The USS Liberty: An Anniversary of Bravery, Determination and Sorrow
An Anniversary of Bravery, Determination and Sorrow
[Image: from the USA Navy showing support being provided to the USS Liberty the day after the attack. Note the helicopter to the right, and the ships to the left and in the background. See also the parabolic receiver/transmitter on her aft deck. Recall this when “the moon” is mentioned below.]
Publication date: 2022-06-12
Update 2022-06-13: Culture section added. Numerous small textual changes have also been made to improve the prose.
To James Corbett who inspired the creation of this newsletter.
This publication coincides with two anniversaries, the just past 55th of the attack by Israel on the USS Liberty, and the first publication of this newsletter.
As for this little newsletter, re-reading the earliest of publications causes appropriate embarrassment. It also demonstrates an improvement over time, with assistance from friends and by dint of experience.
I wish to thank those who read these articles. The author strives to reward your attention with reasonable prose, interesting narratives and quality sourcing.
For the former anniversary, I wish to honour the heroism and bravery of the entire crew of the USS Liberty. Special mention shall be given to Terry Halbardier whose efforts caused the abandonment of the attempt to sink the ship when he constructed a haphazard emergency antenna under extreme circumstances through which a distress signal could be sent. Two others deserve mention. The ship's doctor saved countless lives with astounding medical care under the most serious duress. This included direct arm to arm blood transfers: one man’s heart pumping his blood into another man’s arm. Lastly, the ship's commander Captain McGonagle's bravery, determination and resoluteness befits the military acknowledgment he received, though not the place in which, or the person from which it was given. The highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, was awarded him for his actions.
What would happen if a foreign nation attempted to sink a USA Naval vessel and kill all hands? What if the USA's 6th fleet was only a few hundred miles away? What if a war had been initiated by Israel against three neighboring nations? What if it was Israel that had attempted to sink the USA Navy's ship?
These questions barely scratch the surface of those surrounding Israel's attack on the USS Liberty in the early afternoon of June 8th 1967, 55 years and 4 days ago. The Liberty was in international waters on a fine sunny day flying her largest flag off the northern coast of the Sinai peninsula. The USA was not a belligerent in the war.
[Image: the crosshair shows the location of the ship at the start of the attack as described by wikileaks. The non-belligerent USS Liberty is in international waters.]
An Israeli initiated war was under way during which she attacked Egypt, Jordan and Syria to claim Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and parts of East Jerusalem. Israel had a small thorn in her side, the USS Liberty. The ship was the most advanced surveillance (spying) ship in the USA's Navy. She could track all frequencies, had multi-lingual translators aboard and could even bounce signals off the moon.
[Image: a view of some damage to the ship. The source is the Wikipedia article on the “incident” which provides most of the imagery for this article. Only images from different sources will be noted below.]
An Exercise in the Study of History
Your author has always considered this event as a perfect case study for a High School history class. In Study Sources below are provided three video accounts of the events of the day and days thereafter. They differ in their embrace of the explanation offered by the attacker. Israel claims a case of "mistaken identity".
If the attack on the USS Liberty during the "6 Day War" of 1967 is unfamiliar, you have an opportunity to try an exercise in historical analysis. If you have time, view the three video sources before reading any further sections of this article. A horizontal rule below is used to distinguish this introduction from opinion and analysis.
Consider the event and the prejudices and biases of the sources. Take the principles of historiography into account: which sources have greater validity and what are their motives?
Having watched hours of video and read reams of articles on this important event this author does have an opinion. This is summarized in the following sections.
Take the challenge. Stop reading. Jump to the Study Sources section below and watch the three videos. After having come to your own conclusions, come back. Then read the analysis below. Consider where the opinion you have reached confers with or differs from the analysis provided below.
This is the joy of studying history. Objective reality is not a fiction. However, when investigating the past one cannot witness it. One looks to the witnesses of the time, the reliability of the transmission of their testimony and an understanding of their biases. The more one has access to varied testimonies and an understanding of their biases the more one's own understanding of an historic event may become informed and nuanced.
The Attack on the USS Liberty
During the attack on the USS Liberty at least four types of ammunition are used.
Attack aircraft use their canons to deliver high caliber machine gun fire and launch rockets to damage the superstructure and kill crew members. Later, fighter bombers drop napalm to further both objectives. The use of torpedoes by torpedo boats has similar objectives of murder and damage. However, a torpedo's primary purpose is the sinking of a ship. The use of this type of ammunition informs one of the main military objective.
[Image: a memorial to some of those who died during the attack on the USS Liberty. The image is taken in the USA’s premier military cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.]
Israel's claim that they misidentified the ship as an Egyptian "horse carrier" is inept. The follow up question is "what threat is a ship designed to transport horses?" The facts that the weather was clear, the ship used standard USS Navy paint, was labeled in USA nomenclature (GTR-5) in their navy's font, was flying its largest flag and had been identified and surveilled all morning completely debunks this hogwash. Israel's attempt to claim incompetence at their command centres is laughable.
The Al Jazeera documentary clearly demonstrates that Israeli military command knew that the ship was from the USA Navy. The USA was not directly involved in the Israeli initiated war, with the exception of high resolution photographic reconnaissance before hostilities. The attack is clearly a war crime of an attempt to sink a ship and kill all crew aboard a vessel clearly flying a non-combatant flag. The machine gunning of life rafts compounds the war crime.
By excellent command, bravery, discipline, camaraderie and training the USS Liberty’s crew prevented her sinking. The USA Navy has fittingly honoured the crew with the most citations for a single naval combat incident in the entire history of the USA's Navy. To quote Ernie Gallo, a survivor of the attack, as can be heard in a video source below [the parenthetic comment is mine]:
There were 208 purple hearts, alone [by which he means amongst all the other medals and citations.]
After having read the article, this speech by Ernie Gallo is the first source to pursue. It is short (17 minutes), serious and direct.
It took until 1979 for the event to emerge from the enforced shadows. A crew member, James M Ennes, Jr, wrote “Assault on the Liberty” ignoring the gag order he had received from the Navy.
[Image: the cover of the 1979 book by Ennes. It can be downloaded in multiple formats (see the right of the page) from The Internet Archive who are the source for this image. The fifth edition which is provided as the PDF version contains a forward by Thomas H. Moorer, Admiral, U.S. Navy (ret) who states that the book “should be read by all Americans”.]
Many other books have since been written of the event.
If you had not heard of this event during the 1967 "6 Day War" a nagging question should be, why? Why are there "blockbuster" films of USA bravery during the failed attack on Vietnam and not of this most heroic defense of the USS Liberty? Of course there are films! They are produced by independent groups and are refused distribution by large film distributors and not shown in regular cinemas. See in Sources that of Mr Atkinson for references to a collection of them and other information.
There are at least three reasons that may explain this attack, two of which are fairly obvious. The third is contentious and worrisome.
Having insufficient resources to maintain prisoners of war captured during the Sinai campaign, Israel executed many of them. This activity was to be hidden, especially from USA Military Intelligence for whom the USS Liberty operated. The attack on the USS Liberty is a series of war crimes to cover up more war crimes.
Israel, like any nation, needs fresh water. The Syrian territory of the Golan Heights possesses much of this fresh water and was a key objective in their war. Hiding their advance on this target was beneficial towards it. The USA would not be able to object to Israel's advance on the Golan Heights if they did not know of it. Each of the three attacks on Egypt, Jordan and Syria are the supreme international crime; a war of aggression.
If the USS Liberty was sunk with all hands, knowledge of what had occurred would be limited to the attackers. This would enable press releases to control understanding of the event. If this were blamed on Egypt, which is echoed in the "mistake" narrative, then the USA could enter the war siding with Israel against Egypt, Jordan and Syria.
One may see other potential motives. Welcome to the study of history. It is a discussion. One may even believe the "mistake" explanation and still recognize the bravery of the USS Liberty's crew. Is the audio transcript used by Al Jazeera a fake? If one takes this view, then one must provide a motivation for the creation of the fake. What political or economic incentive is so strong as to coerce Al Jazeera to do this? It may have been carefully edited to support one narrative over another.
A perhaps more interesting set of questions are “who leaked the audio”, “why” and “why did Al Jazeera choose to fund the production of the documentary and air it”???
[Image: The ensign flown on the day aboard the USS Liberty. Its size is hidden by the careful folding.]
Another motive deserves consideration. Why was aid to the USS Liberty so delayed? Is the USA risking the lives of 294 navy mariners and intelligence analysts and its most sophisticated surveillance ship to protect Israel from embarrassment? The 6th fleet was about 500 miles away. Attack aircraft could have been positioned above the USS Liberty in and hour and a half, at most. Can you imagine the invaluable morale boost for the beleaguered crew seeing two of their own aircraft flying overhead and tilting their wings?! Instead, they would struggle alone through the night on a ship listing 9 degrees to starboard with over two thirds of its crew injured or dead.
Another hint at motivation for the USA is provided by the lack of time given to the Navy's internal investigation of the attack. The public report to be issued needed to not include damning detail. It certainly did not include the testimony of its own sailors. This neutering of the investigation is shadowed in the Medal of Honor presentation to Captain McGonagle. Instead of being at the Whitehouse and the medal presented by the president, it occurs on the naval dockyard in Washington D.C. and is not awarded by the head of state. No reporters were invited, which suppresses news reportage of the ceremony and thus "incident".
There are problems with the last of the numbered list of motives. Firstly, Russian submarines in the eastern Mediterranean knew what had occurred. We learn from the BBC documentary that Russia had a fleet in the eastern Mediterranean. Secondly, Egypt had equipped itself with Russian military hardware. Though not an "ally" of the USSR, a conflict between Israel and USA against Egypt may have drawn in the USSR. This risked a major escalation and the potential use of nuclear weapons.
This is one reason why this "incident" is of such importance. The risk of a war between USA and the USSR provides some explanation as to why the USA does not become involved in the conflict, but provides no explanation as to their delay to aid to the USS Liberty or the limitation of the Navy’s investigation or the suppression of the medal ceremonies.
We know that the Admiral of the 6th Fleet was in contact with the military's political leadership. All of these strange actions are based on political choice. The USA's Navy would surely have wished to offer the USS Liberty's crew a fanfare for their amazing fortitude and bravery. Their actions under fire are exemplary and deserve the highest acclamation. Instead the crew are forbidden to ever speak of the event, presented medals in the least public manner, and dispersed among the navy. This is the clearest of cover ups.
[Image: Commander Captain McGonagle in his cabin aboard the USS Liberty.]
If you took the opportunity to take the challenge of viewing the sources before continuing to read you have hopefully enjoyed the process. History is fascinating. From it, however one concludes one's assessment, lessons may be learned on many fronts.
There are hundreds more sources, including books, essays and films, available for consideration should you wish to further your investigation.
Whatever your choice, I hope you can join me in honouring the crew of the USS Liberty in defence of their ship. A non-combatant ship, as a non-belligerent in a war, was attacked by the instigator of that war who was theoretically an ally. These sailors and their captain saved their ship and most of their crew from the most deliberate of war crimes by the state of Israel, which has never been brought to account for the its crimes.
From this, one can derive further learning.
Here the case for Israel’s claims of “mistaken identity” is made by a senior USA, former, military jurist.
This BBC documentary provides excellent archival footage and a description of events during and after the attack. It equivocates on Israel’s claims of mistaken identity by providing both sides of the argument. The documentary does examine the 303 committee and Operation Cyanide (a nice word play on the Sinai peninsular). For this operation the BBC’s documentary also includes denials by former Israeli spies and finishes with “whatever lies behind the attack …” and proceeds to cover the human side of the story.
Al Jazeera, equipped with newly available audio makes the case to dismiss Israel’s claim of “mistaken identity”. They, like the BBC, also investigate the political intrigue behind the scenes. In combination they are very useful. Which is more incisive in explaining the cover up?
Other Sources: Not a part of the study, but for follow up consideration
A USS Liberty’s Hero’s Passing, Ray McGovern, Consortium News, 2019-06-08
New Revelations on 1967 Incident: USS Liberty attacked by Israeli fighter jets, John Crewdson, Global Research, 2007-10-08 (Previously published in the Chicago Tribune on the 2nd)
Share USS Liberty truth - an attempted "false flag" scam on June 8th in 1967!, Michael Atkinson, his newsletter, 2022-06-05
The article above contains a plethora of links to video and other sources.
Below are sources from members of the USS Liberty's crew. There are many more which can be found.
The Assault on the USS Liberty Still Covered Up After 26 Years, James Ennes, If Americans Knew, June 1993
Ernie Gallo: The USS Liberty. What really happened? What did not?, USS Liberty Veterans Association, their youtube channel, published 2017-09-22 from a speech delivered at the National Press Club in March 2014.
USS Liberty Survivor Don Pageler, USS Liberty Veterans Association, their youtube channel, 2019-10-09
“World Where You Live”, a live performance by Crowded House of their second national and first international single from their debut album “Crowded House” released in 1986. The performance is from 1987. Uploaded to Youtube on 2006-08-28 by dankx75.
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