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by Eileen Fleming
18 May, 2010
[Tampa, Florida] On a steamy evening in May, a social justice Methodist Church invited the community to dinner and a presentation intended to ignite a fire in all bellies.
Ernest A. Gallo, Chairman and Liberty Foundation President of the USS liberty Veterans Association, warned the crowd, “My intent is to tell you the truth and if I do a good job, you will leave here tonight with heart burn.
“Some of the Liberty survivors think the Lord wants us to tell this story. My focus is on our government, who abandoned the crew when Israel targeted the USS Liberty and murdered 34 servicemen and injured 174 on June 8, 1967. Ever since, we have been chastised and dishonored by our government.”
The fire in the belly of Congressman Paul Findley, a moderate Republican was ignited decades ago. On June 8, 2007, I attended the 27th annual American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s Washington, D.C. Conference and heard him say:
“I was here for the first convention 27 years ago and I still have a fire in my belly for the civil and human rights of Arabs. It is time to speak openly and honestly about Israel. But, in American politics, that is still forbidden.
“Pity that we cannot seem to shed our fear of Israel! We are afraid to speak out on Capitol Hill, for fear of losing the next election. They are more like trained poodles jumping through hoops than leaders!
“Why this fear? How did we get here?
“Forty years ago to this day, June 8, 1967 the change occurred, the floodgates opened and money poured into Israel as never before. When President Johnson heard about the U.S.S. Liberty being attacked by Israel he ordered the rescue fighter planes to return to the deck. The rescue mission was aborted and the survivors have said they heard LBJ’s voice tell Admiral Giess, ‘Get those planes back on deck. I don’t care if the ship sinks, I will not embarrass Israel.’
“LBJ also threatened to court martial anyone who reported what had happened. Johnson accepted Israel’s false claim of “mistaken identity” and he knew it was a lie. That is when the change began and Israel learned they could get away with murdering U.S.A. soldiers.”
The attack on the USS Liberty remains “the only incident of damage to a major US ship since the sinking of the USS MAINE in Havana Harbour in 1898, prior to the Spanish-American War, that has not been investigated by the US Congress.” 
The fire in my belly for the USS Liberty crew was ignited on October 13, 2007, when I met my first USS Liberty survivor. When Petty Officer Phil Tourney spoke at a conference in California, and said: “It was God that kept us afloat” I knew I had to do more than just listen to him.
Phil connected me to a few of the Liberty veterans and on November 2, 2007, I spoke on the phone with Ernie Gallo fore the first time.
In 1967, Ernie was a Petty Officer and Communication Technician aboard the USS Liberty and was now living in Florida. We shared our frustrations in seeking justice for the Liberty vets while dealing with our congressional representatives.
Ernie quipped, “I met with Senator Martinez’s legal council and let me tell you that Congress will not lift a finger to help us. AIPAC would crucify them! Our government is lock stepped not to say anything about the LIBERTY.”
On Oct. 29, 2007, as a concerned citizen, I attended a Leesburg Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon and Town Hall Q+A with the former Republican Senator from Florida, Mel Martinez, who had accepted $10,000 from Pro-Israel PAC Funds for the 2005-2006-election cycle.
After fielding softball questions and basking in the praises of the Republicans in the audience, the Senator finally picked on me to speak. I rose up and stated:
“I thank God for this opportunity to speak to you Senator Martinez, for I have been to your D.C. office twice this year. I spoke with your assistant John Goetchius both times regarding the Christian EXODUS from the Holy Land which has reduced our sisters and brothers in Christ’s numbers from 20% to less than 1.3% since 1948 in the land where Jesus promised the Peacemakers are the children of God. I have been to Israel Palestine five times since June 2005 [seven as of this writing] to bear witness and report on this Christian crisis!
“I also thank God for this opportunity to raise awareness of my FAX of October 21 to you requesting JUSTICE for the survivors of the USS LIBERTY.”
I then turned to the audience but kept my eyes transfixed upon the slack jawed media that were filming the event:
“In case you don’t know, the USS LIBERTY, was an unarmed spy ship sailing in international waters flying the American flag, on June 8, 1967, when it was attacked by Israel. Thirty-four American sailors were killed, 174 wounded and all the survivors have been scarred, traumatized and let down by the American Government who ordered them to shut up or be court-martialed or worse if they spoke out!
“All the Veterans of the USS LIBERTY have been asking for is an open independent investigation with Congressional oversight and a declassification of all records.”
I then turned to the politician and inquired, “Will you Senator Martinez take the lead and deliver JUSTICE by seeking the TRUTH for the veterans of the USS LIBERTY before this Veterans Day?”
With a slick smile, Senator Martinez retorted, “Veterans Day is next week.”
Martinez thanked me for my passion and then claimed it is Hezbollah that is the cause of the Christian EXODUS from the Holy Land. Not being one who will be silenced in the face of ignorance or hypocrisy, I interrupted him, “It is the forty years of military occupation that is the cause of the problem! It is Hamas and Fatah in Palestine, not Hezbollah! But what about the LIBERTY?”
Senator Martinez kept his professional cool and replied, “I hear you.”
He then turned away and called on a supporter in the audience to rescue him from the fire in my belly that had erupted out of my mouth.
On July 6, 2009, I finally received a letter from Senator Bill Nelson after many attempts to reach him regarding the USS Liberty veterans ongoing request for an open congressional investigation of that day in infamy when our government crucified the truth and gagged the survivors.
Apparently assuming I was an idiot, in the third paragraph of Senator Bill Nelson’s letter to me he wrote:
“There have been numerous investigations of the USS liberty case by both the executive and legislative branches of the government. Immediately following the incident, the U.S. Navy and Deportment of Defense conducted their own separate investigations of the incident. In its oversight role, Congress also investigated…both the House Armed Services Committee and the House Investigations Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee conducted separate investigations, which were completed to the satisfaction of the Congress.”
But the Liberty veterans still can get no satisfaction!
And it was not until 1979, that they began to defy the gag order the American Government had put them under.
That break through happened with the publication of USS Liberty survivor, James M. Ennes, Jr.’s book, ASSAULT ON THE LIBERTY: The True Story of the Israeli Attack on an American intelligence Ship.
That book reunited the USS Liberty crew and led to the founding of the non-profit Liberty Veterans Association. The servicemen began petitioning Congress for an open independent panel to investigate the horrific and unprovoked attack upon them. But, these servicemen have only received pro-forma letters from White House staffers claiming that the attack had already been investigated.
On October 2, 2007, the Chicago Tribune reported:
“The declassification of government documents and the recollections of former military personnel… showed [that] the Israelis knew they were attacking an American naval vessel. The documents also suggest that the U.S. government, anxious to spare Israel’s reputation and preserve its alliance with the U.S., closed the case with what even some of its participants now say was a hasty and seriously flawed investigation.” 
J.Q. ‘Tony’ Hart, then a chief petty officer assigned to a U.S. Navy relay station in Morocco that handled communications between Washington and the 6th Fleet, remembered listening as Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, in Washington, ordered Rear Adm. Lawrence Geis, commander of the America’s carrier battle group, to bring the jets home. When Geis protested that the Liberty was under attack and needed help, Hart said, McNamara retorted that “President [Lyndon] Johnson is not going to go to war or embarrass an American ally over a few sailors.” [Ibid]
“The Johnson administration did not publicly dispute Israel’s claim that the attack had been nothing more than a disastrous mistake. But internal White House documents obtained from the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library show that the Israelis’ explanation of how the mistake had occurred was not believed. Except for McNamara, most senior administration officials from Secretary of State Dean Rusk on down privately agreed with Johnson’s intelligence adviser, Clark Clifford, who was quoted in minutes of a National Security Council staff meeting as saying it was ‘inconceivable’ that the attack had been a case of mistaken identity. The attack ‘couldn’t be anything else but deliberate’ the NSA’s director, Lt. Gen. Marshall Carter, later told Congress.” [IBID]
Ernie Gallo had been above the water line when the torpedo hit the USS Liberty, “It was a beautiful clear sunny day and all morning Israeli reconnaissance planes were flying over us, I counted twelve over flights and one came so close I could see the pilots face; we waved and he dipped his wing as he went by. We were all very comfortable because they were our allies. That morning Captain McGonagle called a general quarter’s drill. That’s a created special kind of emergency –I can’t remember what the mock drill was about-but it was to test our skills and the Captain was well pleased. Because we were in dangerous ground he kept the gunners manning the machine guns-two guys on each ‘nest’ –this was unusual for them to stay in flack jackets and heavy helmets after the drill, but we knew we were in hostile territories. But we were all comfortable; guys were sunbathing and we were all happy because we saw our friends, the Israelis in the sky. We were all so very relaxed because of their over flights; it was like a scene out of McCales Navy.
“It was about an hour and a half after lunch when the unmarked planes attacked us and they knew exactly where to hit: the communication antennas! They knew the machine guns weren’t a threat, those pilots were very careful to take out the antennas. Then they dropped two napalm bombs on us, miraculously the fires all stayed on the outside, and even though the fire hoses were bullet ridden, like a garden hose and every CO2 canister on board was used, that fire easily could have gone inside the ship, but the firefighters kept their cool and it didn’t. A Signalman constantly watched that our flag was raised, the first one burnt up in the fire but in a few minutes he raised the holiday flag and our ship was well marked with USS LIBERTY on it.
“It wasn’t until the torpedo boats came at us that the Star of David could be seen again. But the Israelis claim mistaken identity, they mistook us for the El-Quseir an Egyptian transport ship that only carried horses [and is also a third of the size of the USS LIBERTY] and had been tied up and out of use for a year. The LIBERTY had at least forty antennas- yet Israel claims they made a mistake in identifying us-if this were ever heard in a Court of Law; it would be beyond belief!
“I was a ‘spook’ an interceptor, a CT; Communication Technician. Back then; the NSA had security groups in all the branches of Military Service. Normal operations were that for four months at a time, up and down the African Coast, anything within the ambient atmosphere; the airwaves were monitored. The CT’s had a multitude of talents; Administrators, Linguists, Morse Code Operators, Communicators and Electronics specialists-that’s what I did-kept all the equipment working.
“We all worked behind closed locked doors; none of the rest of the crew ever knew what we were doing. Our whole purpose in life was to intercept messages; RF, UHF, VHF, long and short wave. There were two gigantic Christmas tree antennas on the LIBERTY.
Mid-ship there was a pedestal; with a sixteen foot dish pointed sky wards. How they could mistake us for a horse carrying ship is beyond belief.
“You know that when the North Koreans attacked the Pueblo, they wanted to capture it? The North Koreans gave repeated opportunities to surrender. The Israelis never gave us one! Any of the Israeli torpedo boats could have approached and asked us to surrender or follow them, but that never occurred.
“The LIBERTY was built in 1944, it was a converted cargo ship and the mechanics of that ship should have broken up and sunk! One foot more or less from where that torpedo hit and we would have sunk! But that torpedo hit a brace; and that brace absorbed the energy and kept us from blowing up! I honestly believe the Lord saved the LIBERTY for a reason and for this time in the world.”
In 1967, John Hrankowski, was a nineteen year old on his third cruise on the USS Liberty. He informed me:
“I worked in the engineering department, responsible for the air conditioning, electricity, water and steam. I was topside when out of nowhere the blasting of shrapnel knocked me down. I returned to my general quarters space in the boiler room when the call came, ‘this is not a drill; we are under attack.’
“Fifteen feet in front of me the torpedo hit and knocked the ship out of the water! If that torpedo had hit the boiler the steam pressure of 750 degrees mixed with cold water would have been like an atomic bomb exploding!
“The lights went out, the generator was knocked out, shrapnel flew around me like fire flies; it was dangerous but somehow beautiful. I worked with a lantern to keep the steam under control. If that boiler blew the ship would have blown up too!”
Another Liberty survivor who had been below the water line when the torpedo hit was Ron Kukal, who became the Chaplain for the USS LIBERTY Vets Association. In an email to me on October 22, 2007, Ron wrote:
“On June 8, 1967 during the Vietnam War, I was aboard a Navy vessel called the USS LIBERTY. This unarmed ship was sailing the waters off the coast of Israel during the Six Day War.
“It may be possible that the only reason God saved the LIBERTY was so that we could tell our story.
“The ship was sailing 15 miles off the coast in international waters when the Israeli Defense Force attacked her. She was subjected to torpedoes, 50 caliber machine gun fire, napalm, and rocket fire. There was over 800 holes in the LIBERTY after the attack, she was listing about 10 degrees to the starboard, and was on fire in many places. Thirty-four men were killed and close to 70% of the crew were wounded, of which I was one.
“For what seemed like an eternity… many miracles occurred during, and after the attack. The only armament we had were 50 caliber machine guns, and they were like peashooters against the French built Mirage jets that attacked the LIBERTY…we were not ready for any kind of attack whatsoever. The element of surprise was theirs.
“I survived the attack by the planes, but the worst was yet to come, as five torpedo boats were bearing down on us, with one thing in mind, and that was to put us to the bottom! Only one found its mark. This was the second miracle that I was exposed to that day, the first being the surviving of the onslaught by the jet aircraft.
“The torpedo hit the Liberty almost amidships on the starboard side, and I was approximately thirty feet from the explosion. There were a couple of bulkheads between the explosion, and myself but they were like paper to the several tons of TNT that tore up the bowels of the Liberty. What had been several compartments were turned into one big room in a very short time. I was immediately immersed in sea water, and it was rising fast to the point where it would be above my head in a short time, and even though I could swim, the compartment would soon become completely full, and there would be no place to go. The hatch to the above deck was closed, and dogged down, and so my life again depended completely on what God would do. Just before the compartment became fully flooded the hatch above me was opened to let as many of us as possible out of there before we became a part of a watery grave. This was the third miracle that I saw that day, but there was even more to come. I ran to get to the main deck; I was slipping and sliding because of the water, and blood was awash within each passageway.
“The fourth miracle occurred when I was exposed to the machine gun fire on the main deck, and still remained alive, and still there was more to come. Every antenna we had was shot to pieces except one, and it had never worked very well. One of the radiomen told me that he tried several times to call for help, and finally when he realized that all the antenna were shot, he switched to the one that had always given him trouble, and when it was needed, it worked! We were able to call the Sixth Fleet, and notify them of our predicament through an antenna that had hardly ever worked. The fifth miracle had just occurred.
“The attack had gone on for two hours, or more, but it seemed like only a few minutes. The captain told us that we had lost our steering control, and that we would have to go aft, and steer the ship manually. We were able to make headway, and in time were headed for the island of Malta, and to dry dock. This was almost one thousand miles away, and here we were with a ship that had a forty by forty-foot hole in her side, on fire, and riddled with holes.
“The Liberty could go down at any minute, but we did sail the thousand miles without incident, and this had to be the sixth miracle of the day. I was one of the crew that went down below to identify the deceased and I know that God gave me the strength to go and do what was expected of me. Let it suffice to say that, under the conditions, only men that were strengthened, and held up by God himself would be able to enter the dark area down below.”
On June 8, 1967, Gary Brummett was a twenty-year-old Third Class Petty Officer assigned to the Boiler Room aboard the LIBERTY. He told me:
“After more than two hours of unremitting assault, the Israelis finally halted their attack. One of the torpedo boats approached the Liberty. This same torpedo boat crew had been circling the ship, machine-gunning anyone who stuck his head above decks, as well as the lifeboats the crew had put over the side. A torpedo boat officer asked in English over a bullhorn: ‘Do you need any help?’
“The wounded commander of the Liberty, Captain William McGonagle, instructed the quartermaster to respond emphatically: ‘Fuck you.'” 
Brummett had been on the bottom most level all during the attack, “For thirty-five years I kept this devil bottled up. I felt like I had it under control, but it all became so real again, after I retired from the Post Office and joined the Board of the LIBERTY Vet’s Association. I was the Vice President for two years and President and three years.
“The attack was the easy part; the aftermath in not being able to get our government to address this cover up has been the bastard. I’ve had forty years thinking about this crap and all the presidents and Congressmen and Senators since LBJ are guilty for not addressing this issue that has been set before them. The few congressional representatives who have tried to address this have been silenced by the Israel Lobby, AIPAC and the JDL.
“The apologists for Israel like A.J. Cristol in his book of half truths and errors claimed there have been investigations. In checking the Congressional Record you will see the only investigation was the original Naval Court of Inquiry. The Liberty Veterans Association has offered $10,000 reward to anyone who can prove there were a Congressional investigation and so far, no takers!
“The Naval Court of Inquiry was done by two officers under the command of Admiral John McCain, Sr. and it was concluded in six days! After Admiral Kidd delivered it to Washington, parts of it were altered, stuff was excised out, and it was falsified with intent!
“When the attack occurred, I was in the engineering spaces, and we called it the Dungeon. I was there, twelve to fifteen feet below the water line when the torpedo hit and I remember it as vividly now as when it happened. My back was to the boiler heater, I was looking at the starboard [right] bulkhead [wall] when the torpedo hit. I was beyond fear of death, but that feeling didn’t last too long. The torpedo hit about fifteen feet forward of the space I was in. It felt like it lifted the LIBERTY out of the water and we rolled to port [left] side and I thought we would capsize.
“The hole measured twenty-two by thirty-nine feet and it was like the destruction of a three story building. The entire space flooded in a matter of moments and it was a nightmare scenario.
“The day before, I and another third class boiler tech, J.P. Newell, had worked for over twenty-two hours and been awake for over thirty because of the boilers. If the water gets too low in a boiler it will over heat and rupture. Everything on that ship ran on steam power; the electricity, the fire hoses, cooking, laundry, commodes and the turbines that turned the shaft and moved the ship!
“We had been working on the Coffin Pump, an auxiliary feed pump that supplies water to the boilers. It’s a good thing we did get it fixed, because during the attack we needed that Coffin Pump because both main feed pumps seized on us about half way through the seventy-five minute attack.
“I had gotten burnt from the super heated water in the early morning on the day of the attack and after going to sickbay J.P. and I had coffee on the mess deck. J.P. then went back to finish the work on the Coffin Pump and I took a shower and went to sleep until 10 AM and then I went back to the Dungeon.
“On the PA System I could hear the Officer of the Deck call five or six times for the duty photographer team to go up to the bridge between ten and one that day. Ten to twenty minutes after a routine general quarters drill the attack started, about 2 PM. I smelled gunpowder and things got hot and heavy and more furious from that point on.
“We were trained incessantly like Pavlov’s dogs; so, you don’t think you just react. That torpedo hit the engineering spaces that were all ready dark because the turbo generators had been knocked off line. The missiles had destroyed our back up emergency generators and the only light available was hand battle lanterns.
“Israel said they stopped attacking us after the torpedo hit, but that’s a big lie! I think they stopped shooting at us because they ran out of ammunition!
“When we got to Malta, I was one of five two men teams that counted the direct hits and while the official record states 821 direct hits plus the torpedo there were thousands of rounds of ammo that hit us and no way could they all be counted!
“It wasn’t until June 9th just after midnight that I went to the mess deck and saw bodies all over the place; on the floor, the tables and blood was everywhere. Men were crying for their mother’s! It was an emotional mix master, unreal, surreal. I was a twenty-year-old kid and not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I even knew something was very wrong with what had happened to us.
“The dead had been in storage lockers for a few days before we even had time to move them into the freezers. Out of a crew of 294, 34 were killed, over 170 injured so that didn’t leave many of us to do everything.
“When we got to Malta two Navy Officers informed my group of about a dozen crewmen that National Security was involved and we were all ordered not to talk, ordered to keep our mouths shut, no talking to reporters, no details to family.
“The closest safe harbor was Crete, a day an a half away, but we were sent to Malta, a six day trip with bulkheads so contorted we could have sunk in waters that went down 17,000 feet! We still don’t have submersibles that go that deep!
“I think they sent us to Malta so that D.C. could have four more days to get their story straight and they hoped we would all sink!
“I was baptized a Christian when I was thirty-eight years old and while I believe it was God that kept the LIBERTY afloat I also think that my life was spared for another purpose and reason and LIBERTY means FREEDOM!”
When Gary said that, I immediately recalled the words President George W. Bush promised in his Second Inaugural Address:
“In the long run, there is no JUSTICE without FREEDOM. There can be no human rights without LIBERTY. All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for LIBERTY, we stand with you.”
On June 8, 1967, Lieutenant Richard Kiepfer, was the lone medical doctor on board the spy ship, the USS LIBERTY, who “with complete disregard for his own personal safety, exposed himself to overwhelmingly accurate rocket and machine gun fire…administered first aid…treated [171 wounded] men for pain, shock…[and] conducted a major surgical operation.” 
Six weeks after boarding the LIBERTY and fifteen minutes into the attack, while operating on a sailor to control his bleeding, Dr. Kiepfer received eleven shrapnel wounds into his abdomen, and shortly thereafter, a gun shot to his leg, burns and a broken kneecap. He remained on his feet and caring for the crew for the next twenty-eight hours and their spirits ever since.
In 2007, I visited with the then 70 year old Dr. Richard F. Kiepfer, a Catholic born and bred in Brooklyn, in his Texas home where the deer ignore the corn put out by his neighbors, for Dr. Kiepfer provides prime feed in his front yard. Obese raccoons dined on a daily feast of dog food and the neighborhood cats eat better than mine, in his back yard. Friends, who check on the doctor daily, set the food out, for Dr. Kiepfer can no longer do what he once did.
A Master Bridge player while still in his teens, Dr. Kiepfer continues to play the cards he has been dealt in life with aplomb and grace. In 1973 he nearly died in a plane crash after parachuting atop of Georgia pecan trees that ended his surgical career and the use of his right hand and arm. The other night in Tampa, Ernie told me that Doc Kiepfer has now lost his right arm.
In 2007, Doc told me, “The pilot landed a mile away from me, and was impaled on a forest of pine trees. As I laid there and looked at my arm and failed every test to move it, I knew then I would never operate again and began to think about what I could do in life to continue to be useful, and decided on nuclear medicine.”
After twenty years in nuclear medicine he retired after suffering a heart attack and since then has suffered the loss of two wives, but not his sense of humor, which borders on the ribald. My weekend visit with Dr. Kiepfer in his home adorned with icons of St. Francis occurred only a week after his discharge from a rehabilitation center. He had spent the previous six months recuperating from a below the knee amputation.
In an email from retired Commander David Ed Lewis, the officer in charge of 195 men out of the total crew of 294 on the US LIBERTY, he wrote: “I know Doc has suffered more and complained less than anyone I know. Job didn’t have much on Doc…He has always dedicated his life to others and has never asked anything in return from them.”
The book of Job is a critique about injustice, the suffering of innocent people and the struggle to find meaning and value in pain, and playing the cards one has been dealt with in life without blaming God.
Being a retired nurse, I had many questions for Dr. Kiepfer, and utmost was what was left out of the Court of Inquiry: such as how could the deck log which documents the hours during the attack be so neatly written and list all the dead and wounded in alphabetical order within the hours of noon to 4 PM but make no mention of the many Israeli over flights that occurred during the morning before the attack.
Dr. Kiepfer explained, “The deck log was not written during the attack. Captain McGonagle signed off on the Log and that makes it legal, but not authentic. McGonagle was concerned that he would be blamed for the LIBERTY being in troubled waters. I told him, ‘Over my dead fucking body!’
“Israel did identify the ship six hours before the attack. Israel did know that the ship was American and admitted to our government that they knew the ship was American; Israel claims only that the attacking forces failed to get the word.
“Modern diplomacy simply does not permit one to embarrass a ‘friendly’ nation, even when that nation is caught red-handed with its torpedo in one’s ship.
“McGonagle was tormented by the idea that he was somehow responsible for the agony his ship and crew suffered. One top level theory holds that someone in the Israeli armed forces ordered the LIBERTY sunk because he suspected that it had taken down messages showing that Israel started the fighting [during the Six Day War].”
James Ennes wrote:
“Typical of Israel’s casual attitude toward the episode, an attitude which suggested from the beginning that it was really our fault for being there [in international waters] in the first place. Messages from Israel directly charged that a share of the blame was McGonagle’s…the Shreveport Times suggested…that our government was involved in a cover-up…and that the attack itself may have been conducted to prevent the ship [and the United States] from detecting the pending invasion of Syria which was scheduled for June 8th but implemented on June 9, 1967.” 
Dr. Kiepfer also informed me, “McGonagle may have misremembered or may have not reported the over a dozen Israeli over flights that morning because he may have thought he should have abandoned our mission-which was to listen in on all communications. My opinion as a civilian is that the Court of Inquiry-which was to determine if the Navy was at fault- would have inquired why he didn’t get the LIBERTY out of the area since we could see the smoke from Al Arish, in Gaza.
“I was the only Medical Corp officer to be appointed Officer of the Deck-that means I was in charge of everything on the ship when the Captain was off duty. I stood mid watch from midnight to 4 AM the night before the attack of June 8, 1967 and all was quiet. I always slept until 7:29 because breakfast ended at 7:30. Beginning at sunrise to 8 AM, the bridge reported a couple of propeller driven aircraft overhead and by noon several more. At lunch people were talking about all the Israeli over flights, but nobody was worried; they were our friends. Afterwards, as usual I went to the wardroom for coffee while the Corpsmen began the start of sick call and off duty officers pursued the national sport of sunbathing on the quarterdeck.
“Lieutenant George Golden and I were together when the attack began and we thought a steam line had ruptured when we heard the first explosion. We both headed off to our general quarter’s stations as the announcement sounded that we were under attack. I assumed it was perpetrated by the Arabs or Russians. Understand that nobody could identify Mirage fighter-bombers that travel at MACH One. Imagine as I say these words to you that the jets are a mile away, now they are overhead and now they are a mile away from us. That is how fast they travel.
“Fifteen minutes into the attack, while I was operating on a sailor and trying to control his bleeding, I was hit with eleven pieces of shrapnel into my abdomen. A rocket struck above the ceiling of sick bay and the light over my head and the operating table protected me; both acted as a life saver for me, otherwise I would have gotten hit in my shoulders, side and back. I was knocked against a wall and waves of red and white pain throbbed through me.
“I knew I had to finish with the guy on the table-if I walked away, I wouldn’t have returned. All I could think about was keeping limbs attached to sailors. From the moment the attack began, I felt a greater presence within me that was physically holding me up. I thought it was the spirit of all the navy docs who had gone before me. I felt physically held up by my invisible assistants and with all that adrenalin coursing through me and with some carefully titrated morphine that I self injected, I was able to do what I did.
“It was not until I finished that operation did I even examine myself. The fragments that penetrated me were so hot they cauterized my wounds. The pain was intense, but after applying surgical dressings to my wounds and putting on a life vest to control the bleeding I gave myself a shot of morphine and remained on my feet and working for the next twenty-eight hours.
“Just before the torpedo struck, I was summoned to the bridge and went through the mess decks from sick bay, where a number of wounded sailors were. Captain McGonagle was the only man still functioning there, the lookouts were dead, the helmsman-the guy at the steering wheel was dead and I saw the blown apart remains of our Navigator, Mr. Toth, two decks below me. All I could do was administer morphine to the still living and get them onto stretchers to evacuate them. I had two Corpsmen working with me and knew I needed more surrogates, for the wounded were shoulder to shoulder the full circumference of the passageway.
“While I was on the deck, I got hit by a fifty caliber machine gun bullet to my leg that came from the torpedo boats. I was bleeding into my shoes and not until the next day when I was able to lie down did the bleeding slow down. You know the story of the Incredible Hulk and mother’s who lift cars off of their kids? When you are angry and hurt you can do amazing things.
“If you got one hundred people into my skin that day, probably all of them would have thrown up from the hell that erupted on the LIBERTY. Men were groaning and crying for their mothers, but it was just background noise for me. I was slip sliding as I crossed the bloody deck to get to the Captain who had been hit. McGonagle was leaning back in the Captain’s chair, bleeding from many orifices; some natural and some new ones. I applied battle dressings, started an IV, gave him some morphine and sent an enlisted man to find as many officers as possible to come up to the Bridge and assist him and to watch him for shock. The Captain said, ‘If I sit up, I pass out, but as long as I stay in this position, I am OK.’
“People I had eaten lunch with were dismembered all around me, burned, dead. To this day, every time I have a phone conversation with Phil Tourney, who held the light while, I was operating on Blanchard he tells me he can still see the look in my eyes.
“Everyone in the Navy hierarchy knew we were scapegoats and the Navy would have done anything to exact retribution, but the Navy never got the chance.
“In LBJ’s mind we were just an average day’s losses in Vietnam. I doubt Israel would have attacked without the knowledge or complicity of our State Departments willingness to sacrifice a few hundred sailors to have a ‘stabilized’ Middle East and all that oil.
“Our State Department’s morality and ethics are just slightly below those of a Madame in a house of ill repute or a large scale drug dealer.
“June 8, 1967 was like July 4th in hell without the ice cream.
“And yes, I agree that it was God that kept us afloat.”
In a 2008 email from USS LIBERTY survivor, Donald W Pageler, a Seaman E-3 Communications Technician who had Top Secret Crypto clearance wrote:
“I was once in email contact with an ordained rabbi who was a professor in an Eastern University. He said he was of the belief that there could be no peace in the Middle East until Israel owned its own atrocities.”
In a phone call interview with Don on December 31, 2007, I inquired who that rabbi was and Pageler responded, “I can’t remember his name, but after Jim Bamford’s, Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency, was released [in 2001] I read a review about it on Amazon.com by a rabbi. He included his email address so I wrote him to thank him and that was his reply.”
When I checked Amazon’s site, there were 141 customer reviews for that book, but missing was one from Yomin Postelnik, dated May 22, 2001.
LIBERTY supporter Richard Schmucker, who was known as LIBERTY CENTRAL because he had obtained hundreds of pounds of documentation about that day in infamy when the USA Government failed to support our troops, Congress went limp and the MSM went MIA.
Schmucker had the foresight to copy and save the following review from Yomin Postelnik, who wrote:
“I am a religious Jew with rabbinical ordination. I have always felt that one must be fair in one’s position towards Israel, not defending the indefensible. The Israeli military attack against the USS Liberty has irrevocably been proven to have been deliberate and was completely unjustified, it being against Israel’s long-standing ally. The Israelis didn’t want information the ship had picked up concerning its plan to advance the war, [of 1967] pushing the Arab armies out of the West bank, Golan, etc., to reach the United States, as President Johnson had already warned Israel against such moves. That they bombed this ship, poured napalm on it, shot at and torpedoed it is reprehensible and gruesome to say the least. Even John Loftus, a man very sympathetic towards Israel, has written the attack was deliberate. He cites that Israel tried to spare as many lives as possible, but the act itself was nothing short of treacherous. Many refuse to believe anything bad of Israel and this book has therefore been subject to unfair criticism by those who know nothing of the incident, nor have they cared to find out. All American Jews should pressure Congress to reopen the investigation, which President Johnson agreed to suppress when Israel apologized for the incident. Our loyalties must be to our country, not Israel.”
Pageler was not sure if that was the review he had replied to, but stated, “It sure was written at the right time and sure sounds like it. But whom I really blame more than anybody is the Media for failing to do its job by not investigating what happened to the LIBERTY on June 8, 1967.
“My grandparents were from Germany and the LIBERTY issue has made me even more sensitive to anti-Semitism. It’s not the Jewish people or Judaism that is the problem, it’s the governments of America and Israel that wanted to sweep this incident under the rug and cover it up that has caused the survivors and families much suffering.
“What June 8, 1967 did to me was a nightmare that I repressed for years and have suffered greatly from. As a kid I always kept things in; like my father I am quiet and reserved. I always internalized things and thought stuff was my fault, even though logically I knew that wasn’t rational. Emotionally I felt responsible somehow about what happened on June 8, 1967 in the Mediterranean and since nobody was taking responsibility for what happened to the LIBERTY; not our government, not Israel and the media failed at their mandate to investigate, I felt responsible but I also suppressed it, because when I was debriefed after the attack I was told to never talk about it.”
The spy ship named the USS LIBERTY was not built or trained for combat. She was armed with only .50 caliber machine guns, which were totally inadequate against the brutal barrage of missile fire and napalm that engulfed her and she became a flaming inferno. It was not until the following day that the Sixth Fleet -which had been stationed 15 minutes away-arrived with helicopters to transfer the most severely wounded.
At 11:30 AM on that day, Israel invaded Syria. Records reveal that the Israeli attack on Syria was scheduled for 11:30 AM on June 8, 1967, but the spy ship, the USS LIBERTY had arrived less than three hours before that scheduled assault on the Syrian Heights. Quite obvious to anyone with a brain is that Israel postponed their invasion of Syria and instead cold bloodily attacked American servicemen instead.
James Ennes wrote:
“Word of the attack reached President Johnson in the White House about two hours after it all began. Pentagon officials had apparently been aware of the situation for nearly forty minutes when NSA Advisor Walt Rostow telephoned the President to tell him that a U.S. Navy ship was in trouble…ready aircraft, which normally carry nuclear weapons, were launched toward Liberty, and the Pentagon reacted to the launch with anger bordering on hysteria.
“Help is on the way!” [COMSIXTHFLT message 081305Z]…was received by a Liberty radioman and quickly passed to every man aboard.
“Navy radio operators at the Naval Communications Center in Morocco worked to establish communications for the emergency…they could hear USS Liberty, her operators still pleading for help, and in the background the exploding rockets.
“Through the Morocco communications relay station, destined for the Pentagon, State Department and the White House…every man recognized the voice [of] Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara, and he spoke with authority: ‘Tell the Sixth Fleet to get those aircraft back immediately,’ he barked.
“A few minutes later the Chief of Naval Operations himself came on the air. The circuit was patched to the Sixth Fleet flagship and Admiral David L. McDonald bellowed:
“You get those fucking airplanes back on deck, and you get them back now!” 
On July 25, 2001, James Bamford wrote a response to the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, in Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency:
“The time for secrecy has long passed on the USS LIBERTY incident, in both Israel and the United States…there is more than enough probable cause to conduct a serious investigation into what really happened-and why.”
Lieutenant General Marshall S. Carter, Director National Security Agency/NSA from 1965-1969 wrote: “There was no other answer than it was deliberate.”
Dr. Louis Tordella, Deputy Director of NSA from 1958 -1974, scrawled across the top page of the formal Israel ‘mistake’ report: “A nice whitewash.” He also said, “I believed the attack might have been ordered by some senior commander on the Sinai Peninsula who wrongly suspected that the LIBERTY was monitoring his activities.”
Major General John Morrison, NSA Deputy Director of Operations, 1963-1967 affirmed:
“Nobody believes the [Israeli] explanation. The only conjecture that we ever made that made any sense is that the Israelis did not want us to intercept their communications at that time.”
In 1967, David G. Nes, the deputy head of the American mission in Cairo said: “I don’t think that there’s any doubt that it was deliberate… [It is] one of the greatest cover-ups of our military history.”
George Ball, Under Secretary of State from 1961-1966, is on the record that, “American leaders did not have the courage to punish Israel for the blatant murder of its citizens.”
Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, former Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff stated:
“I never believed that the attack on the USS Liberty was a case of mistaken identity. That is ridiculous. I have flown over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, thousands of hours searching for ships and identifying all types of ships at sea. The Liberty was the ugliest, strangest-looking ship in the US Navy. As a communications intelligence ship, it was sprouting every kind of antenna. It looked like a lobster with all those projections moving every which way. Israel knew perfectly well that the ship was American.”- 
During a phone interview on November 3, 2007, with Lt. Commander Dave Ed Lewis [the officer in charge of 195 men out of the total crew of 294 on the US LIBERTY] he informed me:
“Rear Admiral Lawrence Geiss was in charge of the USS Saratoga and USS America. He swore me to secrecy until his death, which happened about nineteen years later. What he told me I kept secret until I learned of his death at the first reunion and twenty year anniversary of the veterans of the USS LIBERTY.
“He told me that as soon as he got the word of our distress he launched aircraft and notified D.C. Immediately he heard from McNamara to recall the aircraft. He said he assumed it was because some idiots in Washington thought that he was launching nuclear weaponry. He reconfigured and then re-launched aircraft without nuclear capabilities. Admiral Geiss notified Washington of this and once again the immediate response that came from McNamara was the order to recall the aircraft. Admiral Geiss challenged the order and pleaded that people are dieing!
“LBJ was heard to say, ‘I don’t give a damn! I won’t embarrass an ally.”
Journalist and son of a Liberty survivor, James Scott wrote:
“More than twenty minutes before the fatal torpedo strike killed twenty-five sailors; Israel’s chief air controller conclusively identified the Liberty as an American ship.” 
Many years after the attack, Lieutenant Colonel Shmuel Kislev, the chief air controller at general headquarters in Tel Aviv, confessed that he knew the U.S.S. LIBERTY was an American ship as soon as an Israeli pilot radioed in its hull numbers.
Two months before the sailor’s mass burial at Arlington Cemetery, Navy analysis also uncovered that the Israeli torpedo boat gunners had targeted the spy ship with 40-mm tracer rounds made in the United States.
In 1967, the Republican representative from Iowa, H.R. Gross asked questions that still demand an answer today:
“Is this Government now, directly or indirectly, subsidizing Israel in the payment of full compensation for the lives that were destroyed, the suffering of the wounded, and the damage from this wanton attack? It can well be asked whether these Americans were the victims of bombs, machine gun bullets and torpedoes manufactured in the United States and dished out as military assistance under foreign aid.” 
By November 1967, lawmakers were willing to spend six million USA tax dollars to build schools in Israel but during the debate, Representative Gross spoke with the voice of conscience and introduced an amendment that “not one dollar of U.S. credit or aid of any kind [should] go to Israel until there is a firm settlement with regard to the attack and full reparations have been made [and Israel] provides full and complete reparations for the killing and wounding of more than 100 United States citizens in the wanton, unprovoked attack.
“I wonder how you would feel if you were the father of one of the boys who was killed in that connection-or perhaps you do not have any feelings with respect to these young men who were killed, wounded and maimed, or their families.” 
Gross’s amendment failed, justice remains delayed and American taxpayers continue to support the Jewish State.
“Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing the amounts provided to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct U.S. economic and military assistance since 1976 and the largest total recipient since World War ll. Total direct U.S. aid to Israel amounts to well over $140 billion in 2003 dollars. Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America’s entire foreign aid budget. In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year. This largesse is especially striking when one realizes that Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to South Korea or Spain.”
During Fiscal Year 2007, the Congressional Research Service’s “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel,” written by Jeremy M. Sharp, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs, [updated January 2, 2008] reported that the US gave Israel at least $2,500.2 million in 2007. This number does not include the $137.894 million we spent on joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense projects or the $1.4 billion in loan guarantees made available to Israel in 2007. [Ibid]
While U.S. economic aid to Israel has been phased out, it has been replaced with increased military aid of $3.1 billion each year out of American wallets that go to provide even more weapons of destruction to one of the most powerful militaries the world has ever known.
The United States has given more money to Israel than to any other country, and the “indirect or consequential costs to the American taxpayer as a result of Washington’s blind support for Israel exceed by many times the amount of direct U.S. aid to Israel. Some of these ‘indirect or consequential’ costs would include the costs to U.S. manufacturers of the Arab boycott, the costs to U.S. companies and consumers of the Arab oil embargo and consequent soaring oil prices as a result of U.S. support for Israel in the 1973 war, and the costs of U.S. unilateral economic sanctions on Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria. [Ibid]
Just before Christmas 2009, President Obama signed into law the biggest aid pledge of the year. NOT for struggling countries on the World Bank’s list, but another $3 billion for Israel in 2010 and $30 billion over the next decade.
Now deceased, Retired Adm. Thomas Moorer, the former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman who investigated the attack, wrote in 1997 that he believed Israel intentionally attacked the Liberty to conceal that it was preparing to seize the Golan Heights from Syria.
On January 16, 2004, Adm. Moorer also wrote for the Stars and Stripes:
“There is compelling evidence that Israel’s attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew. In attacking the USS Liberty, Israel committed acts of murder against U.S. servicemen and an act of war against the United States.”
Adm. Moorer also gave Ernest Gallo his marching orders to: “Never give up this fight for the truth.”
In 1776, President George Washington warned US to:
Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all…and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave…a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils.
SUPPORT THE TROOPS and Learn More about the USS LIBERTY:
1. Captain Joseph Tully, commanding officer of the USS Saratoga, page 175, “Operation Cyanide” by Peter Hounam.
4. Silver Star Medal Commendation
5. James M. Ennis, Jr. “Assault on the Liberty” pages 213, 214, 131, 136, 141, and 142. Reintree Press, 1979.
6. James M. Ennis, Jr. “ASSAULT ON THE LIBERTY” pages 97, 98, 76, 77, and 78.
7. Operation Cyanide, Pages 244-245.
8. James Scott, “The Untold Story of Israel’s Deadly 1967 Assault on a U.S. Spy Ship” Page 216.
9. James Scott, Pages 271-272.
10. James Scott, Pages 272-273
Only in Solidarity do “we have it in our power to begin the world again.”-Tom Paine
Founder of WeAreWideAwake.org
A Feature Correspondent for Arabisto.com
Author of “Keep Hope Alive” and “Memoirs of a Nice Irish American ‘Girl’s’ Life in Occupied Territory”
Producer “30 Minutes with Vanunu” and “13 Minutes with Vanunu”
In the Beginning and the Now of Nakba by Eileen Fleming
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Why would Israel attack an American ship?
It has been 43 years ago. The Vietnam wat was still going on.
Do I feel bad for the sailors, you bet you. How many GI’s during that time died in Vietnam or never returned.
What would happen to us when Vietnam and other countries we attacked after WWII wanted to take revenge for the innocent people we killed and maimed, made widows and orphans. How long are we going to kep a grudge and want to take revenge? When does the killing stop?
Israel is surrounded by Islam countries. Lebanon who was at one time a Christan nation is now an Islam Nation.
Do we want to become an Islam nation, I don;t think so.
I can remember sitting in the cellar during WWII, the destruction from that war.My grandparents house gone, family members wounded and traumatized. Friends killed.
Am I going to hate the Germans forever? Than the end of the Vietnam war. I helped with the airlifts of the Vietnamese orphans, some with out limbs. We did the bombing. Are the people going to hate us forever? Or do you move on and tackle the problems we are facing now.
What about the Iraqi people and Afghan people, don’t theu have a reason to hate us?
Who is asking to take revenge on Israel? The US gives Israel $3 billion a year for its military.