The USS Liberty was a virtually unarmed American navy ship that was attacked by Israeli planes and torpedo boats on June 8, 1967.
What were the American casualties?
34 American sailors were killed and 172 injured that day, a casualty rate of 70%. This is among the highest casualty rates ever inflicted upon a U.S. naval vessel.
Israel claimed the attack was “a case of mistaken identity”; that they didn’t know it was an American ship.
The ship’s survivors were afraid to speak out in the early years because of threats of “court martial, prison or worse” if they did not remain silent. However, as time passed, they have stepped forward to say the attack was deliberate. Recently, high government and military officials have suggested that not only was the attack deliberate, but that the US government covered-up the incident. Today, an Independent Commission of Inquiry has found that Israel committed “an act of war” against the United States (see Findings of Independent Commission).
In addition, the Navy’s chief attorney to the original 1967 military Court of Inquiry has issued a statement that orders to cover-up the incident were issued by President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara [see Statement of Captain Ward Boston, USN, JAG (Ret.)].
Israel says its pilots and torpedo boat commanders confused the USS Liberty with the El Quseir, an Egyptian ship allegedly firing upon its forces in the Sinai. But there was no Egyptian naval bombardment that day; nor did the El Quseir (an unarmed 1920s-era horse carrier out of service in Alexandria) bear any resemblance to the Liberty.
In 1967, the USS Liberty was the most sophisticated intelligence ship in the world, with dozens of large antennas, including a large moon-bounce “satellite-dish” mounted on a tall structure near the stern. It may have been one of the most easily identifiable ships of any navy in the world. With a displacement of 10,000 tons, it was four times the size of the antique Egyptian transport it is claimed to have resembled. Freshly painted, the Liberty carried large white identification numbers on its bow. Egyptian hull numbers are painted black.
According to American survivors, a 5-by-8 feet American flag was hoisted early that morning and was flying all day until it was shot away by attacking aircraft. Within several minutes, it was replaced by the giant 7-by-13 feet holiday ensign, which flew for the duration of the attack.
According to surviving crewmembers, Israeli reconnaissance aircraft closely studied the Liberty over an eight-hour period prior to the attack, one flying within two hundred feet of the ship. At all times the Liberty was a clearly marked American ship in international waters, proceeding at a speed of only 5 knots.
Weather reports confirm that it was a clear day with unlimited visibility. The Israeli reconnaissance planes could have seen the Liberty’s crew sunbathing on the upper decks just before the attack. The flag was flying in a 12-knot breeze for most of the afternoon.
The Israeli attack by combined air and naval forces spanned two hours — as long as the attack on Pearl Harbor. The air attack alone lasted approximately 25 minutes: consisting of more than 30 sorties by approximately 12 separate planes using napalm, cannon, and rockets which left 821 holes in the ship. Following the air attack, three Israeli motor torpedo boats torpedoed the ship, causing a 40’x 40’ wide hole in her hull, and machine-gunning firefighters and stretcher-bearers attempting to save their ship and crew. More than 3,000 machine-gun bullet holes were later counted on the Liberty’s hull. After the attack was thought to have ended, three life rafts were lowered into the water to rescue the most seriously wounded. The Israeli torpedo boats returned and machine-gunned these life rafts at close range. This was followed by the approach of two large Israeli Army assault helicopters filled with armed commandos carrying what appeared to be explosive satchels (they departed after hovering over the ship for several minutes, making no attempt to communicate).
Throughout the air attack, the Liberty’s radio operators found it difficult to transmit a distress signal because the attacking Israeli aircraft jammed all five of the Liberty’s American, not Egyptian, emergency radio channels. However, a call for help did reach the U.S. Navy command in the Mediterranean.
Although American carrier-based air support was only 40 minutes away, help did not reach the USS Liberty for seventeen hours. Navy fighters were launched from the aircraft carriers America and Saratoga while the Liberty was under attack. However, they were quickly recalled by the White House. This is the only instance in American naval history where a rescue mission was cancelled when an American ship was under attack.
Israel’s motive for launching the attack has never been determined with certainty. This is why an impartial investigation is critical. One hypothesis is that Israel intended to sink the ship (with no survivors) and blame Egypt because this might have brought the United States into the 1967 war. Another hypothesis is that the Liberty was gathering intelligence about activities that Israel did not want revealed. Examples might include the massacre of Egyptian prisoners of war that was then occurring in the Sinai, as well as Israel’s impending invasion of Syria.
Some people say that there have been “thirteen official investigations” all concluding the attack was a case of mistaken identity. Several were conducted by Israel. Upon examination, however, every one is based upon the conclusions of the original 1967 US Navy Court of Inquiry, which accepted the Israeli version, but which has been exposed and discredited by its chief attorney as a cover-up.
In not one of these “investigations” were any of the Liberty’s surviving crewmembers permitted to publicly testify.
This is, perhaps, the most disturbing question arising out of Israel’s attack. It is why there needs to be a thorough investigation of the actions taken by the White House and the Secretary of Defense. Why did they order the recall of the planes that had been sent to rescue the Liberty? Why did they order that the survivors be silenced and the true facts be withheld from the American people?
We are calling for a new Court of Inquiry by the Department of the Navy, with congressional oversight, to take public testimony from surviving crewmembers and otherwise thoroughly examine the circumstances of the attack.
We believe this would remove the inquiry from the political pressures traditionally exerted by special interest groups upon individual congressional offices. Fundraising and election pressures have prevented an honest investigation from being conducted for the past 36 years.
We have a duty to the crew of the USS Liberty, while the survivors are still alive to testify, and while the perpetrators can be brought to justice. Furthermore, any policies that paralyze our elected leadership to the extent they become unable or unwilling to protect Americans and American interests, endangers not only the safety of all Americans but also the national security of the United States.
ED: A very bitter "HAHAHA" at "special relationship"
No nation or people should be above the law; nor should American interests be subordinated to the interests of any foreign nation. Those Israelis responsible for ordering the attack and the resulting murder of American sailors must be held accountable for their actions.
SNIPPITS AND SNAPPITS: 120 SECONDS FROM NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST
NAVY VET HONOURED - SNIPPITS AND SNAPPITS - YES
Alison Weir - Today, the 42nd anniversary of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, a memorial service was held at Arlington National Cemetery, sponsored by the White House Commission on Remembrance. About 8 Liberty survivors were in attendance and a few dozen friends, family, and supporters. more
Lewis Griswold, Fresno Bee - The spy ship USS Liberty was sailing off the coast of Egypt on June 8, 1967, under clear skies when, without warning, Israeli military aircraft began strafing the ship with 20-caliber rounds, sending shrapnel everywhere and demolishing virtually every antenna on the ship. more
Americans for Middle East Understanding - June 8, 1967, Israeli forces attack the USS Liberty. They kill 34 American servicemen, wounding 171 others. It will be the highest casualty rate ever inflicted on a U.S. naval vessel, with 7 out of every 10 crew members killed or injured. It will also be the only peacetime attack on a U.S. naval vessel that, to this day, the Congress of the United States of America formally refuses to investigate. The facts, as known, are as follow: more
Bryant Jordan, Military.com read article
Blanca Gonzalez, San Diego Union-Tribune read article
Chelsea J. Carter, Washington Post read article
John Crewdson in the Chicago Tribune - In the 40 years since the U.S. Court of Inquiry closed its books on the Liberty investigation, members of Congress have asked for information about the attack and have received stock replies, like the one provided to the late Sen. Alan Cranston. more
John Crewdson in the Chicago Tribune - Veterans, documents suggest U.S., Israel didn't tell full story of deadly '67 incident. more
Rear Admiral Merlin Staring and Rear Admiral Clarence Hill, Jr. - On 8 June 2005 the U.S.S. Liberty Veterans Association, Inc., submitted to you a documented Report of War Crimes Committed Against U.S. Military Personnel on June 8, 1967. That report was submitted to you in your capacity as Executive Agent for the Secretary of Defense under Department of Defense Directive No. 5810.01B of 29 March 2004. It was based upon, and contained a detailed description of, the sudden, savage, unjustified, and prolonged attack made on 8 June 1967, by air and naval forces of the state of Israel, upon the USS LIBERTY (AGTR-5), a U.S. Navy technical research ship then operating peacefully in international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. The LIBERTY was at that time the most sophisticated and best-equipped intelligence ship in the world. Of a crew of 294 officers and men, including three American civilian government employees, she suffered 34 Americans killed in action and 173 wounded in action. The ship itself was so badly damaged that it never again sailed on an operational mission. more
James Ennes in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs - Since June 8, 1967, when Israeli air and naval forces deliberately attacked the American intelligence ship USS Liberty, Israel and its American supporters have lied about what happened. more
Alison Weir in CounterPunch - Capitol Hill, October 2003. It is a historic occasion. An independent, blue-ribbon commission is to release its findings from an investigation into an internationally significant 36-year-old attack on a US Navy ship that left more than 200 American sailors killed or wounded. more
Terence O’Keefe in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs - When A. Jay Cristol’s The Liberty Incident was released a year ago, it was uncritically hailed as the last word in the 36-year controversy surrounding Israel’s 1967 attack on the USS Liberty that took 34 American lives and wounded 172. The book was packed with tedious minutiae arguing the case. Indeed, if its author is to be believed, Liberty survivors have engaged in a 36-year slander against the state of Israel—which was guilty, at worst, of a grievous mistake in the heat of war. more
Richard K. Kolb in VFW Magazine - On June 8, 1967, the spy ship USS Liberty withstood an unparalleled assault by Israeli torpedo boats and planes off the coast of Egypt. Despite official and public abandonment, the courageous crew deserves recognition on this 40th anniversary of the costliest hostile U.S. ship action since World War II. more
Rear Admiral Merlin H. Staring - I am honored to be allowed to participate in this tribute to the crew and survivors of the USS Liberty – ruthlessly attacked by Israeli forces on 8 June 1967. As a Navy JAG-Corps Captain, I had only a brief official contact with that event at the time – and not until many years later did I learn the full facts. When I did, I became aware – and I am now of the firmest conviction – the the Liberty honorees have suffered – for 40 years – an unprecedented injustice – and at the hands of our very own Navy and government. more
Ambassador Edward Peck - The Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest decoration for bravery that our nation can bestow, was awarded to the Commanding Officer of the USS Liberty, Captain William McGonagle. more
Stan White at Arlington National Cemetery - The first thing I would like to talk about, in speaking for the USS Liberty survivors, is the organization "No Greater Love". These special people have been conducting ceremonies on June 8th annually at this location, for many, many years now, honoring our thirty-four shipmates killed during the attack on our ship June 8, 1967. more
USS Liberty Veterans Association - On June 8, 1967 while patrolling in international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, USS Liberty was savagely attacked without warning or justification by air and naval forces of the state of Israel. Of a crew of 294 officers and men (including three civilians), the ship suffered thirty four (34) killed in action and one hundred seventy three (173) wounded in action. The ship itself, a Forty Million ($40,000,000) Dollar state of the art signals intelligence (SIGINT) platform, was so badly damaged that it never sailed on an operational mission again and was sold in 1970 for $101,666.66 as scrap. more
Ambassador James Akins - In 1963, three World War II Victory hull freighters were refitted as technical research ships. Their function, formally, was “to conduct technical research operations in support of U.S. Navy electronic research projects, which include electromagnetic propagation studies and advanced communications systems.” Jane’s Fighting Ships called these vessels “mobile bases for research in communications and electromagnetic radiation.... [They are] considered electronic intelligence ships.” They were designed to intercept foreign electronic messages, and they were popularly called “spy ships.” One of these ships was re-christened the “USS Liberty.” more
Admiral Thomas Moorer in the Stars and Stripes - While state department officials and historians converge on Washington this week to discuss the 1967 war in the Middle East, I am compelled to speak out about one of U.S. history’s most shocking cover-ups. On June 8, 1967, Israel attacked our proud naval ship—the USS Liberty—killing 34 American servicemen and wounding 172. Those men were then betrayed and left to die by our own government. more
Lieutenant Commander James Ennes in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs - Twenty-six 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. more
A new report released today by former officials from the highest level of the military and government reveals that Israel “committed acts of murder against American servicemen and an act of war against the United States” when it deliberately attacked the USS Liberty and killed 34 American crewmembers in 1967. more
For more than 30 years, I have remained silent on the topic of the USS Liberty. I am a military man and when orders come in from the Secretary of Defense and President of the United States, I follow them. However, recent attempts to rewrite history compel me to share the truth. more
I am the wife of James Mahlon Lupton, CT1, who was killed aboard the USS Liberty when it was attacked by Israel on June 8, 1967. He was right where the torpedo hit. more
Howard Films - ‘Loss of Liberty’ dramatically proves, beyond any doubt, that the attack by Israel on June 8, 1967 against the US naval intelligence gathering ship USS Liberty was deliberate. This filmed testimony by dozens of USS Liberty survivors demolishes Israel’s ‘tragic accident’ claim. Former Secretary of State Dean Rusk and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Thomas Moorer are representative of the honored high-ranking Americans supporting the condemnation of deliberate aggression against the United States by ‘ally’ Israel. Watch the Film