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
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