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Extended Audio Sample Act of War: Lyndon Johnson, North Korea, and the Capture of the Spy Ship, by Jack Cheevers Click for printable size audiobook cover
4.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 5 4.50 (2 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jack Cheevers Narrator: Jeffrey Kafe Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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In 1968, a small, dilapidated American spy ship set out on a dangerous mission to pinpoint military radar stations along the coast of North Korea. Packed with advanced surveillance equipment and classified intelligence documents, the USS Pueblo was poorly armed and lacked backup by air or sea. Its crew, led by a charismatic, hard-drinking ex–submarine officer named Pete Bucher, was made up mostly of untested sailors in their teens and twenties.

On a frigid January morning while eavesdropping near the port of Wonsan, the Pueblo was challenged by a North Korean gunboat. When Bucher tried to escape, his ship was quickly surrounded by more patrol boats, shelled and machine-gunned, and forced to surrender. One American was killed and ten wounded, and Bucher and his young crew were taken prisoner by one of the world’s most aggressive and erratic totalitarian regimes.

Less than forty-eight hours before the Pueblo’s capture, North Korean commandos had nearly succeeded in assassinating South Korea’s president in downtown Seoul. Together the two explosive incidents pushed Cold War tensions toward a flashpoint as both North and South Korea girded for war—with fifty thousand American soldiers caught between them. President Lyndon Johnson rushed US combat ships and aircraft to reinforce South Korea, while secretly trying to negotiate a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Act of War tells the riveting saga of Bucher and his men as they struggled to survive merciless torture and horrendous living conditions in North Korean prisons. Based on extensive interviews and numerous government documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, this book also reveals new details of Johnson’s high-risk gambit to prevent war from erupting on the Korean peninsula while his negotiators desperately tried to save the sailors from possible execution. A dramatic tale of human endurance set against the backdrop of an international diplomatic poker game, Act of War offers lessons on the perils of covert intelligence operations as America finds itself confronting a host of twenty-first-century enemies.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Sweeping in its power and importance as a historical document and absolutely riveting in its personal stories of sacrifice and heroism, Act of War is the best kind of narrative nonfiction. From the halls of power in Washington to the heaving seas of the Pacific and to the cold, stark torture rooms of Pyongyang, this book leaves no stone unturned. This is a masterwork by Jack Cheevers. I devoured Act of War the way I did FlyboysFlags of our Fathers, and Lost in Shangri-la.”

    Michael Connelly, #1 New York Times bestselling author

  • “A riveting, superbly-researched, and revealing account of a Cold War clash at sea between the United States and North Korea—and of the courageous captain of the Pueblo, who stood up both to his brutal captors and to the Navy brass who tried to make him a scapegoat to cover up their own failures.”

    David Wise, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Cheevers skillfully brings to life one of the most dramatic events of the Cold War, a story of torture, imprisonment, secret negotiations, and White House deal-making. Today, the Pueblo remains the only commissioned US ship on display as a war trophy by a foreign government. Act of War sheds new light on how that happened, and at the same time it shows how quickly espionage, and miscalculation, can lead to all-out war.”

    James Bamford, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Cheevers (former political reporter, Los Angeles Times) paints a vivid picture of the harrowing experiences the sailors faced before, during, and after their stint in a North Korean prison…The author’s access to personal interviews, large amounts of government documents, as well as news reports on the incident, allows readers to experience this event from the Pueblo’s viewpoint and beyond. Readers who appreciate intense accounts of survival against difficult circumstances will find this book enthralling.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “An outstanding and necessary recounting of an affair that should remind us how dangerous the regime of North Korea remains.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Journalist Cheevers combines interviews with recently released government documents to tell the story of a slipshod operation that nearly led to the crew’s execution and a return to war footing with Korea…Cheever’s account of ‘false assumptions, negligent planning...excessive risk taking’ is a useful reminder in today’s world of surveillance and diplomatic brinksmanship.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Readers who assume that North Korea’s reputation as an international nut case is a recent development must read this painful account of its 1968 seizure of the USS Pueblo and abuse of its crew…Although the crew behaved reasonably well under terrible conditions, this is a story where dimwits and villains dominate, and Cheevers does a fine job of rescuing from obscurity a painful Cold War debacle.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “Jack Cheevers is not only a terrific researcher but a master storyteller. Act of War reads like a Cold War thriller—I couldn’t put it down.”

    James Scott, award-winning author of The War Below

  • “With vivid clarity, Cheevers tells the amazing story of the capture of the Pueblo and its crew—one of many dangerous showdowns between North Korea and the US. A fascinating, well-rendered account of a little known episode in the ongoing conflict on the Korean peninsula.”

    Sheila Miyoshi Jager, author of Brothers at War: The Unending Conflict in Korea

  • “A fitting tribute to the Pueblo crew, a timely reminder of the nature of the North Korean regime (now developing nuclear weapons), and, not least, a great read.”

    Jack F. Matlock, Jr., US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, 1987-91, and author of Reagan and Gorbachev

  • “Using a trove of declassified CIA materials and interviews, Cheevers provides a valuable new addition to our understanding of what happened in January 1968 when the North Koreans attacked and captured the USS Pueblo.”

    Larry Berman, author of Zumwalt: The Life and Times of Admiral Elmo Russell “Bud” Zumwalt, Jr.

Listener Opinions

  • 4.333333 out of 54.333333 out of 54.333333 out of 54.333333 out of 54.333333 out of 5 by Bur | 6/22/2016

    " I'm familiar with the general story of the USS Pueblo. However, I haven't read in detail on it. This book is well researched and presents a full picture not just of what happened to the men taken as POWs, but also the political maneuvering that led to the capture and to the release of the victims. These men were victims of their own government as well as victims of the North Korean government. If they had been given the resources to do the job correctly, this fracas could have been avoided. "

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About the Author

Jack Cheevers is a former political reporter for the Los Angeles Times.