On Thursday, June 8, 1967: ". . . jet aircraft and motor torpedo boats of Israel brutally assaulted an American naval vessel, the USS LIBERTY, in international waters off the Sinai Peninsula in the Mediterranean Sea. The attack was preceded by more than six-hours of intense low-level surveillance by Israel photo-reconnaissance aircraft, which buzzed the intelligence ship thirteen times, sometimes flying as low as 200 feet directly overhead. The carefully orchestrated assault that followed was initiated by high-performance jet aircraft, and was followed up by slower and more maneuverable jets carrying napalm, and was finally turned over to lethal torpedo boats, which blasted a forty-foot hole in the ship's side.
"The attack lasted more two hours-killing 34 Americans and wounding 171 others – and inflicted 821 rocket and machine-gun holes in the ship. And when the LIBERTY stubbornly remained afloat despite her damage, Israeli forces machine-gunned her life rafts and sent troop-carrying helicopters to finish the job. At this point, with Sixth Fleet rescue aircraft finally enroute, the government of Israel apologized and the attacking forces suddenly withdrew. Only then did the identity of the assailants become known." — James M. Ennes, Jr., USN, Ret.,(1)
In the aftermath of the June 8, 1967 air and naval attacks, the 294-member crew of the USS Liberty – an intelligence-gathering technical research ship (AGTR-5)(2) – received the "most decorations awarded for a single ship action in U.S. history." (3, 4)
Fifty years later, there are still calls for an honest and complete Congressional investigation that will include the eyewitness accounts of survivors and reflect all the facts. Simply put, the attack on the Liberty involves far more than the attempt of an "ally" to sink a lightly-armed(5) U.S. Navy ship and kill the crew. Because at that time, Israel's "Six-Day War" – also called the Third Arab-Israeli War(6) – was well underway against neighboring Egypt, Syria, and Jordan.(7)
Many questions remain unanswered. Secrets are hidden in undisclosed documents and in heavily redacted FOIA-released materials. And, as two surviving officers of the attack on the Liberty have critically pointed out (all emphasis added):
"Never before in the history of the United States Navy has a Navy Board of Inquiry ignored the testimony of American military eyewitnesses and taken, on faith, the word of their attackers." — Dr. Richard Kiepfer, Captain, Medical Corps8"Except for a few high ranking naval officers, no one has felt our pain of not knowing exactly why the ship was attacked. Over thirty-one (31) years after the attack, the crew is entitled to know the details concerning the attack by the Government of Israel and also the details of the role the US Government in the entire affair. Why were our aircraft recalled to their carriers on two (2) occasions before they reached our location to assess the situation, and what official ordered the recall after 'Hot Line' communication was established with Moscow to alert Nasser that the planes were being sent to see what the condition of USS LIBERTY was? None of the planes ever reached our location. For over seventeen (17) hours we received no assistance from US forces in the Mediterranean.
"This is the only US Navy ship attacked by a foreign nation, involving a large loss of life and so many personnel injured that has never been accorded a full Congressional hearing." — William L. McGonagle, Captain, USN (Ret.)(9)
The 50-year institutional negligence of the U.S. Congress to conduct an honest and thorough investigation does not have to be a reason for the assault on the USS Liberty to remain hidden from public view. On the contrary: anyone adverse to being kept in the dark can hear the revealing eyewitness accounts of survivors:
James M. Ennes, Jr. | History Counts, 2/1/12
Phillip "Phil" Tourney speech, 10/13/07
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