THE DIGIT AFFAIR
by Stu Russell
In June, we were taken to the Club for yet another film. Unlike the usual fare of feature films of the war movie, labor hero genre, we were shown two short subjects. One was a film about the DPRK soccer team's visit to the play-offs in London. The other was about a US service man's body being returned to the UN side at Panmunjom by the DPRK. Two different subjects, but one common action united the two films.
The film about the soccer team began with the North Korean team arriving in London and driving through the streets in a bus festooned with flags of the DPRK. As the bus drove down the street one proper English gentleman complete with derby and umbrella spotted the bus and flipped it off! The man must have been a Korean War vet and he was giving the bus the finger. Whoever was taking the pictures zoomed in on it.
A murmur went through the crew; the KORCOMs didn't know what the finger meant.
This was further demonstrated in the second film in which a US Navy Officer flipped off the cameraman. They left it in. We now had a weapon! Back in our rooms we were elated, this was one more thing we could use to discredit the propaganda we were being forced to grind out. Several crew members expressed caution, but the general attitude was use it. We had been captured, but we never surrendered. Damn the Koreans, full fingers ahead.
The finger became an integral part of our anti-propaganda campaign. Any time a camera appeared, so did the fingers. A concern grew among us that sooner or later the Koreans would notice this and ask questions. It was decided that if the question was raised, the answer was to be that the finger was a gesture known as the Hawaiian Good Luck sign, a variation of the Hang Loose gesture. In late August one of the duty officers asked about the finger and seemed to be accepting of the explanation, but most of us realized that our zeal to ruin their propaganda would come back to haunt us, eventually.
Room 13 TIME Magazine published this photo in the October 18, 1968
edition with a full explanation of what PUEBLO crewmen were doing!
It led to HELL WEEK! Thank you Time Magazine.
L to R Top row: Ron Berens, Harry Iredale, "Scabby" Scarborough, Chuck Law
Bottom row: "Eddie" Bland, Don Peppard, Jimmy Layton, Chief "Goldie" Goldman
Editor note: The crew still waits for a response from TIME Magazine.
Brad Crowe and John Shilling display the famous
Hawaiian Good Luck sign! (Frame taken from NK film.)
The images below are taken from original NK
photos and films that were distributed world wide
as part of their propaganda campaign
Rizalino L. Aluague
Copyright © 2012 USS PUEBLO Veteran's Association. All rights reserved.
Elton Wood Mike Alexander