Site of the Attack--12 Miles off the Egyptian Coast
September 8, 2011
We are here to commemorate the lives of those who died at this spot on June 8, 1967 in an attack by Israeli air and naval forces. As backdrop, the following over-view of the event, taken from the back cover of Jim Ennes' book Assault on the Liberty, is presented:
"In June 1967, jet aircraft and motor torpedo boats of Israel brutally assaulted an American naval vessel, the USS Liberty, in international waters off the Sinai Peninsula in the Mediterranean Sea. The attack was preceded by more than six hours of intense low-level surveillance by Israeli photo-reconnaissance aircraft, which buzzed the intelligence ship thirteen times, sometimes flying as low as 200 feet directly overhead. The carefully orchestrated assault that followed was initiated by high-performance jet aircraft, was followed up by slower and more maneuverable jets carrying napalm, and was finally turned over to lethal torpedo boats, which blasted a forty-foot hole in the ship's side.
The attack lasted more than two hours--killing 34 Americans and wounding 174 others--and inflicted 821 rocket and machine-gun holes in the ship. And when the Liberty stubbornly remained afloat despite her damage, Israeli forces machine-gunned her life rafts and sent troop-carrying helicopters in to finish the job. At this point, with Sixth Fleet rescue aircraft finally en route, the government of Israel apologized and the attacking forces suddenly withdrew. Only then did the identity of the assailants become known.
Details of the attack were hushed up in both countries. Israel claimed that her forces mistook the liberty for an Egyptian ship, and our government quietly accepted that excuse despite evidence to the contrary. Then our government downplayed the intensity of the surveillance and the severity of the attack, and imposed a news blackout to keep the story under control. The official version is that the Liberty was reconnoitered only three times and then only from great distance. The American people were told that the air attack lasted only five minutes and that it was followed by a single torpedo and an immediate apology and offer of assistance."
(Taken from the back cover of Assault on the Liberty, James M. Ennes, Jr., Reintree Press--third edition 2007)
The following Americans were killed or mortally wounded during that attack:
John Smith, Jr.
Comments by Larry Toenjes, skipper, sailing vessel Liberty:
I did not personally know the 34 men who died aboard the US Liberty in 1967. I don't even remember hearing about the attack on the Liberty at the time it happened. It was lost in the dramatic news of Israel's stunning victories in the 6-day war. But just as the consequences of that war are still being felt, so, too, are the consequences of the Israeli's air and sea attack on the Liberty.
It may never be determined exactly why Israeli fighter jets and torpedo boats attacked the Liberty. If it were indeed a tragic case of mistaken identity, as the Israeli government has always claimed, it would nevertheless have been an embarrassment to that nation. If it were a deliberate attack on an identified U.S. ship, as survivors and high US officials maintain, it would also have been an embarrassment because the courageous men of the USS Liberty refused to let their ship sink. It remained afloat, stark testimony to the brutal attack that had occurred.
Therefore, no matter the cause, the incident was an embarrassment to Israel and showed it to be, at minimum, an unreliable ally. For US domestic political reasons, the President of the United States, his administration, and subsequently Congress did everything possible to hush it up, indeed to cover it up. There may be legitimate debate about the reason for the attack, but there is no debate about the cover-up that followed.
The cover-up had enormous consequences. For the men who survived the attack, the cover-up signaled to them that their government did not value them. It told them that their own observations made during the Israeli attack on their ship were irrelevant, that the truth of the matter was less important than the next presidential and congressional elections.
For the Israelis, the cover-up sent the message that they could act in any way they pleased and the US would support them. All they had to do was to continue to intimidate US presidents and members of congress by threatening retaliation, by pulling support in their next elections, or by supporting their opponents. Such tactics have been applied numerous times in recent US history. Some of the finest members of Congress and the US Senate have been victims of this political treachery by the pro-Israeli Lobby and its network of Political Action Committees. I have in mind Congressman Paul Findley of Illinois and Senator J. William Fullbright of Arkansas. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia also supported the cause of the victims of the USS Liberty, and paid the price.