Most Americans have never heard of the Israeli, Ephraim “Eppie” Evron. A half century ago, in May of 1967, he was deputy chief of mission in the Israeli embassy in Washington and in that ostensible capacity had a meeting with President Lyndon Johnson in the Oval Office on May 26. From all indications, as we learn from Phillip Nelson in Remember the Liberty!: Almost Sunk by Treason on the High Seas, Evron was likely the real power in the embassy as the top Mossad official there. An even more interesting thing about Evron was that he was “one of the main conspirators” in the infamous Lavon Affair, a failed plot in 1954 by Israel to bomb U.S. and British facilities in Egypt and pin it on Arab extremists. (In 2005 the Israeli government outrageously honored nine of its agents involved in that episode.) Thanks to America’s Israel-first press, the appalling, treacherous Lavon Affair is no doubt as little known to Americans as is Eppie Evron.
Thirteen days after that meeting, on June 8, 1967, on the fourth day of Israel’s highly successful Six-Day War with its Arab neighbors, after hours of aerial surveillance, Israel would launch a murderous, multi-staged assault on the American intelligence ship, the USS Liberty. The identity of the ship was as unmistakable as if it had been the Statue of Liberty. It was bristling with antennas, it flew a large American flag, and its name was clearly painted on its stern. The 4-foot high identification numbers on either side of the bow were in Latin writing, GTR-5, not in Arabic. The weather and visibility were perfect.
Beginning shortly after dawn, “at least twelve, possibly thirteen Israeli aircraft began surveilling the Liberty, some of which were only 1,000 feet or less in altitude, apparently to photograph and ‘map’ her for later targeting purposes.” The assault began without warning just before 2:00 p.m. when three curiously unmarked French-built Mirage fighter jets “bore down on the ship in a fast low-level attack that began with rockets targeted at the four gun mounts and heat-seeking missiles aimed at the communications gear, with their warmed transmitters.”
With the Liberty’s ability to defend itself completely neutralized by the knocking out of its four meager .50-caliber machine guns, slower Super Mystere fighters replaced the Mirage jets, “probably because they could rake the ship even more effectively.” That they did with cannons, rockets, and napalm, spreading carnage among the defenseless, stunned crewmen.
The Liberty carried 294 men. Just over 70% of them would end up as casualties of the attack, with 34 dead and 174 injured. Officially, to this day, the episode is written off as just a “tragic accident,” a simple case of “mistaken identity.” So thoroughgoing has the news suppression been that four years after the event Lyndon Johnson (more precisely, his ghost writer, Doris Kearns Goodwin) was able to write in his memoirs, Vantage Point, that 10 men had been killed and 100 injured, and no one of note said anything about the outrageous undercount. “Who cares?” our news media said in so many words.
The experience, as it is recounted in the book, is made all the more poignant by the fact that we get eyewitness accounts from Nelson’s co-authors, attack-survivors Ernest A. Gallo, Ronald G. Kukal, and Phillip F. Tourney. The four writers together are almost uniquely qualified to provide in this 50th anniversary year the definitive account and analysis of the assault on the Liberty. Nelson, with his previous two books, LBJ: The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination and LBJ: From Mastermind to Colossus has established himself as the most incisive and fearless biographer of the “psychopathic,” ultra-Zionist 36th president of the United States. In that second book, with most of a chapter devoted to the subject, Nelson gives the sort of attention to the Liberty attack that is missing from LBJ’s Wikipedia page, but one should not think that he already knows all he needs to know about the Liberty assault from that account. This latest book is full of important new revelations.
Gallo was one of the many intelligence officers on the Liberty, which was under the control of the National Security Administration, though manned largely by U.S. Navy sailors. He is the author of the 2013 book, Liberty Injustices: A Survivor’s Account of American Bigotry and is the current president of the USS Liberty Veterans Association. Kukal was the petty officer in charge of body recovery and identification on the Liberty. No one is more intimately familiar with the pain and suffering caused by the attack. Tourney, a three-time president of the USS Liberty Veterans Association, was a Navy enlisted man assigned to damage control (fireman) on the day of the attack. He is the author of What I Saw That Day: Israel’s June 8th, 1967 Holocaust of US Servicemen aboard the USS Liberty and its Aftermath and is the host of the Saturday call-in show Your Voice Counts on the Republic Broadcasting Network.
Frustrated Madman President
No one reading Remember the Liberty can reach any other conclusion than that, as with the Lavon Affair, this was another failed false flag attack, and that it was virtually a miracle that it failed. After the ship’s defenses and communications had been blown away, gunboats fired four torpedoes that missed. The fifth torpedo struck the Liberty, but it did not penetrate into the bowels of the ship, having squarely hit one of the structural I-beams. Even so, it opened a large hole in the side of the ship. Had the torpedo struck a couple of inches to the left or the right, though, it would have caused the ship’s boilers to explode as the cold sea water rushed in and the ship would have fractured and sunk within minutes. That was the clear intent of the attackers.
As Nelson has pieced together the evidence, the assault on the Liberty was as carefully planned over a long period of time as was the Six-Day War itself. The 294 men on board were meant to be the sacrificial lambs for the audacious, grandiose scheme that was to draw in the United States with both feet—likely even with the use of nuclear weapons—against the Egyptians, who had been virtually pushed into the orbit of the Soviet Union by America’s strongly pro-Israel policy under Johnson. Two A-4 bomber aircraft launched from the USS America aircraft carrier at the same time that fighter jets took off from the carrier to come to the aid of the Liberty were, according to one of the pilots, carrying nuclear weapons targeted for Cairo. Those fighter jets, had they not have been recalled by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara himself, would have arrived in time to prevent the worst of the attack, the torpedo attack that killed 26 men in the communications room. For their part, the bombers did not return until four or five days later. As the pilot explained, the nuclear bombs made the planes “too heavy and dangerous to land back on the aircraft carrier,” and they had to be diverted to a land-based airstrip.
In California, at Beale Air Force Base north of Sacramento, B-52 bombers along with KC-135 midair refueling tankers were scrambled between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m., which would have been at least an hour before the attack actually took place. Presidential adviser and future defense secretary Clark Clifford wrote in his memoirs that he was awakened at home at 6 a.m. that same morning, June 8, for an emergency meeting at the White House. That was two hours before the “surprise” Israeli attack began.
At the center of the scheme was President Johnson. As an American politician not from the state of New York, Johnson had long since shown himself to be ahead of his time in his total commitment to the state of Israel, his “passionate attachment,” if you will. To illustrate his point, Nelson reminds us of the letter that Johnson, as Senate majority leader, wrote to President Dwight Eisenhower’s secretary of state, John Foster Dulles in February of 1957 in opposition to UN sanctions on Israel for its role in the Suez Crisis and then leaked to The New York Times. Eisenhower and his administration supported the sanctions and he was furious with Johnson for undercutting official U.S. government policy. In response to Johnson’s affront, Eisenhower went on radio and television with this message, not mentioning Johnson by name: “America has either one voice or none, and that voice is the voice of the President—whether everybody agrees with him or not.” He further stated that the U.N. had “no choice but to exert pressure upon Israel.”
As president, Johnson didn’t just reverse John Kennedy’s policy on Vietnam, dramatically escalating American involvement in the war as opposed to Kennedy’s directive to begin bringing our troops home, but he gave the green light to Israel’s nuclear program, which Kennedy had strongly opposed, setting the country off on the extremely pro-Israel course that it has followed ever since. That this was done in spite of the vicious, unprovoked assault on 294 Americans serving their country is evidence, almost in itself, that something is seriously amiss here. America’s military assistance to Israel also took a big jump up during Johnson’s administration. In Nelson’s words:
Unfortunately, the cost to the United States was very high, especially in terms of the intangible loss of valued integrity, respect and honor to its friends and allies. Even to Israel itself, which Undersecretary of State George Ball concluded, poignantly, resulted in the Israelis coming to believe that, if they could get by with an attack of this enormity, then they could “get by with almost anything.” It may explain why Israel gets the most foreign aid dispensed by the U.S., but still wants more. Their 2016 request is up to $5 billion per year from $3 billion in recent years.
As Nelson tells it though, as things have turned out they are not nearly as bad as they might have been had the plot to sink the Liberty succeeded. By Nelson’s thesis, Johnson saw our big plunge into the Middle East on the successful side of beleaguered little Israel as a dramatic way to reverse the course of his own political fortunes, always foremost in his consideration. Jewish Americans, who tend to be heavily liberal in their orientation, were in the forefront of the opposition to his Vietnam policy. Here was his chance for him to be their hero and to thereby cement his chance for re-election in 1968. What the grand gesture on behalf of Israel needed was what something that the Project for a New American Century has since given a rather bad name, a “catalyzing event.” That event was to have been the sinking of the Liberty by the Soviet-allied Egyptians, we were to be told, with the loss of all of its crew. A more dastardly plot is hard to imagine, but no other explanation for what is known to have transpired makes nearly as much sense.
“I want that Goddamn ship going to the bottom. No help. Recall the wings.” That is the precise order that Johnson gave Rear Admiral Lawrence Geis, the commander of the battle group of which the America was a part, the second time American planes were recalled, this time after the torpedo had struck. Geis gave that information years later to Lieutenant Commander David Lewis, who had been the head of the NSA group on the Liberty. Geis had asked Lewis to keep it secret until after he was dead, which Lewis did.
Johnson apparently thought Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had not been forceful enough when he recalled the planes from their first attempt at a rescue effort. McNamara’s words to Geis had been, “President Johnson is not going to go to war or embarrass an American ally over a few sailors.” This information comes from Chief Petty Officer J.Q. “Tony” Hart, who worked in a U.S. Navy relay station in Morocco processing communications between Washington and the 6th Fleet. Probably the most revealing thing about this conversation is that at that early stage of the attack neither Geis nor even the men on the Liberty knew that the attackers were actually our Israeli “ally.” Geis learned the identity of the attackers from his superiors, not from the ones who were crying for help.
The Foiled Plot
The scheme to sink the Liberty was thwarted not just by the fortunate trajectory of that one torpedo that struck the ship. The heroic efforts of Captain William McGonagle and his crew must also be credited, but, before that, what the 23 year-old seaman Terry Halbardier did saved the day for the 260 men who survived, and probably saved the day for a lot more of us. One can read a very moving and informative tribute to Halbardier by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern at Consortiumnews.com., who also wrote the foreword to Remember the Liberty!
As noted, the attacking airplanes had specifically targeted the ship’s communications. Within ten minutes of the initial onslaught Halbardier risked his life to go out amid the strafing to string a new cable from the one undamaged antenna to the one functioning transmitter, which was only functioning because it happened to have been shut down when the heat-seeking missiles came in. They sent a cry for help that somehow got through the intense radio jamming efforts of the Israelis (which were tellingly aimed at American radio frequencies). It was because of this fact that Johnson and McNamara were forced into their extraordinarily incriminating scurry-around mode in which they had to justify orders to American military officers not to go to the aid of fellow servicemen under attack. That action might well represent the lowest point in the history of the American presidency (although one can think of a number that rival it).
The authors are not sure as to what caused the Israelis to scuttle the fourth, coup de grace, stage of the attack. Helicopters with armed commandos hovered for a while over the blasted ship with its gaping hole in the side. The plan, apparently, was for the commandos to rappel down onto the deck and kill all the survivors before finally sinking the ship. But not only did the Israelis know that the cry for help had gone out and might, in spite of the plan in which the American president was known to be complicit, result in rescuers arriving at any minute from one of their warships, but also a Russian destroyer had come into view.
From “Catalyzing Event” to Cover-up
When the Liberty failed to sink, LBJ and our ruling criminal elite were forced into full cover-up mode, and that is where we have remained now for exactly half a century. “Rush up and hush up” is how we might sum up the farce of an “investigation” and the general aftermath of the attack. Given the assignment of overseeing the under-rug-sweeping, the Court of Inquiry, was the Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, John McCain, Jr., the father of Senator and former Republican presidential nominee, John McCain III. How McCain performed his duties is well summed up by this information from Gallo in the book:
We later learned the testimonies of the wounded on the USS America and USS Little Rock (a cruiser and Sixth Fleet Flag Ship) were considered important by the court but were over-ruled by Admiral McCain in London. They also wanted to interview Israelis, however McCain insisted the court conclude as soon as possible. Members of the crew who gave critical testimony obtained a copy of this report and they indicated that their testimony was left out if it indicated Israeli brutality.
A proper inquiry into the incident, according to the Navy Judge Advocate General Captain Ward Boston, Jr., who was chief assistant to the president of the Court, Rear Admiral Isaac Kidd, would have required at least six months. Instead, they were given a week.
So much for the “rush up” part. The “hush up” comes from the words of Admiral Kidd, addressing the men on the crippled ship, as recalled by Tourney. The quote heads up Chapter 4:
Ok fellas, now I’m an admiral again and I want each and every one of you to understand something. We’re talking about National Security here, not your personal feelings, not what you did or did not do… I could really give a shit about any of that. You listen to me once, because this is the only time you’re ever going to hear it. You are NEVER to repeat what you just told me to ANYONE—not your mother, your father, your wife—ANYONE! Including your shipmates. You are not to discuss this with anyone, especially—ESPECIALLY—not with the MEDIA, or you will end up in PRISON, or WORSE!
The general hush-up was successful for quite a long time. The silence was broken with a bang, though, in 1979 when survivor James M. Ennes Jr. came out with his book Assault on the Liberty; The True Story of the Israeli Attack on an American Intelligence Ship. Since that time there has been no good excuse for anybody really interested in the truth to believe the official “tragic accident” story.
That did not stop former U.S. Navy aviator and retired bankruptcy court judge A. Jay Cristol from publishing The USS Liberty Incident: The 1967 Israeli Attack on the U.S Navy Spy Ship, which purported to give the last word on the matter, that is, the same as the official first word, “tragic accident.” Thirteen investigations, said Cristol among a lot of other things, had all come to that same conclusion. As Terence O’Keefe pointed out in his December 2003 article in the Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs, actually that hasty first inquiry remains to this day the only thing that has been done that even purports to be an investigation, and here’s what he says about that:
The U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry: The senior legal adviser to the Court of Inquiry reflected that, in his entire career, he has never seen court of inquiry appointing letters with such limited authority, or an investigation made in such haste. The court’s hearings began before the Liberty even arrived in Malta, and the report was completed just 10 days after the attack. The court commented on this haste in the official record: “The Court of Inquiry experienced no unusual difficulties incident to conducting the subject proceedings except for the necessity of investigating such a major naval disaster of international significance in an extremely abbreviated time frame.”
Due in part to the required haste and the limitations imposed on the scope of the court’s inquiries (“It was not the responsibility of the court to rule on the culpability of the attackers, and no evidence was heard from the attacking nation”), the court concluded that “available evidence combines to indicate…[that the attack was] a case of mistaken identity.”
How, one might ask, could one inquire into all of the circumstances without hearing from the attacking nation? In fact, the court did neither. According to Captain Ward Boston, chief legal counsel to the Court of Inquiry, the court found that the attack was deliberate, but reported falsely that it was not because they were directed by the president of the United States and the secretary of defense to report falsely. So the findings are fraudulent. Yet these fraudulent findings were the basis for several other reports that followed.
Boston, in fact, had been so infuriated by the Cristol book that he came forward with an affidavit stating that what the Court of Inquiry had done was, in effect, a cover-up. The full affidavit is on pp. 125-128 of Remember the Liberty. On the Internet, one can read it at the web site of If Americans Knew.
Cristol, of course, has had his promoters. One very predictable one is the Jewish-American academic, Daniel Pipes. A response to Pipes’ favorable review of Cristol’s book on his own web site by David Smyth, which corresponds with what one will find in Remember the Liberty, to my mind, speaks very nearly the last word as to the deliberateness of the attack:
Mr. Pipes says of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty: “conspiracy theories pointing to a purposeful Israeli attack arose quickly and have persisted through the years.” About twenty years ago I did a story for the Associated Press on the Liberty incident that was published by the Los Angeles Times and a large number of other US newspapers. I spoke to the following officials (their titles correspond to the positions they occupied at the time of the Liberty incident) and they all told me that the Israeli attack was deliberate, not an accident:
Secretary of State Dean Rusk
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Thomas Moorer
CIA Director Richard Helms
NSA Deputy Director Louis Tordella.
I am no authority on conspiracy theories, but there seem to be three possibilities here. A) Rusk, Moorer, Helms and Tordella were all propagators of a conspiracy theory. B) They were all dupes of a conspiracy theory. C) There is no valid conspiracy theory.
I am retired now, but I have always considered it my business to report facts, not to disentangle conspiracy theories, so I will leave that task to others. I might add that I gathered other statements. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara told me on the phone that he had “no recollection” of the Liberty Incident. I also talked on the phone to Admiral Isaac Kidd, who headed the naval court of inquiry into the Liberty attack. I told him what Rusk and the others had said and asked if he had any opinion on Israeli culpability. He said, “The giants of that time can speak out. I know when to keep my mouth shut.”
As it turned out, Kidd continued to keep his mouth shut about the Liberty attack until the end, but his assistant, Captain Boston, later did his speaking for him.
Where Does Your Allegiance Lie?
Although half a century has now passed, hardly any event, when looked at in the clear light of day, permits us to come to grips more completely with the political reality of the United States today than does the assault on the USS Liberty. We live in an era in which members of the United States military have never been more venerated. From sports events to airport encounters, we’re expected to honor them at every turn. “Support the troops” is seemingly an admonition that no one can disagree with.
All of the military reverence comes to a screeching halt, though, when it comes to the surviving crewmen of the USS Liberty. They can only be brushed aside, with their demands for a true accounting for what was done to them by our great “ally” with the connivance of their own leaders. For our politicians to do otherwise and to get to the bottom of what happened there in the Eastern Mediterranean on June 8, 1967, would put them on a collision course with the real ruling power in the country. When it comes down to the choice of supporting our troops or supporting the ethnic-supremacist state of Israel, whose fundamental nature was revealed as much by the Liberty attack as it was by the Lavon Affair, and for whom we regularly pour out our fortune, our credibility, and our blood, Israel it has to be.
June 8, 2017