American Legion calls on Congress to finally investigate ‘USS Liberty’ attack, 50 years after

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The veterans association of the USS Liberty, the intelligence ship attacked by Israel during the 1967 war, issued a press release this week reporting that the American Legion, “the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization,” approved a resolution at its convention last week calling on Congress to investigate the June 8 attack, which killed 34 sailors and injured scores more.

“It is a very significant vote because the American Legion has looked at us with disdain and dishonor for years, and we didn’t deserve it,” Ernest Gallo, a communications technician on the Liberty and the president of the veterans association, tells me.

Gallo said that the American Legion leadership has repeatedly stuffed resolutions calling on Congress to investigate the attack — an investigation the government has never undertaken — but that at the convention in Reno last week there was a grassroots groundswell, and the measure passed. “They were doing their best to stop it when someone from Iowa stood up and spoke up for it, and whatever he said, the rest of them got on board and it passed,” Gallo said.

He credited the shift to a general change in American attitudes toward Israel for “a whole bunch of different little reasons,” including the growth of Jewish groups that question Zionism and the 50th anniversary of the occupation, to the rising awareness among Americans about Palestinian conditions, making it difficult to suppress the truth. “Anyone with their head screwed on knows that since 1948, Israel has had it thumb on these people,” Gallo said.

The American Legion website does not confirm that the resolution was passed. I called the American Legion and am waiting for an answer.

Gallo said that Legion leadership has long opposed an investigation because it doesn’t want to rock the boat of US Israel friendship, even if that means overlooking the deaths of 34 Americans. When a similar resolution failed a few years ago, Gallo said, a Liberty veteran was told by a Legion leader that the Liberty crew had it coming because they were serving on a spy ship.

What follows are the announcement by the USS Liberty Veterans Association, and then the text of the resolution as drafted.

USS Liberty Veterans Association:

In a historic move, the American Legion, at its national convention in Reno on Thursday, August 24, 2017, approved Resolution 40 (text provided below) calling for the first full U.S. government investigation of Israel’s 1967 attack on the USS Liberty.

Gunnery Sergeant Bryce F. Lockwood (USMC, ret.) was on hand during the entire convention working for passage of the resolution, which originated earlier this year from Post 40 in Seattle in the American Legion Department of Washington (state).

Lockwood was awarded the Silver Star for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action in connection with the unprovoked and unexpected armed attack on U.S.S. LIBERTY (AGTR-5), in the Eastern Mediterranean, on 8 June 1967.”

Lockwood said there were a lot of “hand shakes, hugs, and some tears” after the vote.

The American Legion’s resolution brings the nation’s largest veterans organization back on the side of the USS Liberty survivors, family, and supporter in calling upon the “115th United States Congress to publicly, impartially, and thoroughly investigate the attack on the USS Liberty and its aftermath and to commence its investigation before the end of 2017, the 50th anniversary year of the attack.”

The resolution also aligns the Legion with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which, in 2013, adopted Resolution 423 at their national convention calling for the attack to be investigated.

The Liberty was a U.S. Navy electronics ship operating in international waters in the eastern Mediterranean when it was attacked by Israeli forces, killing 34 and injuring at least 174.

The ship’s commander received the Congressional Medal of Honor and the crew is one of the most decorated for a single engagement in U.S. Navy history.

The claim is sometimes incorrectly made that the attack has already been investigated. However, a one-week-long Naval inquiry was only tasked with investigating crew performance during the attack, and Congress has never investigated it, as reported in the July 1997 issue of The American Legion Magazine and elsewhere. For more information go to [FAQ on the supposed numerous investigations of the attack] or see [USS Liberty veterans association]. See key American Legion resolution documents [here].

Here is the text of the resolution as passed by the American Legion convention’s National Security committee on August 20, according to the Liberty veterans press release:

National Headquarters, The American Legion
Ninety-Ninth Annual National Convention, Reno, Nevada August 22, 23, 24, 2017

WHEREAS, on June 8, 1967, while operating in support of the National Security Agency (NSA) in international waters, properly marked as to her identity and nationality, and in calm, clear weather in the eastern Mediterranean, the USS Liberty (AGTR-5) was the target of an unprovoked attack by Israeli military forces that killed 34 members of the Liberty’s crew and wounded 173; and,

WHEREAS, in recognition of their heroic efforts during and after the Israeli onslaught, Liberty crew members were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, 2 Navy Crosses, 12 Silver Stars, 20 Bronze Stars, more than 200 Purple Hearts, and the ship’s captain, Navy Commander William. L. McGonagle, was awarded the Medal of Honor; and,

WHEREAS, the June 28, 1967 public summary of proceedings of the Navy Court of Inquiry into the attack stated: “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”; and,

WHEREAS, according to Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) information reports from June and October, 1967, sources in Tel Aviv reported: “Israel’s forces knew exactly what flag the [L]IBERTY was flying” and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan “personally ordered the attack” on the Liberty over the objections of senior uniformed military personnel, one of whom characterized the attack as “pure murder”; and,

WHEREAS, Richard Helms (Director of Central Intelligence, 1966-1973), stated in a 1984 CIA interview: “everything possible was done to keep from the American public really the enormity of this attack on an American naval vessel” and “since this is for the Agency’s record, I don’t think there can be any doubt that the Israelis knew exactly what they were doing … any statement to the effect that they didn’t know that it was an American ship … is nonsense”; and,

WHEREAS, Lieutenant General Marshall S. Carter, USA (ret.) (Director of the NSA, 1965-1969), recalled in a 1988 NSA interview that he stated at a Congressional hearing in 1967 that the attack on the Liberty “couldn’t be anything else but deliberate. There’s just no way you could have a series of circumstances that would justify it being an accident” and Carter indicated this remained his belief in 1988; and,

WHEREAS, in a 2003 affidavit published in the Congressional Record, Captain Ward Boston, Jr., JAGC, USN (ret.), legal counsel for the 1967 Navy Court of Inquiry stated: “I know from personal conversations I had with Admiral Kidd [president of the Court of Inquiry] that President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered him to conclude that the attack was a case of ‘mistaken identity’ despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary”; and,

WHEREAS, according to the findings, published in the Congressional Record, of the 2003 Independent Commission of Inquiry, chaired by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, USN (ret.): “there is compelling evidence that Israel’s attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew” and “the White House deliberately covered up the facts of this attack”; and,

WHEREAS, in 2013, the Veterans of Foreign Wars adopted Resolution 423 calling “upon Congress to immediately investigate the attack on the USS Liberty by the armed forces of Israel on June 8, 1967, in order to determine the truth behind the attack, and to bring closure to the families and crew”; and,

WHEREAS, in August 1967, after the conclusion of the Navy Court of Inquiry, the American Legion adopted Resolution 508 (rescinded in 1984 without being first reviewed) declaring the published report of the Navy Court of Inquiry “fails to provide the American public with a satisfactory answer as to the reason for the attack” and stating that “The American Legion denounces and condemns Israel’s irresponsible attack” and demanding “a complete and thorough investigation of the incident”; and,

WHEREAS, according to Gurney Williams III, writing in The American Legion Magazine (“Death Strikes the Liberty“, July 1997), Congress has never investigated the Israeli attack on the Liberty; now therefore be it,

RESOLVED, By The American Legion in National Convention assembled in Reno, Nevada, August 22, 23, 24, 2017, that The American Legion calls upon the 115th United States Congress to publicly, impartially, and thoroughly investigate the attack on the USS Liberty and its aftermath and to commence its investigation before the end of 2017, the 50th anniversary year of the attack.

Thanks to John Whitbeck, who says the chances of the Congress investigating are “less than infinitesimal.”

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It should be mentioned that Israel accepted responsibility, apologized, and paid compensation for the attack. The tragic Liberty incident has been investigated, exhaustively:

In the real world the government investigated at the time and several times after. There have been 7 (I thought 5 before I checked) investigations and reports: U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry of June 1967 Joint Chief of Staff’s Report of June 1967. CIA Intelligence Memorandums of June 1967 Clark Clifford Report of July 1967 Senate Foreign Relations Committee Testimony during hearings of the 1967 Foreign Aid Authorization bill, July 1967 House Armed Services Committee… Read more »

@JeffB Even if you assume the worst case, no one even alleges the goal of the Israelis was to just kill a bunch of sailors. They wanted the boat disabled so it couldn’t collect data on some aspect of their aerial operations they wanted to keep secret That’s a damnable lie and you should be ashamed. Using napalm, torpedo, and machine gun fire the JSIL forces intended to kill as many of the sailors as… Read more »

Some day LBJ & McCain’s Daddy will be known by all Americans as huge traitors for what they did to kill saving USS Liberty lives and covering it up.

If Congress does investigate, I am sure it will conclude that Israel is totally innocent of all wrongdoing and glowing with virtue. The verdict will be followed by a vote of thanks to and support of Israel, as well as a large donation from the public purse.