Health Problems

Health Problems of the Crew & other POWs
The PUEBLO crew members suffered malnutrition during their entire detention resulting in weight loss and muscle atrophy. Psychological terror and physical beatings and torture were administered by their North Korean captors. Crew members suffered contusions, lacerations, and broken bones from beatings. Dietary, psychological and physical mistreatment affected many of the crew members for several years afterwards, some have been affected all their lives which has resulted in permanent disabilities.

A few Specific Examples
Two crew members had optic nerve problems, one was nearly blind when repatriated. Another had to have 5 changes of glasses before he left the navy. One man suffered hepatitis while in captivity.
One crew member suffered five hernias from July 1969-April 1976 until a cloth mesh was installed by the surgeon.
Seborrheic dermatitis has bothered one man ever since it was diagnosed at his repatriation physical at Balboa Naval Hospital.
Many experience numbing, tingling, or loss of sensation, or control of extremities.

POW Health Problems Suffered by the PUEBLO Crew
ARTHRITIS, TRAUMATIC Also known as articular trauma. This disorder looks and is treated just like degenerative arthritis (arthritis associated with age) except it is caused by severe damage to a single or few joints producing early onset arthritis. Since it has a definite cause, it is called a secondary form of arthritis. This is an extremely difficult diagnosis to make, but in general one has to prove that a specific trauma occurred to a single or very few joints, and other changes consistent with degenerative arthritis are not present throughout the rest of the body at the same time. In short, these changes need to be localized.

HYPOVITAMINOSIS A relative deficiency of vitamins in the diet. The specific type, intensity and duration of deprivation determines the long-term effects.

DYSENTERY, CHRONIC A disease characterized by frequent and watery stools, usually with blood and mucus, and accompanied by rectal pain and abdominal, fever, and dehydration. This is an infection in the colon and can be caused by a multitude of different organisms, the most common of which is amoeba which can produce a mild or severe dysentery and possibly be associated with a chronic irritable colon. Bacillary dysentery is associated with the bacteria shigella, but will not cause a chronic state. There are multiple other bacteria that can cause dysentery which usually do not produce chronic states. Viral dysentery can also present like amoebic or bacillary dysentery and will not produce a chronic state.

MALNUTRITION Merely means bad nutrition. The nutritional depletion may be either caloric, vitamin, fatty acid, or mineral deficiency, or more likely a combination. Depending on the type, intensity, and duration, it may yield permanent side effects or no lasting side effects at all.

PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY Literally Greek for the suffering of nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord. There are several different causes for peripheral neuropathy, and vitamin deficiency and possibly mineral deficiency are just two. Other causes to be considered are various toxins such as lead, copper, and mercury, a hereditary pre-disposition to neuropathy, deposition of amyloid or protein produced by one’s own body mounted in response to an infection, infections such as by leprosy, which is the most common form of neuropathy in the world, and multiple other less common causes

PSYCHOSIS A generic term for any of the insanities. Generally, it is thought of as a mental disorder causing gross disorganization of a person's mental capacity and his ability to recognize reality and communicate with others regarding the demands of everyday life. This does not mean you are a fruit loop, it means that there has been damage to your ability to cope.

POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER The re-experiencing of a trauma of a past recognized stressor that can produce symptoms of distress. This re-experiencing needs at least one of the following: (1) Recurrent and intrusive recollection of the event;  (2) Recurrent dreams;  (3) Sudden feelings that the trauma was occurring because of an association, an environmental or ideational situation. Also involved is reduced involvement with the external world beginning after the trauma, revealed by at least one of the following: (1 ) Hyper alertness or exaggerated startle response;  (2) Sleep disturbance;  (3) Guilt about surviving when others have not;  (4) Memory impairment or trouble concentrating; (5) Avoidance of activities that arouse recollection of the traumatic event;  (6) Intensification of symptoms by exposure to events that symbolize or resemble the traumatic event.

IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME This is the most common gastrointestinal disease seen by practitioners. The basic abnormality in the irritable bowel syndrome is one of an alternation of the gut motility. There are three different types of patients involved. The first patient is that who has so called spastic colitis, who presents primarily with pain and constipation. The second group has chronic intermittent diarrhea and often without pain. These have a decreased colonic motility compared to the increased colonic motility of the first group. A third group may be a mixture of the above two. Evidence of significant psychological disturbance may be seen in some patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Depressions, hysteria, and obsessive compulsive traits are common and psychological stress frequently triggers an exacerbation of symptoms. True typical patient has watery diarrhea intermittently for months or years.

Provided by Stu Russell
(updated Dec. 2009)
Health problems common to prisoners of war and VA information

Copyright © 1999, 2009 USS PUEBLO Veteran's Association. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2010 USS PUEBLO Veteran's Association. All rights reserved.

American EX-Prisoners of War for
more information on health problems
Report: Some Experiences Reported by the Crew
of the USS Pueblo  and American Prisoners of War
from Vietnam*  by RC Spaulding Captain, MC, USN
Initial Health report
Click to view