William McGonagle PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 25 March 2009 17:22

William Loren McGonagle

Born: November 19, 1925 Wichita, Kansas

Died: March 3, 1999, Palm Springs, California

Age: 74

Cause of death: Age.

Notable because: He was the captain of the most decorated ship in US Naval history, the USS Liberty, attacked by Israel in 1967 with 37 American fatalities. A cover up of the Liberty's story by the American and Israeli Governments leaves a dark stain on relations between American Military personnel and the Politicians they serve. Although Captain McGonagle was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic defense of the Liberty, the presentation was not made in the White House, as is normally the case. Survivors of the USS Liberty attack believe the cover up of their story continues, illustrating the extent to which the Israeli lobby's influence places  Israels interests above the value of American soldiers lives. Many leading military experts believe the attack was a war crime that needs to be exposed.

William Loren McGonagle  was a United States Naval officer in command of the USS Liberty when it was attacked by the Israel Defense Force. William McGonagle is a recipient of the Medal of Honor.

He was born in Wichita, Kansas and enlisted in the Navy in 1944. He attended a three years Navy training program at the University of Southern California, before becoming a Navy officer. He took command of the Liberty in April 1966.USS Liberty (GTR-5)

McGonagle was presented his Medal of Honor at the Washington Navy Yard by the Secretary of the Navy, rather than at the White House by the President. Why?

McGonagle was promoted to the rank of captain in October 1967. After recovering from his wounds, McGonagle commanded the new ammunition ship Kilauea and commanded the NROTC Unit at the University of Oklahoma. He retired from active duty in 1974.

William McGonagle died on March 3, 1999. Following services at the Post Chapel at Fort Myer, Virginia, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on April 9, 1999 with full military honors and members of his USS Liberty crew in attendance. He was buried near the common gravesite of six members of the USS Liberty crew.

WL McGonagle Gravesite PHOTOHis Medal of Honor citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer, USS Liberty (AGTR-5) in the Eastern Mediterranean on 8-9 June 1967. Sailing in international waters, the Liberty was attacked without warning by Israeli jet fighter aircraft and motor torpedo boats which inflicted many casualties among the crew and caused extreme damage to the ship. Although severely wounded during the first air attack, Captain (then Commander) McGonagle remained at his battle station on the badly damaged bridge and, with full knowledge of the seriousness of his wounds, subordinated his own welfare to the safety and survival of his command. Steadfastly refusing any treatment which would take him away from his post, he calmly continued to exercise firm command of his ship. Despite continuous exposure to fire, he maneuvered his ship, directed its defense, supervised the control of flooding and fire, and saw to the care of the casualties. Captain McGonagle's extraordinary valor under these conditions inspired the surviving members of the Liberty's crew, many of them seriously wounded, to heroic efforts to overcome the battle damage and keep the ship afloat. Subsequent to the attack, although in great pain and weak from the loss of blood, Captain McGonagle remained at his battle station and continued to conn his ship for more than seventeen hours. It was only after rendezvous with a United States destroyer that he relinquished personal control of the Liberty and permitted himself to be removed from the bridge. Even then, he refused much needed medical attention until convinced that the seriously wounded among his crew had been treated. Captain McGonagle's superb professionalism, courageous fighting spirit, and valiant leadership saved his ship and many lives. His actions sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service.


http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/images/h97000/h97476.jpgUSS Liberty (AGTR-5) was a Belmont-class technical research ship. Her keel was laid down on February 23, 1945, as Simmons Victory, a Maritime Commission-type (VC2-S-AP3) hull, under a Maritime Commission contract at Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation of Portland, Oregon. She was delivered to the Maritime Commission on May 4, 1945, and chartered to the Pacific Far East Line of San Francisco, California. She operated in commercial trade until 1958, Simmons Victory was returned to the Maritime Administration for layup in the National Defense Reserve Fleet at Olympia, Washington.

In February 1963, the Navy acquired Simmons Victory and converted her to a "Miscellaneous Auxiliary" ship at Willamette Iron and Steel of Portland. On June 8, she was renamed the Liberty and given hull classification symbol AG-168. On April 1, 1964, she was reclassified a Technical Research Ship (AGTR-5). She was commissioned at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, in December.

In February 1965, Liberty steamed from the west coast to Norfolk, Virginia, where she was further outfitted (cost: $20,000,000 USD) to suit her for a mission of supporting the National Security Agency by collecting and processing foreign communications and other electronic emissions of possible national defense interests.

Insignia of USS Liberty

In June, Liberty began her first deployment, to waters off the west coast of Africa. She carried out several more operations during the next two years, and went to the Mediterranean Sea in 1967. During the Six-Day War between Israel and several Arab nations, she was sent to collect electronic intelligence in the eastern Mediterranean.

On the afternoon of June 8, 1967, while in international waters off the Sinai Peninsula, Liberty was attacked and damaged by Israeli forces; 34 crewmen were killed and 173 wounded. Considerable controversy surrounds this attack; see USS Liberty incident. Although severely damaged with a 39 foot wide by 24 foot high hole amidships and a twisted keel, Liberty’s crew kept her afloat, and she was able to leave the area under her own power. She was escorted to Valletta, Malta, by units of the Sixth Fleet and was given temporary repairs. After the repairs were completed, Liberty returned to the United States on July 27, 1967. She was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on June 28, 1968. She was laid up in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet of Norfolk until December 1970, when she was transferred to the Maritime Administration for disposal. In 1973, she was sold for scrapping to the Boston Metals Company of Baltimore, Maryland.


USS Liberty was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and Commander (later Captain) William McGonagle, Liberty’s commanding officer, received the Medal of Honor.






Summary of Events
The following extracts are taken from the formal War Crimes Report filed with the Secretary of Defense.



On June 8, 1967 while patrolling in international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, USS Liberty (AGTR-5) was savagely attacked without warning or justification by air and naval forces of the state of Israel.

Of a crew of 294 officers and men (including three civilians), the ship suffered thirty four (34) killed in action and one hundred seventy three (173) wounded in action. The ship itself, a Forty Million ($40,000,000) Dollar state of the art signals intelligence (SIGINT) platform, was so badly damaged that it never sailed on an operational mission again and was sold in 1970 for $101,666.66 as scrap.

Israel acknowledged the following facts without qualification:

  1. USS Liberty was an American ship, hence a neutral vis-à-vis the June 1967 war between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
  2. USS Liberty remained in international waters at all times on June 8, 1967.
  3. The attacking Israeli forces never made a positive identification of the nationality of USS Liberty before unleashing deadly force in their attack on the ship.

At approximately 0600 hours (all times local) on the morning of June 8, 1967 an Israeli maritime reconnaissance aircraft observer reported seeing "a US Navy cargo type ship," just outside the coverage of the Israeli coastal radar defense net, bearing the hull markings "GTR-5".This report, made to Israeli naval HQ, was also forwarded immediately to the Israeli navy intelligence directorate.

Throughout the remainder of the day prior to the attack, Israeli reconnaissance aircraft regularly flew out to USS Liberty? s position and orbited the ship before returning to their bases in Israel. A total of no fewer than eight (8) such flights were made.

At approximately 1050 hours, the naval observer from the early morning reconnaissance flight arrived at Israeli air force HQ and sat down with the air-naval liaison officer there. The two officers consulted Janes? Fighting Ships and learned that the ship reported earlier in the day was USS Liberty, a United States Navy technical research ship.

From 0900 hours on June 8, 1967, until the time of the attack five hours later, USS Liberty maintained a speed of approximately five knots and a generally westerly-northwesterly course.

At 1400 hours, while approximately 17 miles off the Gaza coast, USS Liberty? s crew observed three surface radar contacts closing with their position at high speed. A few moments later, the bridge radar crew observed high speed aircraft passing over the surface returns on the same heading.

Within a few short moments, and without any warning, Israeli fighter aircraft launched a rocket attack on USS Liberty. The aircraft made repeated firing passes, attacking USS Liberty with rockets and their internal cannons. After the first flight of fighter aircraft had exhausted their ordnance, subsequent flights of Israeli fighter aircraft continued to prosecute the attack with rockets, cannon fire, and napalm. 

During the air attack, USS Liberty? s crew had difficulty contacting Sixth Fleet to request assistance due to intense communications jamming

The initial targets on the ship were the command bridge, communications antennas, and the four .50 caliber machine guns, placed on the ship to repel boarders.

After the Israeli fighter aircraft completed their attacks, three Israeli torpedo boats arrived and began a surface attack about 35 minutes after the start of the air attack. The torpedo boats launched a total of five torpedoes, one of which struck the side of USS Liberty, opposite the ship? s research spaces.  Twenty-six Americans in addition to the eight who had been killed in the earlier air attacks, were killed as a result of this explosion.

Following their torpedo attack, the torpedo boats moved up and down the length of the ship (both the port and starboard sides), continuing their attack, raking the ship with cannon and machine gun fire.In Malta, crewmen were later assigned the task of counting all of the holes in the ship that were the size of a man? s hand or larger. They found a total of 861 such holes, in addition to "thousands" of .50 caliber machine gun holes.

Survivors report that the torpedo boat crews swept the decks of USS Liberty with continuous machine gun fire, targeting communications equipment and any crew members who ventured above decks.

Damage control firefighters, who had already risked their lives merely by appearing on deck, had to abandon their efforts because their fire hoses had been shredded by machine gun fire.

Survivors also report that the torpedo boat crews fired on the inflated life boats launched by the crew after the captain gave the order "prepare to abandon ship." This order had to be rescinded because the crew was unable to stand on the main deck without being fired upon and the life rafts were destroyed as they were launched.

The defenseless crew, initially unable to report their plight or summon assistance and with only themselves to rely upon, fought heroically to save themselves and their ship. In recognition of their effort in this single action, they were ultimately awarded collectively one Medal of Honor, two Navy Crosses, eleven Silver Stars, twenty Bronze Stars (with "V" device), nine Navy Commendation Medals, and two hundred and four Purple Hearts. In addition, the ship was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

By patching together different systems, the ship? s radio operators had ultimately been able to send a brief distress message that was received and acknowledged by United States Sixth Fleet forces present in the Mediterranean.Upon receipt of that message the aircraft carriers USS Saratoga and USS America each launched aircraft to come to the aid of USS Liberty. The reported attacking aircraft were declared hostile and the rescue aircraft were authorized to destroy them upon arrival.The rules of engagement, authorizing destruction of the attackers, were transmitted to the rescue aircraft "in the clear" (i.e., they were not encrypted).

Shortly after the Sixth Fleet transmission of the rules of engagement to its dispatched rescue aircraft, the Israeli torpedo boats suddenly broke off their attack and transmitted messages asking if USS Liberty required assistance. At the same time, an Israeli naval officer notified the US Naval Attaché at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv that Israeli forces had mistakenly attacked a United States Navy ship and apologized. The Naval Attaché notified the United States Sixth Fleet and rescue aircraft were recalled before they arrived at the scene of the attack.

At about the same time as the cessation of the torpedo boat attack, Israeli attack helicopters arrived over the ship. Survivors report that the helicopters were packed with men in combat battle dress. The Captain of USS Liberty gave the order to "prepare to repel boarders"but the helicopters departed without attempting to land their troops.

The official position of the United States of America concerning these events, as contained in a diplomatic note by Secretary of State Rusk addressed to the Israeli Ambassador is set forth, in relevant part, below:

"Washington, June 10, 1967.

The Secretary of State presents his compliments to His Excellency the Ambassador of Israel and has the honor to refer to the Ambassador's Note of June 10, 1967 concerning the attack by Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats on the United States naval vessel U.S.S. Liberty,

.  .  .

In these circumstances, the later military attack by Israeli aircraft on the U.S.S. Liberty is quite literally incomprehensible. As a minimum, the attack must be condemned as an act of military recklessness reflecting wanton disregard for human life.

The subsequent attack by Israeli torpedo boats, substantially after the vessel was or should have been identified by Israeli military forces, manifests the same reckless disregard for human life. .  .  . The U.S.S. Liberty was peacefully engaged, posed no threat whatsoever to the torpedo boats, and obviously carried no armament affording it a combat capability. It could and should have been scrutinized visually at close range before torpedoes were fired.

.  .  .  the Secretary of State wishes to make clear that the United States Government expects the Government of Israel also to take the disciplinary measures which international law requires in the event of wrongful conduct by the military personnel of a State."

There has been no statement in the last thirty-eight years by the United States government reversing or amending this formal position.

The Israeli Defense Forces Chief Military Prosecutor, immediately following the attack, filed formal charges recommending court martial proceedings against a number of Israeli military personnel.Prior to the start of court martial proceedings, the IDF turned the matter over to an examining judge to confirm that the prosecution should go forward. The examining judge disagreed with United States position that the attack was "an act of military recklessness reflecting wanton disregard for human life" and announced his finding that:

"Yet I have not discovered any deviation from the standard of reasonable conduct which would justify the committal [sic] of anyone for trial."

As a result of this blanket absolution, no one in the Israeli government or military has received so much as a reprimand for their involvement in the attack,much less the punishment demanded by the United States ("the United States Government expects the Government of Israel also to take the disciplinary measures which international law requires in the event of wrongful conduct by the military personnel of a State").

Within 24 hours of the attack, the United States Navy convened a formal Court of Inquiry into that attack ? a standard investigative procedure reserved for such serious events or circumstances. This procedure was unusual in only one respect ? the President and members appointed to the Court of Inquiry by the Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe (CINCUSNAVEUR), headquartered in London, were directed orally by the appointing authority to conduct and complete their investigative proceedings within one week ? a most unusual requirement in light of the nature and magnitude of the events they were ordered to investigate.

Convening initially in London, the Court proceeded immediately to the Mediterranean and conducted its inquiry both aboard USS Liberty as she limped under escort to Malta, and in succeeding days as she lay in drydock there. Concluding their inquiries there, the President of the Court, with the Navy Judge Advocate General? s Corps officer who had been appointed as Counsel to the Court, and with a Navy court reporter who had been assigned from the London headquarters to assist, returned to London on June 16, 1967 (eight days after the attack), with their results.

At London, the Navy court reporter supervised the final production of a written record of the Court? s proceedings and findings ? a document over 600 typewritten pages in length. On the afternoon of June 17, 1967, that record of the Court? s proceedings was delivered to the senior Navy Judge Advocate General? s Corps officer on the CINCUSNAVEUR staff for his review and recommendation to the appointing authority concerning his required endorsement and action upon the Court? s proceedings and record. The CINCUSNAVEUR Staff Judge Advocate thus charged with that review ? in full compliance and accord with standard Navy requirements and practice ? turned immediately to his detailed examination and consideration of the record. He continued that process steadily into the early morning hours of June 18, 1967, then after a four hour rest break resumed his review at 6:00 AM on June 18th.

In the midforenoon of June 18th an emissary from his Commander, the appointing authority, appeared and inquired of the Staff Judge Advocate concerning the status of his review and when it might be expected to be completed. The Staff Judge Advocate advised that he had by then read only about a third of the record ? that there were many clerical and typographical flaws in the record that should be remedied before it was formally forwarded to the high governmental authorities who undoubtedly awaited it ? that, more importantly, the reviewer had not yet been able to find, in the parts of the record he had so far reviewed, testimony or other evidence to support some of the Court? s stated conclusions ? and that he could not yet estimate when he could complete his review and recommendations but was continuing to devote himself solely to that task.

The emissary from the appointing authority departed with that information then returned about 20 minutes later with the message that CINCUSNAVEUR, the appointing authority had directed him to come and get the Court? s record from the Staff Judge Advocate and bring it back to the appointing authority. The Staff Judge Advocate accordingly surrendered the record to the emissary exactly as he had received it; he was neither then nor later asked for any of his work or opinions so far; and he had no further contact with the Court of Inquiry or its results at any time in his active Navy career.

The records of the Navy Department reveal that the written record of proceedings of the U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry into the Israeli attack upon USS Liberty was formally submitted by the President of the Court of Inquiry to CINCUSNAVEUR, the appointing authority by a written letter dated 18 June 1967, the very day that the record had been withdrawn by the appointing authority from his Staff Judge Advocate. The written record also reveals that the appointing authority, on that same day, placed upon that record of the Court? s proceedings, a five-page First Endorsement, transmitting that Record to the Judge Advocate General of the Navy in Washington as required by the Navy? s investigative procedures.

Mr. Secretary, it is respectfully submitted that, even based solely upon the facts and circumstances outlined above, the Navy Court of Inquiry into the Israeli attack on USS Liberty ? the sole official investigation by the United States Government into that attack ? was deficient and prejudiced, even at its outset, by the unreasonable haste imposed informally by the appointing authority. In addition, the processing of that Court? s hasty result was further compromised by its peremptory withdrawal from its initial and prescribed legal review in the field, and its hurried transmission to the seat of the U.S. Government under cover of a purported official endorsement that could not conceivably have been based upon even a cursory complete review of even the hasty work of the Navy Court of Inquiry. Inexplicably, the Court record was classified Top Secret and withheld from public scrutiny for many years.

In addition to all of that, however, the Judge Advocate General? s Corps officer who was appointed to serve as Counsel to the Navy Court of Inquiry ? the officer charged with certifying the authenticity of the Court? s record ? has examined a copy of the record of that Court of Inquiry that has since been released by the Government under the Freedom of Information Act and has pronounced it a fraud, and not the record that he had certified and submitted. Furthermore, the President of the Court of Inquiry, following his departure from London with the record on 18 June 1967, his personal delivery of the record to officials in Washington, and his return to his regular duty post in Italy, informed the officer who had served as Counsel to the Court of Inquiry that the Court? s record of its proceedings had been altered, in his presence, by civilian Government attorneys following its submission.

The Central Intelligence Agency issued an "interim" report on the attack, dated June 13, 1967 (five days after the attack and five days before the apparent completion of the Navy? s abbreviated Court of Inquiry). The heavily redacted copy of the CIA? s report that has been released to the public does not state a conclusion, but suggests that, based on the information available as of the date of the report, the Israeli forces may not have known that they were attacking an American ship.

Writing in his memoirs, Richard Helms, the Director of Central Intelligence at the time of the attack, explained that the Central Intelligence Agency undertook a "final" investigation after more evidence became available, and he offered the following information concerning the CIA? s final finding:

"Israeli authorities subsequently apologized for the incident, but few in Washington could believe that the ship had not been identified as an American naval vessel. Later, an interim intelligence memorandum concluded the attack was a mistake and not made in malice against the U.S. . . .I had no role in the board of inquiry that followed, or the board's finding that there could be no doubt that the Israelis knew exactly what they were doing in attacking the Liberty. I have yet to understand why it was felt necessary to attack this ship or who ordered the attack." [Emphasis added]

Director Helms was not the only administration official who remained convinced that the attack was deliberate. In 1990, in his memoirs, Secretary of State Rusk observed:

"But I was never satisfied with the Israeli explanation. Their sustained attack to disable and sink Liberty precluded an assault by accident or some trigger-happy local commander. Through diplomatic channels we refused to accept their explanations. I didn't believe them then, and I don't believe them to this day. The attack was outrageous."

Similarly, Clark M. Clifford, Counsel to the President at the time of the attack, recalled:

"I do not know to this day at what level the attack on the Liberty was authorized and I think it is unlikely that the full truth will ever come out. Having been for so long a staunch supporter of Israel, I was particularly troubled by this incident; I could not bring myself to believe that such an action could have been authorized by Levi Eshkol. Yet somewhere inside the Israeli government, somewhere along the chain of command, something had gone terribly wrong--and then had been covered up. I never felt the Israelis made adequate restitution or explanation for their actions...."

The then-General Counsel for the Department of Defense, attorney Paul C. Warnke, opined:

"I found it hard to believe that it was, in fact, an honest mistake on the part of the Israeli air force units. I still find it impossible to believe that it was. I suspect that in the heat of battle they figured that the presence of this American ship was inimical to their interests, and that somebody without authorization attacked it."

The Executive Branch of the United States Government undertook no further review of the attack. Similarly, the United States Congress has never investigated the attack, making it the only attack on a United States Navy ship involving significant loss of life that has not been so investigated.

Compounding the harm done to survivors was the task given to them to bring all human remains and classified materials out of the research spaces that had been destroyed by the torpedo explosion. The survivors assigned to this task were further traumatized by having to secure the remains of their shipmates, men they knew and had lived and worked with.

In the years that followed the attack, almost all of the evidence pertaining to the attack remained, inexplicably, highly classified. Starting in the late 1970s, heavily redacted documents began to be released as a result of FOIA requests. To this day, many USS Liberty related documents, including the CIA report referenced by Director Helms, remain classified.

A number of individuals and groups, some directly in the employ of the Israeli government, others self-appointed, have attempted to convince the public that the attack on USS Liberty was but an "innocent mistake." In furtherance of this goal they have fabricated and repeated demonstrably false allegations the most notable fabrication being that there have been "thirteen official investigations (including five Congressional investigations)" ? all of which concluded that the attack was a "tragic error." These allegations are wholly and demonstrably false.Worse, in some instances, deliberately falsified evidence has been proffered in support of this argument.

As a result of the public relations campaign undertaken on behalf of Israel, the USS Liberty survivors have been vilified for their assertions that the attack was deliberate and for their ongoing quest for justice. They are characterized as "neo-Nazis", "anti-Semites", and "conspiracy theorists" for wanting nothing more than an honest, open investigation of the attack on their ship and themselves.

In 2003, an independent commission of highly regarded experts was created to look into the matter. The Commission consisted of Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, United States Navy (Ret.), Former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; General Raymond G. Davis, United States Marine Corps, (MOH), Former Assistant Commandant of The Marine Corps; Rear Admiral Merlin Staring, United States Navy (Ret.), Former Judge Advocate General Of The Navy; and Ambassador James Akins (Ret.), Former United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

The "Moorer Commission" (Chaired by Adm. Moorer) investigated the attack and made the following findings:

"We, the undersigned, having undertaken an independent investigation of Israel's attack on USS Liberty, including eyewitness testimony from surviving crew members, a review of naval and other official records, an examination of official statements by the Israeli and American governments, a study of the conclusions of all previous official inquiries, and a consideration of important new evidence and recent statements from individuals having direct knowledge of the attack or the cover up, hereby find the following:

1. That on June 8, 1967, after eight hours of aerial surveillance, Israel launched a two-hour air and naval attack against USS Liberty, the world's most sophisticated intelligence ship, inflicting 34 dead and 173 wounded American servicemen (a casualty rate of seventy percent, in a crew of 294);

2. That the Israeli air attack lasted approximately 25 minutes, during which time unmarked Israeli aircraft dropped napalm canisters on USS Liberty's bridge, and fired 30mm cannons and rockets into our ship, causing 821 holes, more than 100 of which were rocket-size; survivors estimate 30 or more sorties were flown over the ship by a minimum of 12 attacking Israeli planes which were jamming all five American emergency radio channels;

3. That the torpedo boat attack involved not only the firing of torpedoes, but the machine-gunning of Liberty's firefighters and stretcher-bearers as they struggled to save their ship and crew; the Israeli torpedo boats later returned to machine-gun at close range three of the Liberty's life rafts that had been lowered into the water by survivors to rescue the most seriously wounded;

4. That there is compelling evidence that Israel's attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew; evidence of such intent is supported by statements from Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Undersecretary of State George Ball, former CIA director Richard Helms, former NSA directors Lieutenant General William Odom, USA (Ret.), Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, USN (Ret.), and Marshal Carter; former NSA deputy directors Oliver Kirby and Major General John Morrison, USAF (Ret.); and former Ambassador Dwight Porter, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon in 1967;

5. That in attacking USS Liberty, Israel committed acts of murder against American servicemen and an act of war against the United States;

6. That fearing conflict with Israel, the White House deliberately prevented the U.S. Navy from coming to the defense of USS Liberty by recalling Sixth Fleet military rescue support while the ship was under attack; evidence of the recall of rescue aircraft is supported by statements of Captain Joe Tully, Commanding Officer of the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, and Rear Admiral Lawrence Geis, the Sixth Fleet carrier division commander, at the time of the attack; never before in American naval history has a rescue mission been cancelled when an American ship was under attack;

7. That although Liberty was saved from almost certain destruction through the heroic efforts of the ship's Captain, William L. McGonagle (MOH), and his brave crew, surviving crew members were later threatened with "court-martial, imprisonment or worse" if they exposed the truth; and were abandoned by their own government;

8. That due to the influence of Israel's powerful supporters in the United States, the White House deliberately covered up the facts of this attack from the American people;

9. That due to continuing pressure by the pro-Israel lobby in the United States, this attack remains the only serious naval incident that has never been thoroughly investigated by Congress; to this day, no surviving crew member has been permitted to officially and publicly testify about the attack;

10. That there has been an official cover-up without precedent in American naval history; the existence of such a cover-up is now supported by statements of Rear Admiral Merlin Staring, USN (Ret.), former Judge Advocate General of the Navy; and Captain Ward Boston, USN, (Ret.), the chief counsel to the Navy's 1967 Court of Inquiry of Liberty attack;

11. That the truth about Israel's attack and subsequent White House cover-up continues to be officially concealed from the American people to the present day and is a national disgrace;

12. That a danger to our national security exists whenever our elected officials are willing to subordinate American interests to those of any foreign nation, and specifically are unwilling to challenge Israel's interests when they conflict with American interests; this policy, evidenced by the failure to defend USS Liberty and the subsequent official cover-up of the Israeli attack, endangers the safety of Americans and the security of the United States.

WHEREUPON, we, the undersigned, in order to fulfill our duty to the brave crew of USS Liberty and to all Americans who are asked to serve in our Armed Forces, hereby call upon the Department of the Navy, the Congress of the United States and the American people to immediately take the following actions:

FIRST: That a new Court of Inquiry be convened by the Department of the Navy, operating with Congressional oversight, to take public testimony from surviving crew members; and to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the attack on the USS Liberty, with full cooperation from the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the military intelligence services, and to determine Israel's possible motive in launching said attack on a U.S. naval vessel;

SECOND: That every appropriate committee of the Congress of the United States investigate the actions of the White House and Defense Department that prevented the rescue of the USS Liberty, thereafter threatened her surviving officers and men if they exposed the truth, and covered up the true circumstances of the attack from the American people; and

THIRD: That the eighth day of June of every year be proclaimed to be hereafter known as

USS LIBERTY REMEMBRANCE DAY, in order to commemorate USS Liberty's heroic crew; and to educate the American people of the danger to our national security inherent in any passionate attachment of our elected officials for any foreign nation.

We, the undersigned, hereby affix our hands and seals, this 22nd day of October, 2003.

Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, USN, Ret.
Former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

General of Marines Raymond G. Davis, USMC, MOH

Former Commandant of the United States Marine Corps

Merlin Staring
Rear Admiral Merlin Staring, USN, Ret.,
Former Judge Advocate General of the Navy,

James Akins
Ambassador James Akins, Ret.,
Former United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia"

The federal criminal code makes special provision for the prosecution of war crimes whether inside or outside the United States, committed against United States armed forces personnel:

"18 United States Code, Sec. 2441. - War crimes

(a) Offense. -

Whoever, whether inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, in any of the circumstances described in subsection (b), shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death.

(b) Circumstances. -

The circumstances referred to in subsection (a) are that the person committing such war crime or the victim of such war crime is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States or a national of the United States (as defined in section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act).

(c) Definition. -

As used in this section the term ''war crime'' means any conduct -

(1) defined as a grave breach in any of the international conventions signed at Geneva 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party;

(2) prohibited by Article 23, 25, 27, or 28 of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed 18 October 1907;

(3) which constitutes a violation of common Article 3 of the international conventions signed at Geneva, 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party and which deals with non-international armed conflict; or

(4) of a person who, in relation to an armed conflict and contrary to the provisions of the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices as amended at Geneva on 3 May 1996 (Protocol II as amended on 3 May 1996), when the United States is a party to such Protocol, willfully kills or causes serious injury to civilians."

The Geneva Convention (1949) defines the term "grave breach" as follows:

"Article 51

Grave breaches to which the preceding Article relates shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the Convention: willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly."

Even if there were no special provision authorizing the prosecution of war crimes, the provisions of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1114 compel the prosecution of those who kill or attempt to kill United States armed forces personnel in the performance of their duties.

"Sec. 1114. Protection of officers and employees of the United States

Whoever kills or attempts to kill any officer or employee of the United States or of any agency in any branch of the United States Government (including any member of the uniformed services) while such officer or employee is engaged in or on account of the performance of official duties, or any person assisting such an officer or employee in the performance of such duties or on account of that assistance, shall be punished -

(1) in the case of murder, as provided under section 1111;

(2) in the case of manslaughter, as provided under section 1112; or

(3) in the case of attempted murder or manslaughter, as provided in section 1113."

The prohibition against attacking neutrals on the high seas is unconditional. It does not allow for mistake. The belligerent force, when on the high seas, must verify that their proposed target is not a neutral and is, in fact, a co-belligerent. This provision very sensibly attempts to prevent the use of deadly force by mistake.The United States of American has long and vigorously asserted the right of its warships to transit the high seas, free from molestation by belligerents of wars to which the United States is not a party.

Of particular relevance to this matter, the Geneva Convention (1949) provides:


Article 51

Grave breaches to which the preceding Article relates shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the Convention: willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.

Article 52

No High Contracting Party shall be allowed to absolve itself or any other High Contracting Party of any liability incurred by itself or by another High Contracting Party in respect of breaches referred to in the preceding Article."

In the instant matter, Israel freely acknowledged that USS Liberty was a neutral ship in international waters.Israel also admitted that the attack was deliberate and made with the intent to sink the ship and crew. Israel has thus explicitly admitted the essential elements of a violation of Article 1 of the Hague Convention on Naval Warfare. Israel has further admitted the essential elements required to establish a "grave breach" as that term is defined in the Geneva Convention (1949).

The Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal established certain principles that were later adopted by all members of the United Nations. Of particular relevance is Principal VI:

"Principle VI

The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

.  .  .

(b) War crimes:

Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labour or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory; murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the Seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity."

It is well settled that homicides resulting from the accused committing an act inherently dangerous to others and showing a wanton disregard of human life may be charged as murder:

"Homicides prosecuted under Article 118(3) are those unlawful killings which result from an accused's committing "an act inherently dangerous to others and" showing "a wanton disregard of human life." The accused must also know that death or great bodily harm was a "probable consequence" of his conduct. Not surprisingly, intentional homicides under Article 118(2) also generally involve death as a "probable consequence"; and they are most often committed by acts which are "inherently dangerous," particularly to the deceased, and show "a wanton disregard" for the victim (i.e., killing by gunfire or other dangerous weapon).

We stated previously that, for unpremeditated murder under Article 118(3), Congress enacted the rule that murder by an act inherently dangerous to others requires ? a wanton disregard of human life" in general, without the actions of the accused "being aimed at anyone in particular.? "

U.S. v. Berg, 31 M.J. 38, 39, 40 (CMA,1990).

This is not a case of first impression. Precedent existsfor the finding that this type of attack represents a grave breach of the Laws of War.

Accordingly it is established, prima facie, that Israel was guilty of the commission of the war crime of attacking a neutral vessel in neutral waters as a consequence of its attack on USS Liberty.

USS Liberty survivors, through sworn statements, have established that the Israeli torpedo boats shot at rescuers and firefighters on the deck of the ship. They have further established that the same torpedo boats shot at USS Liberty? s life rafts, after the rafts had been put over the side of the ship into the sea for use by shipwrecked survivors.

There also exists prima facie evidence that Israeli forces committed additional separate war crimes by firing on the wounded and their rescuers, as well as subsequently firing into the life rafts.

The concerns of an Israeli whitewash first articulated by Secretary of State Ruskand later echoed by Undersecretary of State Battleturned out to be prophetic. In direct violation of Article 52 of the Geneva Convention, the Israeli Defense Forces absolved themselves of any wrongdoing, including criminal negligence, involving their attack on USS Liberty. When provided with a copy of the Israeli report, NSA Deputy Director Louis Tordella wrote "A nice whitewash for a group of ignorant, stupid and inept [epithet redacted]" on the cover of his copy.In that Israel has abdicated its responsibility under international law to investigate and bring the wrongdoers to justice, the task falls to the government of the aggrieved parties to act on their behalf.


The USS Liberty Veterans Association has established, prima facie, the commission of war crimes by the state of Israel against US military personnel and civilians. These Americans volunteered to serve their country. They followed all orders given to them.  In the course of following those orders, they were suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the state of Israel and their country did absolutely nothing to protect them or seek justice on their behalf..

The failure of the United States government to undertake a complete investigation of the Israeli attack on USS Liberty has resulted in grievous harm to the surviving victims, as well as to the families of all crew members. Equally serious, this failure has resulted in an indelible stain upon the honor of the United States of America. It has sent a signal to America? s serving men and women that their welfare is always subordinate to the interests of a foreign state. The only conceivable reason for this failure is the political decision to put the interests of Israel ahead of those of American servicemen, employees, and veterans.

Finally, the fact that the Israeli government and its surrogates in the United States have worked so long and hard to prevent an inquiry itself speaks volumes as to what such an inquiry would find.



Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 March 2009 20:10

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