On June 8, 1967 the USS Liberty was attacked by the Israeli Air Force and Navy.  The Liberty was a converted World War II transport (victory class) ship armed with 4-50 caliber machine guns.  She was traveling at 5 knots 13 miles from shore off the Gaza Strip.
Without warning, the Israeli Air Force Mirage fighters strafed her, resulting in 820 rocket and cannon holes topside.  After the fighters came Mystere bombers dropping napalm.  While the Liberty crew attempted to fight the fires the Israeli Navy sent 3 torpedo boats after her.  They fired 5 torpedoes leaving the Liberty with a 40 foot hole in her starboard side.  When the smoke cleared 34 Liberty sailors were dead and 171 were wounded.  This represented 2/3 of the 294 crew members.
  The attack started at 2pm local time.  At 2:05 the 6th Fleet received a distress call from the Liberty.  At 2:09, Captain Joseph Tully Jr., the Captain of the USS Saratoga scrambled a squadron of fighters to come to her aid.  Half way through the estimated 15 minute flight the White House ordered the planes recalled.  The torpedo struck the Liberty at 2:35 when 25 of the 34 sailors died.
  Still today the crew has many unanswered questions.  The Israelis admit they had identified the Liberty at their control center 6 hours earlier.  The Liberty was in International waters.  The Liberty was flying the US Flag, had its name largely printed on the stern and its letter designation on the bow of the ship.  During the attack when the flag was shot down, the Holiday flag (7x13ft) was raised in its place. The Israelis claim to have mistaken the ship for the El Quseir which is only 1/4 the displacement of the Liberty.  The topside configuration of the old tramp steamer (El Quseir) and the intelligence ship (the Liberty) loaded with communications antennas did not look alike at all. The then Secretary of State (Dean Rusk) can not believe this was a mistake because it involved combined (air and naval) forces.  The Israelis say they came out to find the ship that shelled the shore the previous day. Even a Cub Scout can tell you can not shell the shore 13 miles away with  4-50 caliber machine guns.  The Israelis say they thought they had us on radar traveling at 30 knots.  The top speed of the Liberty was 18 knots and the El Quseir was 14 knots.  In fact the Liberty had not exceeded 5 knots while on its station.  In addition a declassified top secret State Department Report (obtained through the freedom of information act) claims the attack was not a mistake.  A Lt. Commander in the Judge Advocate Generals Office has written a paper seriously questioning the court of inquiry.  The Israelis say no flag was flying.  All the Liberty sailors topside claim it was.  The Court found the flag must have hung limp on a windless day.  The ships log (windage logged every half hour) stated their was 12 knots of wind.  Only 8 knots are needed to fly a flag.  Why did the White House deny the 6th fleet the opportunity to come to our aid?
   Lyndon Johnson`s book "The Vantage Point Perspectives of the Presidency 1963-1969" left the reader with the idea the attack resulted in 10 dead and a few wounded.  This is a long way from 2/3 of the crew.  Why was Captain Mc Gonagle`s Congressional Medal of Honor given to him in the Washington Naval Shipyard by the Secretary of the Navy instead of at the Whitehouse by the President like other recipients?  Why did the head stone on our Mass Grave in Arlington were six of my shipmates are buried) read, “Died in the Eastern Medeterainian”.  Only after confrontation was it changed to, “Killed aboard USS Liberty”.  Political groups in Milwaukee Wisconsin said that bringing up the name of the Liberty was anti-Semitic and the town of Grafton was wrong for naming a library after the ship.
After 3 years of therapy coming to grips with survivor's guilt & anger and rage from being beat up and abandoned, it took 4 years for me to decide what to do with my anger.  I gave it to congress in the form of a 3 page letter with 30 pages of documentation.  The above statement is a condensed version of that effort.
  On the right is a comparison of the ship we were supposed to be mistaken for.
In 1997 I organized a display for the Navy Memorial in Washington DC.  I solicited items from my shipmates.  The head of our research (intelligence) department, Dave Lewis sent me the letter below.  The picture (right) was taken of Dave on the USS America after the attack.
  During the actual attack on the USS Liberty I was in the "Research Spaces"- below decks and saw none of the action.  I could hear the bombs explode and the rockets as they would penetrate 2 or 3 bulkheads before they detonated inside the ship.  As the ship radios were my responsibility I concentrated on ensuring that an SOS got transmitted.  Since on their first strafing run the Israelis had concentrated on destroying all of our transmitting antennas, my radiomen were stringing new long wires during the attack.  In retrospect we found that we had succeeded in getting an SOS to the Sixth Fleet but no assistance was forthcoming of which more later.  I was one of the fortunate ones, that torpedo detonated less than 10 feet from me but the explosion wrapped a steel bulkhead around me shielding me from the full force of the explosion.  The twenty years accumulation of paint on the bulkhead also exploded under the intense heat and every square inch of my exposed skin was covered with burned paint.  Since my condition was not critical I was med-evaced to the USS America.  There excess burned paint was removed and my eyelids were lanced open having been seared shut in the explosion.  After I could again see,  Radm Geis requested my presence in his cabins.  He told me that since I was the senior Liberty survivor on board he wanted to tell me in confidence what had actually transpired.  He told me that upon receipt of our SOS aircraft were launched to come to our assistance and then Washington was notified.  He said that the Secretary of defense (Robert MacNamara) had ordered that the aircraft be returned to the carrier which was done.  Radm Geis then said that he speculated that Washington may have suspected that the aircraft carried nuclear weapons so he put together another flight of conventional aircraft that had no capability of carrying nuclear weapons.  These he launched to assist us and again notified Washington of his actions.  Again MacNamara ordered the aircraft recalled.  He requested confirmation of the order being unable to believe that Washington would let us sink.  This time President Johnson ordered the recall with the comment that he would not embarrass his allies. This is, to the best of my ability, what I  recall transpiring 30 years ago.
David E. Lewis                                                                        Lt. Commander (at time of attack)