The USS Pueblo Pueblo Incident 1966-1968
by Jim Hoey
I was an ADJ2 Blue Shark from approximately, February 1966 until October 1968. I joined the squadron at NAS Barbers Point shortly after the squadron returned from Iwakuni and was assigned to the Power Plants shop. Shortly after I arrived I was asked if I would like to become a flight crew member and accepted. Even knowing what I know now, I would have done it again. I was assigned to Crew 6. Cliff Henson was the Flight Engineer and I was the Second Mech. LCDR Mc Jake Michaels was the PPC. Both of these guys were great as were all the rest of the crew.
During my time with the Sharks we made two deployments, first to NAS Adak Alaska. Yikes that place was cold. The second deployment was to Naha, Okinawa. A fun place, good old Namanui (not sure on the spelling of this) but hot. During this time our crew went to many places, most common was Shemya, Alaska, Midway Island, Agana, Guam, Atsugi and Iwakuni Japan as well as Johnston Island. Very memorable even today.
Perhaps the most memorable event of all was the "Pueblo Incident". Our aircraft and crew were on patrol and became directly involved in this event of January 1968. We were diverted from returning to Naha, to MCAS Iwakuni during a routine patrol with only the clothes on our back. I don’t think most people at the time, certainly not us, knew just how close we came to World War 3! In retrospect those were scary times but when you're 20 years old you're indestructible and of course, it never happens to you.
I recall VP-48 losing an aircraft and all hands returning to Iwakuni after patrol. If memory serves me, they crashed into a mountain at full speed and never saw it coming. Twelve more lives lost to the craziness of the Cold War. I recall having to make an engine change,outside, in the cold January winter of Iwakuni with nothing to wear but a flight suit and leather flight jacket. They parked the aircraft far from the hanger because the bomb bay was full of all kinds of ordnance. We had to remove the prop first then the engine and vise versa to install. This was not normal but because of our location and all the ordnance on board it was the only way we could do it. To this day I am amazed I never even considered something could have happened to the ordnance and we would have all been blown away. Everyone involved in this incident was working incredible hours and "stuff" happened. Another event was when one of the P3’s VP-6 or VP-17, I don’t recall, got on station at night, decided to drop a parachute flare, pickled the switch and nothing happened. The switch was pickled a few more times. Finally someone took a flashlight and looked out on the wing, the entire rack was gone, same on the other wing. Oops! They returned and the ready reserve flight was launched.
Some thoughts of the "mishap" in Okinawa. This is something I have even to this day very strong feelings about, it should never have happened. The F/E, Bruce (Chuck) Leach and I were very good friends, I still think about him and the others that were lost that night, often. I would very much like to contact Chuck Leach's family and tell them what a great friend Chuck was and a fine Flight Engineer.
All the best,
Jim Hoey, ADJ2
Former Blue Shark