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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Curious Case of the U.S.S. Liberty....

(U.S.S. Liberty, hull-down in the water from severe damage caused by Israeli air attack - June; 1967)

Two days ago, the Israeli Navy send three gunboats to disable a humanitarian vessel attempting to land in Gaza with medical supplies and food.While two of the gunboats held the attention of the captain and his two-man crew, the third gunboat rammed the unarmed boat from the front, causing severe damage.

As it turns out, this isn't the first time the Israelis have taken on vessels in international waters, or on humanitarian missions to the people the Israelis are busy subjugating.

Let's turn the Wayback Machine to 1967.

In early June of 1967, the Israeli military, beginning with a simultaneous aerial assault on key positions in Egypt and Syria, began what is popularly known as the Six-Day War. For over forty years, the Israeli position has been accepted by the world - that they were attacked first by Egypt and Syria, and that their overwhelming and immediate response could be attributed to having well-trained personnel and well-tested plans which were ready at a moment's notice.

The few military analysts who've bothered to challenge these statements over the years have been roundly shouted-down, mainly due to the success of the Israeli intelligence network throughout the world, and their ability to keep a lid on things internally.

However, the truth is always available - because as our own Benjamin Franklin once said, "A secret may be kept between two people as long as one of them is dead." This story involves everything from jailed pilots and dead American sailors - but first, the history:

The U.S., along with every other major power, have always maintained intelligence vessels. Thinly disguised as 'research ships', these former freighters have traveled the globe, analyzing broadcast information and 'sniffing' with hypersensitive radar. International law protects this practice, as long as the ships remain in international waters.

Such was the case of the U.S.S. Liberty, which was operating in international waters near the town of Arish in the Sinai on June 8th, 1967, during the height of the Six Day War.

Early on the morning of the 8th, Liberty was overflown by several Israeli aircraft, all at close range - Liberty was clearly marked, flying the American flag, and in international waters.At 2pm on the 8th, four Israeli front line fighters and three torpedo boats attacked Liberty without provocation. One torpedo hit the hull amidships; cannon-fire raked the center section, and one of the Israeli fighters hit Liberty with napalm.

The results were devastating. 34 American servicemen were killed, and 170 wounded, some severely. As to Liberty, she was out of action and required extensive repair by her crew to keep her afloat. Nonetheless, she was able to make it out of the area and back to Malta under American escort for interim repairs. She then returned to the U.S., where she was decommissioned nearly a year later - the damage being too severe to allow her return to active service.


Two Israeli pilots werejailed for 18 years for refusing the mission against Liberty. Israel maintains to this day that the attack on Liberty was an 'accident'.   According to one survivor, "If this was an accident, it was the best-planned accident I've ever heard of."Most of the survivors, including the officers and intelligence specialists, agree that the attack was an attempt to destroy evidence that the Israelis had (1) started the war, and (2) were attempting a land-grab, to secure the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights (the last, from Syria).

(Captain McMonagle of Liberty was awarded the Medal of Honor in a private, non-publicized ceremony - the only time the Medal has been awarded in this fashion - for keeping his ship and his command afloat and operational under attack by overwhelming force.)

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