Pueblo Skipper Gets Lifetime Baseball Passes for Crew
Crew members of the U.S. spy ship Pueblo, imprisoned and tortured by the North Koreans 23 years ago, have been awarded lifetime passes to major league baseball games, ending what their captain, Lloyd (Pete) Bucher, had long considered a slight.
“It always stuck in my craw that returning Vietnam POWs were issued lifetime passes and we were not,” Bucher, a retired Navy commander, said Friday at his home in Poway, Calif. Obtaining the passes marks the second victory for Bucher in a long effort to win recognition for his men and the suffering they endured.
The Pueblo was overwhelmed by North Korean gunboats in January, 1968, off the North Korean coast. One crewman was killed. Bucher and his men were beaten mercilessly, imprisoned for 11 months and forced to write false confessions. The U.S. government obtained their freedom by also making a false confession, and then repudiating it.
Naval officers recommended that Bucher be court-martialed for permitting his ship to be seized and failing to destroy all classified material. The secretary of the Navy dropped the charges, saying the men had suffered enough. However, the Department of Defense found them ineligible for the Prisoner of War Medal and medical benefits associated with POW status.
Two years ago, Bucher won an act of Congress granting both the medals and POW status. The medals were awarded last May. Because Vietnam POWs were granted the baseball passes as well, Bucher set about trying to obtain them for his men, too.
He wrote to Lou Gorman, general manager of the Boston Red Sox, whom he had met at a baseball game, and Gorman asked Francis T. (Fay) Vincent Jr., commissioner of major league baseball, to consider Bucher’s request.
“Cmdr. Bucher’s request is a reasonable one,” Stephen D. Greenberg, Vincent’s deputy commissioner, replied. The passes will go to Bucher and the 79 of his 82 crewmen who are still living.