American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

PUEBLO (first perf. 1971; pub. 1970). Using documentary materials, playwright Stanley Greenberg (1945- ) dramatizes the 1968 North Korean attack on, and capture of, the American surveillance vessel the U.S.S. Pueblo. Aesthetically, the play unfolds as a dream, in the style of a memory play. Commander Lloyd Mark Bucher is on trial, and a court of inquiry is investigating his surrender of the Pueblo, as he recollects the moments preceding his capture at sea. Many early scenes depict the excitement, romance, and danger of the attack at sea; the sights and sounds of a vessel under siege create the tension and thrill of a game of hide-and-seek.

Most important to Greenberg, however, is presenting the play from inside Bucher’s head. Greenberg reaches for tragic dimensions when Bucher, in the interest of his men’s safety, must act in violation of those military codes in which he firmly believes. He surrenders his ship with no attempt to fight or flee and signs a confession stating that he was involved in espionage inside Korean waters. Bucher’s surrender and complicity with his captors raise issues that touch on the functional flaws of military bureaucracy. The play interprets the abandonment of the Pueblo as a lack of efficiency. Also revealed is the unwillingness of military bureaucracy to take responsibility for its own tactical decisions, especially in leaving Bucher unaware of the inherent dangers of his mission. Ultimately, Bucher is presented as a man who is sacrificed by a system that he is committed to serving. [See also DRAMA OF THE SEA]

Brian Knetl