The Assault on the USS Liberty Still Covered Up After
by James M. Ennes Jr.
years have passed since that clear day on June 8, 1967 when Israel
attacked the USS Liberty with aircraft and torpedo boats, killing
34 young men and wounding 171. The attack in international waters followed
over nine hours of close surveillance. Israeli pilots circled the ship at
low level 13 times on eight different occasions before attacking. Radio
operators in Spain, Lebanon, Germany and aboard the ship itself all heard
the pilots reporting to their headquarters that this was an American ship.
They attacked anyway. And when the ship failed to sink, the Israeli
government concocted an elaborate story to cover the crime.
There is no
question that this attack on a U.S. Navy ship was deliberate. This was a
coordinated effort involving air, sea, headquarters and commando forces
attacking over a long period. It was not the "few rounds of
misdirected fire" that Israel would have the world believe. Worse,
the Israeli excuse is a gross and detailed fabrication that disagrees
entirely with the eyewitness recollections of survivors. Key American
leaders call the attack deliberate. More important, eyewitness
participants from the Israeli side have told survivors that they knew they
were attacking an American ship.
Pilot Speaks Up
after the attack, an Israeli pilot approached Liberty survivors and
then held extensive interviews with former Congressman Paul N. (Pete)
McCloskey about his role. According to this senior Israeli lead pilot, he
recognized the Liberty as American immediately, so informed his
headquarters, and was told to ignore the American flag and continue his
attack. He refused to do so and returned to base, where he was arrested.
dual-citizen Israeli major told survivors that he was in an Israeli war
room where he heard that pilot's radio report. The attacking pilots and
everyone in the Israeli war room knew that they were attacking an American
ship, the major said. He recanted the statement only after he received
threatening phone calls from Israel.
protests also were heard by radio monitors in the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon.
Then-U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dwight Porter has confirmed this. Porter
told his story to syndicated columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak and
offered to submit to further questioning by authorities. Unfortunately, no
one in the U.S. government has any interest in hearing these first-person
accounts of Israeli treachery.
Key members of
the Lyndon Johnson administration have long agreed that this attack was no
accident. Perhaps most outspoken is former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff Admiral Thomas Moorer. "I can never accept the claim that this
was a mistaken attack, " he insists.
Secretary of State Dean Rusk is equally outspoken, calling the attack
deliberate in press and radio interviews. Similarly strong language comes
from top leaders of the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security
Agency (some of whose personnel were among the victims), National Security
Council, and from presidential advisers such as Clark Clifford, Joseph
Califano and Lucius Battle.
analysis of Israel's excuse conducted by the Department of State found
Israel's story to be untrue. Yet Israel and its defenders continue to
stand by their claim that the attack was a "tragic accident" in
which Israel mistook the most modern electronic surveillance vessel in the
world for a rusted-out 40-year-old Egyptian horse transport.
evidence, no U.S. administration has ever found the courage to ever found
the courage to defy the Israeli lobby by publicly demanding a proper
accounting from Israel.
Congress React to These Complaints?
of Congress respond to inquiries about the Liberty with seemingly
sympathetic promises to "investigate. " Weeks or months later
they write again to report their "findings": "The Navy
investigated in 1967 and found no evidence that the attack was
deliberate," they say. "Israel apologized, calling the attack a
tragic case of misidentification, and paid damages for loss of life,
injuries and property damage. The matter is closed.
The fact is,
however, that the Navy's "investigation" examined only the
quality of the crew's training, the adequacy of communications and the
performance of the crew under fire. The Navy was forbidden to examine
Israeli culpability and Navy investigators refused to allow testimony showing
that the attack was deliberate or that Israel's excuse was untrue.
blocked all testimony about Israeli actions.
determining whether the attack was deliberate, the Navy blocked all
testimony about Israeli actions. No survivor was permitted to describe the
close in machine-gun fire that continued for 40 minutes after Israel
claims all firing stopped. No survivor was allowed to talk about the life
rafts the Israeli torpedomen machine-gunned in the water. No survivor was
permitted to challenge defects and fabrications in Israel's story. Even my
eyewitness testimony as officer-of-the deck was withheld from the official
record. No evidence of Israeli culpability was "found" because
no such testimony was allowed. To survivors, this was not an
investigation. It was a cover-up.
Goes Through the Motions
member of Congress will seem to probe a bit deeper, as Ted Kennedy once
did. In response to requests, Kennedy asked Liberty survivors and
others for input, which is staff then "studied" for more than a
no questions, conducted no interviews, and showed no curiosity about the
many discrepancies in Israel's story. Then Kennedy reported his
"findings" in a letter to survivors. Carefully avoiding the
circumstances of the attack, Kennedy's letter deplored the "tragic
circumstances and loss of life" and declared that the facts about the
Liberty must be uncovered "to the maximum extent humanly
however, represented Kennedy's maximum effort. Appeals to Kennedy for some
real help go unanswered.
The best forum
in the '90sfor this story and related stories of the Middle East may well
be electronic mail, the complex of computer and electronic mail systems
that now span the globe.
the USS Liberty and the Middle East are hot topics in the "Prodigy
interactive computer service" run by Sears and IBM. With over 2
million members, Prodigy's "Israel" forums guarantee some lively
and often bitter debates.
the playing field often seems uneven. The cover-up side heavily outnumbers
its critics, and is allowed tactics rarely tolerated from others.
Criticism of Israeli policies is seen as "attacks on the Jewish
homeland. " Pro-Israel debaters charge that Israel's critics are
"disciples of hate," and "pathological haters of Israel and
all things Jewish. "
gets worse. Prodigy allows Israel's critics to be called "sodomists,"
and "derriere bussing anti-Semites. " The Washington Report
on Middle East Affairs, which prints an update on progress toward a
congressional investigation every year on the June anniversary of the
tragedy, comes in for special vitriol. The magazine is described almost
daily as I a hate rag." Yet Prodigy's censors often reject even mild
and factual rebuttals of such charges as "insulting. "
Despite a near
media blackout, and such invective directed at publications that defy it,
Americans, do continue to support the USS Liberty and its
survivors' association. Late last year the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post
560 in Zimmerman, Minnesota, raised over $12,000 to create a rest stop and
picnic area on donated land near a major highway as a memorial to the men
who died on the Liberty. This makes the 29th public memorial to the
area and an inscribed granite stone were appropriately dedicated in a
ceremony attended by survivors, VFW members, Mayor Randy Hanson, and Liberty's
heroic Congressional Medal of Honor-winning skipper, Captain William
McGonagle, among others.
community support, members of Post 560 are now telling the USS Liberty story
to every VFW post in Minnesota. Member Stan Wuolle tells us that after
they cover all of Minnesota, they will start on Wisconsin and the Dakotas.
In New York,
meanwhile, Korean War veteran John Everts learned about the attack just
last year and was similarly moved. Everts inspired two Korean vets groups
in which he is active, "The Chosin Few" and "The Korean War
Veterans" Kivlehan Chapter, to write more than 100 letters to
Congress seeking the investigation that survivors mill are denied.
To date, no
member of Congress has risked re-election chances by agreeing publicly to
Evert's request. No one really expected that to happen. But efforts like
these help members of Congress and the American public remember that
Israel attacked the USS Liberty, deliberately and then lied about
it. Sooner or later, Americans will insist that their government and their
representatives in Congress find out why.
Ennes retired from the Navy in 1978 as a lieutenant commander after 27
years of enlisted and commissioned service. He was a lieutenant on the
bridge of the USS
Liberty on the day of the attack. His book on the subject, Assault
on the Liberty (Random House, 1980), is a "Notable Naval Book
" selection of the U. S. Naval Institute and was "editors'
choice " when reviewed in The Washington Post. Copies of the
book are available from the American
by courtesy & 2001
James M. Ennes Jr. &