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North Korea's Cold War prize, USS Pueblo, set to be displayed for 'Victory Day'

North Korean soldiers look at the USS Pueblo near the Taedonggang river in Pyongyang in 2006. North Korea's Korea Central News Agency via AP

With a fresh coat of paint and a new home along the Pothong River, the USS Pueblo, a spy ship seized off North Korea's east coast in 1968, is expected to be unveiled this week as the centerpiece of a renovated war museum to commemorate what the North calls "Victory Day,’" the 60th anniversary this Saturday of the signing of the armistice that ended hostilities in the Korean War.

One U.S. sailor was killed when the Pueblo was strafed by machine gun fire and boarded by North Koreans. The remaining 82, including three injured, were taken prisoner and spent 11 months in captivity. 

Crew members of the USS Pueblo hold up their hands while in captivity in North Korea in 1968. US Navy via AP

Many of the crew who served on the vessel want to bring the Pueblo home. Throughout its history, they argue, the Navy’s motto has been “don’t give up the ship.” The Pueblo, in fact, is still listed as a commissioned U.S. Navy vessel, the only one being held by a foreign nation.

Crew members of USS Pueblo while in captivity in North Korea in 1968. AP
Former USS Pueblo crew member Earl Phares speaks to the AP in Ontario, Calif., on June 21, 2013. Gregory Bull / AP

Although the ship was conducting intelligence operations, crew members say that most of them had little useful information for the North Koreans. That, according to the crew, didn't stop them from being beaten severely during interrogations. Phares said "The Koreans basically told us, they put stuff in front of us, they said you were here, you were spying, you will be shot as spies."

Former USS Pueblo crew member Robert Chicca speaks at his home in Bonita, Calif., on July 17. Gregory Bull / AP

Chicca, a Marine Corps sergeant who served as a Korean linguist on the Pueblo, said "I got shot up in the original capture, so we were taken by bus and then train for an all-night journey to Pyongyang in North Korea, and then they put us in a place we called the barn." -- The Associated Press

A North Korean sailor poses for a picture with Chinese tourists aboard the USS Pueblo, docked in Pyongyang, in 2007. Elizabeth Dalziel / AP file