WASHINGTON – A federal judge on Tuesday awarded more than $65 million to several men who were captured and tortured by North Korea after the communist country seized the U.S. spy ship USS Pueblo during the Cold War.
North Korea never responded to the lawsuit filed by William Thomas Massie, Donald Raymond McClarren, Dunnie Richard Tuck and the estate of Lloyd Bucher. U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. entered the judgment against the country.
The USS Pueblo was seized off North Korea while it was on an intelligence-gathering mission on Jan. 23, 1968. North Korea claimed the ship was inside its coastal zone while the U.S. Navy contended it was in international waters.
One of the U.S. ship’s 83 crew members was killed and 10 others were wounded. The crew members, led by Cmdr. Lloyd Bucher, were released after 11 months of captivity and sometimes torture.
The ship is still in North Korean hands, the only active-duty U.S. warship in the hands of a foreign power.
The crew kept the military chain of command alive and resisted their captors. They planted defiant codes into forced letters of confession and extended their middle fingers when North Koreans photographed them and sent the images around the world.
Kennedy called the treatment of Massie, Tuck, McClarren and Bucher “extensive and shocking.”
Some of the torture described to Kennedy included “severe physical beatings with karate blows, broom handles, belt buckles, boards and chairs, along with punches with rifle butts and whatever else that was handy.”
“Massie, Tuck, McClarren, suffered physical and mental harm that has endured for the past 39 years and likely will continue to endure throughout the rest of their lives. Cmdr. Bucher suffered such effects until he died” in 2004, Kennedy said.
Massie, McClarren and Tuck each received $16.7 million. Bucher’s estate received $14.3 million and his wife, Rose, $1.25 million.
Kennedy said Congress in 1996 lifted immunity for foreign states officially designated by the State Department as state sponsors of terrorism.