USS Pueblo still held by North Korea: A history lesson on the vessel

The USS Pueblo was captured on a spying mission off the coast of North Korea. (WLUK/Jared Harrington)

History comes full circle in Kewaunee, as residents learn about the fate of a Navy ship built in the city.

The USS Pueblo was captured along with its crew 48 years ago. Those on board were eventually released but North Korea still holds the ship today.

The USS Pueblo got its start at the Kewaunee Shipbuilding and Engineering Corporation.

Built by workers in the community, it was launched in 1944 for the US Army as a supply vessel.

It would gain international attention though 24 years later under Navy command, when it was captured on a spying mission off the coast of North Korea.

Richard Rogala was among 82 crew members who spent 11 months as a prisoner of war.

"It's been a great visit to Kewaunee seeing all these people who remember the Pueblo. A lot of people just don't remember it anymore," said Richard Rogala.

Rogala is in Kewaunee as part of a presentation put together by the Kewaunee County Historical Society. Some in the city would like to see the USS Pueblo returned to its home.

But the out-of-date warship is actually still commissioned by the US Navy, even though it's in the possession of the North Korean government. One photo showed it docked in Pyongyang, where it serves as a museum.

"The North Koreans are very stubborn, very stayed in the ways, they will use that as a trophy," said Chris Sturdevant.

Sturdevant is chairman of the Cold War Museum's Midwest Chapter and has visited the Pueblo in North Korea.

He shared the history of the Pueblo with a crowd of more than 100 at the historical society, many who remember the ship being built.

"There's a lot of excitement people want to see the Pueblo back in Kewaunee and just goes to show history is local," Sturdevant said.

Rogala encourages residents to contact their representatives in Congress to push for the return of the Pueblo.

"We'd all be so happy it would be unbelievable," Rogala said.

Those at the historical society say it's worth a try to fight for the USS Pueblo.

"I kind of doubt it with the relations we have with North Korea. I kind of doubt they'll ever get it back but Kewaunee would sure like to get it back," said Arletta Bertrand, treasurer of the Kewaunee County Historical Society.

The Kewaunee County Historical Society is selling DVDs of Saturday's presentation on the USS Pueblo.

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