Sarasota veteran wants to reclaim Navy's USS Pueblo

Associated PressJuly 28, 2013 

SARASOTA -- A Sarasota man who spent 11 months in captivity in North Korea wants to bring his Navy ship back to the U.S. from behind enemy lines.

Richard Rogala served aboard the USS Pueblo when it was captured in 1968. He was released, but the Pueblo wasn't -- it's still in North Korea.

Rogala is part of a group of Pueblo veterans who want the ship to come home. He has started a letter-writing campaign to several lawmakers, imploring them to take action on reclaiming the ship.

"For a while it did not bother me," he said. "But as I get older, it's like my wish in life to get the ship back as long as I'm still living. That would be just such a wonderful thing to happen."

The Pueblo is still listed as a commissioned U.S. Navy vessel, the only one being held by a foreign nation.

The ship is expected to be unveiled this week as the centerpiece of a renovated war museum to commemorate what North Korea calls "Victory Day," the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended hostilities in the Korean War.

A North Korean sub seized the Pueblo on Jan. 23, 1968. Rogala, a Navy reservist from Chicago, was on mess hall duty when it happened.

Although the ship was conducting intelligence operations, crew members say that most of them had little useful information for the North Koreans. That, according to the crew, didn't stop them from being beaten severely during interrogations. Rogala and the crew were held for 11 long months in harsh conditions before they were released.

Rogala said that he suffers from PTSD to this day.

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