One sailor composed a comical poem about their ordeal, ending it with this:

But if we get back,

No coins will we lack,

Alvin Plucker in the museum he’s built in his basement devoted to the Pueblo incident.
Anthony Camera
Alvin Plucker in the museum he’s built in his basement devoted to the Pueblo incident.
A North Korean propaganda photo of several of the captured crewmembers — one of whom is flashing the “Hawaiian good luck sign.”
A North Korean propaganda photo of several of the captured crewmembers — one of whom is flashing the “Hawaiian good luck sign.”

So beware all ye banks, bars, and brothels!

If some night you're pub-crawlin',

And into gutters you're fallin',

And in that gutter are 82 gaffers;

It's only the crew of AGER-2,

Otherwise known as "BUCHER'S BASTARDS."

The prisoners even cracked jokes in the midst of physical abuse. "Here you are, and they're interrogating you, and they keep slapping you," says Plucker. "And you'd get up and laugh and say, 'Do it again.'"

Bob Chicca, one of the other crewmembers, remembers when a prisoner returned from an interrogation with a broken nose. "He had a bone sticking out, and he grabbed it and flopped it back and forth," Chicca remembers. "I said, 'Hey, that's neat.' They broke my nose, too, but the bone wasn't sticking out, so I couldn't flop it around.

"It could be considered pretty sick humor, but you do what you gotta do," Chicca continues. "It helped us survive and kept morale up. For that little period of time, we were in charge of our own lives."

Plucker agrees. "I think it was to help cope," he says of their escapades. To cope with the bare lightbulbs in the cells that were never turned off, to cope with the measly diet of cabbage-and-sewer-trout soup that led one crewmember to go blind from malnutrition, to cope with the beatings from the guards they'd receive when they walked to the latrine for their twice-a-day visits. And to cope with the fact that, one by one, they all broke down and provided the North Koreans with more than just the name, rank and serial number that POWs are supposed to give to their captors.

Although Plucker wasn't among the more ribald of the crew, he played his part to keep his spirits up. He saw what happened to those who failed to do so — like his cellmate who chewed his fingernails to bloody nubs worrying about his family, or the guy who tried to use the pen knife they were given for shaving to slice open his wrists.

While humor helped the Pueblo crew through tough times, for much of recorded history, folks have believed that tragedy leaves no room for comedy. In some of the earliest known musings on the subject, Plato argued that people laugh out of malice, delighting in others' pain and misfortune. Of the 29 references to laughter in the Old Testament, only two aren't associated with scorn, mockery or disdain. And Lord Chesterfield, the fastidious champion of eighteenth-century manners, declared that "there is nothing so illiberal, and so ill-bred, as audible laughter."

These days, however, humor is often considered to be a very good thing. The change is due largely to the 1979 publication of Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient, journalist Norman Cousins's best-selling account of laughing away a degenerative disease with a steady diet of Candid Camera and Marx Brothers films. Since then, a booming industry has sprung up around the idea of healthy humor. Clown programs, comedy carts and humor rooms are common hospital features. In more than seventy countries around the world, people engage in laughter yoga, chuckling their way to physical and mental health. And these days, humor's purported medical benefits have expanded far beyond anything ever suggested by Cousins, who passed away in 1990. You can find claims that laughter and humor relieve headaches, provide good exercise, ward off coughs and colds, lower blood pressure, prevent heart disease, mitigate arthritis pain, ameliorate ulcers, vanquish insomnia, combat allergies and asthma, prolong people's lifespans, protect against AIDS, help cure cancer and improve fertilization rates.

As it turns out, most of these claims are as unsubstantiated as were earlier beliefs that humor is inherently dark and dangerous. Ten years ago, Sven Svebak, a professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, included a brief sense-of-humor questionnaire in one of the largest public-health studies ever performed: the HUNT-2 study, which surveyed every adult in the county of Nord-Trøndelag in central Norway regarding their blood pressure, body-mass index, various illness symptoms and overall health satisfaction. It was the most ambitious attempt ever to correlate humor and health — and it found no connection at all between sense of humor and objective health measures.

One of the few areas where humor does appear to be helpful is as a coping mechanism. Over the years, researchers have repeatedly demonstrated that humor eases pain and trauma. In one study, children about to undergo surgery who first spent time with a hospital clown exhibited significantly less anxiety than other children, including those given anti-anxiety medication. In another experiment, researchers had participants narrate a thirteen-minute safety video featuring grisly wood-mill accidents. Those asked to come up with a humorous narration reported less stress afterward than those who described it seriously, and readings of skin conductance, heart rate and skin temperature suggested that the comic narrators were less physiologically stressed. And in one especially touching study, researchers interviewed a group of widowers six months after the death of their spouses. Those who were able to smile and laugh about their marriage during this time of lingering sadness had markedly fewer problems with grief and depression in the years that followed.

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3 comments
sturussell007
sturussell007

I was on board for a year before Plucker and Chicca. They both pumped you full of BS. Never heard their crap before. Very impressed with themselves. Bucher made me the ship's historian. More of Alvin's delusions. Never heard of Chicca's floppy bone or Plucker's hand grinding. Look it was bad, but don't over state it. We never had squid. Chicca is out to capitalize on it and Alvin's life is so lack luster he has to cling to the only significant event in his life. He was a quartermaster not the quartermaster. That was Charlie Law, a real hero.

I had just graduated from USC with a degree in psychology when I joined the Navy . Bucher named me the ship's Bob Newhart. So if you want some good humor stuff, contact me.

Tanya D. Snively
Tanya D. Snively

Just read this in hardcopy~planning on sending a copy to Dan, but this is probably best :Very informative~ besides giving us a glimpse into how our country tread these sailors, it shows how humor helps. There was a bit in here about how humor was used to help change fear & helped that way to defeat a dictator.

 
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