The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: Current Affairs

Nixon Dedicates Sports Arena

July 5, 1959, Nixon

July 5, 1959: Vice President Richard Nixon waves during the dedication of the Sports Arena.

July 5, 1959, Cover It has been a long time since anyone referred to the Los Angeles Sports Arena as a "marvel of modern design."

But that was the Mirror-News' view in an editorial celebrating the arena's dedication. This would be a sports arena without a team--the Lakers were still a part of the city's future. Shoot, people were still getting used to having the Dodgers in town.

Vice President Richard Nixon was the keynote speaker, mixing sports metaphors with a preview of the stump speak he'd use in his run for the presidency.

The Times' story included Nixon's three rules for participants in all sports:

"No. 1: Never quit, no matter how tough the going. No. 2: The best defense is a good offense. No. 3: Play to win. Don't play a defensive game."

He was talking about sports, but sure sounded a lot like his brand of politics too.

Having Nixon speak at the dedication of an arena that would host the Democratic National Convention was a nice piece of irony. Nixon said the convention "may turn out to be the battle of the century."

--Keith Thursby

City Hall Protest Over Chavez Ravine Evictions, April 14, 1959

  April 14, 1959, City Hall Protest Over Evictions at Chavez Ravine

Chavez Ravine residents threatened with eviction survived another day in their homes.

The Times published a short story with a terrible lead on the planned evictions to allow construction of Dodger Stadium: "It was the last of the ninth inning for a lot of people in Chavez Ravine yesterday and the bases were loaded with police and sheriff's deputies waiting to put them out of their homes."

Except the 9 a.m. deadline came and went without any action by police. Guess the dispute went into extra innings. 

I've been consistently disappointed by how little I find in the old issues about Chavez Ravine's residents. There are plenty of stories about building Dodger Stadium and the political battles but very little about the people who were trying to stay.

This story did mention how the $10,050 given one resident for two lots was less than the property's value. The paper used more space to describe how one Chavez Ravine resident "hurled two placards" at Mayor Norris Poulson during a City Hall ceremony for the Dodgers.

There will be a lot more on this story in the coming weeks.

--Keith Thursby

Mayor's Aide Guilty of Selling Jobs, March 24, 1939


A line of Nazi tanks crosses into Czechoslovakia.
Head of Federal Reserve calls for a balanced budget.
Joseph Shaw, brother former Mayor Frank Shaw, is convicted on 63 counts of selling jobs and promotions in the Los Angeles police and fire departments.  Jurors also convicted William H. Cormack, a Civil Service commissioner. At the federal prison on Terminal Island, Chicago gangster Al Capone has begun attending church services, says the Rev. Silas A. Thweatt, pastor of First Baptist Church of San Pedro.

Hungarian troops fight the Nazis over a piece of Czechoslovakia and the Soviets align with France and Britain against Germany.   
"The future will prove that the case ... is nothing more or less than a political frame-up," former Mayor Shaw says. 
George Brent replaces Humphrey Bogart in "The Old Maid."

Clifford McBride's "Napoleon and Uncle Elby" isn't one of my favorites, but it's certainly drawn well.
These old-time sportswriters are a caution. They can't say "there was no one on base." Instead it's "the hassocks were barren of pedestrians."

Jerry Lewis Plays First Base for Dodgers, January 18, 1959


I'm sure there's a joke here someplace.

The Times' political power broker Kyle Palmer writes a glowing piece about biographies of Eisenhower and Nixon.   

On the comics page, Stephen F. Austin straightens out some pesky Indians and Delilah gets the drop on Samson.

1959_0118_wyman Rosalind Wyman was a bright, young politician and a driving force in bringing the Dodgers to Los Angeles. The paper profiled the City Council member as a Times woman of the year, noting brightly that "she is quite a woman."

"The dark-haired, more-green-than-brown-eyed young woman ... wants a first-class zoo for the city, more cultural assets and greater improvements in the central district," wrote Cordell Hicks.

Wyman put it this way: "A city must grow or stand still. Los Angeles is growing. An opera house in a MUST. Those who appreciate opera should have it. ... I like football better than baseball, too, but that does not mean to me that there should not be an opera house or a Dodger team."

--Keith Thursby

George Cukor prepares to direct his first Western with Sophia Loren and Steve Forrest.
1959_0118_sports UCLA beats USC, 65-63 at
the Pan-Pacific.

Thousands in Los Angeles pray for peace, January 14, 1939


About 4,000 worshipers attend a Perpetual Novena for Our Sorrowful Mother at St. Vibiana's Cathedral. People knelt in the aisles, in the doorways and outside praying for peace and for relief of the poor, The Times says.
County Supervisor Roger W. Jessup sends a telegram to Washington seeking help in keeping welfare recipients from moving to California.
Above, the 1938 Los Angeles County Grand Jury retires and urges the incoming panel to continue investigating corruption in Los Angeles.

Charles C. Gerst, 59, a retired operator of an orange juice stand, commits suicide by jumping from the fire escape while visiting his physician at 6253 Hollywood Blvd.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh's "Listen! The Wind" leads the bestseller list for nonfiction ... and Independent florists complain to Dist. Atty. Buron Fitts about a protection racket.

At left, indecency at the burlesque house.
RKO plans more lavish films for Carole Lombard and Claudette Colbert.
Good seating available for the Pro Bowl at Wrigley Field!

Paul Coates -- Mikoyan interview, January 13, 1959

Interview With Coates

Russian Stars on TV Show

By Paul V. Coates, Mirror News Columnist

Paul_coates When President Eisenhower sits down with Soviet Deputy Premier Anastas Ivanovich Mikoyan on Saturday to plan give-and-take with West Berlin and Germany, it'll be Ike who'll have to do the giving.

This, Mikoyan made clear to me in an exclusive interview last night.

"We have advanced our proposals," the traveling trouble-shooter from the Kremlin said. "Now it is up to your side."

About West Berlin

The latest Russian "solution" to the current tensions that West Berlin be made an unarmed "free" city until the eastern and western divisions are united, that Red China should have a voice in any final decision and that all foreign troops should be removed within one year.

"Do you think that the Berlin dispute could ignite a war between your country and mine?" I asked.

Quick Reply

The deputy premier threw back an immediate answer.

"We," he stressed, "do not want any war."

Mikoyan sandwiched his stern warning to the White House between small talk which included the revelation that his daughter-in-law, Zena, was one of theMoiseyey ballet troupe which so successfully visited the United States last year, and a confession that he was becoming slightly weary of the zealous protection offered him by our police and State Department on his current national barnstorming tour.

Previous U.S. Tour 1959_0113_mirror_cover_2

"I spent two months traveling around the United States in 1936," he pointed out during our KTTV interview last night. "Your State Department sent one very fine representative to accompany me.

"This time," he continued, "let me just say that I would certainly enjoy having a cocktail with each of these men who are assigned to me, individually.

"But," he added, "I prefer to travel alone."

The deputy premier arrived at the studio for his U.S. television debut in a roaring caravan heavily guarded by Los Angeles police and federal agents.

His main concern before air time was what type of commercial would be inserted in the program.

Not quite understanding, I explained that they'd probably be automobiles, rugs, food -- some similar products.

"I can check and tell you exactly," I said.

An aide in the party shrugged. "What we mean," he said, questioningly, "there will be no political advertisements?"

Second to Khrushchev

Mikoyan also made the suggestion that no questions be asked pertaining to his position as the USSR's No. 2 citizen.

"To answer that would put me in the position of being immodest," he explained.

But on camera, he was smiling and ready with glib replies.

Through his official interpreter, Oleg Troyanovski, son of the Soviet Union's World War II ambassador to the United States, he touched on his childhood, "humble" background, lack of a college education and favorable impression of the American "common man."

"I have found that the mass of people this time are as friendly to our country as they were the first time I visited," he said. "The American people want peace."

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans adopt a Korean orphan and the U.S. is investigating the Dodgers.
He was favorably impressed by Sen. Humphrey's recent visit to Moscow; he acknowledged U.S. progress in building roads and bridges, and in our industrial plants and housing; and he felt -- a feeling which he's been most vocal on since his arrival here -- that more trade between the United States and Russia could quickly stimulate a better relationship.

"There Is No God"

Only once did the "goodwill" ambassador permit his careful guard to relax.

I asked him: "As a former seminary student, do you feel that Marx was right in saying that religion is the opiate of the people?"

"I do," he answered immediately. "At the time of the revolution, I became convinced that there is no God.

"I did it in spite of what my teachers tried to tell me."

When the television interview was finished, Mikoyan seemed particularly anxious to know if I had been pleased with it.

Interview Success

"Tell him," I told the interpreter, "that I thought it was a very successful interview, and that I certainly am pleased with it."


The interpreter translated my remark to the deputy premier.

Fingering the gold star on his lapel --  a medal which he received in World War II for his efforts "in supplying the front" -- he considered it. Then he said something in Russian toTroyanovski. 

Russian Adieu

"Mr. Mikoyan thanks you," the interpreter told me. "But he would like to know if you are just saying this to be kind, or if you really mean it."

"Please tell the deputy premier," I replied, "that I really mean it. I don't say things that I don't mean just to be nice."

The information was duly reported to Mr. Mikoyan.

He received it, beamed, got up, shook my hand and said -- I guess -- the Russian equivalent of "Good night."

Voices -- Richard Bergholz


Here's a story by legendary Times political reporter Dick Bergholz, who died in 2000.

From his obituary: When Richard Nixon lost his race for California governor and delivered his famous promise, “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore,” every reporter in the room knew who “you” was. It was Richard Bergholz.

Read more >>>

Stocks suffer worst day in 19 months; Rams rehire Allen, January 7, 1969


A 15-point drop in the Dow is Page 1 news in 1969. I wonder what
they would think of today's economic meltdown.


Today in Baby Boomer nostalgia: Gordon Lightfoot makes
his debut in Los Angeles.

1969_0107_sports It took the Rams 12 days to decide they really didn't want to fire Coach George Allen.

Owner Dan Reeves, who fired Allen over what he called a personality conflict, took it all back. Allen had been supported by many of his players, who held a news conference to claim they would retire if someone else was coaching the Rams. That's an unusual step, but Reeves said he wasn't swayed by unhappy players or fans.

The Times ran daily updates on the coaching search. As it became clear that Allen was still in the picture, the stories got a little strange. There was a planned meeting between the players and Reeves, there was a four-hour meeting between Allen and Reeves and there was speculation over Allen's replacement. USC Coach John McKay and former Green Bay Coach Vince Lombardi were two names mentioned. Even when Allen was rehired, Reeves said two other coaches had been considered along with the former/current Ram coach.

On Jan. 5, Bob Oates wrote a thorough analysis of the problems between coach and owner: "Quite unintentionally, Allen has been destroying what Reeves built--and therefore what Reeves is."

Leave it to Jim Murray to capture the weirdness of it all. Here's part of his column on the day after Allen was rehired/unfired.

"The announcement ceremony had all the warmth of the surrender signing on the battleship Missouri. The whole thing was as dignified as an axe murder. I have seen more smiles in a police lineup."

--Keith Thursby

Fierce fighting in Cuba, Los Angeles Open begins, January 3, 1959

The Soviets are winning the space race and communism establishes a foothold at America's doorstep. These were worrisome times for the nation.


Cheryl Crane visits Lana Turner.

"Li'l Abner," "Rick O'Shay"
and "Moon Mullins."


Moral Re-Armament and the Young Americans for Freedom were two
major institutions for conservative Baby Boomers. (In college, many YAFers discovered they liked to smoke dope and became Libertarians).

Johnny Bulla of Phoenix leads
the L.A. Open.

Now playing: "Some Came Running."

America in the days before the Gun Control Act of 1968--although you can still go into Big 5 and buy antique military rifles. ($9.98 in 1959 is $70.26 USD 2007 vs. $89 today for a M91/30 Russian Mosin Nagant in 7.62 millimeter).


Happy New Year, 1959!



The rest of the world may peer into a darkened crystal ball, but at the Daily Mirror, we know what the future has to bring.

In 1959, Los Angeles won the series and we lost Errol Flynn and Raymond Chandler. Nikita Khrushchev paid us a call. Schoolchildren designed 50-star flags to welcome Hawaii and Alaska into the U.S. And a municipal judge named David Williams wonders why the LAPD mostly arrests African Americans for gambling; 5,210 blacks compared with 482 whites for 1958.

It's going to be quite a year--stay tuned!   

Flynn discusses his 1959 trip to Cuba.
Raymond Chandler's obit
runs on Page 4 of The Times.
Baby Boomers rotted their minds with "Clutch Cargo."

While their parents listened to Miles Davis--or Arthur Godfrey. 
And Jack Kerouac turned up on Steve Allen's TV show.

N. Korea frees crew of U.S. spy ship Pueblo, December 23, 1968


Pueblo's Bittersweet Tribute

For Pete Bucher, captain of the spy ship, the years haven't erased the pain of his captivity--or his homecoming. Even medals and a ceremony did not come without a fight.

Saturday May 5, 1990

1968_0124_puebloBy RICHARD E. MEYER

They beat Pete Bucher with gun butts. They kicked him with their boots. They threw him into walls.

"Sonabitchi criminal!" they yelled. "Goddamned liar! Spydog!"

They forced him to his knees. One put a pistol to his ear and cocked it. "Two minutes to sign, sonabitchi!" Quietly, he said: "I love you, Rose." He said it again. "I love you, Rose . . . " The pistol clicked.

A ploy, Pete Bucher realized, and he regained some composure. So they beat, kicked and hit him again with their gun butts, in his stomach, head, neck, groin and kidneys. He retched, urinated blood.

They took him to a cellar room. A South Korean spy hung from the wall by a leather strap, naked to the waist, a jagged bone protruding from one arm, teeth bitten through his lower lip, one eyeball hanging on his cheek and dark liquid running out of its socket. He twitched, frothed at the mouth.

Pete Bucher blacked out. When he came to, they told him they would take his crew, one by one, the youngest first--and they would kill each man in front of him.

"I'll sign," Pete Bucher said. And he put his name to a confession that he was indeed a spy--but a confession full of lies, as well.

Late that night, he broke through the ice on the slop bucket in his cell. He thrust his head inside.

He tried to drown.

Today, in San Diego, Lloyd Mark (Pete) Bucher and his crew from the spy ship Pueblo will get medals. Twenty-two years after their capture and 11-month imprisonment at the hands of North Korea, the Navy that tried to punish Bucher and some of his men after they were released will take part in formal ceremonies honoring them as prisoners of war.

The POW medals have not come easily. It took an act of Congress to get them. Pete Bucher knows well that many in the Navy would rather have seen him killed, shot to death in a battle at sea, than see him today being honored like this--and he knows too well that people still feel uncomfortable about questions reopened by this ceremony, by the capture of the Pueblo and by what happened next.

In a book, in articles and, most recently, in a long and reflective interview with The Times, Pete Bucher, in anger and occasionally in tears, has relived what happened to him and his 82 crewmen on the high seas in January of 1968, what happened while they were being held as American hostages in North Korea--and, finally, what happened when they came home. In the interview, he addressed a number of these difficult, longstanding questions.

Question: Why did you try to kill yourself?

Answer: I did it because when I was in submarines I had done all of the areas then currently in use by the Polaris missile submarines. . . . I worked for weeks on the coordinates of the areas they would be using. . . . Those areas were my product, and I really had sensitive stuff, and I mean a lot of stuff that you can't imagine . There were some lives at stake. . . .

They (the North Koreans) knew that I am a (former) submarine (officer). They've got my goddamn service record there (off the Pueblo), and they are going to start questioning me on stuff in there; and these Russians are going to come in here, and they won't have too much trouble breaking me down . . . . You know, they had shown me this guy, he is not going to live, this (South) Korean spy, and I couldn't believe that I had seen that. It was like a goddamn nightmare.

I thought : "If that happens to me, they are going to find out everything I know". . . I think : "I've got to get the hell out of here, because I won't be able to take what that poor bastard is taking down there (in the cellar.)" . . . So I went to my slop pail and thought : "I've got to get out of here" . . . and I made this attempt, and I could not do it.

He was an orphan from Father Edward J. Flanagan's Boys Town, where he had fallen in love with football, even nicknamed himself "Pete" after Pete Pihos, a college football hero. In time, he went to the University of Nebraska on a football scholarship, where he took to Shakespeare and to martinis and to a bit of hell-raising. And he fell in love again, this time with a lovely farm girl named Rose Rohling.

He and Rose were married and in time had two sons. He graduated with an ROTC commission in the Naval Reserve, became executive officer aboard the Ronquil--and qualified for a submarine of his own. But then he got bumped by a staff officer.

At Submarine Flotilla Seven in Japan, Pete Bucher had helped debrief the spy ship Banner, because its work meshed at times with covert submarine operations; and now the Navy was assigning him to become captain of the Pueblo, one of the Banner's sister ships. These were small surface vessels that steamed to communist countries, parked offshore and watched and listened. Much of the time, they worked for the National Security Agency, the nation's premier watcher and listener.

The Pueblo, too, was an orphan, mothballed after long service as an Army cargo carrier in World War II. The Navy had adopted her and towed her to its Bremerton, Wash., shipyard. As a cover, she had been designated an Auxiliary General Environmental Research ship, and now the Navy was outfitting her with electronic gear. A Navy crane hoisted an oblong shack onto her deck. It had a steel door with three locks. The combinations were changed as often as weekly.

Yard workers had no notion what the shack was. It was called the Special Operations Department--the SOD-Hut. But Lt. Cmdr. Pete Bucher was aware of the electronics it would contain. He knew what he and the Pueblo would be doing, and he realized that his tubby little ship needed more than a new paint job. These urgent needs forced Pete Bucher into a running battle with the U.S. Navy over his new vessel, to wit: Her two gray, six-cylinder diesel engines sounded like rock crushers. To keep them from losing power and letting his ship drift into unfriendly waters, he asked the Navy to overhaul them.

Request denied.

--Equipment for the SOD-Hut included several pieces of classified gear: a Mark 10 IFF transponder, two tuners and various rotors to send data in code. He asked the Navy to install explosives so the gear could be demolished during attack--to keep it out of enemy hands.

Request denied. Instead, the Navy issued fire axes and sledgehammers.

--Dozens of code books and other secret publications destined for the SOD-Hut were unlikely to be needed. He asked if he could leave some of them home.

Request denied.

--The Navy made some weighted bags and said his men could stuff the secret documents into the bags and throw them overboard if necessary to deny them to adversaries. But that was cumbersome. So he asked for a fuel-fed incinerator to burn them if he had to.

Request denied.

--For emergency burning, the Navy offered him half of an empty 50-gallon oil drum. He declined. He located some paper shredders. But shredders would destroy only one sheet at a time. So he took money from his allowance for crew comforts, and he purchased a commercial trash incinerator. The device was not fuel-fed--but it had to be better than an oil drum.

--The Navy ordered him to mount a 3-inch cannon on deck. It would have sunk the ship, or capsized her.

Order withdrawn.

--The Navy ordered him to install a pair of .50-caliber machine guns. He and his superior officer, Rear Adm. Frank L. Johnson, who was commander of U.S. naval forces in Japan, opposed it. The ship's mission was to conduct unarmed surveillance. The weapons would draw hostility; and then if any shooting started, they would hardly be large enough to be of much use.

At first, Johnson told Bucher to stow the guns below. But that would violate the spirit of the order. So he finally said to install them on the deck, but to keep them hidden under tarps.

--Pete Bucher asked the Navy to put a scuttling system on the Pueblo, so he could sink her if necessary to keep her from being captured.

Request denied.

--He tried in vain to find some TNT, primer cord and fuses. He finally located some thermite bombs. But Navy regulations forbade thermite bombs on board.

Instead, the Navy took his engineering officer below decks, pointed to two 15-inch sea valves and handed him, without intending to be funny, another sledgehammer.

Like her sister ship, the Banner, the Pueblo probably would be harassed as it parked on station to spy, the Navy told Pete Bucher. This meant a likelihood of some seagoing games of chicken. But if there was any unusual risk at all, briefers told him, his mission would be canceled. One told him, he recalls, that the Navy would retaliate against any forces that he could not handle by himself before help got there.

Stay at least 12 miles offshore, the internationally recognized boundary for territorial waters, the Navy said. There was unspoken reciprocity: So long as Soviet ships stayed beyond this country's 3-mile limit, they could spy all they wanted. Underlying the mission was an unspoken assumption: that Soviet allies would honor Soviet understandings.

During harassment, mind oceangoing rules of the road, the Navy said. Provoke no incidents. And above all, do not start a war.

The Navy promoted Pete Bucher to commander and said: Don't worry.

In 150 years, nobody had ever seized a U.S. ship on the high seas.

On Jan. 11, 1968, the Pueblo set sail.

Q. When you got to the North Korean coast, off Ung Do Island, and North Korean gunboats attacked the Pueblo, tell me about your dilemma: Surrender or fight? Your ship or your men?

A. No. It was never a question of "surrender or fight." It was never a question of surrender with me. I never outwardly gave any indication that we were surrendering. I never hauled down our colors.

I had already determined by radar that our dead-reckoning position was accurate. We were about 16 miles out from the nearest island, which you know, is another 25 miles from the . . . mainland. . . . I was taking a perpendicular exit from the coast. I am keeping everybody (in Japan) informed of what is going on. I told everybody (on the Pueblo) to prepare to initiate emergency destruction (of classified material), and I am thinking : "This is going to be a good (harassment) drill for our guys, and we'll get together at dinner time tonight and evaluate how well our people responded."

Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! . . . And I got hit! . . . I thought : "Jesus Christ, (they're) serious!"

And I said : "Destroy classified material! All ahead full!"

I told Skip Schumacher (his operations officer) : "Get a message off, 'We are under attack . . . I need help, and I need it immediately!' "

Our .50-caliber machine guns were no match for their 57-millimeter cannons. Ours were under tarps. The tarps were frozen solid. The only way to get to them was across decks being raked by guns. . . .

We saw a couple of MIGs. One fired. I found out later that there were 25 MIG s up there . . . .

We abandoned the flying bridge and went into the wheelhouse . . . . Tim Harris (his supply officer) was just nervous as hell, and I didn't blame him, but he didn't smoke, you know, and he said : 'How about a cigarette, Captain?' And I said : 'Here, take the whole pack. . . .' Tim was smoking, and he was drawing on that cigarette so fast the ashes were just disappearing. . . . A goddamn shell comes through the port side window, and I could see it in midair, and it comes through the damn wheelhouse, and it goes this far (he indicates 3 inches) from Tim Harris' ear, and this shell explodes through the front window and goes on out and hits the ocean out there and exploded.

Jesus Christ! Tim doesn't even know! . . . He is still smoking!!

I am trying to ring the phone (to the SOD-Hut) to find out how destruction is going . . . but I'd picked up one phone and was ringing another one. . . .

We bring the ship to all stop. The shooting stops.

So I went below and went variously around the ship to see how the destruction was going.

Not well.

And I said: "Goddamnit, Steve (Harris, head of SOD-Hut detachment), get this . . . stuff over the side!"

And old Steve said : "Yes, sir." And he said : "They are shooting at our smoke."

And I said : "What . . . are you talking about?"

Dumb, stupidly, I had the ship ventilation shut down to protect watertight integrity; and having these guys burning stuff, the whole damn ship was filling up with smoke. . . .

Radio says to me : "There are F-105s on the way"

So I thought : "Hell, we are a long ways out here. Let's play like we are going to follow these guys, and our guys will get here in time, and we'll make a run for it." So I put her back up to one-third speed. . . .

I went below again to see (how the sledgehammering, axing, burning and jettisoning was going on--and brought Pueblo to another stop to buy more time.)

Bam! Bam! Bam! And (it) starts again.

And those guys who were down there got the brunt of it doing the destruction.

One guy got killed. He got blown apart. (Several others were wounded, one critically.) . . . When they start banging us, I am thinking, you know : "If my guys are gonna have a chance, there has got to be help from our side. We're going to probably lose some people here, but let's not throw them away by continuing to do something that isn't going to help us.

"It will hurt us in the long run, it'll hurt the country . It'll hurt everything if this whole thing becomes a total disaster and we lose everybody. Then they are going to go to war out here. (Then) what the hell is going to happen?

"These guys (his own men) have no way to defend themselves. And I am not going to have them killed for nothing. . . ."

I knew that we were going to be taken . . . I figured : " . . . they (U.S. planes) ain't never going to get here now." And it's pretty obvious that we were going to get boarded.

I had protest signals flying. There was somebody in the (Korean) boat who spoke English just a little bit, and I said : "I absolutely protest this and demand that you stay off of this ship," and the guy said : "F--- you, buster. We're coming."

And they did.

Overwhelmed by four P-4 torpedo boats, two SO-1 gunboats and a brace of MIGs, the Pueblo was taken into Wonsan harbor. A North Korean hauled her colors down.

By Pete Bucher's account, his crew had managed to smash or to throw overboard all of her secret gear--including the secret rotors used for code. But she carried so many secret documents--and had such poor means of destroying them--that many fell into North Korean hands.

Pete Bucher and his men, including the wounded and the body of Duane Hodges, the crewman killed at the height of the attack, ended up at Pyongyang, in a building with thick concrete walls. They called it The Barn. Bucher and some officers were put into isolation cells. Most crewmen were thrown into four-man cells, some 12. A North Korean doctor operated on the worst of the wounded--beneath a bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling, without anesthesia.

For individual and group confessions, the North Koreans beat and kicked the crewmen mercilessly, stripped them to their shorts, then beat and kicked them more, until their shorts were soaked red with blood. Guards put square table legs behind their knees; made them squat until they lost all feeling below their thighs; tied their hands; forced them to hold a chair above their heads--and when they could hold the chair no longer and it fell, the guards clubbed them and made them run across the floor on their knees again and again, until their legs were bloody.

They beat one man until he begged to be shot. One guard liked to place his machine-gun muzzle between the crewmen's eyes and fiddle with the safety.

Some of the men prayed for nuclear retaliation, even though they knew they would be at ground zero.

In addition to their spy confessions, Pete Bucher and his men admitted falsely to intruding into North Korea's territorial waters and said they had tried to provoke war. The North Koreans staged propaganda press conferences, where the crewmen told the world about their "crimes" and "misdeeds."

But they sent signals to discredit what they were doing. Bucher was the inspiration: One day he flashed his middle finger in a guard's face and told him it was "an Hawaiian good luck sign." His crew caught on. They flashed "the Hawaiian good luck sign" in their propaganda performances. They filled their admissions with ridicule about what they were saying:

"I was to be trained by none other than Commander Buzz Sawyer. . . .

"(Before leaving for North Korea) I visited the kingpin of all provocateurs, including spies, none other than Fleet General Barney Google . . .

"(With regards to a friend) Garba Gefollows"--garbage follows.

Bucher's favorite was a confession he wrote, trusting that the North Koreans would find in their English-language dictionaries that an obscure noun he was using as a verb meant nothing more than a song of praise--and that Americans back home would read the word phonetically: "We not only want to paean the North Korean government," Bucher wrote in blissful rhapsody, "but to paean the North Korean people as well."

At last, the North Koreans thought, Bucher and his men seemed to be cooperating. And in return, they eased up on the torture.

They moved Pete Bucher and his crew to better quarters.

But then one day, the North Koreans got back one of their propaganda pictures, published abroad. It showed some of the crewmen offering Hawaiian good luck.

The caption said: "The Navy has made fools of (North Korea)."

So began hell week.

They beat one man for 16 hours, used the chair and the table legs for another five hours and beat him again for 15 hours more.

They broke a second man's jaw.

They beat a third man for 39 hours straight--hundreds of blows with a pole two inches thick. And when it broke, they beat him with the pieces. And when those broke, they came up with still another pole, and it was twice as thick.

Q. What's worst when you're being held hostage?

A. The real problems, I think, are not the beatings so much as the degradation that we went through. Being made to crawl, you know, and being spit on. . . . Hearing people yelling, knowing I'm the commanding officer and I can't do a thing for them, and I just got to thinking : "The goddamn government has forgotten that we're over here. How can that be? Why isn't there some kind of a raid here to get us out of this place? Why isn't something happening?" And I let myself get down. This is your mind kicking you in the butt. . . . You have to let your spirit control your mind. Your soul has to drive you, and you've got to tell your mind to knock it off. . . . And here comes down the passageway, having been beaten to hell, a guy named (Earl) Kisler, and his head is like a basketball, he's been beaten so bad. I looked at him and I just . . . He is on his hands and knees. He's crawling, you know, they've got him crawling, and he turns his face to me. I was just overwhelmed at what they had done to this guy, and he gives me this grin, see, with the blood all in his mouth, and he gives me this thumbs up (tears come to Pete Bucher's eyes and he stops, then tries to continue).

I just can hardly talk about it (he stops again and fights for control).

I just thought . . . (Pete Bucher breaks down , and he cries) .

I thought : "I'll never let the bastards get me down again."

The planes never came: Not from the nuclear carrier Enterprise--whose commander had said four of its F-4s probably could have reached the Pueblo before the North Koreans put her ashore at Wonsan; not from other carriers in the region; not from South Korea nor from U.S. bases there.

Nobody, least of all the Navy, authorized any kind of a mission to save the Pueblo, any attempt to rescue her crew or any effort to retaliate against North Korea for taking an American ship, killing a crewman and torturing 82 other Americans while holding all of them, including the injured, in prison for nearly a year.

The United States finally gained freedom for Pete Bucher and his men by doing exactly what he and his crew had done: confessing--even to lies--then discrediting the admission of any wrongdoing.

The confession was signed by the senior U.S. negotiator at Panmunjom. He was far too formal to offer Hawaiian good luck.

He simply stated that his confession was false.

North Korea accepted it.

When Pete Bucher and his men and the body of Duane Hodges returned home, the Navy ordered Bucher, all of the surviving crewman and others involved in their fate to testify at a Court of Inquiry. For eight weeks, they were questioned about the loss of the Pueblo and whether her captain and crew had violated the U.S. military Code of Conduct, which forbids anyone taken captive to tell more than name, military rank and serial number.

The only admiral in the Pueblo chain of command who was called to account was Frank Johnson, who had told Bucher to cover his guns.

Despite testimony about Pete Bucher's difficulty with the Navy at the Bremerton shipyard, nobody summoned any of the top brass responsible for outfitting his ship. Despite evidence that the Pueblo's mission should have been re-evaluated, perhaps even canceled, nobody summoned the Pacific Fleet commander, or any top officers from the Pentagon, or anybody at the National Security Agency or the State Department.

In the end, the Court of Inquiry said that Pete Bucher and Steve Harris should be court-martialed and that the Pueblo's executive officer admonished--for their roles in permitting the ship to be seized and failing to complete destruction of classified material. Johnson was to be reprimanded, along with a captain subordinate to, among others, the commander of the Pacific Fleet.

But the Pacific Fleet commander, to whom the court reported, ordered that both the Bucher and the Harris court-martials be changed to reprimands. He toned down Johnson's reprimand. And he vetoed action against the captain who was partially under his own command. Finally, on May 9, 1969, the secretary of the Navy stepped in. He said he wanted nobody to be punished.

Everybody, he decided, had suffered enough.

Q. Did the Navy oppose the POW medals?

A. They said attorneys for the Department of Defense (DOD) made the decision that my men were not eligible. Well, attorneys make decisions based on what somebody tells them to do. . . . It may have originated at the Navy side. Who knows? You could never pin that down. . . . It's not just the medals. There are benefits that you are assured, which are associated with medical care in VA hospitals, if you are certified as a POW. . . . You never quite relinquish the responsibility you have for people who had problems created for them while they were in your service, and we've got some of these kids that are 100% disabled. Half of them have some disability. . . . These guys got in that situation by (being beaten) over and over in that goddamn North Korea. . . .

I was furious about (being denied the medals) . . . I wrote to the chief of Naval Operations last year . . . and the chief of Naval Operations sent me back a letter saying they're not going to fight with DOD. . . . I wrote to (Sen. Pete) Wilson (R-Calif.) Never had an answer. I had an answer back from (Sen . Alan) Cranston (D-Calif.), but nothing was ever done.

Q. What about the rest of the California delegation?

A. Nothing got done. It was a congressman from Massachusetts (Rep. Nicholas Mavroules, D-Mass.), who is chairman of an Armed Services subcommittee, who had hearings. I got three guys from the crew, and we testified. The Navy sent over Vice Adm . (J.M.) Boorda, the chief of Naval personnel, and he gave a statement in strong support. Mavroules put in a bill and got it passed, and the President signed it in December.

Then we get this letter from the Navy with a form to fill out for the medal. And I said : "Now these bastards are going to send it out in a plain brown envelope." When they gave it to the rest of the POWs, there was an incredible ceremony, and all. . . .

I don't know why the government doesn't bring the guys out here and pay their expenses. The government has responsibility to these men. I don't give up my responsibility for what happened to these men under my command, and I don't think the government should, either....

But we're getting it done ourselves--a ceremony out here (with contributions from supporters for plane tickets and some free lodging). In some ways, it's best, you know, that way.

You're not having to kiss somebody's ass.

Times researcher Nina Green contributed to this story.

Continue reading »

More blacks enroll in college, Colts win over Rams, December 16, 1968

U.S. Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford tells the North and South Vietnamese to stop squabbling over seating arrangements at the Paris peace talks.



Above, a video on the Black Student Union at the University of Washington.

The Times sends education reporter William Trombley on a tour of college and university campuses to gauge the attitudes of African American students, prompted in part by protests at San Francisco State.

"It used to be you went to a white school to establish the distance between yourself and the rest of the black community. But most of us plan to go back to the community, at least for a few years, to see what we can accomplish and to spur other bright young cats on to good schools."
Robert Hall,
Harvard University senior


1968_1216_sports The 1968 Rams would not be a disappointment today.

A team that finished 10-3-1 and second in its division would be making playoff plans. This was a different era in the NFL, however, so the '68 Rams were closing shop after losing their season finale to the Baltimore Colts, 28-24.

"We played well enough to win but we made too many mistakes," Coach George Allen told The Times' Mal Florence.

Rams' kicker Bruce Gossett had a tough day. He had two field goal tries blocked and a successful kick was called back because of a Ram penalty.

--Keith Thursby


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