Charles R. “Joe” Sterling

Charles R.

Charles R. “Joe” Sterling receiving award (RG5544.PH3)


Charles R. “Joe” Sterling, raised near Weeping Water, Nebraska, joined the U.S. Navy in the late 1950s. In January 1968 he was a crew member on the USS Pueblo, a navy vessel on an intelligence mission off the coast of North Korea, which was attacked and captured by North Korean forces. One sailor was killed and the remaining eighty-two, including Sterling, were incarcerated in North Korea for eleven months. After his release, Sterling continued his naval career, retiring after nearly thirty years of active and reserve service. He died in 2002 in Lincoln, Nebraska. The items pictured here are part of a larger collection relating to Sterling’s career and his experiences as a USS Pueblo crewmember, which History Nebraska has recently acquired.


Sterling's Prisoner of War Medal

Prisoner of War Medal awarded to Sterling following his incarceration in North Korea. The back of the medal is inscribed, “Awarded to Charles Sterling for honorable service while a prisoner of war, United States of America.” 


Sterling's Purple Heart

Purple Heart awarded to Charles Sterling in 1969 for wounds received while incarcerated in North Korea.

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History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
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