June 8 marked the 40th anniversary of the heaviest attack on an American ship inflicting the highest number of casualties since World War II. The USS Liberty was an intelligence vessel, patrolling international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The day was clear and sunny; the ship flying the American flag, as was standard. Suddenly and simultaneously, out of that clear azure sky and sea came a two-pronged attack by Israeli air and naval forces. Napalm, gunfire and missiles rained hell on Liberty’s crew for two hours while Israeli torpedo boats closed in.
In that two hours, 34 American sailors died. Another 172 were injured
The Liberty crew managed to send an SOS, heard by nearby U.S. Sixth Fleet aircraft carriers. Fighter planes launched immediately, however turned back on orders from President Johnson. Naval personnel listening to radio relays heard Johnson say “I don’t care if the ship sinks, I’m not going to embarrass an ally.”
Israel claimed it was a case of “mistaken identity.” You know, friendly fire. Israel’s ludicrous explanation was that pilots thought the USS Liberty was El Quseir, an Egyptian vessel having 1/4 of Liberty’s displacement and half the beam. El Quseir was 180 feet shorter and very differently configured. The Liberty had her name clearly written in English, while the Egyptian ship would have displayed Arabic script.
There are several motives for Israel’s deliberate attack: to prevent the USS Liberty from transmitting intelligence pertaining to massacres by Israeli troops which were taking place in the Golan Heights and that the 1967 War did indeed result from a pre-emptive strike by Israel.
The attack could have been used to draw the U.S. into the 1967 War as well. Most of the Liberty’s survivors believe that Israel’s goal was to sink the ship and kill everyone aboard. Had there been no survivors, the attack could have been pinned on an Arab country.
Ward Boston, Jr. was the chief legal counsel to the Navy Court of Inquiry investigating the USS Liberty attack. He is also a U.S. Navy veteran, having served on the USS Yorktown.
In an editorial published by The San Diego Union Tribune, Boston stated then President Johnson and Secretary of Defense McNamara ordered the Navy Court of Inquiry to conclude the attack was accidental.
The late Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, the Court of Inquiry’s president, was given only one week to gather evidence for the investigation, although a proper inquiry would have taken six months, according to Boston.
“We boarded the crippled ship at sea and interviewed survivors. The evidence was clear. We both believed with certainty that this attack was a deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew,” Boston wrote. “I saw the bullet-riddled American flag that had been raised by the crew after their first flag had been shot down completely.”
For the official record, Admiral Kidd was ordered to rewrite part of the Court’s findings, including striking Lt. Lloyd Painter’s testimony in which he stated three life rafts filled with seriously wounded sailors were gunned down at close range by Israeli torpedo boats.
Crew members’ tombstones are engraved “...died in the Eastern Mediterranean,” rather than “killed in action.”
The USS Liberty’s Commander, William L. McGonagle was awarded the Medal of Honor in a quiet ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard, not in the customary White House setting. To this day, survivors have never been allowed to testify publicly. Nor have intelligence officers who received real-time Hebrew translations of Israeli commanders ordering pilots to sink “the American ship.”
Even now, the mere mention of the USS Liberty creates a furor. The town of Grafton, Wisconsin decided to name their new $1 million library–to be built with private donations and an $83,000 federal contribution–the USS Liberty Memorial Library.
Days later, Jewish community leaders cried anti-Semitism. An angry letter from one rabbi stated the name was “insulting to Jews.” Not surprisingly, the $83,000 federal money was put on hold. Even the priest at Grafton’s Catholic Church came out in opposition to the name, stating “The USS Liberty has become a symbol of hate.”
Ironically, the University of Wisconsin’s library was officially renamed the Golda Meir Library in 1979.
Survivors of the USS Liberty attack, their families and the families of those killed gathered in Washington, D.C. last week to demand a fair congressional inquiry, a plea which presumably fell on deaf ears.
While those family members seek justice, a small city in Wisconsin seeks to commemorate Liberty’s name and conscientious members of the American public seek the truth, their killers are still being called “God’s Chosen People.”
While I take time to honor those sailors who lost their lives over 40 years ago, some wannabe nationalist in New Madison claims I have “cheapened the sacrifice” of U.S. troops. While I speak out against an Israeli-driven U.S. policy and our appeasement of the Jewish State which has cost thousands of U.S. lives, I am being compared to Adolf Hitler and Osama Bin Laden. (Contrary to what some believe, I actually don’t mind the comparison. It merely reflects the intellect of the one doing the comparing.)
While I continue to speak out against the second-most powerful lobby in America–one that promotes the interests of a foreign government at the expense of U.S. resources, both material and human–the “real” patriots are pledging allegiance to Zionism. Indeed, Mr. Brown, you’re a regular Audie Murphy–although I doubt you know who he was.
Patriotism, for those who may be confusing the term with blind nationalism, means honoring your war dead and seeking justice for their families even if it means “embarrassing an ally.” It also means pursuing policies beneficial to one’s country, free from the yoke of foreign domination.