It happened in the fall of 1968.
The North Korean captors of the USS Pueblo crew allowed servicemen to write letters home to their loved ones and be photographed for propaganda purposes. But as former hostage Rick Rogala recalls in an article today in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, it quickly led to the worse part of the ordeal for non-officers (officers were brutally tortured at the outset of captivity).
A.k.a. “Hell Week:”
A number of the POWs had conspired to extend their middle fingers in an obscene gesture aimed at conveying an entirely different message. When U.S. magazines published the photos and articulated the real intent, the embarrassed North Koreans punished the entire crew.
“They called us on it and we had to sit with our heads down for 18, 19 hours at a time, for three or four days in a row,” says Rogala, who was not part of the symbolic defiance. “When they accused me of raising my head, I was beaten pretty badly.”
Given that it was recently confirmed that the North Koreans knew at the time of intercept that the USS Pueblo was outside the 12-mile limit, the American hostage “Hawaiin good luck signs” were – and still are – well deserved. To read the full Herald-Tribune article, click here.
[Photo courtesy USSPueblo.org]