It has been twenty-two years since the military forces of
the State of Israel attacked the U.S.S. Liberty. It has
been 43 years since Hitler's atrocities.
If Congress can spend our money chasing senile Nazis, after
all these years, it's about time they spend a little money
investigating the Liberty coverup.
The only way it will ever happen is if YOU write your
representatives and insist on a full investigation and tell
them you want Jun 8 to be Liberty Memorial Day not Snow
The following article appeared in *Defense Electronics*,
(If you missed Part One, email to arf for re-run.)
By James M. Ennes, Jr., Deck Officer of the USS Liberty
Fourteen years ago, the USS Liberty was attacked by Israeli
Warplanes and ships, resulting in the deaths of 34 Americans
and the wounding of 171 others. The attack lasted 2 and 1/2
hours and ended the Navy's program of dedicated electronic
intelligence collection ships.
Fourteen years ago, one of the most serious peacetime
American naval disasters occurred, and perhaps the most
serious since the sinking of the battleship *Maine* in 1898.
But while every bright schoolchild remembers some details of
the explosion that led to the Spanish-American War, hardly
anyone can recall the attack on the USS Liberty in 1967,
which cost the lives of 34 Americans, wounded 171 others,
and brought a premature end to the Navy's program of
dedicated electronic collection ships.
When Liberty miraculously remained afloat with a 40-foot
hole in her belly, the torpedomen methodically
machine-gunned exposed fire fighters and medical personnel
for much of the next 40 minutes while watching the ship
slowly sink lower in the water. Finally, at 1515, after word
came from the bridge to prepare to abandon ship, Liberty
crewmen launched three rubber rafts and tied them astern.
The torpedomen machine-gunned the empty rafts, plucked one
out of the water, and set a course for their base at Ashdod.
Liberty was alone, in flames, dead in the water, and
sinking. Her radios were dead. Thirty-four men were dead or
dying and 171 more were wounded. There was no sign of the
Sixth Fleet, which only three days before had refused the
ship's request for a destroyer escort and had promised to
have air support overhead within ten minutes of any
At 1545, the Sixth Fleet, having received Liberty's call for
help 96 minutes earlier, finally launched White
House-authorized aircraft in Liberty's defense, advised
pilots of their authority to use lethal force, and filled
the airwaves with plain language traffic supporting and
describing the mission. Almost instantly, the Israeli
government summoned the U.S. Naval Attache to the foreign
liaison office to report that Israeli forces had
"erroneously attacked a U.S. ship" and to offer "abject
At 1632, the torpedo boats returned to Liberty to ask: "Do
you need help?" The reply from the bridge was obscene. The
attack, after more than two-and-one-hours, was over.
The coverup began a few hours later.
First, the Secretary of Defense directed only his office
could release information about the attack. The order was
repeated, paraphrased, and reinforced throughout the chain
of command. Soon, Liberty sailors were being reminded daily
that they could say nothing about the attack to anyone, not
even to members of their own families. A court of inquiry
was to be held, the men were told, and nothing could be said
until the court had completed its work.
The court held hearings aboard the ship during emergency
repair work at Malta, but the hearings were limited and some
of the most important witnesses were not called at all.
Lookouts who might have described pre-attack reconnaissance
were not asked to testify. My own sworn statement as
officer-of-the-deck was read to the court, but inexplicably
failed to find its way into the transcript. Deck logs for my
watch were rewritten in my absence and without my knowledge,
and without reference to the reconnaissance noted during my
watch. Quartermaster's Notebook entries during the
reconnaissance were not filed with the record of the court.
Photographs of reconnaisance aircraft and the ship's freely
flying flag were presented in court but not filed in the
record of the court.
Despite the oversights, however, an abundance of evidence
did find its way into the record, although the record is
such a jumble that expert knowledge and deep study is needed
to make sense of it. The record reflects reports from
several officers and senior crewmen who told the court of
extensive, low-level reconnaissance and described the ship's
flag flying freely in a good breeze in plain sight of
low-flying aircraft; the record includes descriptions of an
extended, carefully coordinated attack that can only have
been planned in advance; it includes reports from radiomen
of sophisticated jamming, which was limited to frequencies
needed to summon help. The record also includes a report of
an Israeli excuse for the attack, which is so unlikely as to
discrediteven furthor any claim that the attack was a
Unfortunately, none of the evidence found its way to the
American public; it was classified Top Secret and locked
away from the prying eyes of the press. Instead, almost the
only material declassified and released was that which
supported the official claim that the attack was a mistake
-- the rest remained locked up in the top secret vault of
the Navy Judge Advocate General.
Meanwhile, our government complained bitterly, but
privately, to Israel that *Liberty was* identified before
the attack, and characterized the affair officially as a
"quite literally incomprehensible attack [which] must be
condemned as a act of military recklessness reflecting
wanton disregard for human life." Such candor, however, was
only for diplomatic channels. Publically, the Johnson
administration supported the premise that the attack was
brief, spontaneous, casual and erroneous.
Instead of describing repeated reconnaissance flights as low
as 200 feet directly overhead, the U.S. government reported
publically that the attack was an understandable case of
mistaken identitity, which was preceeded by only three very
distant and rather casual reconnaissance flights. The
Johnson administration ignored the ship's logs and testimony
of ship's officers and reported that the faulty
identification was understandable because the flag hung limp
at the mast on a windless day, despite evidence of a 12-knot
wind. Instead of describing a prolonged and carefully coord-
inated attack in which the ship was under heavy fire for 75
minutes and calling desperately for help for another 75
minutes, the U.S. government reported that the air attack
lasted only six minutes and that all firing ended when the
torpedo boats drew close enough to see our flag. Our
government repeated Israel's claim that the ship was
mistaken for the Egyptian ship *El Quseir*, but failed to
note that *El Quseir* was a 40-year-old cattle boat, then
moored at Alexandria, in poor shape, soon to be sold for
scrap, probably incapable of leaving her pier, and a most
improbable candidate for a Liberty-look-alike.
Crew's Speech Was Restricted
The Liberty crew had been told early in the coverup that
they would be free to talk to the press once the court of
inquiry report was declassified and released. But this was
not to be. The long-awaited freedom to speak was fraught
with so many restrictions as to be no freedom at all. Men
were told that they could say *only* what had been said by
the court of inquery and that they must use exactly the same
words that the court had used.
"Therefore," men were told in the ship's Plan-of-the-Day and
in warnings read to them at morning quarters, "there is
nothing new that we would be able to tell them in an
The fact that the radios were jammed, that napalm was used,
that life rafts were shot up in the water, that American
forces failed to arrive during the 2 and 1/2-hour ordeal, or
that most of the crew considered that attack deliberate,
were all details omitted from our government's published
version of the court of inquiry report, so those matters
were not discussed.
Such orders, I believe, were an overreaction to any
legitimate concern for security, and perhaps they were not
even legal orders, but they did serve to intimidate the
crew, keeping the story under wraps for many years.
What has been the cost of the Liberty coverup?
One obvious costs has been a deeply shaken faith among the
many who know the truth. Some Liberty survivors have told me
that they abandoned a Navy career because of their dismay
over the attack; a Liberty officer told me he would not want
his son to serve in the military because he no longer feels
confident that our country will support its forces in
But more important are the lessons that have not been
learned. Seven months after the Liberty attack, Commander
Lloyd Bucher sailed the USS *Pueblo* from Japan toward North
Korea on an intelligence mission quite similar to Liberty's.
Commander Bucher was refused gunfire training for his gun
crews, he was limited to 100 rounds of ammunition for each
of his puny deck-mounted machine guns, and he was required
by his his seniors to wrap his guns in canvas "so as not to
appear hostile." Like Liberty, he was assured that "in the
unlikely event" he got in trouble, friendly fighter aircraft
could be overhead in minutes. When he did get into trouble,
the fighter cover failed to arrive -- just as with Liberty.
The very forces that were to have protected him failed to
perform-- just as with Liberty.
Commander Bucher now believes that, had the full story of
the Liberty attack had been known to planners and commanders
involved with the Pueblo, the Pueblo tragedy might have
ended differently. Instead, the Pueblo was attacked and
captured under circumstances very similar to those seen so
recently in the Liberty attack, and the American military
response was the same: no visible reaction at all.
Even before the Pueblo capture, the government took some
behind-the-scene steps to protect the intelligence ships:
those operating in particularly dangerous waters, such as
USNS Sergeant Muller near Cuba, were given destroyer
escorts. Some consideration was given to flying oversize
flags or to painting the American flag on the ships' deck.
When it became clear that adequate protection would add
tremendously to an already expensive operation, the ships
were removed from service and the technical research ship
program was dismantled.
Loss of this nation's fleet of dedicated intelligence
collecting ships was deeply felt in the intelligence
community. No other platform can quite do the same job.
Clearly, other sensors are available, but nonother platform
can put 300 or more men within a few miles of an emitter for
days or even weeks at a time, complete with many thousands
of pounds of support equipment, and all with limitless
technical resources instantly available by radio from home.
So when the ships were lost, with them went much of their
unique intelligence-gathering capability. Important among
the abilities lost --beyond direct support of local
commanders and SIGNIT support to national authorities -- was
the ships' capacity to locate, collect, and report
sophisticated foreign electromagnetic signals for additional
to the national data base of known characteristics of
electronic emmitters, where the knowledge could aid in the
development of electronic warfare countermeasures.
While other platforms can do much of this work, probably no
other vehicle can do it as well, and certainly no other
sensor can cover a target as thoroughly. The extent of loss
may not be known until some distant commander is suddenly
faced by a new and unknown electronic threat for which he
has no effective defense.
*Military Review*, in a recent review of *Assault on the
Liberty*, aptly noted that "in its vital interest, a state
must, on occasion be brutal ..." Perhaps that, too, is a
lesson to be learned from the Liberty affair: the lesson
that a state, no matter how seemingly friendly toward the
United States, is, above all, a sovereign, independent,
self-interested nation and will put its own national
interests first if forced to make a choice; that we cannot
depend upon the forbearance of a friendly state when that
state perceives that we are doing something unfriendly, such
as observing its secret war preparations from a neutral
position; and that, if we do, we should be prepared to
defend the observors.
But because the friendly nation in this case is the nation
of Israel, and because the nation of Israel is widely,
passionately, and expensively supported in the United
States, and perhaps also because a proper inquery would
reveal a humiliating defeat of Command, Control, and
Communications, an adequate investigation of the attack on
the USS Liberty has yet to be politically palatable.
An so the lessons of warfare, diplomacy, politics, and
history remain unlearned.
If you have had it with the "best congress money can buy",
e-mail to arf and I will send you info on how to do
something about it. DO IT NOW!
ARFNET: A Network of concerned Americans utilizing
computer and ham radio communication links.
Amateur Radio Forum (ARF) NR9Q
Thurs 09:PM CST 3950 KHZ
Jack Schmidling for County Commissioner
NEVER VOTE FOR THE INCUMBENT! VOTE SOLIDARITY