“The Downing of the USS Liberty”: One of America’s Most Shameful Secrets (sound familiar Israel?)
Read the short story at the following link and draw your own parallels to currents events.
NEW YORK – On the fourth day of the 1967 Arab Israeli War, the intelligence ship ‘USS Liberty’ was steaming slowly in international waters, 14 miles off the Sinai Peninsula. Israeli armored forces were racing deep into Sinai in hot pursuit of the retreating Egyptian army.
‘Liberty,’ a World War II freighter, had been converted into an intelligence vessel by the top-secret US National Security Agency, and packed with the latest signals and electronic interception equipment. The ship bristled with antennas and electronic ‘ears’ including TRSSCOMM, a system that delivered real-time intercepts to Washington by bouncing a stream of microwaves off the moon.
‘Liberty’ had been rushed to Sinai to monitor communications of the belligerents in the Third Arab Israeli War: Israel and her foes, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan.
At 0800 hrs, 8 June, 1967, eight Israeli recon flights flew over ‘Liberty,’ which was flying a large American flag. At 1400 hrs, waves of low-flying Israeli Mystere and Mirage-III fighter-bombers repeatedly attacked the American vessel with rockets, napalm, and cannon. The air attacks lasted 20 minutes, concentrating on the ship’s electronic antennas and dishes. The ‘Liberty’ was left afire, listing sharply. Eight of her crew lay dead, a hundred seriously wounded, including the captain, Commander William McGonagle.
At 1424 hrs, three Israeli torpedo boats attacked, raking the burning ‘Liberty’ with 20mm and 40mm shells. At 1431hrs an Israeli torpedo hit the ‘Liberty’ midship, precisely where the signals intelligence systems were located. Twenty-five more Americans died.
Israeli gunboats circled the wounded ‘Liberty,’ firing at crewmen trying to fight the fires. At 1515, the crew were ordered to abandon ship. The Israeli warships closed and poured machine gun fire into the crowded life rafts, sinking two. As American sailors were being massacred in cold blood, a rescue mission by US Sixth Fleet carrier aircraft was mysteriously aborted on orders from the White House.
An hour after the attack, Israeli warships and planes returned. Commander McGonagle gave the order. ‘prepare to repel borders.’ But the Israelis, probably fearful of intervention by the US Sixth Fleet, departed. ‘Liberty’ was left shattered but still defiant, her flag flying.
The Israeli attacks killed 34 US seamen and wounded 171 out of a crew of 297, the worst loss of American naval personnel from hostile action since World War II.
Less than an hour after the attack, Israel told Washington its forces had committed a ‘tragic error.’ Later, Israel claimed it had mistaken ‘Liberty’ for an ancient Egyptian horse transport. US Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, and Joint Chiefs of Staff head, Admiral Thomas Moorer, insisted the Israeli attack was deliberate and designed to sink ‘Liberty.’ So did three CIA reports; one asserted Israel’s Defense Minister, Gen. Moshe Dayan, had personally ordered the attack.
In contrast to American outrage over North Korea’s assault on the intelligence ship ‘Pueblo,’ Iraq’s mistaken missile strike on the USS ‘Stark,’ last fall’s bombing of the USS ‘Cole’ in Aden, and the recent US-China air incident, the savaging of ‘Liberty’ was quickly hushed up by President Lyndon Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.