered full ahead at one-third
speed. He then turned the conn over to Lacy and raced down to check on
the destruction. Along the way he saw the broken, twisted form of Duane
Hodges in the crimson passageway. He pushed open the door to the
Sigint spaces and saw some of the men hugging the deck. "Get up and
get going!" Bucher shouted. "There's a man with his leg blown off out
there." He then saw three large mattress covers overflowing with secret
documents. Turning to Stephen Harris, he shouted, "Get this stuff out of
here."
Rushing into the cipher spaces, at 2:05 P.M. Bucher dictated a
message:


HAVE 0 KEYLISTS AND THIS ONLY ONE HAVE. HAVE
BEEN REQUESTED TO FOLLOW INTO WONSAN. HAVE
THREE WOUNDED AND ONE MAN WITH LEG BLOWN OFF.
HAVE NOT USED ANY WEAPONS NOR UNCOVERED FIFTY
CALIBER MACHINE GUNS. DESTROYING ALL KEYLISTS
AND AS MUCH ELEC EQUIPMENT AS POSSIBLE. HOW
ABOUT SOME HELP. THESE GUYS MEAN BUSINESS. HAVE
SUSTAINED SMALL WOUND IN RECTUM. DO NOT INTEND
TO OFFER ANY RESISTANCE. DO NOT KNOW HOW LONG
WILL BE ABLE TO HOLD UP CIRCUIT AND DO NOT KNOW
IF COMMUNICATIONS SPACES WILL BE ENTERED.


Two minutes later, Kamiseya replied:


ROGER WE ARE DOING ALL WE CAN CAPTAIN HERE AND
HAVE COMNAVFORJAPAN ON HOT LINE. LAST I GOT WAS
AIR FORCE GONNA HELP YOU WITH SOME AIRCRAFT BUT
CAN'T REALLY SAY AS COMNAVFORJAPAN
COORDINATING WITH I PRESUME KOREA FOR SOME F-
105. THIS UNOFFICIAL BUT I THINK THAT WILL HAPPEN,
BACK TO YOU.


Back in the pilothouse, Bucher again asked about the possibility of
scuttling the ship but once again he was told it could not be done


223
quickly. Down in the Sigint spaces, Don Bailey was at last hearing some
encouraging words. Kamiseya was reporting that everyone was turning
to, doing everything they could, and "figure by now Air Force got some
birds winging your way." "Sure hope so," replied Bailey. "We are pretty
busy with this destruction right now. Can't see for the smoke. . . . Sure
hope someone does something. We are helpless."
On shore, concern over the NSA material was growing. At 2:18, Bailey
was again asked about the status of the classified material and cipher
machines. In the choking darkness, Bailey said that the KW-7 and some
of the printed circuit boards for the KW-37 and the KG-14 remained.
Time was quickly running out and there was no way everything would be
destroyed. The major problem was Lieutenant Harris's decision to
attempt to burn the documents rather than jettison them overboard. This
was because the regulations said that jettisoning was not permitted in
water less than 600 feet deep, and the Pueblo was then in water little
more than 200 feet deep. Bucher authorized a message sent saying that
destruction would not be complete.
In the passageways, technicians built small bonfires of dense
cryptographic manuals. Into the inferno went stacks of raw intercept
forms covered with row after row of intercepted five-number code groups;
keylists classified "Top Secret/Trine"; and NSA "Techins"”technical
instructions on how to conduct signals intelligence. Supersecret manual
after supersecret manual, file drawer after file drawer. But the space was
too small, the fires too weak, and the smoke too thick. Ninety percent of
the documents would survive.
Destruction was also on the minds of the North Koreans. About 2:20
one patrol craft instructed another to watch for attempts by U.S.
personnel to throw things into the water. SC-55 reported that the U.S.
crew was ditching some items and burning others. The Koreans then
ordered Bucher to come to all stop. Without consulting any of the other
officers, Bucher agreed to surrender and allow the boarding party to
come aboard. The twin screws spun to a halt, sending large bubbles to
the surface. A few minutes later Bailey, hunched over his cipher

<<

. 39
( 118 .)



>>