Originally a commercial trade ship built in 1945, the USS Liberty was acquired by the U.S. Navy 18 years later and commissioned first as a miscellaneous auxiliary ship, then later as a Technical Research Ship. Primarily used to gather intelligence for the National Security Administration, the ship was in International Waters in the Mediterranean just north of Egypt when it was attacked by Israeli forces on June 8, 1967. Unmarked Israeli aircraft launched an assault on the vessel, leaving 34 Americans dead and another 174 wounded.
While Israel claimed the incident was an accident, that they mistook the US ship for an Egyptian horse transport vessel, much evidences points to the contrary. To begin with, the USS Liberty was much larger than and had a distinctly different profile from that of the Egyptian ship, El Quseir. An NSA report later revealed that El Quseir “was approximately one quarter of the Liberty’s tonnage [and] about one-half its length”, so it’s hard to believe that the Liberty could be mistaken for the El Quesir. Additionally, before firing, the Israeli pilots made low passes over the ship and reportedly identified the ship as an American naval ship. Several of the pilots reported this information back to their command center over radio, which was verified by radio operators that intercepted the transmissions at the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon. The Israeli pilots were commanded to fire on the ship anyway. One of these pilots later came forward, testifying that once he realized the ship was American, he defied orders and returned to base without hitting his target. Even if the incident was a case of mistaken identity in the beginning, the command to fire after the ship had been identified as a US naval vessel certainly seems like a deliberate and planned attack. Some also call into question why Israel would use unmarked aircraft in their mission. Israel and Egypt were already embroiled in the 6 Day War, so there would have been no logical reason to use unmarked planes in an act of war against an Egyptian ship.
Survivors of the ordeal thought that the U.S. government would see the incident as they did, as deliberate attack on an American military vessel, but many were surprised at the government’s detached reaction. The government accepted Israel’s apologies about the “accident” and held their hands out for Israel to pay damages to the victims’ families and for the ship itself. Though the surviving servicemen and the families of those who perished cried for the truth, the U.S. government refused to answer their demands for a thorough investigation. To many, it felt like the government was covering up, protecting its ally instead of its own citizens.
Now, almost 50 years later, it seems we have no more clarity or closure on the issue than we did back then. In 2007, the NSA released a final report on the incident, which neither affirmed or denied Israel’s culpability in the attacks. This is an abomination. How could the U.S. government so shamelessly ignore the pleas of the those who serve our country with their lives?
In gratitude for the men who lost their lives on the USS Liberty, as well as the millions of others who have given their lives in battle for this country, usslibertyinquiry.com hopes to serve as a place for veterans and current military men and women to find community and air grievances. A place where service members are appreciated and honored for the selfless sacrifices they make for our country. God Bless America.