In This Review

The Pueblo Incident: A Spy Ship and the Failure of American Foreign Policy
The Pueblo Incident: A Spy Ship and the Failure of American Foreign Policy
By Mitchell B. Lerner
University Press of Kansas, 2002, 320 pp

Lerner has rescued from hazy memories what seemed to be at the time an extremely dangerous incident. In January 1968, the U.S.S. Pueblo, a rickety spy ship gathering signals intelligence, was obliged to surrender in North Korean waters after facing gunfire from warships that left one dead and four wounded. By the end of the year, the crew was returned home -- but not the ship. This lively account, backed by extensive research, demonstrates the multiple flaws in the mission's planning that put the crew in such a parlous position. Even though blame was eventually targeted at Commander Pete Bucher, the author points out, the Navy was really at fault. Lerner also describes the impact of Cold War assumptions on the management of the crisis, particularly in the failure to appreciate the singularity of North Korea. But he also credits Lyndon Johnson with the patient diplomacy that brought about the eventual resolution.