CHICAGO: Early in the morning, on the fourth day of the Arab-Israeli war in 1967, Israeli fighters conducted half a dozen reconnaissance flights over the USS Liberty, an American “intelligence ship” that monitored the conflict 15 miles north of the Sinai Peninsula. . They have done this several times.
The Liberty was originally the “victorious” ship that supplied the Allies during World War II. It was later upgraded to an auxiliary engineering research vessel (AGTR-5), first deployed in 1965, to provide information to the National Security Agency, the primary collector of electronic intelligence in the United States, and the code-breaker.
When Israel launched a “preemptive” war against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan on June 5, 1967, then-President Lyndon Baines Johnson declared that America would remain “neutral.” Liberty, who was by no means an attack ship, was sent to the Mediterranean to monitor the conflict.
Liberty’s commanding officer, Captain William L. McGonagle, asked Vice Admiral William Martin to provide an armed escort for his ship as it headed for the Egyptian coast. However, Martin revealed that the Liberty was “a clearly identified American ship in international waters that is not involved in the conflict and is not a reasonable object of attack for any nation.” According to documents published in the comprehensive 1979 book “Assault on the Liberty: The True Story of the Israeli Attack on an American Intelligence Ship” by James Ennes, a survivor and officer of Liberty who was aboard the ship during the attack.
The Liberty, with its standard American flag 1.5 m high and 2.5 m wide, could be clearly identified as an American ship by any navy in the world.
After being ordered to attack, the Israeli fighter pilot signaled that the Liberty could be an American ship, prompting the commander to repeat the order. The attack began on June 8 at 1:57 p.m.
For the Liberty 294 crew, the attack was not an ordinary “friendly fire” incident: it resulted in the tragic loss of 34 Americans and 173 wounded.
Some analysts say the tragedy is compounded by the US government insisting on concealing the facts, defending Israel and threatening to imprison survivors if the incident puts Israel at risk.
The US Navy conducted a quick investigation, but heard only the testimony of 14 crew members. Survivors claim that if they blame Israel, they risk imprisonment and that all testimonies critical of Israel have been censored.
Several survivors testified that they believed that Israel had attacked the ship with the intention of sinking it and killing its entire crew, then accused Egypt of sinking to force the United States to go to war.
“The most important thing in this whole cover business is the cover itself. It’s worse than what they did to us, and it’s been 55 years, “said Phil Tourney, who survived the Liberty attack.
“The US government is indebted to the bereaved, their families and especially America. America was betrayed. The betrayal on the high seas by our LBJ president (Johnson), his minions, the United States Congress, and every president from the LBJ to President Joe Biden has not been talked about because it is a really hot topic. If our ship sinks, the Israelis will blame the Arab states.
Israeli Mirage fighters hit Liberty from pro to stern, killing seven Americans. The largest group died when an Israeli torpedo hit a ship and killed more than 25 sailors.
Electrician Second Lieutenant Mickey LeMay claimed to have seen a plane approaching Liberty shortly before 2 p.m.
“I looked to the right and the fighter was flying in the same direction as us. It wasn’t too high. We could have waved, it was so low. The plane was completely black and had no markings.
“When I turned to point to the plane I saw, another plane, and this was the first attack, it flew diagonally to the stern and hit us. I bent down and my blood flowed everywhere. “I looked at the lieutenant and he looked like me, blood was flowing everywhere,” LeMay added.
The lieutenant later died.
Don Pageler, who helped the wounded, said the first raid killed more than seven comrades and about 25 were killed when one of the many torpedoes hit the boat.
“Yes, we flew in our sailing colors, which I think was a flag measuring one and a half to two and a half. During the attack, this flag was so shabby that in the middle of the attack, our flag bearer hung our holiday colors, which was a two-on-four flag, which is a huge flag. Nevertheless, all the pilots were later told that they did not see the flag, “said the surviving Pageler, pointing out that the ship had only 50-gauge machine guns.
Pageler added that he later learned that Israel claimed that Liberty had bombed its position.
Another survivor, Larry Bowen, told Arab News that “the story was not told correctly.”