Larry Toenjes, 74, from Clear Lake Shores, Texas, is sailing his 39-foot sailboat, the s/v Liberty, to the coordinates of the June 8, 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty that killed 34 sailors and wounded another 173. 207 were killed or wounded out of the 294 on board the USS Liberty in the 90-minute attack by strafing attack planes and torpedoes. At the site, Toenjes will be holding a memorial service honoring those killed on the USS Liberty by the Israeli military.
Toenjes is a five-year Coast Guard veteran with a PhD in economics. He worked for years in the Bureau of Budget in the state government of Illinois and, upon moving to Texas in 1983, taught at the University of Texas in Austin and was a research professor at the University of Texas.
Toenjes and Joe and Sherrie Wagner, his two-person crew also from Texas, set sail from Texas in July. They have sailed over 7,000 miles and are currently in Malta. According to Joe Meadors, the President of the USS Liberty Veterans Association, Toenjes has Egyptian government permission to travel in Egyptian territorial waters to the site of the attack.
A Call for Congress to Listen to the Survivors of the Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty
Toenjes said: "I do not intend to go near Gaza. All I intend to do is exercise my right as an American citizen to proceed to a point in international waters where a grave injustice was perpetrated against US sailors and express my dismay that that injustice is being extended by the failure of Congress to have the 'courage' to listen to what these men have to say. Members of Congress never seem to miss an opportunity to say to a service man or woman, 'We thank you for your service!' It seems, however, that their service is not to be acknowledged if it would have the effect of embarrassing the State of Israel and the pro-Israel Lobby here in the US."
Meadors said Toenjes told him he is considering mooring at the coordinates of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty for a few weeks. Toenjes will be staying well clear of the coordinates of the Israeli blockade of Gaza as published in the Israeli Notices to Mariners, but Meadors said contact with the Naval Attache''s office in the US Embassy, Tel Aviv had not produced written assurances from the Israeli government that Toenjes will not be harassed or attacked by the Israeli military, even though Toenjes will be in Egyptian waters.
US Embassy Refuses to Send a Delegation to the Ceremony
Meadors has been assisting Toenjes in getting the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to be concerned about the safety of Toenjes. He said the US Embassy in Tel Aviv has been invited to attend the ceremony but that representatives have refused to send an official delegation to rendezvous with the s/v Liberty and attend the memorial service because "they cannot find a single vessel in all of Israel that is capable of making the trip."
Meadors added, "You know as well as we do that the last thing the US government wants to do is to send an official to attend a memorial service honoring the 34 of our shipmates who were killed in action during the attack on the USS Liberty (because of the U.S. Government cover-up of the Israeli attack). We want the Naval Attache' to convey to American Embassy officials in Israel that their refusal to attend the memorial service for Americans who were killed on the USS Liberty is unacceptable and not in keeping with the way America treats its honored dead."
Meadors said that he also has invited the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to send an official representative to attend the memorial service.
Letter of Concern for Toenjes' Safety from President of the USS Liberty Veterans
On August 10, 2011, Meadors wrote an extensive letter to Assistant Naval Attache' Lieutenant Commander Jason K. Edgington at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel giving details of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty 44 years ago and his concern for the safety of Larry Toenjes.
Given our history with the US Navy, the US government and the Israeli government I'm sure you will understand when I tell you that your reassurances do nothing to quell our concerns for Larry's safety and the sanctity of the memorial service for our fallen shipmates.
If you will recall your US Navy history you will remember that our skipper, Capt. McGonagle, recognized the potential danger involved in working at the station to which we were sailing. He asked the Sixth Fleet for a destroyer escort but that request was denied because we were "a clearly identified US Navy ship."