The Spy Ship Left Out in the Cold

Injured Liberty crew members are escorted to a memorial service on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS America (CVA-66) on 10 June 1967. The attack on the Liberty, an incident that remains a contentious topic to this day, killed 34 Americans and wounded another 171.

The Spy Ship Left Out in the Cold

A half-century after one of history’s most controversial attacks on a U.S. Navy ship, the wounds from the Liberty incident remain unhealed.

by James M. Scott

June 2017

Naval History Magazine

Volume 31, Number 3

The 8th of June this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the attack on the USS Liberty (AGTR-5), a spy ship the Israelis repeatedly strafed, napalmed, and torpedoed during a ferocious hour-long assault that The Washington Post later described as “one of the most bloody and bizarre peacetime encounters in U.S. naval history.”((Michael E. Ruane, “An Ambushed Crew Salutes Its Captain,” The Washington Post, 10 April 1999.))

In the five decades since that tragic afternoon on which 34 Americans were killed and another 171 wounded, the Liberty has become an albatross.

The long-standing pleas of surviving crew members—convinced Israel intentionally targeted the ship—for a congressional investigation have fallen on deaf ears. Lawmakers never have—nor likely ever will—pick up a cause that even a half-century later remains so politically fraught that midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy were barred from even asking questions about it during a 2012 visit by the Israeli ambassador.((Thomas E. Ricks, “Was There Academic Freedom at Annapolis During the Israeli Ambassador’s Visit?” Foreign Policy, 23 January, 2012.))

But the story of the unprovoked attack on a U.S. ship in international waters still ignites passions, not only among the survivors, whose numbers are dwindling, but also among authors, filmmakers, and the legions of online sleuths whose zealousness has prompted Wikipedia to lock down the editing page on the assault.

All this comes at a time when declassified documents in the United States and Israel, coupled with interviews of those involved, help illustrate what a sordid affair the Liberty was for both nations. Records show, for example, that U.S. leaders, anxious to protect Israel from the public-relations fallout, went so far as to contemplate sinking the ship at sea to prevent reporters from photographing the damage. Israeli diplomats meanwhile manipulated the media to downplay or kill stories about the attack and even silenced an angry President Lyndon Johnson by threatening to publicly accuse him of “blood libel” or anti-Semitism.

Senior naval officers, following the lead of U.S. politicians, refused to thoroughly investigate the attack. “The Navy was ordered to hush this up, say nothing, allow the sailors to say nothing,” said Rear Admiral Thomas Brooks, a former Director of Naval Intelligence. “The Navy rolled over and played dead.”((Thomas Brooks, interview with author, 21 February 2007.))

None of this was known by the public at the time, a fact some senior leaders later regretted, recognizing that the lack of accountability served as the catalyst for the controversy that still haunts the Liberty decades after metal cutters reduced her to scrap in a Baltimore shipyard. “We failed to let it all come out publicly at the time,” recalled Lucius Battle, who served as the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs. “We ignored it for all practical purposes, and we shouldn’t have.”((Lucius Battle, interview outtake, documentary Dead in the Water, Christopher Mitchell, director, Source Films for BBC, 2002.))

From Calm to Inferno

The Liberty was part of a secret program run by the U.S. Navy and the National Security Agency (NSA) in which the United States dispatched cargo ships outfitted as mobile listening platforms to eavesdrop on the world’s hot spots—places such as Cuba, North Korea, and the Middle East. Though the Liberty officially was classified as a technical research ship, her 45 towering antennas used to soak up communications of foreign nations made it obvious to any trained observer that she was a spy ship.

The vessel was armed with only four .50-caliber machine guns to repel boarders; her principal defense rested on the idea that no nation would dare attack a U.S.-flagged vessel in international waters. That flawed logic was exposed, not only with the attack on the Liberty, but also with North Korea’s seizure just seven months later of the spy ship Pueblo (AGER-2). The Liberty’s principal operating area was West Africa, but in late May 1967, as tensions mounted between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the ship received orders to depart immediately for the eastern Mediterranean to monitor what we now know as the Six-Day War.

At 0515 on 8 June—soon after the Liberty arrived off the coast of the Sinai Peninsula—the first Israeli reconnaissance plane circled the ship several times. That initial recon flight on the morning of the war’s fourth day began a steady pattern of observation that continued for hours. A State Department report later determined that recon planes buzzed the Liberty as many as eight times over a nine-hour period. Some planes flew so low that crewmen on deck could see the pilots. Sailors took confidence in the fact that the Liberty steamed in international waters and was clearly marked with freshly painted hull numbers on her bow and her name stenciled across the stern. Visibility was excellent. The U.S. flag fluttered from the mast.

But that calm was shattered at 1358 when Israeli fighters suddenly strafed the Liberty from bow to stern with rockets and cannon fire. Fighters crisscrossed the spy ship nearly every minute, targeting the machine-gun tubs, antennas, and the bridge. The aircraft also blasted the sides of the ship in an effort disable the engine room. Liberty radiomen, desperate to alert the 6th Fleet approximately 500 miles west near Crete, found their communications jammed. A second wave of fighter-bombers dropped napalm, turning the Liberty’s decks into a 3,000-degree inferno.

Three torpedo boats attacked at 1431, strafing the ship with cannon fire and .50-caliber machine guns firing armor-piercing rounds. In a cruel twist of fate, investigators later determined that some of the munitions were U.S.-made. At 1435, a torpedo hit the starboard side of the ship, killing more than two dozen men. The Liberty rolled nine degrees as water flooded her lower compartments. Generators shut down, power went out, and the steering failed as the ship became dead in the water. The torpedo boats then continued to strafe the ship. Armor-piercing bullets zinged through bulkheads, shattered coffee mugs, and lodged in navigation books. Others shredded several life rafts Liberty sailors had dropped in the water.

The brutal assault left 34 men dead and 171 wounded—two out of every three men on board were either killed or injured. In addition to the torpedo hole, which measured 24 feet tall by 39 feet wide, naval investigators later counted 821 shell holes, a figure that did not include machine-gun rounds and shrapnel holes, which were deemed simply “innumerable.” The 67-minute attack would prove to be the bloodiest assault on a U.S. ship since World War II, one best described by Patrick O’Malley, a Liberty ensign at the time. “There wasn’t any place that was safe,” he recalled. “If it was your day to get hit, you were going to get hit.”((Patrick O’Malley, interview with author, 26 November 2007.))

Accident? ‘Inconceivable’

Back in Washington, President Johnson and his advisers gathered in the Situation Room the morning of the attack. While relieved neither Egypt nor the Soviets were responsible, Johnson and his team realized that an attack by Israel—an ally with a loyal domestic following—raised a host of other complicated political issues for the administration. At the time, the United States was bogged down by the Vietnam War, where 26 men died each day in 1967. In May, that number spiked to 38 men a day. Johnson’s approval numbers simultaneously were plummeting from 61 percent in March 1966 to just 39 percent in August 1967. It all came down to Vietnam.

Complicating matters, American Jews—a powerful and important constituency for Johnson, who was facing reelection in 1968—were at the forefront of the antiwar movement. Adding to his frustration was the fact that he had done more than any prior President to improve U.S.-Israeli relations. “If Viet Nam persists,” one memo warned him, “a special effort to hold the Jewish vote will be necessary.”((“1968—American Jewry and Israel,” undated, Box 141, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Lyndon B. Johnson Library, Austin, TX (hereafter LBJL).))

The Liberty—riddled with cannon blasts, her decks soaked in blood, her starboard side ripped open by a torpedo—evolved in a matter of hours from a top-secret intelligence asset to a domestic political liability. That was evident by one proposal. “Consideration was being given by some unnamed Washington authorities to sink the Liberty in order that newspaper men would be unable to photograph her and thus inflame public opinion against the Israelis,” NSA Deputy Director Louis Tordella wrote in memo for the record. “I made an impolite comment about that idea.”((Louis W. Tordella, Memorandum for the Record, 8 June 1967, National Security Agency (hereafter NSA).))

The day after the attack, Johnson met with his Special Committee of the National Security Council. The Liberty discussion was heated, minutes show, as Johnson’s advisers spurned Israel’s claim that the attack was simply a tragic accident. Clark Clifford, head of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and one of Johnson’s most pro-Israel advisers, demanded the attackers be punished. “Inconceivable that it was an accident,” Clifford said. “Punish Israelis responsible.”((Meeting Minutes of the Special Committee of the National Security Council, 9 June 1967, Box 19, National Security File, National Security Council Histories, Middle East Crisis, LBJL.))

Clifford’s strong comments—echoed by others in the meeting, including the President—reflected just how upset many in Washington were over the attack, a hostility that was never shared with the American public.

To senior officials, the idea that the attack on the Liberty was friendly fire defied logic. Friendly fire accidents often happen at night or in bad weather. Furthermore, such accidents tend to be over in a matter of seconds, maybe minutes.

In contrast, the attack on the Liberty occurred on a clear, sunny afternoon in international waters. No other ships were in the area. The attack involved two branches of Israel’s vaunted military and raged for approximately an hour.

In the heat of battle, Liberty officers were able to identity the flag and hull number off a swift-moving torpedo boat, yet Israel claimed its own forces were unable to identify a lumbering cargo ship with towering hull numbers, her name on the stern and an American flag on the mast. To many, that seemed impossible. “I just don’t believe that it was an accident or trigger happy local commanders,” Secretary of State Dean Rusk later said. “There was just too much of a sustained effort to disable and sink the Liberty.”((Dean Rusk, undated oral history with Richard Geary Rusk and Thomas J. Schoenbaum, Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia.))

But it wasn’t just politicians who disputed Israel’s explanation. Senior intelligence leaders also were convinced the attack was no accident. “It couldn’t be anything else but deliberate,” concluded NSA Director Marshall Carter. “I don’t think there can be any doubt that the Israelis knew exactly what they were doing,” recalled CIA Director Richard Helms. “We were all quite convinced the Israelis knew what they were doing,” added Thomas Hughes, director of the State Department’s intelligence bureau.((Marshall S. Carter, oral history with Robert D. Farley, 3 October 1988, NSA. Richard Helms, oral history with Robert M. Hathaway, 8 November 1984, Central Intelligence Agency (hereafter CIA). Thomas Hughes, interview with author, 26 April 2007.))

Many senior Navy officers agreed. Vice Admiral Jerome King, senior aide to Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral David McDonald, challenged the claim of friendly fire. “It certainly was not mistaken identity,” he later said. “I don’t buy it. I never did. Nobody that I knew ever did either. It wasn’t as though it was at night or a rainy day or anything like that. There wasn’t any excuse for not knowing what that ship was. You could divine from just the apparatus on deck—all the antennae and so on—what its mission was.”((Jerome King Jr., interview with author, 6 February 2008.))

‘Wonderful. She’s Burning!’

So how did Israeli pilots fail to identify the Liberty? How, over multiple strafing runs and often at low altitudes, had no pilot noticed the spy ship’s unique markings, particularly considering Egyptian ships are marked in Arabic script, not Western letters?

Transcripts of Israeli communications, which have become available in recent years, show that the case is not as simple as the Israeli government wanted the United States to believe in 1967. Two minutes before the strafing began, an Israeli weapons system officer in general headquarters blurted out: “What is it? Americans?”((Transcripts of the attack come from Ahron Bregman, Israel’s Wars: A History Since 1947 (New York: Routledge, 2002), 88–90; and Arieh O’Sullivan, “Liberty Revisited: The Attack,” Jerusalem Post, 4 June 2004, 20.))

Despite the doubts raised about the ship’s identity, Israel’s chief air controller, Shmuel Kislev, neither halted the impending assault nor ordered pilots to inspect the ship for identifying markings or a flag as their fighters zeroed in on the Liberty.

“Great! Wonderful. She’s burning! She’s burning!” transcripts show one of the pilots exclaimed during the attack.

“Authorized to sink her?” one of the air controllers asked.

“You can sink her,” replied Kislev.

A pilot joked at one point during the strafing runs that hitting the defenseless ship was easier than shooting down MiGs. Another quipped that it would be a “mitzva”—a kind deed or blessing—to sink the Liberty before Israeli ships arrived.

“Is he screwing her?” Kislev asked at one point.

“He’s going down on her with napalm all the time,” replied another controller.

Shortly before the planes exhausted all their ammunition, Kislev finally asked the pilots to look for a flag. One of the pilots buzzed the ship moments later and spotted the Liberty’s hull number. He radioed it to ground control, albeit one letter off.

“What country?” asked one of the air controllers.

“Probably American,” Kislev replied.


“Probably American.”

“At that point in time, in my mind, it was an American ship,” Kislev later admitted. “I was sure it was an American ship.”((Attack on the Liberty, directed by Rex Bloomstein, Thames Television, 1987.))

Israel had conclusively identified the Liberty as much as 26 minutes before the fatal torpedo strike. According to Israeli documents, the pilot’s report was passed to the Israeli Navy, where the vice chief of naval operations dismissed it as camouflage writing to allow an Egyptian ship to enter the area. Israeli documents likewise show that at least two other Israeli naval officers suspected that before the torpedo attack, the target was none other than the Liberty. Neither intervened to halt the attack.

On board the Liberty at that time, far belowdecks, frantic sailors burned classified papers, bagged magnetic tapes, and destroyed key cards until word was passed to stand by for a torpedo attack. The men tucked their pants legs into their socks and buttoned up their shirts to protect against flash burns. Many prayed. One man, who did not want to see what was about to happen, took off his glasses and slipped them in his shirt pocket. At 1435, the torpedo struck and in a flash killed 25 men.

Media Spin Begins

Israeli Ambassador Avraham Harman wrote to his superiors in Jerusalem that he believed that several parties were guilty of negligence. Harman demanded that Israel prosecute the attackers. He even suggested that American journalists be invited to cover the trial. “In the severe situation created,” he cabled Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, “the only way to soften the results is if we could let the US Government know already today that we intend to prosecute people in connection with this disaster.”((Avraham Harman, telegram 305 to the Foreign Ministry, 19 June 1969, 4079/HZ-26, Israel State Archives (hereafter ISA).))

But Harman’s demands were soon overshadowed by the political tug-of-war that erupted between Israel and the United States. Secretary of State Rusk sent a stinging letter to Israel’s ambassador, describing the assault as “quite literally incomprehensible” and arguing that it represented “wanton disregard for human life.” Rusk demanded that Israel punish the attackers in accordance with international law.((Dean Rusk, letter to Avraham Harman, 10 June 1967, Box 107 (2 of 2), National Security File, Country File, Middle East, LBJL.))

Israeli diplomats feared the United States planned to use the attack as a political tool to dampen the U.S. public’s enthusiasm for Israel, dangerous ground for the Jewish state as it prepared to negotiate a peace deal that would involve controversial issues such as territorial gains and refugees. Israel decided to fight back, launching a political and media spin campaign. “Our informative process,” one cable stated, “must avoid confrontation with the United States Government, since it is clear that the American public, if faced with a direct argument, will accept its government’s version.”((Ephraim Evron, telegram 156 to the Foreign Ministry, 11 June 1967, 4079/HZ-26, ISA.))

Israeli diplomats tapped influential American Jews, many of whom were close friends with President Johnson, to help. Documents show that Eugene Rostow, who was third in command of the State Department, repeatedly shared privileged information about U.S. strategy with Israeli diplomats. Others who assisted Israel included Supreme Court justice Abe Fortas and Arthur Goldberg, who was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Many of these and others who helped the embassy are referred to by code names in Israeli documents. For example, Democratic fund-raiser Abe Feinberg is identified in Israeli records by the codename “Hamlet.”

Israeli diplomats likewise hammered the media to kill critical stories and slant others in favor of Israel. Diplomats hustled, for example, to derail a potential news story about pressure on New York Representative Otis Pike to launch a congressional investigation into the attack. “We have made sure that the journalistic source will refrain from writing about this for now,” cabled embassy spokesman Dan Patir.((Dan Patir, telegram 115 to the Foreign Ministry, 11 July 1967, 4079/HZ-26, ISA.))

The day after the attack, Johnson confided to a Newsweek reporter that he believed Israel deliberately attacked the Liberty to prevent her from spying. Israeli officials learned the details of Johnson’s interview within 24 hours and successfully pressured the magazine to water down its planned story. “The Newsweek editorial has made changes in the last proofreading of the news item compared with the original version that I was shown last night,” Patir cabled Jerusalem. “It toned down the version by adding a question mark to the heading, leaving out the words deliberate attack, and leaving out the commentary paragraph that said that the leak is intended to free American policy makers from the pressure of the pro-Israeli public opinion.”((Dan Patir, telegram 163 to the Foreign Ministry, 11 June 1967, 4079/HZ-26, ISA.))

Diplomats also needed to tone down President Johnson. To pressure the President, Israeli officials tapped Justice Fortas and Washington lawyer David Ginsburg to make Johnson “aware of the dangers facing him personally if the public learns that he was party to the distribution of the story that is on the verge of being blood libel.”((Ephraim Evron, telegram 156 to the Foreign Ministry, ISA.))

Fallout Prevention vs. Full Inquiry

Ultimately, Israeli diplomats succeeded in pressuring the administration. Johnson, whose focus largely was on Vietnam, looked for a compromise that would guarantee that American families were compensated but would not risk a clash with Israel’s domestic supporters. He ordered Nicholas Katzenbach, second-in-command at the State Department, to negotiate the deal: If Israel publicly apologized for the attack and paid reparations, the United States would let it go, no more questions asked.((Nicholas Katzenbach, interview with author, 19 April 2007.))

The administration’s decision not to dig into the Liberty incident was evident in the incredibly weak effort the Navy made to investigate the attack. “Shallow,” “cursory,” and “perfunctory” were words Liberty officers used to describe the court of inquiry, which spent only two days interviewing crew members in Malta for an investigation into an attack that had killed 34 men.((Author interviews with Lloyd Painter (13 April 2008), Mac Watson (23 April 2008), and John Scott (13 April 2008).)) The proceeding’s transcript shows just how shallow it truly was. The Liberty’s chief engineer was asked only 13 questions. A chief petty officer on deck during the assault and a good witness about the air attack was asked only 11 questions. Another officer was asked just 5 questions.

In evaluating the Liberty court of inquiry, it is worth comparing it to the court that examined North Korea’s capture of the Pueblo. The Liberty court lasted just eight days, interviewed only 14 crewmen, and produced a final transcript that was 158 pages. In contrast, the Pueblo court lasted almost four months, interviewed more than 100 witnesses, and produced a final transcript that was nearly 3,400 pages.

Captain Ward Boston, the lawyer for the Liberty court, broke his silence in 2002, stating that investigators were barred from traveling to Israel to interview the attackers, collect Israeli war logs, or review communications. Furthermore, he said Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara had ordered the court to endorse Israel’s claim that the attack was an accident, which Boston personally did not believe was the case. “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.”((Ward Boston Jr., affidavit, 8 January 2004, a copy of which Representative John Conyers of Michigan inserted into the Congressional Record, 11 October 2004.))

In Washington, Deputy Defense Secretary Cyrus Vance oversaw the Pentagon’s effort to condense the court’s full report into a declassified summary that could be released to the press. This, too, needed to support Israel’s version of events and not raise questions. The overt effort by Vance’s office to protect Israel from the potential public-relations fallout angered senior Navy officers. CNO McDonald, after reading the draft prepared for the public, fired off an angry handwritten memo about it. “I think that much of this is extraneous and it leaves me with the feeling that we’re trying our best to excuse the attackers,” McDonald wrote. “Were I a parent of one of the deceased this release would burn me up. I myself do not subscribe to it.”((David L. McDonald’s Comments/Recommended Changes on Liberty Press Release, 22 June 1967, Box 112, Immediate Office files of the CNO, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington Navy Yard.))

Likewise, Vance clashed with NSA Director Carter over the Liberty, ordering him to keep his “mouth shut,” a demand that infuriated senior intelligence officials, such as NSA Chief of Staff Gerard Burke. “There was absolutely no question in anybody’s mind that the Israelis had done it deliberately,” Burke later said. “I was angrier because of the cover-up—if that’s possible—than of the incident itself, because there was no doubt in my mind that they did it right from the outset. That was no mystery. The only mystery to me was why was the thing being covered up.”((Gerard Burke, interview with author, 4 October 2007.))

‘A Nice Whitewash’

U.S. leaders had hoped Israel would punish the attackers, as both Dean Rusk and Israeli Ambassador Harman had demanded. In August, however, U.S. officials learned that the Israeli judge tasked to examine the attack instead had exonerated everyone. The assault on the Liberty, which had raged for approximately an hour on a clear afternoon in international waters, was the most violent attack on a U.S. naval ship since World War II. Yet Israel’s investigating judge could find no evidence of wrongdoing, no negligence, no violation of military procedure.

U.S. officials slammed that decision. “A nice whitewash for a group of ignorant, stupid and inept XXX,” Tordella wrote in a handwritten memo, substituting the letter X for an expletive. “If the attackers had not been Hebrew there would have been quite a commotion.”((Louis W. Tordella, handwritten note, 26 August 1967, NSA.)) Tordella’s memo reflected the special treatment many in Washington recognized Israel received in the aftermath of the attack. The failure to reprimand anyone left lingering resentment among many, including Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Horacio Rivero, who was later asked for his most prominent memory of the Liberty: “My anger and frustration at our not punishing the attackers.”((Horacio Rivero Jr., Q&A with Joseph F. Bouchard, 10 March 1988.))

The administration’s effort to deemphasize the Liberty also spilled over into the presentation of awards in June 1968. Liberty skipper Commander William McGonagle was nominated for the Medal of Honor, an award customarily presented by the President at the White House. McGonagle would not be so lucky. The President’s senior military aide, James Cross, urged Johnson not to present McGonagle’s medal in person and to make sure the White House issued no press release. “Due to the nature and sensitivity of these awards, Defense and State officials recommend that both be returned to Defense for presentation, and that no press release regarding them be made by the White House.”((Jim Cross, memo to Lyndon Johnson, 15 May 1968, Box 17, White House Central Files, Medals-Awards, LBJL.))

In 1968, Israel paid $3.3 million to the families of the men killed. A year later, Israel paid $3.5 million to the men who were injured. Israel then balked at paying the $7.6 million for the loss of the ship, secretly offering at one point the token sum of $100,000. Negotiations dragged on until 1980, at which time the bill plus interest totaled more than $17 million. Under the threat of a congressional investigation, Israel struck a deal to pay $6 million in three annual installments. The United States accepted.

Even now, a half-century later, the attack on the Liberty and our government’s handling of the affair are still very much a painful part of many lives—including Chris Armstrong, the son of Liberty executive officer Philip Armstrong, who was killed that afternoon. Chris, who was three at the time, received $52,000 for the loss of his father. “It paid for my college education, but not much else,” he said. “I would give it all back and then some. My emotional scars are very deep from this incident.”((Chris Armstrong, email to author, 18 July 2009.))

James M. Scott is the author of Target Tokyo (W. W. Norton, 2015), which was a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist for history. He also is the author of The War Below (Simon & Shuster, 2013) and The Attack on the Liberty (Simon & Shuster, 2009), which was named one of 20 Notable Naval Books of 2009 by Proceedings and won the Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Excellence in Naval Literature. Scott’s father, John Scott, was a U.S. Navy ensign and damage control officer serving on board the Liberty during the attack. He received the Silver Star for his actions that day.

Sinking Liberty

Who will write the final chapter on Israel’s 1967 confrontation with the U.S. Navy?

By Philip Giraldi

The attack on the USS Liberty by Israeli warplanes and torpedo boats on June 8, 1967 has almost faded from memory, but new evidence suggests that the White House might actually have had prior knowledge that the ship would be struck by Israel’s armed forces. In the worst attack ever carried out on a U.S. Naval vessel in peacetime, 34 American sailors and civilian personnel were killed and 171 more wounded in the two hour assault, which was clearly intended to sink the intelligence-gathering vessel operating in international waters collecting information on the ongoing Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

The Israelis and their supporters in the United States have always claimed the attack was a tragic mistake while many of the surviving Liberty crew believe that it was anything but: They assert that the vessel was flying an oversized American flag and was clearly identifiable as a U.S. Navy vessel. The ship’s commanding officer, Captain William McGonagle, was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for his role in keeping the ship afloat, though President Lyndon Baines Johnson broke with tradition by refusing to hold the medal ceremony in the White House, or to award it personally, delegating that task to the Secretary of the Navy in an unpublicized presentation at the Washington Navy Yard.

The Liberty crew was sworn to secrecy over the incident and a hastily-convened court of inquiry headed by Admiral John McCain acted under orders from Washington to declare the attack a case of mistaken identity. The inquiry’s senior legal counsel Captain Ward Boston, who subsequently declared the attack to be a “deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew,” also described how “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.” The court’s findings were rewritten and sections relating to possible war crimes, such as the machine-gunning of life rafts, were excised. Following in his father’s footsteps, Senator John McCain of Arizona has used his position on the Senate Armed Services Committee to effectively block any reconvening of a board of inquiry to reexamine the evidence. Most of the documents relating to the Liberty incident have never been released to the public.

One of the more intriguing allegations surrounding the Liberty incident is the claim that a United States Navy submarine was in the area when the attack took place. A number of submarine crewmen have surfaced anonymously to say that they were on one of several subs reported to be in the area on intelligence-gathering missions. Some stated their belief that photos were taken of the attack itself, but, fearing reprisals from the government, none would go public with their claims.

More recently, a crewman on the USS Amberjack, a diesel-powered intelligence-gathering sub, has provided an account of his ship’s activities on that day in June to two Liberty survivors. The sailor, Larry Bryant, agreed to go on radio with survivors Phil Tourney and Ron Kukal to discuss his experiences but inexplicably got cold feet and broke off contact. However, several extended phone conversations had already provided some intriguing insights into what had taken place.

Several Liberty crewmen reported seeing a periscope during the attack and it has generally been assumed that it was Israeli, but according to Bryant, it was actually the USS Amberjack. The submarine was near enough to the incident to clearly hear throughout the ship the reverberations of every round fired into the Liberty’s hull. The sub’s crew knew that a U.S. Navy vessel was under attack, but the Amberjack was only lightly armed and in no position to intervene. The sub remained immobile between the Liberty and some of its attackers and  the sub’s crewmen feared that they themselves might be hit by the the Israeli warships’ torpedos.

As Larry Bryant was a crewman, he had no idea why the submarine was in that spot on that day, but he did note how the sub had raised its periscope and was observing the attack as it unfolded. More interestingly, the submarine had been equipped with a platform for the mounting of a video camera, which operated through the periscope and the Amberjack both filmed and photographed the entire incident. Some crewmen noted that the Liberty’s large American flag was clearly visible through the periscope during the attack, disputing the subsequent Israeli contention that the ship was not flying any flag.

The Amberjack’s Captain August Hubal, now retired and living in Virginia, has denied that his ship was anywhere near the Liberty on June 8th, but his account is contradicted by the ship’s log which confirms that it was indeed in the area. Hubal, who was described by Bryant as an obsessive, “by the rules” officer who would go to his stateroom and blow his brains out if so ordered, later warned his crew to forget about their role in the Liberty attack or face the consequences. The photos and videos of the incident made by the Amberjack were subsequently couriered to Washington by a ship’s officer, where they were turned over to the Pentagon.

Part of Hubal’s reluctance to discuss what he was doing on that day might be traced to the fact that his vessel was carrying out a clandestine operation in Egyptian waters as part of the Naval Security Group, which was affiliated with the codebreakers of the National Security Agency. Several civilians on the sub were performing the same tasks as their counterparts who were intercepting and decoding radio transmissions on board the Liberty. The Amberjack was equipped with a snorkel, which enabled it to sit on the bottom of the sea immobile and listen to electronic transmissions for long periods of time.

Confirmation that the Amberjack was in the area and that it had made a film and photo record of the attack suggest a number of lines for further inquiry. First and foremost has to be the issue of possible prior knowledge or even connivance by the White House in what was about to take place. Was it happenstance that the submarine was in the same location as the Liberty or was it by design? Was there any advance notice to Washington that an attack might take place? Could the USS Liberty have been an intended victim of a false flag simulated Egyptian attack, leading to American involvement on behalf of Israel in the fighting? Though that line of inquiry might appear implausible, the White House ordered the return of US warplanes sent to assist the Liberty, suggesting that Johnson knew who the attackers were in spite of the fact that the Israelis had covered over their aircraft markings in an apparent attempt to blame the Egyptians. One might also recall the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Was the video equipment part of the ship’s standard espionage gear or was it installed just prior to the Liberty attack? Was the filming of the attack done on an opportunity basis or was it planned? Was it possibly intended to provide evidence of Egyptian aggression, played for all its worth on the nightly news in America? Most importantly, where are the video and other photos today and why were they not produced at the board of inquiry or subsequently?

To those who object that Lyndon Baines Johnson would not have sunk so low as to allow an American warship to be attacked, it should be observed that LBJ’s refusal to allow air cover might mean that the situation was being managed to produce a “correct” outcome. One might also recall that Lyndon Johnson was possibly the most pro-Israel president in American history, tilting heavily towards the Jewish state on foreign policy issues starting with his time as a congressman all the way through his years in the White House. When he was president he declared a “strategic alliance” with Israel.

The Amberjack story, for all those who would like to see the Liberty saga end either in exonerating Israel or in proving its guilt, provides closure. The attack took place 44 years ago. Whatever classified information or sources and methods used by the intelligence community worth protecting then are surely well beyond their shelf life now. It is time to open the files fully. The activity of the Amberjack, including its classified logs and whatever film and photos it might have taken, should be made accessible, together with the testimony of surviving crewmen. And when that material is fully digested, there should be another court of inquiry to look in the matter finally and completely, incorporating the testimony of all the surviving Liberty crewmen, particularly those who were not heard the first time around because they were in hospital or were restrained by orders not to discuss the incident.

WikiLeaks has demonstrated that the United States has a secret government that operates with little in the way or transparency or restraint. Unfortunately, it has had that kind of government for a long time, and the fate of the USS Liberty could be a manifestation of how the White House might actually have colluded in the deaths of American servicemen and then engaged in a cover-up to conceal what it had done. It’s time to open the windows and introduce a breath of fresh air. Lyndon B. Johnson is gone and so is his Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, both of whom left the USS Liberty to its fate. But there are many survivors who are still looking for answers. It is time to provide what they need and give them peace.

Phil Giraldi is a former CIA Case Officer and Army Intelligence Officer who spent twenty years overseas in Europe and the Middle East working terrorism cases. He holds a BA with honors from the University of Chicago and an MA and PhD in Modern History from the University of London. In addition to TAC, where he has been a contributing editor for nine years, he writes regularly for He is currently Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest and resides with his wife of 32 years in Virginia horse country close to his daughters and grandchildren. He has begun talking far too much to his English bulldog Dudley of late, thinks of himself as a gourmet cook, and will not drink Chardonnay under any circumstances. He does not tweet, and avoids all social media.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)

ET3 Terry Halbardier Silver Star Citation

ET3 Terry Halbardier Silver Star Citation

Silver Star Medal (1) Awarded to a person who, while serving in any capacity with the Navy or Marine Corps, is cited for gallantry in action that does not warrant a Medal of Honor or Navy Cross. (a) While engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; (b) While engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or (c) While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. (2) The heroic act(s) performed must render the individual conspicuous and well above the standard expected. An accumulation of minor acts of heroism normally does not justify the award, but unusual or exceptional cases will be decided on their merits. Authorization 10 U.S.C. S6244

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Electronics Technician Third Class James Terry Halbardier, United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving on board the U.S.S. LIBERTY (AGTR-5), on 8 June 1967.
Terry Halbardier
Terry Halbardier
The U.S.S. LIBERTY was attacked by Israeli aircraft and motor torpedo boats in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea on the fourth day of the SIX DAY WAR. Petty Officer Halbardier, without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, fearlessly and repeatedly exposed himself to overwhelming rocket and machinegun fire to repair a damaged antenna in an open deck area during heavy aerial attacks. Aware that all of the ship’s transmitting antennas had been destroyed and that communication with higher authority depended upon antenna repair, Petty Officer Halbardier risked his life to run connecting coaxial cable across open decks from the antenna to the main transmitter room. His efforts allowed the ship to establish communications with distant elements of the SIXTH Fleet and call for assistance. Despite being wounded, Petty Officer Halbardier ignored his injuries until the antenna had been repaired and the call for help had been received and acknowledged. His courageous actions were critical in alerting distant Navy commanders to the ship’s need for assistance and were instrumental in saving the ship and hundreds of lives. Petty Officer Halbardier’s outstanding display of decisive leadership, unrelenting perseverance, and loyal devotion to duty reflected great credit upon him and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

RIP Lorna Beth Stopper

Lorna Beth Stopper
Lorna Beth Stopper-Sister of Duane Marggraf (KIA USS Liberty June 8, 1967
Dodgeville / Fond du Lac – Lorna Beth Stopper, age 78, of Dodgeville, formerly of Fond du Lac, passed away on Tuesday, July 13, 2021 at Upland Hills Nursing & Rehab Center in Dodgeville. She was born on September 30, 1942 in Fond du Lac, a daughter of the late Carlton and Esther (Scheibach) Marggraf. She graduated from Goodrich High School and then Waldorf College in Iowa with an Associate’s Degree in 1963. She then graduated from Marion College in Fond du Lac with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. Lorna lived and worked in San Francisco in the 1960s and moved back to Fond du Lac after her brother PO Duane Marggraf was killed while serving in the US Navy aboard the USS Liberty. On August 2, 1969, she married Edward Stopper at Immanuel Trinity Lutheran Church in Fond du Lac. He preceded her in death on October 27, 2003. Lorna spent a majority of her life as an educator with a passion for teaching. In her spare time, she enjoyed crossword puzzles, crocheting, bible studies and especially spending time with family and friends.
Duane Marggraf
Duane Marggraf-KIA USS Liberty June 8, 1967
Lorna is survived by her children Lisa (Dennis) Fenrick of Beloit and Eric (Beth) Stopper of Dodgeville; her grandchildren Benjamin and Genevieve Stopper; her sister Virginia “Ginny” Hoffman of Charleston, SC; nieces, nephews other relatives and friends. She was preceded in death by her husband, her parents, her brother and her brother-in-law Bill Hoffman. Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, July 19, 2021 at GRACE LUTHERAN CHURCH in Dodgeville. Rev. Mark Williamson will officiate. Friends may call from 10:00 a.m. until time of services on Monday at the church. Inurnment will be held at a later date at Estabrooks Cemetery in Fond du Lac. The family would like to thank the staff at Upland Hills Nursing & Rehab Center and Upland Hills Hospice for their loving care & service. Gorgen-McGinley & Ayers Funeral Home Dodgeville, WI

USS Liberty: NSA Is A Bit Quick To Turn Off The Recorders, Don’t You Think?

“We are accountable for our actions and take responsibility for our decisions, practicing wise stewardship of public resources and placing prudent judgment over expediency.”  One of NSA’s Core Values

by Joe Meadors

Can someone explain the actions of the NSA on June 8, 1967? They turned on their recorders for a few minutes then turned them off only to turn them back on for a few minutes and turn them off only to turn them on for a few minutes then turn them off. And nobody has asked why. Until now–to both issues. Why the intermittent recording of the actions of the Sixth Fleet on June 8, 1967? If the recording was not intermittent, why release only 51 minutes and why release recordings of helicopter pilots after the attack? They released recordings that appear to support our claim that our flag was flying and visible to the helicopters and the machine gunned life rafts were visible floating astern of the ship. If anyone alleges a coverup, why release tape excerpts that suggests the opposite?

Hypocrisy Thy Name Is Israel Partisan

Israel Partisans: Your Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds. It’s YOUR Fault The Attack on the USS Liberty is Still Available for Public Discussion. Not Ours! Take Responsibility For Your Actions. Stop Blaming Us.

by Joe Meadors

Our ship was attacked on June 8, 1967 — 19903 Days Ago! For every one of those 19903 days we have been waiting for the US government to investigate the attack.

We knew from the outset that there was a coverup in the making. Every day at morning quarters while in Malta Drydock we were told not to discuss the attack with anyone. If we did, we were told we would be severely punished.

We called their bluff and ignored the order. Not surprising (but I must admit disappointment) nobody has been punished. Some argue that since we ignored the order, the order was never issued.

We’ve been actively telling our story on Twitter @usslibertyvets only to be met by the most vitriolic personal attacks directed not only at me but at every USS Liberty survivor.

Not embarrassed to ask for help, if you are on Twitter, we’d appreciate your retweeting our Tweets and recommending your followers do the same. You can do that easily, automatically and for free at IFTTT.COM

We’ll continue telling the truth about the attack and continuing coverup. All we need is for you to help grow our audience.

If you do help us, the Tweets duplicated below are an example of what we have been confronted with.

The most powerful military in the Middle East allied with the President of the United States couldn’t overcome a lone, virtually unarmed, non-combatant US Navy ship. Israel partisans with the unlimited facilities of the Government of Israel and the US Congress don’t stand a chance against us.

Join with us now on Twitter and you’ll be able to share in our victory.



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The USS Liberty Document Archive Is Now Up and Running

The USS Liberty Document Archive Is Now Up and Running.

Lloyd Painter Affidavit
Lloyd Painter Affidavit

For over 50 years, anyone researching the USS Liberty attack and continuing cover-up of that attack was confronted with one question: Do I have all of the available documents needed to produce a complete, documented account of the attack?  With the creation of our USS Liberty archive, the answer is YES!

by Joe Meadors

After many restarts and much time learning the software, we have decided that the time is right to go live with our USS Liberty Documents Archive. The Archive is open to all at and includes all documents related to the June 8, 1967, Israeli attack on the USS Liberty.  What are we accepting to include in the archive?
  • Official government documents;
  • First-person accounts by the participants; and,
  • Research papers from published researchers;
As with all archives, we are constantly searching for relevant documents to include.  We are seeking:
  • A US government investigation of the attack on the USS Liberty.  This does NOT include documents third parties have deemed to be US government investigations of the attack but investigations the US government has provided and that it claims to be such an investigation; and,
  • First-person accounts by the Israelis who participated in any segment of the attack —  from planning to execution.
If anyone has a document for us to consider including in our archive, email that document to    

The Attack on the USS Liberty is NOT a “Conspiracy Theory”

The Attack on the USS Liberty is NOT a “Conspiracy Theory”

Far be it for me to present Wikipedia as a source authority.  I hope you forgive me this one transgression.

“A conspiracy theory is an explanation of an event or situation that invokes a conspiracy by sinister and powerful actors, often political in motivation, when other explanations are more probable.  The term has a pejorative connotation, implying that the appeal to a conspiracy is based on prejudice or insufficient evidence.  Conspiracy theories resist falsification and are reinforced by circular reasoning: both evidence against the conspiracy and an absence of evidence for it, are re-interpreted as evidence of its truth, and the conspiracy becomes a matter of faith rather than proof.”  [See Wikipedia]

by Joe Meadors

The only reason someone describes an event as a “conspiracy theory” is to cast aspersions on anyone who brings the subject up for discussion even if that person has undeniable proof of the accuracy of the event in question. The attack on the USS Liberty, the War Crimes committed by the forces attacking the USS Liberty, and the coverup of that attack by the US government is NOT a “conspiracy theory.” The attack happened. They committed war Crimes during that attack. The US government not only participated in those War Crimes but has actively covered them up for over 52 years.
Disgraced Retired Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw (R-TX2)
Disgraced Retired Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw (R-TX2)
The USS Liberty is back in the news again.  This time to be disparaged by Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX02), formerly a respected US Navy SEAL. This comes on the heels of the insults heaped upon USS Liberty survivors and those who ask about the USS Liberty by Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA. I have reached out to both Mr. Kirk and Congressman Crenshaw asking for an apology for their efforts to demean USS Liberty survivors, the sacrifice of our fallen shipmates and the suffering of our families. I have received nothing in response. Like others of their ilk, they don’t have the courage to answer us. Mr. Kirk and Congressman Crenshaw have no problem with an attacking force committing War Crimes during their attack on a virtually unarmed US Navy ship.  Indeed, they condone those actions and condemn anyone who publicly raises them. I know why Mr. Kirk does.  His position is popular in his circles. Congressman Crenshaw is more of a puzzle.  I doubt many in the SEAL community condone the actions during the attack or the coverup by the US government. Unfortunately, his new role as a Member of Congress has come to the fore allows him to not only trivialize the attack on our ship but to insult the survivors and the sacrifice of our fallen shipmates.  Perhaps he always did. Both Mr. Kirk and Congressman Crenshaw should know that the motto of the USS Liberty Veterans Association is taken almost entirely from the SEAL creed: “I will never quit. My nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my shipmates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.” That is a creed we live by every day. Sadly, Mr. Kirk and Congressman Crenshaw do not.

USS Liberty: Why Investigate the Attack on a US Navy Ship?

USS Liberty: Why Investigate the Attack on a US Navy Ship?

Congressional investigations of the attacks on the USS Pueblo, USS Stark and USS Cole as well as the 1982 bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut were initiated almost immediately following each of those attacks.

The Israeli’s attacked the USS Liberty over 19,100 days ago with no Congressional investigation in sight.

What effect has Congress’ refusal to investigate the attack on the USS Liberty had on the survivors of the attack, our families and the families of our 34 fallen shipmates?

Do Members of Congress even care?  Hint: No!

by Joe Meadors

We’ve been approached by a staff member of a Member of Congress who solicited my input to be presented to his boss regarding the attack on the USS Liberty and the possibility of a Congressional investigation of the attack. In my email response to him I addressed the questions he posed as well as a question posed in an attachment he included.  To paraphrase his main question, “The attack happened over 52 years ago, why investigate the attack in the first place and why investigate now?” My response follows:
Thank you for reaching out to me. To get directly to the questions you asked. No Member of Congress (now or previous) has ever indicated an interest in a Congressional investigation of the attack on our ship.  In fact, they are so averse to anything USS Liberty that no Member of Congress has ever attended the annual memorial service we hold in Washington, DC.  Proof that Members of Congress perform a litmus test to determine whether or not the sacrifice of American KIA’s are worth publicly honoring. I know of nothing in the Constitution or statutes that requires Congress to conduct an investigation of the attack. That said, historically Congress has investigated all attacks on a US Navy ship since the end of World War II.  The attacks on the USS Pueblo, USS Stark and USS Cole have all been the subject of a Congressional investigation.  As have been the bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut and the attack on the SS Mayaguez. The attack on the USS Liberty is the only attack on a US Navy ship not to be the subject of a Congressional investigation since the end of WWII. This despite the facts that the attack included:
  • Unmarked aircraft;
  • Jamming of our radios on both US Navy tactical and international maritime distress frequencies;
  • Deliberate machine gunning of serviceable life rafts we had dropped over the side in anticipation of abandoning ship;
  • Slow circling of our torpedoed and burning ship by attacking torpedo boats as they fired from very close range at USS Liberty crewmen who ventured out to help our wounded shipmates trapped topside; and,
  • The decision of the attacking torpedo boats to depart the scene immediately after they ceased hostilities only to return some 90 minutes later in an obvious attempt to be able to claim they were coming to our assistance to drive off the aggressors.  International law obligates the aggressor to offer aid immediately after they cease hostilities, not 90 minutes later.
The Department of Defense, on the other hand, IS under an obligation to conduct an investigation.  Under the DoD’s Law of War Program (see link at the Department of Defense is obligated “to investigate all allegations of war crimes whether committed by or against the United States.”  This is not a suggestion or recommendation.  It is an obligation. On June 8, 2005 we submitted “A Report: War Crimes Committed Against U.S. Military Personnel, June 8, 1967” to the Department of Defense. (see link at The Department of Defense responded by claiming that the Court of Inquiry that they conducted shortly after the attack satisfied their obligation under their Law of War Program. Unfortunately, the independent Congressional Research Service disagrees with the DoD’s position. Some 25 years ago I had the opportunity, with the help of a mutual friend, to sit down with Mr. Clyde Mark, a Researcher with the Congressional Research Service. Mr. Mark was in the CRS when the ship was attacked and was the researcher to whom USS Liberty-related questions would be submitted to for response. I asked Clyde the direct question, “Has the US government conducted an investigation of the attack on the USS Liberty?” His response was immediate and emphatic.  “No.” In order for his response to be officially from the CRS, the question must be posed by a Member of Congress.  No Member of Congress will ask.  I know they won’t because I have asked them to – repeatedly – and they have refused. Members of Congress insist there has been an investigation of the attack on our ship. The Department of Defense insists there has been an investigation of the attack on our ship. The Congressional Research Service insists there has been NO investigation of the attack on our ship. Will you ask the CRS the question? Will I participate in a conference call with the Congressman? That depends.  And it should be noted that it comes at a personal price. I have been invested in the effort to persuade Congress and the DoD that an attack on a US Navy ship warrants a complete and comprehensive public US government simply because it happened since before the USS Liberty Veterans Association was created in June, 1982. There was a time when I could pursue that goal dispassionately.  Almost like the attack happened to someone else. That wall was destroyed years ago. Now I protect myself by confining my actions to the protection of a computer and word processor.  Unlike the Congressmen and their staffers I have interfaced with over the past decades, my computer doesn’t tell me anything I want to hear or make promises it doesn’t have any intention of honoring just to get me out of the office. To anticipate a question routinely asked during meetings with Congressmen:  Why after over 52 years should we now conduct an investigation of the attack on the USS Liberty? The answer is complicated and simple at the same time:
  • It happened.  That alone should suffice.  It worked for the attacks on the USS Pueblo, USS Stark and USS Cole as well as the 1982 bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut.  Not so for the attack on the USS Liberty;
  • War Crimes were committed by and against the United States during the attack;
  • While we were still under attack and calling for help, LBJ personally ordered the recall of two flights of rescue aircraft that had been launched to come to our aid and would have arrived in time to drive off the torpedo boats, saving the lives of 25 of our shipmates;
  • The US government, by its refusal to conduct an investigation of the attack, has allowed War Crimes to be committed against the United States with impunity;
  • The investigation should be expanded far beyond the attack to include a review of the reason why the US government has not conducted an investigation of the attack despite the pleadings of USS Liberty survivors who relate the account that includes violations of the Geneva Convention, the Laws of War, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice; and,
  • The families of our fallen shipmates have lived since June 8, 1967, with the knowledge that the US government thinks so little of the sacrifice of their sons or fathers that it won’t bother to determine the facts of the attack nor will they attend a memorial service honoring the sacrifice of their loved ones even when that memorial service is held literally in their back yard.
In the attachment you included with your email the question is asked, “Why did the government of Israel knowingly attack the crew and ship of the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967?” The question is one that should be addressed during the US government investigation we have been advocating for for decades.  The US Navy Court of Inquiry was directed NOT to pursue that question even though it was clearly within the scope as described by ADM John S. McCain, Jr. the Convening Authority. The NSA has acknowledged the existence of voice tapes that may address that question although they refuse to release the tapes referenced in their message.  The referenced message is at  Please help us by asking the NSA to release of the voice tapes referenced in the NSA message. My response to your email has been far longer than I anticipated when I began and has covered far more material than anyone can include in a brief, 5-minute conference call with a Member of Congress. If it’s all the same to you, my preference would be to allow these comments to be submitted for consideration in lieu of the phone call. I would also appreciate the courtesy of a written response from the Congressman. If you have any other questions or want any further information, please don’t hesitate to get back in touch with us. Warmest regards, Joe Meadors, USS Liberty Survivor Director of Operations USS Liberty Veterans Association Email: NEW! Library of All USS Liberty-Related Information (Under Construction)  

Turning Point USA Founder Charlie Kirk Insults USS Liberty Survivors; His Audience Agrees

Charlie Kirk Truth USA Founder

Turning Point USA Founder Charlie Kirk Insults USS Liberty Survivors; His Audience Agrees

I don’t know anything about Charlie Kirk or Turning Point USA other than what I read on the internet.  He founded a group that claims to advocate policies associated with the conservative side of the political spectrum. 

I hope others in his organization or who share his political dogma don’t share his public disdain for American servicemen whose only crime is to be victims of Israeli War Crimes.

Are we overreaching to hope the people in his circle will publicly disavow Mr. Kirk’s position?  From the reaction of his audience, we definitely are.

Like us, he readily takes advantage of the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution. 

Unlike us, he doesn’t accept responsibility for what he says. 

Nor does he accept responsibility for the damage done to those who are affected by his words.

by Joe Meadors

Open Letter to Charlie Kirk

Please Forward to Addressee

October 29, 2019 Mr. Charlie Kirk, Founder Turning Point USA 4940 East Beverly Road Phoenix, Arizona 85044 Dear Mr. Kirk: In the video above you condemned as “Conspiracy Theorists” the officers and crew of the USS Liberty (AGTR-5) who survived the June 8, 1967, Israeli attack on our ship. Since the term is only used as a pejorative, since nothing could be further from the truth, and since your use of the term is a direct insult to the sacrifice of 34 of our shipmates, the effort of those of us who survived the attack and the suffering of the families of our fallen shipmates, I am compelled to write. Mr. Kirk, over 52 years ago our “best friend and only ally in the Middle East” attacked us without warning and without provocation while we were steaming in international waters on a lawful mission for the United States. Over 52 years ago military elements belonging to our “best friend and only ally in the Middle East” jammed our radios on both US Navy tactical and international maritime distress frequencies. Over 52 years ago unmarked aircraft belonging to our “best friend and only ally in the Middle East” attacked us without warning. Over 52 years fighter aircraft from our “best friend and only ally in the Middle East” reported the correct nationality of the USS Liberty to their headquarters only to be told to begin their attack. Over 52 years ago The White House ordered the Sixth Fleet to abandon us while we were still under attack by our “best friend and only ally in the Middle East” and calling for help. Over 52 years ago attacking elements of our “best friend and only ally in the Middle East” departed the scene immediately after they ceased hostilities only to return 90 minutes later in an obvious attempt to claim they were coming to our help to drive off the forces attacking our ship. Over 52 years ago the Commander in Chief, US Naval Forces Europe (CINCUSNAVEUR) ADM John S. McCain, Jr., signed a qualified endorsement to a US Navy Court of Inquiry Report that his Legal Advisor, Capt. Merlin Staring, recommend he not sign since it was replete with many gross errors. Over 52 years ago the attack on the USS Liberty became the only attack on a US Navy ship since the end of World War II NOT to be the subject of a US government investigation.  A mark that stands today despite the attacks on the USS Pueblo, USS Stark, and USS Cole all of which have been investigated by the US government.  Likewise, the USS Vincennes incident and the bombing of the US Marine Barracks in Beirut have been investigated by the US government.  Not so the attack on the USS Liberty. For over 52 years USS Liberty survivors, our families and the families of our fallen shipmates have been waiting for the announcement that the US government has finally decided to investigate the attack on the USS Liberty. Instead of being outraged at learning these facts about the attack on our ship as most patriotic Americans are, Mr. Kirk dismisses them as the rantings of a group of “Conspiracy Theorists.” These are not baseless mutterings of a group of anti-Semitic bigots. Mr. Kirk. These are proven facts being lived by the victims of Israeli War Crimes that were committed with the tacit approval and active participation of the United States government. You can read them for yourself. But you won’t.  Said simply, you don’t give a damn about us.  You don’t give a damn about the facts of the attack on our ship. Your concern — and the concern of your audience — is for the forces who attacked us.  For those who killed 34 of our shipmates. 34 Americans — like you. 34 Patriotic Americans — unlike you. You’re in good company, Mr. Kirk. That is the same concern repeatedly expressed by every Member of Congress for over 52 years. What you will do is stand behind your microphone and insult the sacrifice of 34 Americans who were killed during the attack on the USS Liberty, the suffering of their families, and the effort of the survivors of the USS Liberty attack to ensure that attack is finally investigated by the US government. We’re open to an apology from you, Mr. Kirk.  But only if that apology is followed by a  public and ongoing effort from you and your organization to ensure the US government conducts the investigation that has been denied the attack on the USS Liberty for over 52 years. My email address is We hope you will agree that it was improper for you to single out a military unit for condemnation simply because we were attacked by our “best friend and only ally in the Middle East.” Respectfully, Joe Meadors, USS Liberty Survivor Director of Operations USS Liberty Veterans Association P.O. Box 689275 Marietta, GA 30068
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