Author's Comments & Conclusions
K. J. Halliwell (April 4, 2010 -- Revised April 12, 2015)
Several years ago, I stumbled upon James Ennes' USS Liberty memorial web site: http://ussliberty.org. It immediately piqued my interest because of my previous time (1968 to 1974) with the U.S. Naval Security Group (NSG) as a Communications Technician -- a U.S. Navy occupational specialty now known as Cryptologic Technician.
While reviewing the information on Mr. Ennes' web site, I discovered that one of my former commanding officers, David Lewis, is an attack survivor. This brought back a flood of memories of my time on Oahu, Hawaii where I was stationed with Mr. Lewis, at the Naval Communications Station near Wahiawa. This personal connection served to deepen my interest in the attack.
Additionally, I was astounded by the fact that, during my time with the Naval Security Group, I had never heard or read anything about the attack. Yet, similarly devasting incidents like the USS Pueblo capture (1968) and the Kamiseya fire (1965) were virtually common knowledge. Now, I felt compelled to learn more about this little-known and apparently well-suppressed incident.
As I studied available information about the attack and communicated with several attack survivors, it quickly became clear that there are two different versions of the June 8, 1967 attack: the survivors' intentional attack version, and the attacker's mistaken attack version. I was befuddled. Which version should I believe?
In an effort to find the truth, I began researching the attack in earnest by reading official reports of both the American and Israeli post-attack investigations. While reading and comparing documents, I found myself constantly vacillating between believing the attacker's claim of an unfortunate attack due to target identification and communication errors, and the survivors' claim of a well-planned attack against a known target that was subsequently covered-up by the U.S. government.
Not making much headway with the official reports, I turned to attack-damage photographs, to see whether or not they provided any clues. After collecting and studying as many photographs as I could find, from various sources, I soon realized that the damage shown does not match the attack profile claimed by the attacker.
The attacker claimed that two aircraft performed several strafing runs on only the front of the ship, with only 30-mm rapid-fire cannons, followed by two aircraft dropping several Napalm bombs, and finally three Motor Torpedo Boats (MTBs) firing 20-mm and 40-mm rapid-fire cannons shortly before launching their torpedoes from 1000 to 2000 yards distance. Thus, implying a relatively moderate degree of attack damage, with the exception of the torpedo hit, in relatively limited parts of the ship.
To the contrary, attack-damage photographs revealed that the ship suffered massive shelling and fire damage. There were many hundreds of holes with typical sizes varying between about 0.5 inch (armor-piercing 50 caliber machine gun bullets) to 8 inch diameter (821 shell-sized holes were counted for the Court of Inquiry). There were bullet and shell holes in the bow's hull and deck area (both sides); starboard-side hull; stack and stack platform; and the forward-side, starboard-side, aft-side and deck-plating (i.e., vertical and horizontal surfaces) of her superstructure and deck houses. Additionally, there were clear signs of large fires and blast damage (e.g., an interdeck steel ladder bent and twisted off its mounting) on both sides of her superstructure.
The great degree and variation of bullet and shell damage simply did not jibe with the attacker's claim. The photos told a story of an intense and prolonged air assault involving aircraft attacking from various directions, firing cannons, rockets and dropping Napalm bombs, and then a close-in shelling and machine gun attack by the MTBs after a torpedo hit -- essentially the same finding stated within U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry finding numbers 19, 20, 24 and 50:
In addition to attack-damage photographs, I studied gun-camera images in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) History Report about the attack. A careful visual inspection and comparison with true images of USS Liberty revealed that they are fake. The ship shown in the purported gun-camera images does not appear like USS Liberty. It lacks many of Liberty's key features and, instead, has features not found on Liberty. Overall, the ship does not even appear like a Victory Ship -- the type of ship used for USS Liberty's construction. The rational behind this deception is unknown; but considering that the ship in the image shows no markings to identify it as being USS Liberty or an American naval ship of any type, I can only assume it was created to wrongfully convince readers that Liberty was not easy to identify. Whatever the rational, an innocent party should not need to produce and present fraudulent evidence.
The above findings, combined with related research based solely on direct evidence, raised serious doubts about the overall veracity of the attacker's version of events. Additionally, the discovery of six erroneous U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry findings -- all due to demonstrably unreliable testimony, by Captain McGonagle, about events during the attack -- raised serious doubts about the probative competence of the Court of Inquiry.
So, does all of this mean that the survivors' claims about the attack being well-planned and against a known target, and a subsequent U.S. government cover-up are true? Available evidence and my research findings tend to support this conclusion, but it is not for certain.
At most, current direct evidence and my findings well-support that the IDF's claims about the attack's profile are false, that certain findings by the Naval Court of Inquiry are erroneous, and that the IDF History Department used fake gun-camera photos in its history report; but beyond this, the evidence is circumstantial and open to reasonable doubt.
In other words, while my findings do not bode well for the IDF or the U.S. Navy's Court of Inquiry, they do not prove beyond reasonable doubt that the attack was planned and performed with absolute knowledge of the ship's true nationality, or that there was an intentional cover-up by the U.S. government. As unlikely it may seem, it remains possible that the ones who ordered the air attack firmly believed that the ship was an enemy ship -- for whatever reason. If so, this would explain the pilots being told to pursue the attack, whether they reported seeing an American flag (as some witnesses believe) or not, or otherwise expressed doubts about the ship being an enemy vessel. And the appearance of a U.S. government cover-up could have been simply an effort to keep secret the equipment and methods by which it collected signals intelligence, weaknesses in the U.S. military's communication network, and generally avoid making a bad situation worse; i.e., close the matter as quickly as possible for the sake of national security.
Thus, I remain open to alternate possibilities. The "obvious conclusion" many not be the "correct conclusion", at least for the direct evidence that now exists. Regardless, my research findings have led me to believe that the totality of direct and circumstantial evidence shows beyond reasonable doubt that the attackers were, at a minimum, grossly negligent and used deadly force that grossly exceeded military necessity. An opinion similar to the one expressed in Clark Clifford's Report of July 1967 (emphasis added):
Perhaps it is only this level of wrongdoing, and an effort to avoid self-incrimination thereof, that explains the attacker's presentation of fake evidence and distorted facts, as opposed to the more serious misdeed of knowingly attacking USS Liberty. (Support for this possibility is unwittingly reflected in a relatively recent memoir by the lead air-attack pilot.)
Finally, I encourage anybody with a serious and open-minded interest in the USS Liberty attack to carefully read and consider all of my essays and research findings at http://ussliberty-inquiry.us. They are my best attempt to present findings and commentary for objective research based primarily on available direct evidence. I believe you will find the material both interesting and revealing, on both a technical analysis and informational level.
"Remember what the dormouse said. Feed your head..."
U.S. Song Writer and Singer, Grace Slick ('White Rabbit' by Jefferson Airplane, 1967)