US Navy JAG Excoriates Its Own Court of Inquiry Report
by Joe Meadors
RADM Merlin Howard Staring (1919-2013) was the US Navy Judge Advocate General from 1972-1975.
When the Israelis attacked the USS Liberty, then-Captain Staring was serving as the senior Navy Judge Advocate on the staff of Admiral John S. McCain, Jr., Commander-in-chief of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe (CINCUSNAVEUR).
In his order convening the US Navy Court of Inquiry into the attack, ADM McCain ordered the Court 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.
However, RADM Staring doesn’t have much nice to say about the US Navy Court of Inquiry Report that his office prepared.
Some selected extracts from his letter to the Secretary of the Navy:
Court of Inquiry fell far short of inquiring into ‘all the pertinent facts and circumstances leading to and connected with the armed attack,’ as had been clearly directed by the Convening Authority.
Beyond these observations concerning the incomplete, the shallow, and the contrived comments by the Convening Authority in his endorsement on the Court’s record, Mr. Secretary an endorsement as demonstrably hasty and ill-considered as the Court’s proceedings themselves – there is yet more to demonstrate more specifically that the 1967 Navy Court of lnquiry into the unprovoked attack upon the USS LIBERTY was and is totally inadequate as a basis for an accurate historical record of that tragic event – and a totally inadequate record of the actions, the merits, and the entitlements of the survivors of that event and of the families and survivors of the 34 Americans who were killed in that event.
At the very outset, in orally ordering that the Court of Inquiry complete and submit its work within one week, the Convening Authority imposed a condition that was totally and blatantly unreasonable in the circumstances. A basically unarmed United States Navy ship had been subjected to a sudden, concerted, and unprovoked attack by unmarked forces of a foreign nation. Thirty-four Americans had been killed in the assault; 172 others had been wounded – many of them disabled in varying degrees for life; and the ship devastated beyond further use. To require the ofﬁcial investigation of an event of such magnitude and complexity to be completed in one week was not only to invite a superﬁcial, incomplete, and unreliable result – but to ensure it.
In the long-continued and still continuing attempt by the U. S. Government – and the Navy – to keep the true facts of the attack on the USS LIBERTY from general knowledge as well as the efforts of its crew to save their ship, which they accomplished without outside assistance – their rightful place in the annals of the U. S. Navy’s historic tradition – “Don’t Give Up The Ship“ – has been denied to them.