Wing recalls 'Pueblo Crisis' activation in 1960s
By Capt. John Stamm, Deputy Public Affairs Officer
/ Published August 09, 2008
KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- More than 100 veterans, civilians and wing members gathered in the base Annex June 24 to observe Kentucky National Guard Day and mark the 40th anniversary of the Kentucky Air Guard's deployment in support of the "Pueblo Crisis."
The historic Pueblo Crisis began on Jan. 23, 1968, when the USS Pueblo, a spy ship, was captured by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. More than 80 crewmembers were held prisoner by the North Korean Army until their release nearly a year later.
Retired Col. Ed Hornung, who served as a technical sergeant in Kentucky's 123rd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing when the unit was activated, said he first heard rumors of the pending call-up while he was playing ping-pong at the wing's mess hall. Official notification soon followed, said Colonel Hornung, who attended the commemoration ceremony.
"We started doing what we had to do: plans we had to cut, forms we had to process the (troops) with," recalled Colonel Hornung. "Essentially, we had to put people on active-duty orders, get them out the back door and on to a plane."
Days after the capture of the Navy vessel, the wing's headquarters and an augmented 165th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron were moved from Shewmaker Air National Guard Base in Louisville to Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base near Kansas City, Mo.
The troops were then rotated to a base in Japan, where they completed more than 20,000 hours of aerial reconnaissance missions over Korea.
"It was harder on the wives and families then it was on the men," said Lt. Col. Bill Hamilton, a retired pilot and maintenance officer who was mobilized. "One day you're a civilian and the next you're on active duty -- and I had three kids at the time."
The June ceremony also honored civilian personnel who have made outstanding contributions to the troops of the Kentucky National Guard.
Ms. Sherri Smith, a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, was presented with the Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal for her exceptionally meritorious service to the Kentucky National Guard from Oct. 2000 to June 2008.
Ms. Smith has participated in nearly 100 percent of the Patriot Guard Riders' Honor Flag lines, military funerals, departures and welcome-home ceremonies for Kentucky's Guard members. She also is the largest contributor for deploying troops and their families, having donated more than $10,000 worth of items.
"You feel like you just have to contribute, you have to be a part of it," she said. "I'm not fighting a war like you all are, and this is my way of giving back."
Kentucky National Guard Day was established on July 14, 2000, through an act by the state legislature. It recognizes the contributions of Kentucky Guardsmen since the War of 1812. The Kentucky National Guard has been in existence since 1792.