On June 8, 1967, the U.S.S. Liberty, then the worlds most sophisticated intelligence-gathering ship, came under attack in the eastern Mediterranean. After a two-hour attack by planes and torpedo boats, 70 percent of its 294-man crew were either dead or wounded. The attack was launched by a friendly country, Israel, which three days earlier had begun its six-day war with Egypt and was preparing to invade Syria the next day. The Chronicle of the 20th Century, which records newsworthy events briefly in chronological order, says for its entry on June 8, 1967, Sinai: Israelis accidentally attack U.S. ship, killing 10 and injuring 100. That reflects the inadequate and inaccurate reporting by the news media at the time of the attack.
This deplorable incident has festered like a infected wound for 36 years. Israel insisted that its pilots mistook the Liberty for an Egyptian freighter, a claim that those members of the crew who survived the attack deride. They charge that the Israelis conducted aerial surveillance of the Liberty for six hours before they attacked it. They and others familiar with the ship say that it was flying a large American flag, which was replaced by an even larger flag when it was destroyed by the attackers.
They also point out that the claim that the ship was mistaken for an old Egyptian freighter is absurd. As an intelligence ship it was loaded with antennas and carried a large satellite dish on an elevated structure near the stern. It was four times as large as the old Egyptian freighter, and its identification numbers were painted on the bow in white letters 10 feet high. If the numbers couldn’t be seen by the Israeli pilots, they could not have been missed by the torpedo boats that fired on the life boats deployed by the Liberty.
The Liberty Alliance, an organization formed to counteract the lies said to have been told to justify the Israeli attack and the cover-up by President Lyndon Johnson, deployed its forces on Capitol Hill on October 22. The chairman of the Liberty Alliance, Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presided over the news conference in the Rayburn House Office Building. The most stunning revelation was a statement by Captain Ward Boston, the senior legal counsel for the Navys Court of Inquiry into the attack on the Liberty. His statement was read by Rear Admiral Merlin Staring, a former Judge Advocate General of the Navy. Here are portions of what he read.
The late Admiral Isaac Kidd and I were given only one week to gather evidence for the Navys official investigation. Despite the short amount of time we were given, we gathered a vast amount of evidence, including hours of heartbreaking testimony from the young survivors. The evidence was clear. Both Adm. Kidd and I believed with certainty that this attack, which killed 34 American sailors and injured 172 others, was a deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew. I am certain that the Israeli pilots that undertook the attack, as well as their superiors who had ordered the attack, were aware that the ship was American.
I saw our flag, which had visibly identified the ship as American, riddled with bullet holes, and heard testimony that made it clear that the Israelis intended that there be no survivors. Not only did the Israelis attack the ship for over two hours with napalm, gunfire and hundreds of rockets and missiles, Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunned three life boats that had been launched in an attempt to save the crew-a war crime.
After saying he was moved to speak out by a book titled The Liberty Incident by Jay Cristol, he described it as an attempt to whitewash the facts. He then dropped a bombshell, saying, I have firsthand knowledge from many personal conversations with Adm. Kidd that President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara personally ordered him to cover up the true facts and conclude the attack was a case of mistaken identity despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. He did not mention that LBJ also rescinded an order to send carrier-based fighter planes that were only 15 minutes away to defend the Liberty.
The Liberty Alliance is pressing for an official, openly conducted reinvestigation of the tragedy that will consider this new testimony, along with the evidence that was suppressed or ignored. Some say that cover-ups ordered by presidents cant succeed because someone in the know will talk. Capt. Boston has finally talked. He and the Liberty survivors deserve a hearing.