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'They Took Something From Us': Veteran Vows To Bring USS Pueblo Back

DENVER (CBS4) - A veteran here in Colorado is paying close attention to the discussion in North Korea. President Donald Trump's trip gives veterans of the USS Pueblo renewed hope that their ship may one day come home.

"I'll tell you I'm a survivor," Alvin Plucker said.

Alvin Plucker (credit: CBS)

He carried the title even before he spent 11 months as a prisoner of war.

"When we went across the bridge we all got down and kissed the ground. We didn't think we were ever going to see it again."

Plucker was one of 83 crew members on the USS Pueblo, a Navy spy ship that North Korea captured on Jan. 23, 1968.

(credit: CBS)

"They kept saying 'heave too or we will fire,' and they thought we were running from them so they decided to start firing on us," he said.

For nearly a year, Plucker and his crew were beaten and tortured. Photos were taken and used as propaganda that the crew rebelled against.

"The crew came up with the idea that we should do the finger in all of our pictures. Everybody at one time or another wild do the finger," he said.

For a while, the guards believed it was a Hawaiian good luck symbol, but when they learned the real meaning, Plucker says the captured crew paid.

"We underwent what we call hell week which lasted 11 days, and they beat us day and night," Plucker said.

Eventually the United States would negotiate a deal to bring them home, but the ship was left behind.

Plucker has been fighting to get it back for years.

(credit: CBS)

"It's a constant bother with me you know? It isn't so much the fact that I worked on it. It's that it's a symbol. It's the fact that they took something from us," he said.

He and fellow crew members along with Rep. Scott Tipton turned to President Trump, asking he raise the issue during the latest summit.

"It would be nice to have it off my mind to think that we have done our best," he said.

For Plucker having it back would not only bring closure to a chapter of his life he relives everyday, but fulfill a promise he made to the his commander.

"Before he died he says 'you know I'm going to go here soon,' and he says 'I want you to keep the memory of the Pueblo alive,'" he said.

Plucker says the only memorial right now is a plaque in a Pueblo hotel; he would one day like to see that ship be an official memorial.

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