Kewaunee -- Its crew was allowed to return home to America after 11 months but the USS Pueblo is still a prisoner in North Korea.
It's on prominent display at the Victorious War Museum in the capital of Pyongyang, bullet holes fired by North Korean troops outlined in red paint.
For North Korea, the USS Pueblo is the ultimate propaganda tool, a middle finger aimed at the United States by a country threatening to create a nuclear arsenal and routinely firing ballistic missiles -- including the launch of a submarine-based missile last weekend -- to ratchet up tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Some folks in the Lake Michigan community of Kewaunee think the Pueblo should be on display in their town and not Pyongyang.
In essence, they want the Pueblo to come home.
"There are people in this town who would go over to North Korea and sail it back," Tom Schuller, president of the Kewaunee County Historical Society, said this week. "It was a slap in the face for the United States and this city to have its ship taken over without a shot and they want it back."
Built in Kewaunee during World War II, the USS Pueblo and its 83-person crew were seized in January 1968. One sailor was killed in the attack and the rest were detained in North Korea prisons where they were subjected to torture and beatings before being released two days before Christmas.
During a lecture at the Kewaunee County Historical Society earlier this month attended by an overflow crowd, Rick Rogala described what it was like to be beaten after the North Koreans realized the middle finger the imprisoned American sailors displayed in photos reprinted in American media was profane. The North Korean captors had studied in England and didn't know the meaning of the gesture, which the American sailors told them was a "Hawaiian good luck sign."
"The worst part of it was not knowing when we would get released. I thought somebody would come to our aid right away," Rogala said in a phone interview from his Florida home. "Then it was one day, then two days, then weeks and then months and it could have been years."
The ship on display in North Korea was one of 80 vessels built during the war by Kewaunee Shipbuilding and Engineering Co., which opened in 1941. The 850-ton Army cargo ship was initially used as a training vessel before it was transferred to the U.S. Navy in 1966, renamed the USS Pueblo and first used as a light cargo ship before being converted to intelligence gathering.
Maynard E. Lufter was the personnel manager at the Kewaunee shipyard, hiring as many people as he could find. Most draft-age men were in the military.
"We had a lot of farmers who had two jobs -- they had their farm to run and their job in the shipyard," said Lufter, who turns 98 in July. "We had a lot of problems in keeping help. They would go to the next shipyard where they could pay a higher rate."
Lufter organized the shipyard band to play at launchings, which frequently drew hundreds of residents who came to see the giant splash of water when ships slid into the water, among them the vessel destined to end up in North Korea.
It was a source of pride for Kewaunee, which rapidly built tugboats and freighters that quickly became part of the American fleet. Among those watching the ship launchings was Don Kickbusch, 85, who graduated from Kewaunee High School in 1949 and served in the Navy, where he spent time as a signal man on a destroyer in the Korean War.
The City of Kewaunee has formally requested return of the plaque in the Pueblo's pilot house which says where it was built. The city got no response from North Korea, said Kickbusch.
"This is the birthplace of the Pueblo. It's a big tourist attraction in North Korea, it would be a big tourist attraction in a little town like Kewaunee where a lot of people helped build it," said Kickbusch, who worked in the Kewaunee shipyard after his Navy stint. "I think it should come back to Kewaunee, but I don't think that will happen."
The Kewaunee History Center and museum collections include many photos of the ships built in the community, including the Pueblo, as well as a collection of books about the Pueblo capture.
"I think its coming back is an idealistic thought but it has great interest because of the historic connection to the Cold War," said Richard Dorner, director of the Kewaunee History Center, who served in an Army intelligence unit in West Berlin during the Vietnam War.
The event at the Kewaunee County Historical Society was organized by Chris Sturdevant, a Waukesha Public Library children's librarian who started the Midwest chapter of the Cold War Museum 10 years ago. He visited North Korea last year to run in a 10K that was part of the Pyongyang Marathon.
An Air Force veteran, Sturdevant walked through the USS Pueblo and snapped photos with other tourists. On board, visitors can see pictures of the Pueblo crew plus ship artifacts and uniforms and the bullet-riddled door.
Sturdevant, too, would like to see the USS Pueblo returned to the United States, and like the others, he's not holding his breath until that happens. But as a Cold War historian, he knows sometimes countries change.
"Who knows? There would have to be some very big movements in North Korea. But the Berlin Wall came down and things can happen very fast," said Sturdevant.