Prisoner of War for 11 Months – USS Pueblo 1968 Incident


Prisoner of war, Stu Russel was one of those on board the United States Navy electronic surveillance ship USS Pueblo, when it was captured off the coast of North Korea in January of 1968. The ship was fired on before it was taken captive. Survivors were taken hostage in what became a hellish eleven months of abuse and torture, which the Koreans attempted to hide with political propaganda during the diplomatic efforts made to get American prisoners of war back home alive. The propaganda included relaying photos of the prisoner of wars in world media showing how wonderfully these captured seamen were being treated. The story that follows from here is very interesting that shows how stupid DPRK (North Korean) people were in not being able to recognize how these POWs were discrediting the propaganda massively.

To Know more about the incident, Read this – USS Pueblo Incident

To hear to the POW Stu Russel about his dismal experience :-

The following account of their time spent as POWs in North Korea by Stu Russell himself is a substitute for the video if you do not wish to watch the interview.

THE DIGIT AFFAIR – by Stu Russel

In June, we were taken to the Club for yet another film. Unlike the usual fare of feature films of the war movie, labor hero genre, we were shown two short subjects. One was a film about the DPRK soccer team’s visit to the play-offs in London. The other was about a US service man’s body being returned to the UN side at Panmunjom by the DPRK. Two different subjects, but one common action united the two films.

The film about the soccer team began with the North Korean team arriving in London and driving through the streets in a bus festooned with flags of the DPRK. As the bus drove down the street one proper English gentleman complete with derby and umbrella spotted the bus and flipped it off! The man must have been a Korean War vet and he was giving the bus the finger. Whoever was taking the pictures zoomed in on it.


A murmur went through the crew; the KORCOMs (Korean Command) didn’t know what the finger meant. This was further demonstrated in the second film in which a US Navy Officer flipped off the cameraman. They left it in. We now had a weapon! Back in our rooms we were elated, this was one more thing we could use to discredit the propaganda we were being forced to grind out. Several crew members expressed caution, but the general attitude was use it. We had been captured, but we never surrendered. Damn the Koreans, full fingers ahead.

File:Gesture raised fist with thumb and pinky lifted.jpg

The finger became an integral part of our anti-propaganda campaign. Any time a camera appeared, so did the fingers. A concern grew among us that sooner or later the Koreans would notice this and ask questions. It was decided that if the question was raised, the answer was to be that the finger was a gesture known as the Hawaiian Good Luck sign, a variation of the Hang Loose gesture. In late August one of the duty officers asked about the finger and seemed to be accepting of the explanation, but most of us realized that our zeal to ruin their propaganda would come back to haunt us, eventually.


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