The USS Liberty was a highly sophisticated but virtually unarmed intelligence vessel positioned some 25 miles off the Sinai coast, flying the US flag with identifying markings conspicuously displayed during Israel's 6-day war with Egypt, Jordan and Syria in 1967. It's primary function was to monitor communications between the USSR and Egypt to anticipate possible Soviet intervention in the war.
On June 8, 1967 the Liberty was closely surveilled by Israeli aircraft for 8 morning hours and then subjected to a sustained air attack at 2 pm by unmarked Israeli warplanes including use of napalm, followed by naval attack by three torpedo boats, leaving 821 holes in the ship including a 40-foot hole in the hull.
The attack lasted over 2 hours and included machine gun fire against stretcher-bearers and life rafts. Thirty-four sailors were killed and 172 were injured. All five US radio frequencies were jammed and transmission equipment on deck destroyed, but a resourceful operator managed to broadcast a May Day. Defensive US aircraft were launched from a nearby carrier group but were recalled by the White House. In response to the incredulous 6th Fleet commander, President Johnson confirmed the order by Defense Secretary McNamara, reportedly stating, "I won't embarrass an ally and don't care what happens to the ship or its crew."
Israel claimed the attack was a mistake resulting from misidentification, a claim flatly disproved by the immediate jamming of US frequencies, testimony by Liberty survivors of visual identification during low surveillance flyovers, and intercepted radio transmissions between Israeli pilots and Tel Aviv recorded by US surveillance aircraft above the Israeli aircraft. The ship was flying a 13-foot flag and its markings clearly identified it through the international system recorded in Jane's Warship Recognition Guide. Israeli pilots expressed disbelief at their orders and one pilot who refused to participate was subsequently court-martialed. Gen. Moshe Dayan, commander of Israeli forces during the war, later acknowledged that he had ordered the Liberty attacked and sunk.
A hastily convened and concluded official Court of Inquiry was a whitewash accepting without question the official Israeli explanation and apology, as formally stated later by the chief hearing officer. Liberty survivors were enjoined by the government under threat of court-martial from ever telling the truth, although several have come forward and done so and three have written books on the Liberty attack.
This was the only occasion in US naval history that an American vessel was attacked in a flagrant act of war without retaliation.
Why did it take place? In his book, Body of Secrets, author James Bamford presents a detailed account with best evidence suggesting that Israel feared the intelligence vessel had collected evidence of war crimes it was committing in the Sinai - mass executions of Egyptian POWs. It is noteworthy that mass graves were later discovered in the Sinai.
A second hypothesis is fear that the US would learn Israel's intention to attack Syria the following day, which the US had explicitly opposed to the Israeli government. This is the theory favored by Stephen Green in his book, Taking Sides. Green suggests that Israel was worried about more than communication intercepts. In order to attack Syria and seize the Golan Heights, Israel needed to redeploy forces north from the Egyptian campaign, a movement that would have undoubtedly been detected by the Liberty. The attack prevented exposure of Israel's expansionist intentions that were opposed by the U.S. and violated the UN Charter proscription against "use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state."
A third hypothesis suggests a false flag operation to induce the US to decisively remove Nasser as a threat to Israeli hegemony in the region. In fact, nuclear armed rescue aircraft had been launched initially for Cairo before being recalled. The carrier commander, thinking this was why they were recalled, re-launched conventionally armed aircraft but these too were recalled.
Soon after these events, Adm. Thomas Moorer became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff but was constrained by our government from further investigation. However, several decades later in 2003, now retired Adm. Moorer convened an informal commission of inquiry on the Liberty. The results of this commission, including testimony by the government's chief military (JAG) attorney in the original whitewash, may be viewed below as read into the Congressional Record by House Foreign Relations Committee Chair, Rep. John Conyers.
Findings of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty, the Recall of Military Rescue Support Aircraft while the Ship was Under Attack, and the Subsequent Cover-up by the United States Government
CAPITOL HILL, WASHINGTON, D.C. OCTOBER 22, 2003
ADMIRAL THOMAS H. MOORER, UNITED STATES NAVY (RET.) Former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Liberty Alliance
GENERAL RAYMOND G. DAVIS, UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS (MOH)* Former Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Vice Chairman, Liberty Alliance
REAR ADMIRAL MERLIN STARING, UNITED STATES NAVY (RET.) Former Judge Advocate General of the Navy Director, Liberty Alliance
AMBASSADOR JAMES AKINS (RET.) Former United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Director, Liberty Alliance
We, the undersigned, having undertaken an independent investigation of Israel's attack on the USS Liberty, including eyewitness testimony from surviving crewmembers, a review of naval and other official records, an examination of official statements by the Israeli and American governments, a study of the conclusions of all previous official inquiries, and a consideration of important new evidence and recent statements from individuals having direct knowledge of the attack or the cover-up, hereby find the following: **
1. That on June 8, 1967, after eight hours of aerial surveillance, Israel launched a two-hour air and naval attack against the USS Liberty, the world's most sophisticated intelligence ship, inflicting 34 dead and 172 wounded American servicemen (a casualty rate of seventy percent, in a crew of 294);
2. That the Israeli air attack lasted approximately 25 minutes, during which time unmarked Israeli aircraft dropped napalm canisters on the Liberty's bridge, and fired 30mm cannons and rockets into our ship, causing 821 holes, more than 100 of which were rocket-size; survivors estimate 30 or more sorties were flown over the ship by a minimum of 12 attacking Israeli planes which were jamming all five American emergency radio channels;
3. That the torpedo boat attack involved not only the firing of torpedoes, but the machine-gunning of the Liberty's firefighters and stretcher-bearers as they struggled to save their ship and crew; the Israeli torpedo boats later returned to machine-gun at close range three of the Liberty's life rafts that had been lowered into the water by survivors to rescue the most seriously wounded;
4. That there is compelling evidence that Israel's attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew; evidence of such intent is supported by statements from Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Undersecretary of State George Ball, former CIA director Richard Helms, former NSA directors Lieutenant General William Odom, USA (Ret.), Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, USN (Ret.), and Marshal Carter; former NSA deputy directors Oliver Kirby and Major General John Morrison, USAF (Ret.); and former Ambassador Dwight Porter, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon in 1967;
5. That in attacking the USS Liberty, Israel committed acts of murder against American servicemen and an act of war against the United States;
6. That fearing conflict with Israel, the White House deliberately prevented the U.S. Navy from coming to the defense of the Liberty by recalling Sixth Fleet military rescue support while the ship was under attack; evidence of the recall of rescue aircraft is supported by statements of Captain Joe Tully, Commanding Officer of the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, and Rear Admiral Lawrence Geis, the Sixth Fleet carrier division commander, at the time of the attack; never before in American naval history has a rescue mission been cancelled when an American ship was under attack;
7. That although the Liberty was saved from almost certain destruction through the heroic efforts of the ship's Captain, William L. McGonagle (MOH), and his brave crew, surviving crewmembers were later threatened with "court-martial, imprisonment or worse" if they exposed the truth; and were abandoned by their own government;
8. That due to the influence of Israel's powerful supporters in the United States, the White House deliberately covered up the facts of this attack from the American people;
9. That due to continuing pressure by the pro-Israel lobby in the United States, this attack remains the only serious naval incident that has never been thoroughly investigated by Congress; to this day, no surviving crew member has been permitted to officially and publicly testify about the attack;
10. That there has been an official cover-up without precedent in American naval history; the existence of such a cover-up is now supported by statements of Rear Admiral Merlin Staring, USN (Ret.), former Judge Advocate General of the Navy; and Captain Ward Boston, USN, (Ret.), the chief counsel to the Navy's 1967 Court of Inquiry of the Liberty attack;
11. That the truth about Israel's attack and subsequent White House cover-up continues to be officially concealed from the American people to the present day and is a national disgrace;
12. That a danger to our national security exists whenever our elected officials are willing to subordinate American interests to those of any foreign nation, and specifically are unwilling to challenge Israel's interests when they conflict with American interests; this policy, evidenced by the failure to defend the USS Liberty and the subsequent official cover-up of the Israeli attack, endangers the safety of Americans and the security of the United States.
WHEREUPON, we, the undersigned, in order to fulfill our duty to the brave crew of the USS Liberty and to all Americans who are asked to serve in our Armed Forces, hereby call upon the Department of the Navy, the Congress of the United States and the American people to immediately take the following actions:
FIRST: That a new Court of Inquiry be convened by the Department of the Navy, operating with Congressional oversight, to take public testimony from surviving crewmembers; and to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the attack on the USS Liberty, with full cooperation from the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the military intelligence services, and to determine Israel's possible motive in launching said attack on a U.S. naval vessel;
SECOND: That every appropriate committee of the Congress of the United States investigate the actions of the White House and Defense Department that prevented the rescue of the USS Liberty, thereafter threatened her surviving officers and men if they exposed the truth, and covered up the true circumstances of the attack from the American people; and
THIRD: That the eighth day of June of every year be proclaimed to be hereafter known as USS LIBERTY REMEMBRANCE DAY, in order to commemorate the Liberty's heroic crew; and to educate the American people of the danger to our national security inherent in any passionate attachment of our elected officials for any foreign nation.
We, the undersigned, hereby affix our hands and seals, this 22nd day of October, 2003.
Thomas H. Moorer
Former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Chairman, Liberty Alliance
General of Marines Raymond G. Davis, USMC, MOH* Vice Chairman, Liberty Alliance
Merlin Staring Rear Admiral Merlin Staring, USN, Ret., Former Judge Advocate General of the Navy, Director, Liberty Alliance
James Akins Ambassador James Akins, Ret., Former United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Director, Liberty Alliance
*IN MEMORIAM: General of Marines Raymond G. Davis, one of America's most decorated military heroes (including the Congressional Medal of Honor), Vice Chairman of the Liberty Alliance, and one of the principal members of this Independent Commission of Inquiry, passed away in Conyers, Georgia, on September 3, 2003.
**  Captain Ward Boston, USN, JAGC, Ret, the chief Navy attorney for the 1967 U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry into the Israeli attack, has recently come forward to repudiate the Court's conclusion that the attack was "a case of mistaken identity". Captain Boston has revealed that all available evidence, in fact, pointed in exactly the opposite direction - that it was a deliberate attack on a clearly identified American ship. In his affidavit dated October 9, 2003, Captain Boston states, "Admiral 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." [See Exhibit attached]. Captain Boston stated that he has personal knowledge that Admiral Kidd found the attack to be "a case of mistaken identity" in 1967 only because he was under direct orders to do so by Defense Secretary McNamara and President Johnson.
 Lieutenant Commander David E. Lewis, the Liberty's chief intelligence officer (who was severely wounded in the attack) has reported a conversation with Admiral Lawrence R. Geis, the Sixth Fleet carrier division commander, who visited Lewis after he had been medically evacuated by helicopter to the aircraft carrier USS America. According to Lewis, "He (Admiral Geis) said that he wanted somebody to know that we weren't forgotten.attempts HAD been made to come to our assistance. He said that he had launched a flight of aircraft to come to our assistance, and he had then called Washington. Secretary McNamara came on the line and ordered the recall of the aircraft, which he did. Concurrently he said that since he suspected that they were afraid that there might have been nuclear weapons on board, he reconfigured another flight of aircraft - strictly conventional weaponry - and re-launched it. After the second launch, he again called Washington to let them know what was going on. Again, Secretary McNamara ordered the aircraft recalled. Not understanding why, he requested confirmation of the order; and the next higher in command came on to confirm that.President Johnson...with the instructions that the aircraft were to be returned, that he would not have his allies embarrassed, he didn't care who was killed or what was done to the ship.words to that effect. With that, Admiral Geis swore me to secrecy for his lifetime. I had been silent up until I found out from Admiral Moorer that Admiral Geis had passed away" [transcript from NBC's Liberty Story, aired on national television 1/27/92]. This statement by Commander Lewis has recently been corroborated by Tony Hart, a Navy communications technician stationed at the U.S. Navy Base in Morocco in June, 1967. Mr. Hart connected the telephone conversation between Secretary McNamara and Admiral Geis and stayed on the line to keep them connected. Hart has been recorded as saying that he overheard Admiral Geis refusing McNamara's order to recall the Sixth Fleet rescue aircraft while the ship was under attack. Mr. Hart reported that McNamara responded,"we are not going to war over a bunch of dead sailors."
 New evidence of intercepted radio communications between attacking Israeli pilots and the Israeli War Room, recorded by a U.S. Navy EC-121 spy plane, in which the Israeli pilots report seeing the Liberty's American flag flying, has been collected by investigative author James Bamford - for 9 years the Washington Investigative Producer for ABC's World News Tonight with Peter Jennings (and author of Body of Secrets, which includes a chapter entitled Blood about the attack on the Liberty). A similar radio message was intercepted by the EC-121 from the Israeli motor torpedo boats. This corroborates statements by surviving crew members, by Ambassador Dwight Porter, and by senior National Security Agency officials concerning NSA intercepts of Israeli pilot communications identifying the ship as American.
Statement by Capt. Ward Boston, Senior Legal Counsel to the Naval Court of Inquiry on the USS Liberty attack
I, Ward Boston, Jr. do declare that the following statement is true and complete:
For more than 30 years, I have remained silent on the topic of USS Liberty. I am a military man and when orders come in from the Secretary of Defense and President of the United States, I follow them.
However, recent attempts to rewrite history compel me to share the truth.
In June of 1967, while serving as a Captain in the Judge Advocate General Corps, Department of the Navy, I was assigned as senior legal counsel for the Navy's Court of Inquiry into the brutal attack on USS Liberty, which had occurred on June 8th.
The late Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, president of the Court, and I were given only one week to gather evidence for the Navy's official investigation into the attack, despite the fact that we both had estimated that a proper Court of Inquiry into an attack of this magnitude would take at least six months to conduct.
Admiral John S. McCain, Jr., then Commander-in-chief, Naval Forces Europe (CINCUSNAVEUR), at his headquarters in London, had charged Admiral Kidd (in a letter dated June 10, 1967) to "inquire into all the pertinent facts and circumstances leading to and connected with the armed attack; damage resulting therefrom; and deaths of and injuries to Naval personnel."
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 Admiral 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. Each evening, after hearing testimony all day, we often spoke our private thoughts concerning what we had seen and heard. I recall Admiral Kidd repeatedly referring to the Israeli forces responsible for the attack as "murderous bastards." It was our shared belief, based on the documentary evidence and testimony we received first hand, that the Israeli attack was planned and deliberate, and could not possibly have been an accident.
I am certain that the Israeli pilots that undertook the attack, as well as their superiors, who had ordered the attack, were well aware that the ship was American.
I saw the flag, which had visibly identified the ship as American, riddled with bullet holes, and heard testimony that made it clear that the Israelis intended there be no survivors. 10. Not only did the Israelis attack the ship with napalm, gunfire, and missiles, Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunned three lifeboats that had been launched in an attempt by the crew to save the most seriously wounded - a war crime.
Admiral Kidd and I both felt it necessary to travel to Israel to interview the Israelis who took part in the attack. Admiral Kidd telephoned Admiral McCain to discuss making arrangements. Admiral Kidd later told me that Admiral McCain was adamant that we were not to travel to Israel or contact the Israelis concerning this matter.
Regrettably, we did not receive into evidence and the Court did not consider any of the more than sixty witness declarations from men who had been hospitalized and were unable to testify in person.
I am outraged at the efforts of the apologists for Israel in this country to claim that this attack was a case of "mistaken identity."
In particular, the recent publication of Jay Cristol's book, The Liberty Incident, twists the facts and misrepresents the views of those of us who investigated the attack.
It is Cristol's insidious attempt to whitewash the facts that has pushed me to speak out.
I know from personal conversations I had with Admiral Kidd that President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered him to conclude that the attack was a case of "mistaken identity" despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Admiral Kidd told me, after returning from Washington, D.C. that he had been ordered to sit down with two civilians from either the White House or the Defense Department, and rewrite portions of the court's findings.
Admiral Kidd also told me that he had been ordered to "put the lid" on everything having to do with the attack on USS Liberty. We were never to speak of it and we were to caution everyone else involved that they could never speak of it again.
I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of that statement as I know that the Court of Inquiry transcript that has been released to the public is not the same one that I certified and sent off to Washington.
I know this because it was necessary, due to the exigencies of time, to hand correct and initial a substantial number of pages. I have examined the released version of the transcript and I did not see any pages that bore my hand corrections and initials. Also, the original did not have any deliberately blank pages, as the released version does. Finally, the testimony of Lt. Painter concerning the deliberate machine gunning of the life rafts by the Israeli torpedo boat crews, which I distinctly recall being given at the Court of Inquiry and included in the original transcript, is now missing and has been excised.
Following the conclusion of the Court of Inquiry, Admiral Kidd and I remained in contact. Though we never spoke of the attack in public, we did discuss it between ourselves, on occasion. Every time we discussed the attack, Admiral Kidd was adamant that it was a deliberate, planned attack on an American ship.
In 1990, I received a telephone call from Jay Cristol, who wanted to interview me concerning the functioning of the Court of Inquiry. I told him that I would not speak to him on that subject and prepared to hang up the telephone. Cristol then began asking me about my personal background and other, non-Court of Inquiry related matters. I endeavored to answer these questions and politely extricate myself from the conversation. Cristol continued to return to the subject of the Court of Inquiry, which I refused to discuss with him. Finally, I suggested that he contact Admiral Kidd and ask him about the Court of Inquiry.
Shortly after my conversation with Cristol, I received a telephone call from Admiral Kidd, inquiring about Cristol and what he was up to. The Admiral spoke of Cristol in disparaging terms and even opined that "Cristol must be an Israeli agent." I don't know if he meant that literally or it was his way of expressing his disgust for Cristol's highly partisan, pro-Israeli approach to questions involving USS Liberty.
At no time did I ever hear Admiral Kidd speak of Cristol other than in highly disparaging terms. I find Cristol's claims of a "close friendship" with Admiral Kidd to be utterly incredible. I also find it impossible to believe the statements he attributes to Admiral Kidd, concerning the attack on USS Liberty.
Several years later, I received a letter from Cristol that contained what he purported to be his notes of our prior conversation. These "notes" were grossly incorrect and bore no resemblance in reality to that discussion. I find it hard to believe that these "notes" were the product of a mistake, rather than an attempt to deceive. I informed Cristol that I disagreed with his recollection of our conversation and that he was wrong. Cristol made several attempts to arrange for the two of us to meet in person and talk but I always found ways to avoid doing this. I did not wish to meet with Cristol as we had nothing in common and I did not trust him.
Contrary to the misinformation presented by Cristol and others, it is important for the American people to know that it is clear that Israel is responsible for deliberately attacking an American ship and murdering American sailors, whose bereaved shipmates have lived with this egregious conclusion for many years.
Dated: January 9, 2004 at Coronado, California. Ward Boston, Jr., Captain, JAGC, USN (Ret.) Senior Counsel to the USS Liberty Court of Inquiry
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