In a largely overlooked ruling, a federal judge in Washington awarded more than $65 million to sailors of the USS Pueblo who were captured and tortured by North Korea in 1968. The men — William Thomas Massie, Donald Raymond McClarren, Dunnie Richard Tuck and the estate of Lloyd Bucher — and were given the judgment by U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. after North Korea failed to respond to the lawsuit.
The North Korean still have the Pueblo, which was seized on Jan. 23, 1968. It is the only active U.S. warship in foreign hands.
The crew was held for 11 months and often tortured, causing lasting pain for the men.
Under the judgment, Massie, McClarren and Tuck each received $16.7 million. Bucher’s estate received $14.3 million and his wife, Rose, $1.25 million.
Obviously, it will be difficult to collect against North Korea, but the judgment must come as some satisfaction for these former sailors. Of course, the moral clarity of the ruling is diminished by the fact that the United States is now accused of having its own torture program.
Some in the Navy sought to make the Pueblo’s captain the scapegoat for the incident after the return of the crew. Lloyd “Pete” Bucher died in 2004 and was mourned by his crew which never lost faith in his leadership, here.
The sailors were able to sue after Congress blocked immunity for foreign countries accused of terrorism in 1996.
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