Lloyd Mark “Pete” Bucher was captain of the U.S.S. Pueblo when it was captured by North Korea.
On Jan. 23, 1968, the lightly armed reconnaissance ship was monitoring Communist movements and intercepting messages near the North Korean coast when it was attacked by torpedo boats. One soldier was killed during the shelling, and 82 members of the crew were taken prisoner.
During their 11 months in captivity, the prisoners were battered with wood, burned on radiators and starved. According to reports from his crew, Bucher bore the brunt of the punishment. He was beaten and tortured by his captors, then forced to sign a confession. Although a carrier task force was in the region, no help was sent to rescue the Pueblo sailors.
The Americans were released on Dec. 23, 1968. North Korea kept the 177-foot vessel and turned it into a tourist attraction. Bucher, however, faced a general court martial for surrendering the ship and all its intelligence information without firing a shot. Navy Secretary John H. Chafee turned down the court martial because Bucher had “suffered enough,” but it would be another 20 years before any of the Pueblo crew would receive their prisoner of war medals from the Pentagon because the U.S. government classified them as “detainees.”
Former Navy Cmdr. Bucher died on Jan. 28. Cause of death was not released. He was 76.