N. Korea Seize U.S. Ship

Published: 1968
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New York Democratic Senator Robert F. Kennedy delivers a speech in Chicago on February 8, 1968. He said that the recent Viet Cong offensive demonstrates that a U.S. military victory is "probably beyond our grasp" in Vietnam and political compromise is the only path to peace, in his strongest attack yet on President Johnson's Vietnam policies. He said, "It is time for the truth, time to drop the mass of official illusion" he said had been shattered by Communist attacks in Saigon and cities and towns all across South Vietnam. He addressed a book and author luncheon here. (UPI Photo/Files)

Announcer: On January 22nd, North Korean sailors boarded and seized the U.S.S. Pueblo, an American Intelligence ship which was sailing in the Sea of Japan. The 83 crewmen were taken to North Korea as prisoners and were accused of sailing their ship in North Korean waters. The furor in Congress was overwhelming, but the answers to the solution of the problem were mixed. Two of the views that showed how widely opinions differed were from Representative Mendel Rivers and Senator Gale McGee.

Representative Mendel Rivers: "We should demand its return immediately, along with the amount of and the President of the United States should have made this demand, in my opinion. Of course, I'm not telling him how to run his office. Now, if they fail to deliver that ship and its crew at the appointed hour, I would be positive, were I the President, that one of their cities would disappear from the face of earth, and do it!"

Senator Gale McGee: "Let's not panic till we know all of the facts. There are, there’s been too much popping off first and thinking later, and I don’t believe our times permit that kind of irresponsibility. This is the time to keep our cool. We've had a lot of incidents in the Cold War, and in the Nuclear Age we cannot risk the folly of spasmodic response to aggravating incidents."

Announcer: The question never answered thoroughly for some was whether or not the ship had been seized illegally. The United States maintained that the Pueblo was in international waters. This is a direct refutation to the Korean reply that they seized the ship only because it encroached their water-boundary lines.

At the United Nations, the United States Ambassador position was held by three persons during 1968. First, Arthur Goldberg resigned from the post to enter private law practice.

Ambassador Arthur Goldberg: "President Johnson has very considerately acceded to my wish to be relieved of my assignment as United States representative to the United Nations. If during the past three years my service in this post has been of any use in advancing the cause of world peace, that service will have been worthwhile."

Announcer: His place was taken by George Ball, a former Undersecretary of State. Ball lasted five months, and then he too quit to campaign for Vice-President Humphrey.

The current Ambassador was J. Russell Wiggins, a former Washington editor and a close friend of President Johnson.

To fill the vacant Secretary of Defense spot left by Robert McNamara late in 1967, President Johnson appointed Clark Clifford.

After Chief Justice Earl Warren submitted a short note of resignation, the President moved to promote Justice Abe Fortas to the spot. Republicans accused the President of cronyism and political favoritism and held up on approving his recommendation. To put an end to the debate and criticism, Abe Fortas finally announced he would withdraw his name from being considered for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.