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Act of War: Lyndon Johnson, North Korea, and the Capture of the Spy Ship Pueblo Hardcover – December 3, 2013
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*Starred Review* In January 1968, the USS Pueblo was engaged in electronic surveillance off the coast of North Korea. Apparently, the ship remained in international waters, but the government of North Korea still instructed a gunboat to attack and board the Pueblo and seize the crew. For the crewmen, what followed was an 11-month ordeal that included severe beatings and forced confessions. For the Johnson administration and the American public, it was an ongoing national humiliation that allowed some politicians, including Richard Nixon, to exploit fears about American weakness. Reporter Cheevers uses interviews with crewmen, and former members of the Johnson administration, as well as newly available government documents, to provide a tense, absorbing, and timely account of the episode. At the heart of the narrative is the Pueblo’s captain, Lloyd Bucher, who behaved bravely in captivity, determined to guarantee the survival of his men. Figures in the U.S. government are portrayed less heroically, and the North Koreans are described as terrifyingly thuggish and paranoid. This is an outstanding and necessary recounting of an affair that should remind us how dangerous the regime of North Korea remains. --Jay Freeman
“Comprehensive and compelling… a narrative as fascinating as any fictional spy story… Act of War is likely to be the definitive account of the Pueblo incident.” —The Virginian–Pilot
“Outstanding and necessary.”—Booklist, starred review
“A deep, gripping narrative of the Pueblo story… harrowing.” —Alastair Gale, Wall Street Journal blog
“Readers who appreciate intense accounts of survival against difficult circumstances will find this book enthralling… It deserves a wide audience.”—Library Journal, starred review
"Mesmerizing... a striking tribute to the Pueblo's commander and crew who acted honorably under horrendous conditions."—Murray Polner, History News Network
“Brilliant... One walks away from this book with a deeper appreciation for the burdens of command, and a new gratitude for the men and women who wear a uniform and sacrifice for our freedoms…. With Act of War, Cheevers has created a magnificent historical narrative that reads like a great novel but accurately presents the facts.” —Deseret News
"Act of War is international in scope, well written, and an enjoyable read....highly recommended....[a] gripping account of personal service, tragedy, sacrifice, and perseverance of the crew that played out within the heightened international tensions of the Cold War."—Proceedings
“Sweeping in its power and importance as a historical document and absolutely riveting in its personal stories of sacrifice and heroism, Act of War is the best kind of narrative nonfiction. From the halls of power in Washington to the heaving seas of the Pacific and to the cold, stark torture rooms of Pyongyang, this book leaves no stone unturned. This is a masterwork by Jack Cheevers. I devoured Act of War the way I did Flyboys, Flags of our Fathers and Lost in Shangri-la.”—Michael Connelly, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Black Box
“A riveting, superbly-researched, and revealing account of a Cold War clash at sea between the United States and North Korea—and of the courageous captain of the Pueblo, who stood up both to his brutal captors and to the Navy brass who tried to make him a scapegoat to cover up their own failures.”—David Wise, author of Tiger Trap: America’s Secret Spy War with China
“Cheevers skillfully brings to life one of the most dramatic events of the Cold War, a story of torture, imprisonment, secret negotiations and White House deal making. Today, the Pueblo remains the only commissioned U.S. ship on display as a war trophy by a foreign government. Act of War sheds new light on how that happened, and at the same time it shows how quickly espionage, and miscalculation, can lead to all-out war.” —James Bamford, author of Body of Secrets, The Shadow Factory, and The Puzzle Palace
“Jack Cheevers is not only a terrific researcher but a master storyteller. Act of War reads like a Cold War thriller—I couldn’t put it down.”—James Scott, author of The War Below
“With vivid clarity, Cheevers tells the amazing story of the capture of the Pueblo and its crew—one of many dangerous showdowns between North Korea and the U.S. A fascinating, well-rendered account of a little known episode in the on-going conflict on the Korean peninsula.”—Sheila Miyoshi Jager, author of Brothers at War: The Unending Conflict in Korea
“A fitting tribute to the Pueblo crew, a timely reminder of the nature of the North Korean regime (now developing nuclear weapons), and, not least, a great read.”—Jack F. Matlock, Jr., US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, 1987-91, and author of Reagan and Gorbachev
“Using a trove of declassified CIA materials and interviews, Cheevers provides a valuable new addition to our understanding of what happened in January 1968 when the North Koreans attacked and captured the USS Pueblo.”—Larry Berman, author of Zumwalt: The Life and Times of Admiral Elmo Russell “Bud” Zumwalt, Jr.
“Jack Cheevers' true account of the USS Pueblo will not only glue you to your seat, you'll be stunned anyone survived at all.”—John Geoghegan, author of Operation Storm
Top customer reviews
Anyone who is even remotely interested in imprisonment, intelligence gathering, the Korean Peninsula, military culture, naval activity, politics, post-traumatic stress, psychology, the Second Indochina War, or torture should read this book. Obviously, those interested in the seizure of the U.S.S. Pueblo and the fate of its crew will find this book enlightening.
While not wanting to give anything away, as it's all of a piece, I'll nevertheless address a subject about which I've retained some small knowledge: destruction of classified documents and equipment. Imminent capture of such items by a hostile force was, during the period examined in this book, a scenario not taken seriously by relevant authority. The U.S.S. Pueblo's crew had neither the means nor the training necessary to destroy classified machines and materials on a moment's notice, as the ship captain's repeated requests for proper destruction equipment had been denied.
In short, the "blue water" navy and its admirals had little respect for crews and ships embarked on intelligence-gathering missions. (This nonchalant attitude, however, did not prevail within the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.) Shocking as such high-level incompetence is, it's equally shocking to learn of treatment accorded some of the U.S.S. Pueblo's crew upon their release from captivity.
The sole fatality aboard U.S.S. Pueblo was Damage Controlman Third Class Duane Daniel Hodges (1946-1968) from Creswell in Oregon. May he and Commander Lloyd Mark Bucher (1927-2004) rest in peace, along with their 18 shipmates who have also passed away.
Starting in 1985, it cost the U.S. about $1 B to set up a new security system. Yes, John Walker was a traitor and should have been executed. His ring was probably the worst spy ring the U.S. ever encountered. John Walker also gave the russians information about how noisy their subs were. They bolted motors to the hull which sends noise out into the ocean. Noise in the ocean will always be detected by the United States. Look at all the submarine disasters --- The U.S. Sosus program discovered the locations of all the sub disasters, including Russian Subs.
North Korea captured the Pueblo from International Waters and turned over the crypto machines to Russia. North Korea still holds the Pueblo. The U.S. should have demolished the Pueblo as it was tied to the dock in North Korea. Demolish the Pueblo and the crypto machines would not have been available to the russians.
The crew of the Pueblo could not destroy the crypto machines partly because they were welded to steel work surfaces. Lyndon Johnson did us no favors by allowing Walker to stay alive. Walker wrote a book.. I refuse to read it......
Most recent customer reviews
The book “Act of War” by Jack Cheevers is a tour d’ force.Read more