In a July 6, 1967 NYT Article, an Israeli Claims to Have Been on One of the Torpedo Boats That Attacked the USS Liberty [Annotated]

His ignorance of the specifics of the attack raises doubts he was there. I’ve heard of wannabes but this is the first I’ve heard of a War Criminal wannabe.

The following article was written for The Associated Press by Micha Limor, described as an Israeli naval reservist who was serving on one of the torpedo boats that attacked the United States communications ship Liberty off the Sinai coast on June 8.

July 7, 1967 New York Times Article Submitted by Israeli Claiming to be Aboard One of the Israeli Torpedo Boats

Other accounts describe Limor as an Israeli journalist. Whatever Limor is, he does not appear to have been a witness to the attack as he claims.

Given the article was published on July 7, 1967—less than one month after the attack—Israel partisans cannot claim the passage of time has clouded his memory.

And oh what a memory he has.

He describes circling the ship several times before firing torpedoes, but fails to mention that his torpedo boats approached to within a stone’s throw of the ship then pulled away and continued their attack.

He also omits the fact that his torpedo boats slowly circled the torpedoed and burning ship while firing on USS Liberty crewmen trapped topside and stretcher bearers who ventured topside to help our wounded shipmates.

Limor tells us that the ship flew no flag. Not so. An oversize American flag flew throughout the attack. The torpedomen examined that flag from less than 50 feet away, then continued firing from close range on anything that moved.

Limor tells us that the boatmen offered help. He does not mention that the offer came more than two hours after after the torpedo explosion.

TEL AVIV, July 6—The torpedoes were ready for firing when our three Israeli torpedo boats zeroed in on the gray ship moving slowly on a south-easterly course off El Arish.

At that tense moment, not one of us on those torpedo boats could have suspected that this was the beginning of an incident that was to cause a long international wrangle.1

On June 8, the sun was already high in the sky when we received notification of an unidentified vessel some 12 miles off El Arish suspected of being an enemy craft.2

Formations Taken Up

Within moments, the face of our torpedo boat changed. Sailors took their positions, engines were revved up, and in five minutes we were moving out in formation, torpedo boat after torpedo boat, toward the deep sea.

We spotted the objective once on the radar screen.3 She was moving on a steady course, southeast at about 10 knots. We sailed toward the objective at an increased speed, looking at her through binoculars in an effort to identify the vessel. Two of our planes flew over our heads a few minutes afterward. We saw them circle the ship several times, and then dive into the attack.4

They spat two rockets into the gray ship, and plumes of smoke rose from her. Then the two jets headed away toward the coast.5

About 2,000 yards from the ship, a strange spectacle met our eyes. The high masts and the many weird antennae showed that this was a warship. The side of the vessel was blotted out by smoke, and apart from three numbers along her side, which meant nothing to us, we could not discern a thing.6

`We could see no flag on the mast, nor was anyone to be seen on the decks and bridge.7

[The United States Navy, investigating the incident, reported the Liberty was flying the American flag when the planes attacked. It conceded, however, that the resulting smoke might have obscured the view of the attacking torpedo boats. NYT]8

No Answer Received

We spent several minutes trying to contact the ship and demanding identification. We tried by radio and by heliograph, in accordance with internationally accepted means. But she gave no answer.9 It also seemed that she had managed to control the fires and continued on a stable course.

It was decided to pass by her in battle formation and demand identification by firing across her bow. So we moved past at a tremendous speed, firing across the empty bridge and the bow.10

Suddenly, a sailor appeared in view and started firing at us with a heavy machine gun from the bridge. We took the challenge and directed cannon fire against him. A moment later, he fell together with the machine gun.11

Thus, there was no doubt that we were faced by the enemy. The prolonged refusal to identify herself, the absence of any flag, the shooting at us and, above all, the weird contraptions on the ship left us without doubt.

We wanted to make the ship surrender without sinking her. Once again, we circled the vessel in battle formation, firing again and again. This had no effect. No one appeared. No one reacted. The shells caused little damage to the hull, and the ship proceeded on her way.12

You could almost hear the men’s teeth grinding aboard our boat. Nothing can annoy a torpedo boat crew more than being completely ignored. The order was given to prepare for a torpedo attack.

We drew up along the left side13 of the ship and advanced at full battle speed. Just as in dozens of training exercises, we reached the right angle and range—and let go. We thought only a miracle would save the ship. One of the torpedos hit amidships. There followed an enormous explosion and a huge water spout.

And then fires broke out, and the ship leaned sideways as if about to sink. We watched for survivors, as is customary, whether friend or enemy. But no one appeared on deck.

First Identification

Suddenly, something fell into the sea. One of our boats approached and, picking it up from the waters, found it to be a rubber lifeboat with the lettering “U.S. Navy.”14

That was the very first sign of identification.

A moment later there arrived on the scene the helicopter that was to have picked up prisoners.15 He hovered over the ship and then signaled us:

“They are raising the American flag.”

It was crystal clear we had hit friends.

Dozens of shells, rockets and torpedoes were needed to drag a sign of identity from them, said one of my seamen who, like the rest of his mates, was bitterly upset at this turn of events.

He was right. The showing of the Stars and Stripes at the first stage would have prevented all that happened subsequently.

Help Offered

We received orders directly from the officer commanding the navy to give all necessary help. So we approached the Liberty and offered help through a loudspeaker.

Then an officer appeared for the first time on the bridge and screamed, “Go to hell!”

Learning they did not need aid, we left. And the Liberty returned to her regular operations. It seemed any other ship would have sunk.

It was only later that we learned how many casualties had been caused by our torpedoes.
END

close

Keep Up to Date on Our Effort to Honor Our Fallen Shipmates and Ensure the US Government Finally Investigates the Attack on Our Ship

Footnotes
1

There are two reasons why the attack on our ship has become the “international wrangle” Mr. Limor claims it to be:

  1. The US government has never investigated the attack, and
  2. The Israeli government is incapable of divining a version of the attack that agrees with Israeli participants (I.e., Mr Limor) and with USS Liberty survivors’ accounts.

He and his ilk create the situation then bemoan the existence of the situation they created and are perpetuating.

2

Depending on which Israeli version you choose to believe, the torpedo boats were either dispatched from Ashdod or after the IDF realized the torpedo boats couldn't make it to the Liberty from Ashdod in the time available they changed their version to claim the torpedo boats were already at sea.

The Israelis are fortunate in that while they have many versions of the attack on our ship the US government doesn't have any.

3

Limor needs to spend a bit more time getting up to speed on what the IDF claims he did—if he was, in fact, there.

The IDF claims he plotted us going 30 knots and then plotted us again. This time he had us going 28 knots. We were actually going 5 knots.

4

No you didn’t.

I was on the Signal Bridge watching the aircraft as they arrived. Many of my shipmates were there as well.

No circling of the ship on an identification run prior to the attack.

They began their attack as soon as they arrived.

The sight of an attacking jet bearing straight at me with its nose and wings belching fire is something I will never forget—and believe me I’ve tried.

5

That just reinforces the claim that you weren’t there at all. Probably someone the IDF dragged off the street.

There were two flights of aircraft in a well coordinated attack.

The first, high speed Mirages, targeted our defensive and communications capabilities.

The second flight consisted of slower Mysteres that attacked with napalm bombs in an effort to drive us below decks in an obvious effort to ensure nobody would be topside when the torpedo boats arrived with their deadly cargo of six torpedoes—one of which was fired from only 1,000 yards away.

6 And yet, Commanding Officers on two of the torpedo boats independently identified the ship as the el Quseir—a 40-year-old, black hulled, rusted out Egyptian tramp steamer that bore no resemblance to the USS Liberty.
7

Poppycock! Frank Brown and I raised Holiday Colors, our largest flag, on Number 4 Port halyard well before the torpedo attack.

I watched from the port wing of the Pilot House as one of the torpedo boats sailed very slowly up our Port side when their personnel motioned toward the flag that was flying proudly in a stiff wind directly above my head.

We were sailing directly into the 7 knot wind somewhere in the area of 18-20 knots which meant our flag was held out stiffly and clearly visible—especially from less than 100 feet as the torpedo boat was.

8 I suspect that claim is based on the US Navy Court of Inquiry Report. That is the same report that according to the Court’s Legal Advisor, LBJ had ordered the Court to find that the attack was a case of “mistaken identity.”
9

A heliograph? On a torpedo boat? Are you serious?

I was on the port side of the Signal Bridge frantically waving my semaphore flags in an attempt to signal the torpedo boats. Each burst of gunfire from the torpedo boats found me on my stomach half way across the Signal Bridge.

When I figured out that the semaphore flags were not doing the trick, I switched to flashing light. The 48 inch carbon arc light with the iris opened up to its fullest would have gotten their attention but would have blinded them at this distance. Since it was destroyed in the air attack I was reduced to using the 12 inch incandescent flashing light to send a series of Alphas which is our offer to identify ourselves.

All if this was unnecessary since we were a freshly painted US Navy ship displaying standard US Navy markings with an enormous American Flag flying from our number 4 port halyard. Despite this, the torpedo boats admit to firing at least one of their torpedoes at a distance of only 1,000 yards at a ship they identified as a 40-year-old, rusted out, Egyptian tramp steamer that bore no resemblance to the USS Liberty.

It would have been obvious even to an inexperienced lookout that we weren’t an Egyptian tramp steamer.

10 Redundant to be sure, but this pass would have been made at very close range from the USS Liberty. Despite this, according to the IDF account, two torpedo boat commanders independently identified the ship as the el Quseir.
11 That simply didn’t happen. Dale Larkins fired one round from Mount 51 on the starboard side of the bow before his gun jammed. Not from the bridge. No more rounds came from the USS Liberty.
12 That “firing again and again” was from very close range at USS Liberty crewmen trapped topside and stretcher bearers who ventured topside to help our wounded shipmates.
13

Left Side? Their torpedo runs were made from the Right Side!

This is more evidence that Limor wasn’t on one of the Torpedo Boats.

14

USS Liberty Survivors Lloyd Painter and Glenn Oliphant witnessed the deliberate machine gunning of life rafts we had dropped over the side in anticipation of abandoning ship. Those life rafts had been dropped over the side and had floated behind the ship. Torpedo boats had approached the life rafts and deliberately destroyed them with machine gun fire.

Lloyd Painter testified about this during his appearance before the US Navy Court of Inquiry. His testimony regarding what he witnessed has been removed from the record.

Glenn Oliphant was not called to testify before the Court.

Lloyd Painter’s Sworn Affidavit:

https://usslibertyveterans.org/files/Lloyd%20Painter%20Affidavit.pdf

Glenn Oliphant’s Sworn Affidavit:

https://usslibertyveterans.org/files/GlennOliphant.pdf

15 I was standing on the port wing of the bridge as a helicopter suddenly appeared and hovered very close to me. I was standing directly under the very large American flag that had been flying throughout the torpedo attack. That helicopter was manned by armed battle troops whose obvious purpose was not to render aid to the ship.
%d bloggers like this: