News

TIMELINE: The death of Duane Hodges, U.S.S. Pueblo

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Editor’s Note: Jan. 23, 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the day that the North Korean Navy fired on the U.S. Navy ship, the U.S.S. Pueblo in the attack. Creswell native, Duane Hodges, 21, lost his life on the U.S.S. Pueblo. He was the only casualty of this attack. Listed are the news accounts from The Creswell Chronicle following the tragic event on Jan. 23, 1968.

Creswell Chronicle – Thursday, Jan. 25, 1968:

Creswell sailor aboard Pueblo

According to Associated Press and United Press International stories appearing on the front page of the Eugene Register-Guard last Tuesday evening, North Korean patrol boats boarded and seized an Intelligence ship belonging to the United States Navy.
The article was a report on the incident and was unable at the time of the report to comment on the rebuttal action, which had been or will be taken by the United States government.
However, of local interest was the verification that 21-year-old Duane Hodges of Creswell is serving as one of the 83 men aboard the vessel. Hodges, a navy seaman first class, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Hodges of Hillview Drive, east of Creswell.
Hodges graduated from Creswell High School in 1965 and has served in the navy for the past one and a half years.
The incident took place about 25 miles off the coast of North Korea in international waters.

Creswell Chronicle – Thursday, Feb. 5, 1968:

Navy reports Duane Hodges ‘Killed In Action’

About 4 a.m. last Wednesday, Mr. and Mrs. Jessie Hodges, 33855 Orchard Street in Creswell, were informed of the death of their son, Firemen Duane Hodges of the U.S. Navy.
Hodges, 21, was a fireman in the engine room aboard the U.S. Intelligence ship, The Pueblo, which was seized by the North Korean communists in waters off of North Korea on January 23rd. His death has been the only casualty of the incident which has been reported.
According to Hodges’ brother, Marion Hodges, a Eugene building contractor, his parents were notified by a navy spokesman early last Wednesday morning by telephone. This call was followed up by a personal visit from Marine Captain Harris who said that very little information had been passed on to him concerning the circumstances of the death. Captain Harris could only officially confirm that Hodges had been listed as ”Killed in action.”
Captain Harris said that he was informed of the death by ”Com 13” in Seattle. He said that of the 83 men aboard the Pueblo at the time of its seizure, one man was reported killed and two seriously wounded. He said that he had no information concerning the death of Hodges, but said that more details would be issued by his office at a later time.
Speaking for the family, Marion Hodges said the family members were ”on needles and pins” the morning they were notified. He said that of the 83 men aboard the vessel, the family is having a ”difficult time realizing that the only man killed was Duane.”
Marion Rodgers said that Duane had lived in Creswell since birth. He was graduated in 1965 from Creswell High School and had served for about 18 months in the armed forces.
In addition to his parents, Hodges is survived by four brothers and a sister.
It was reported in Creswell that a continuing Creswell High scholarship fund may be initiated by the citizens of Creswell in memory of the dead sailor.

The Creswell Chronicle – Feb. 15, 1968:

OPEN LETTER:

North Korean Representatives
Negotiating table
Military Armistice Commission
Panmunjom, Korea

Gentlemen:

We, the citizens of the city of Creswell, Oregon, U.S.A, demand the return of the body of our fallen hero, Duane Hodges.
We know not how he died, except that we might assume that he was killed during the brace performance of his duty. Perhaps he died gallantly attempting to prevent our vital espionage equipment from falling into your prying hands. Perhaps in his devotion to his ship and his country’s protection he stood in your way and you destroyed him. We know not how he died, but even by your standards, he died a hero. We know how you honor and revere and decorate your heroes. Surely, though he was an enemy to your ideology, you must share with us the respect we hold for his heroic actions.
The relatives of Duane Hodges feel great pain and know little comfort in the failure to your government to return his body for burial in his homeland. Your failure is a cruelty beyond words.
We would like to appeal to you on the grounds of Christian benevolence; but we know you have none. We would like to appeal to you for the sake of human decency, but when we recall the many innocent civilian villagers that you have slaughtered, we know you have no sense of decency, either.
It leaves us little bargaining power, except to invoke a rule that is more than mere words to the American way of life, The Golden Rule. Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. If we held the body of one of your heroes, how badly would you want it back?
We hope and pray that you will become sensitive to the pleading by men like our Oregon congressman, John Dallenback and the officers who face you at Panmunjom. We are concerned certainly for the fate of the 82 others who you took off of the Pueblo, and of course, for the ship itself. However, we of Creswell feel most strongly that arrangements for the return of the body of Duane Hodges should preclude any other negotiations.

Creswell Chronicle – Jan. 3, 1969:

Duane Hodges came home last week.

A funeral with full military honors await him, with half the town and a host of government and military officials present to pay last respects to the only member of the U.S.S. Pueblo crew to be killed during takeover of the intelligence ship last January by North Korea.
His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Hodges, had flown to San Diego to meet the aircraft bearing Duane’s body and the other members of the crew.
They had shared the happiness of the 82 other men and their families at a pre-Christmas reunion.
Bother were eager to talk to officers and men to find out more about their son’s death than the thin strands of information they already had.
What they found out made them pleased; he had died in the arms of another sailor, saying how proud he was to have served on the ship.
It is not difficult to imagine their thoughts as others were happy around them. To be one in 83 to die must seem the most cruel blow.
But they knew and felt reassured.
But only last ordeal awaited them – the funeral last Saturday, an hour before, a large crowd had quietly filled the seats in the gymnasium at Creswell Upper Elementary. Duane Hodges attended there when it was the high school and it was his parent’s wish that his services be held there.
By 2 p.m., the room was overcrowded with as many as 700 people attending, including Governor Tom McCall and U.S. Senator, Mark Hatfield and his wife.
A Naval honor guard attended the casket, which rested on the stage of the gym. Wreaths and other floral pieces dotted the platform and the area in front of it, surrounding a large picture of Hodges.
Rev. Sidney Cooley reviewed his life and his love of parents and country. At one point he noted that ”greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his country.”
A letter to Mr. and Mrs. Hodges from the officers and men of the Pueblo was read to the group: ”The joy and happiness which surrounds our return is unfortunately marred because one of our crew… cannot share our celebrations. Duane belonged to us, and the emotions we feel at his loss are difficult to express adequately in words.
”We can tell you he died under hostile fire, performing honorably the jobs he was assigned. He was not captured alive but died while we were still with him. Your son died fighting for man. His death is a great loss to all of us who served with him. But we stand a little straighter and feel prouder to have served with such a fine man.”
Ron Hodges, Duane’s brother, and Sally Baldwin then sang a hymn, ”How Great Thou Art,” which he is reported to have recited as he died.
The ceremony over, the crowd filed out into waiting cars.
An honor guard formed to flank doors of the school building as the casket was carried out.
After a time, the long line of cars pulled slowly away and began the drive to the cemetery.
There, on top of the hill overlooking the town where he was born and grew up, Duane Hodges was buried.
The minister said a few words to the family. A few snow flakes barely dusted the area as the Navy rifle team fired a three gun salute. The rifle shots cracked the cold, still air and echoed across the valley.
Next, a lone bugler sounded taps.
As ceremony dictated, the pallbearers then lifted the flag from the top of the casket and folded it. An officer gave the flag to Mrs. Hodges.
The crowd dispersed and family members led the mother and father to the car.
The brief ceremony was over. A boy who had left his hometown for military service and expected to be returning soon to resume a normal life had returned a hero.
A line in the small program for the service says it all: ”In Memory of Duane D. Hodges who loved country and duty better than life.”

Creswell Chronicle – Feb. 13, 1969:

Magazines visit Hodges

The swirl of activities that has surrounded Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Hodges since the release of the crew of the U.S. Pueblo from North Korea in December shows no sign of lessening.
Two national magazines are planning features on the Hodges and their son, Duane.
A writer from the Seattle area was in Eugene during the storm to interview the Hodges but was unable to see them in person because of bad roads. She did talk to Mrs. Hodges on the telephone several times. Her account of the family and Duane’s early years will appear in an upcoming issue of the Ladies Home Journal.
A Life magazine correspondent from San Francisco visited them last Saturday and took pictures, the results to appear in an upcoming issue of that magazine.
A writer from the Oregonian was also in town last month to do a story on them.
They have also received word that the ship’s captain, Cmdr. Lloyd Bucher, is planning to come to Creswell to present to his parents the Purple Heart that will be awarded to Duane. At that time, Mrs. Hodges says a ceremony might also be held to formally present to the high school library the books bought with the $1,564 donated by the crew.
Tom Mann of radio station KERG has also conducted a campaign among his listeners to raise money for a flag pole from which the large flag they received at the funeral could be flown. Mrs. Hodges says money has been collected to purchase a 35 foot flag pole and a plaque. She thinks the pole will be installed in their front yard.

Creswell Chronicle – April 24, 1969:

Pueblo skipper presents Purple Heart – Leaves crowd visits grave of crewman

Two shipmates bade each other a final farewell in Creswell cemetery last week.
Navy Commander Lloyd Bucher, embattled commander of the ill fated Pueblo intelligence vessel, stood with bowed head over the grave of Duane Hodges. His eyes clouded by tears, his composure nearly gone he paid a final silent tribute to the 21 year old seaman who told him with his dying breath: ”Don’t worry about me, I’ll be all right.”
”He is safe in the bosom of his God,” Bucher had earlier told an audience of more than 400 persons in the Creswell High School gymnasium.
His visit was the fulfillment of a promise made earlier to dedicate reference volumes donated to the high school library by the ship’s crew and present the Hodges family with the purple heart medal for which Duane gave his life.
Standing before the assembled student body of Creswell High, local residents and a battery of camera men and reporters, Bucher said: ”of all the people on board, I can’t think of any man who tried harder to make the Pueblo the best ship in the fleet.”
Bucher’s slight stature behind the speaker’s dais bellied his now-legendary courage as he said in soft, measured sentences: ”No greater personal honor could befall me than to be here to honor a shipmate and a friend.”
Pausing several times to regain emotional control, Bucher told of Duane Hodges’ dying minutes on the deck of the besieged Pueblo January 23, 1968.
Bucher said Hodges was engaged in a desperate effort to dispose of classified material on the ship when he suffered what was obviously a mortal wound.
”I did my best,” Bucher said, ”to comfort him in the few moments I had.”
”He did not once whimper or give any indication he was afraid or wanting additional succor from shipmates,” Bucher said, adding that Duane had assisted a shipmate who was trying to save his life by administering oxygen.
”He was, Bucher declared, ”an outstanding American and an outstanding seaman.”
As the Pueblo’s commanding officer spoke, Duane’s parents sat in silent grief behind him. After presenting Mrs. Hodges with an autographed copy of ”Oregon” sent by Gov. Tom McCall for the library collection. Bucher turned over Duane’s Purple Heart citation to the dead seaman’s father.
”No medal,” Bucher told the elder Hodges, ”no attempt to honor a man can demonstrate what this country owes to his memory.”
After pinning the medal on Mr. Hodges’ label, Bucher stepped back one pace and rendered back one pace and rendered a crisp military salute. Mr. Hodges saluted back.
After a brief inspection of the school’s library, Bucher and Warrant Officer Gene Lacy, Duane’s immediate supervisor aboard the Pueblo, made the short auto trip to the cemetery where Duane is buried. The Hodges family joined the Navy men there for a few minutes, until the rain began to fall from an overcast sky and Commander Bucher’s visit to Creswell ended.