DesertExile: Remembering a Hero-and how the Govt./Military screwed him

05 July 2006

Remembering a Hero-and how the Govt./Military screwed him

Naval officer, born in Pocatello, Idaho, USA. Orphaned as a child, he spent his early boyhood being shuffled between adoptive parents in Idaho and relatives in California until 1938 when he went to St Joseph's Children's Home in Culdesac, Ida. From 1941 to 1945 he attended the famous Boys Town (near Omaha, Nebr); after leaving to spend two years in the navy, he returned to graduate with his class in 1948, then went on to the University of Nebraska, where he majored in geology. In June 1953 he was commissioned in the US Navy Reserve and spent most of his career as a submarine officer. His first command of a surface ship came in May 1967, the Pueblo, a small intelligence-gathering ship, and it was on its first tour of duty, off the coast of North Korea, that on January 23, 1968, he surrendered the ship when it came under fire from the North Korean navy (four Americans were wounded, and one later died). He and his crew were imprisoned until December 22, 1968, during which time Bucher and many of his men were forced to sign a letter asking the USA to admit the ship had been inside North Korea's waters, with the clear implication that they had been spying. In 1969 a naval court of inquiry recommended that Bucher and one other officer be court-martialed, but this was cancelled by the Secretary of the Navy. Bucher never was given a major command and he retired from the navy in 1973; it was 1990 before he and all others on the Pueblo were awarded the medals given to other POWs.

In retirement Mr. Bucher was an artist and guest speaker. He died 28 January 2004 after a long illness.

First some background. In January 1968 North Korea attacked the USS Pueblo, a small and only lightly armed spy ship, in international waters. The Pueblo was no match for the Koreans’ torpedo boats and MIG fighters. The Seventh Fleet failed to come to the Pueblo’s defense, the commander quickly surrendered to save the crew, and the Koreans took all the survivors (which was all but one of the crew) prisoner. The Koreans severely beat commander and crew over the course of eleven months and forced them to confess, in writing and on film (though they made it look ridiculous), that they had invaded North Korean waters, that conditions in the U.S. were oppressive, and that the Koreans were treating them well. Eventually the U.S. government itself issued an official statement along similar lines, and retracted it after the men were consequently released.

There followed a military Court of Inquiry and a Congressional investigation of the incident. At the time of Ayn Rand’s article Commander Bucher was facing court-martial.

Were the men right to “confess?� After their release the New York Times published a letter saying that here was a “moral dilemma.� Ayn Rand disagreed, and wrote a letter of her own, which she published in “Brief Comments.� (And sent to the NYT – which never published it.) She said that Commander Bucher was a hero and should be given the Congressional Medal of Honor, and that the U.S. government is trying to make him the scapegoat:

Commander Bucher was ORDERED to be where he was. He had an inoperable 50 calibre machine gun when the North Koreans came at him with large calibre ship mounted guns and aircraft with Ordinance.

I have known three people who were in the vicinity. One was on a submarine, almost under Bucher. Two were on Carriers. All said that they knew about the capture and believed they would be sent to stop the Koreans. Those orders never came.
The Johnson Administration and Top Navy Brass, including John McCain's father " Threw Bucher down".

Bucher's wife "Pitched a bitch", and finally got Bucher and his crew released after " Negotiations" the Government did not want to do.

The Navy, in a "Cover your Ass" move, blamed Bucher and PUT HIM ON TRIAL. No balme was ever attached to Top Navy Brass who sat on their hands.

About two years ago, an epsisode of the TV Show " JAG" included a segment of a Court Martial. In that episode, an actor blamed Bucher for "Giving up the ship".
I never received a reply.


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