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Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History



First Advisor

Joyce S Goldberg


On January 23, 1968, North Korea attacked and seized an American Navy spy ship, the USS Pueblo. In the process, one American sailor was mortally wounded and another ten crew members were injured, including the ship's commanding officer. The crew was held for eleven months in a North Korean prison. Today, the ship remains in North Korea as a gray, steel museum, glorifying the success of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's Navy in its struggle against the imperialist American aggressors. This thesis examines two primary question: How could the capture and retention of a U.S. Navy warship by a minor military state occur? What was the motive of the North Koreans? My conclusion is that the Pueblo incident occurred because of inadequate American leadership at multiple levels within the U.S. Government and U.S. Navy and because of North Korean leader Kim Il-sung's strict adherence to the Juche ideology. Congress and the U.S. Navy conducted exhaustive post-incident hearings and investigations, which became one of the issues that bedeviled and degraded Lyndon Johnson's presidency. The Pueblo hearings and investigations, with their finger-pointing and attempts to deflect or attribute blame, became a sideshow that caught and held the interest of the media and the public. They distracted the president in the midst of the over-shadowing Vietnam War at the expense of Johnson's greater interest and legacy, his social programs. This study links failures in American leadership to Cold War political and foreign policy practices to disregard for North Korean ideology. Its conclusions offer a broader understanding of the causal factors surrounding the Pueblo incident.


USS Pueblo, Cold War, Juche, Commander Bucher, North Korea, Kim Il-sung


Arts and Humanities | History


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

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