June 8th 1967 Israel launched an unprovoked attack on an American Naval ship, the USS Liberty, killing 34 US seamen and injuring 174. Today is the 50th anniversary of that attack, a fact not one corporate media outlet will bring to the attention of the American people.
It was “one of the classic all-American cover-ups,” said retired Admiral Thomas Moorer, a former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman who spent a year investigating the attack as part of an independent panel he formed with other former military officials.
Fifteen years after the attack, an Israeli pilot approached Liberty survivors and then held extensive interviews with former Congressman Paul N. (Pete) McCloskey about his role. According to this senior Israeli lead pilot, he recognized the Liberty as American immediately, so informed his headquarters, and was told to ignore the American flag and continue his attack. He refused to do so and returned to base, where he was arrested.
The pilot's protests also were heard by radio monitors in the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon. Then-U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dwight Porter has confirmed this. Porter told his story to syndicated columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak and offered to submit to further questioning by authorities.
"I'm angry! I'm seething with anger! Forty years, and I'm seething with anger!"
Lockwood was aboard the USS Liberty, a super-secret spy ship on station in the eastern Mediterranean, when four Israeli fighter jets flew out of the afternoon sun to strafe and bomb the virtually defenseless vessel on June 8, 1967, the fourth day of what would become known as the Six-Day War.
Aircraft on the horizon
Beginning before dawn on June 8, Israeli aircraft regularly appeared on the horizon and circled the Liberty.
The Israeli Air Force had gained control of the skies on the first day of the war by destroying the Egyptian air force on the ground. America was Israel's ally, and the Israelis knew the Americans were there. The ship's mission was to monitor the communications of Israel's Arab enemies and their Soviet advisers, but not Israeli communications. The Liberty felt safe.
Then the jets started shooting at the officers and enlisted men stretched out on the deck for a lunch-hour sun bath. Theodore Arfsten, a quartermaster, remembered watching a Jewish officer cry when he saw the blue Star of David on the planes' fuselages. At first, crew members below decks had no idea whose planes were shooting at their ship.
Thirty-four died that day, including Blue, the only civilian casualty. An additional 174 were wounded in the air and sea assault by Israel, which was about to celebrate an overwhelming victory over the combined armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and several other Arab states.
For most of those who survived the attack, the Six-Day War has become the defining moment of their lives.
Some mustered out of the Navy as soon as their enlistments were up. Others stayed in long enough to retire. Several went on to successful business careers. One became a Secret Service agent, another a Baltimore policeman.
Several are being treated with therapy and drugs for what has since been recognized as post-traumatic stress disorder. One has undergone more than 30 major operations. Another suffers seizures caused by a piece of shrapnel still lodged in his brain.
After Bryce Lockwood left the Marines, he worked construction, then tried selling insurance. "I'd get a job and get fired," he said. "I had a hell of a time getting my feet on the ground."
With his linguistic background, Lockwood could have had a career with the NSA, the CIA, or the FBI. But he was too angry at the U.S. government to work for it. "Don't talk to me about government!" he shouts.
U.S. Navy jets were called back
An Israeli military court of inquiry later acknowledged that their naval headquarters knew at least three hours before the attack that the odd-looking ship 13 miles off the Sinai Peninsula, sprouting more than 40 antennas capable of receiving every kind of radio transmission, was "an electromagnetic audio-surveillance ship of the U.S. Navy," a floating electronic vacuum cleaner.
The Israeli inquiry later concluded that that information had simply gotten lost, never passed along to the ground controllers who directed the air attack nor to the crews of the three Israeli torpedo boats who picked up where the air force left off, strafing the Liberty's decks with their machine guns and launching a torpedo that blew a 39-foot hole in its starboard side.
To a man, the survivors interviewed by the ChicagoTribune rejected Israel's explanation.