Memorandum To:  AMEU From: Admiral Thomas H.

Moorer Subject:  Attack on the USS LibertyJune 8,

1967 Date:  June 8, 1997


I have 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 U.S. 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. After all, the Liberty's

American flag and markings were in full view in

perfect visibility for the Israeli aircraft that

overflew the ship eight times over a period of

nearly eight hours prior to the attack.


I am confident that Israel knew the Liberty could

intercept radio messages from all parties and

potential parties to the ongoing war, then in its

fourth day, and that Israel was preparing to seize

the Golan Heights from Syria despite President

Johnson's known opposition to such a move.  I

think they realized that if we learned in advance

of their plan, there would be a tremendous amount

of negotiating between Tel Aviv and Washington.


And I believe Moshe Dayan concluded that he could

prevent Washington from becoming aware of what

Israel was up to by destroying the primary source

of acquiring that information - the USS Liberty.


The result was a wanton sneak attack that left 34

American sailors dead and 171 seriously injured.

What is so chilling and cold-blooded, of course,

is that they could kill as many Americans as they

did in confidence that Washington would cooperate

in quelling any public outcry. I have to conclude

that it was Israel's intent to sink the Liberty

and leave as few survivors as possible.  Up to the

point where the torpedo boats were sent in, you

could speculate on that point.


You have to remember that the Liberty was an

intelligence ship, not a fighting ship, and its

only defensive weapons were a pair of 50-caliber

machine guns both aft and on the forecastle.

There was little the men could do to fight off the

air assault from Israeli jets that pounded the

Liberty with bombs, rockets, napalm and machine

gun fire for 25 minutes.


With the Liberty riddled with holes, fires

burning, and scores of casualties, three Israeli

torpedo boats closed in for the kill.  The second

of three torpedoes ripped through a compartment at

amidships, drowning 25 of the men in that section.


Then the torpedo boats closed to within 100 feet

of the Liberty to continue the attack with cannons

and machine guns, resulting in further casualties.


It is telling, with respect to whether total

annihilation was the intent, that the Liberty crew

has reported that the torpedo boats' machine guns

also were turned on life rafts that were deployed

into the Mediterranean as well as those few on

deck that had escaped damage.


As we know now, if the rescue aircraft from U.S.

carriers had not been recalled, they would have

arrived at the Liberty before the torpedo attack,

reducing the death toll by 25.  The torpedo boat

commanders could not be certain that Sixth Fleet

aircraft were not on the way and this might have

led to their breaking off the attack after 40

minutes rather than remaining to send the Liberty

and its crew of 294 to the bottom.


Congress to this day has failed to hold formal

hearings for the record on the Liberty affair.

This is unprecedented and a national disgrace.


I spent hours on the Hill giving testimony after

the USS Pueblo, a sister ship to the Liberty, was

seized by North Korea.  I was asked every

imaginable question, including why a carrier in

the area failed to dispatch aircraft to aid the

Pueblo.  In the Liberty case, fighters were put in

the air - not once, but twice.


They were ordered to stand down by Secretary of

Defense McNamara and President Johnson for reasons

the American public deserves to know.


The captain and crew of the Liberty, rather than

being widely acclaimed as the heroes they most

certainly are, have been silenced, ignored,

honored belatedly and away from the cameras, and

denied a history that accurately reflects their



I was appalled that six of the dead from the

Liberty lay under a tombstone at Arlington

Cemetery that described them as having "died in

the eastern Mediterranean," as if disease rather

than Israeli intent had caused their deaths.  The

Naval Academy failed to record the name of Lt.

Stephen Toth in Memorial Hall on the grounds that

he had not been killed in battle.  I intervened

and was able to reverse the apparent idea that

dying in a cowardly, one-sided attack by a

supposed ally is somehow not the same as being

killed by an avowed enemy.


Commander McGonagle's story is the stuff of naval

tradition.  Badly wounded in the first air attack,

lying on the deck and losing blood, he refused any

treatment that would take him from his battle

station on the bridge.  He continued to direct the

ship's defense, the control of flooding and fire,

and by his own example inspired the survivors to

heroic efforts to save the ship.  He did not

relinquish his post until hours later, after

having directed the crippled ship's navigation to

a rendezvous with a U.S. destroyer and final

arrival in Malta.


I must have gone to the White House 15 times or

more to watch the President personally award the

Congressional Medal of Honor to Americans of

special valor.  So it irked the hell out of me

when McGonagle's ceremony was relegated to the

obscurity of the Washington Navy Yard and the

medal was presented by the Secretary of the Navy.

This was a back-handed slap.  Everyone else

received their medal at the White House.

President Johnson must have been concerned about

the reaction of the Israeli lobby.


The Liberty Veterans Association deserves the

encouragement of everyone who wants the facts of

the Liberty incident revealed and proper homage

paid to the men who lost their lives, to their

families, and to the survivors.  I have attended

many of their reunions and am always impressed

with the cohesion of the Liberty family.  They

arrive in town with their whole entourage -

grandmas, grandpas, grandchildren.  They promote

the memory of the boys who were killed and I

respect them for that.  They are mostly from small

country towns, probably a lot like Eufaula,

Alabama, where I grew up, and they represent the

basic core of America that has enabled us to be a

superpower for so long.  These are the kind of

people who will make certain that our liberty and

freedom survive if fighting is what it takes.


Courtesy of