The translated words of Israeli commanders and Israeli pilots from tapes can be heard, numerous times, as confirming the identity of the Liberty as "American." The tapes include a timeline in the background which fixes the times of transmissions, and establishes that confirmation was made before and during the attack. In 2004 the Jerusalem Post published a transcript
of Israeli radio transmissions on that day, critical parts of which match the transmissions in the tape obtained by the film-maker, Richard Belfield
Belfield's production credits prior to the documentary, "The Day Israel Attacked America,"
include National Geographic TV, Discovery Channel, and Arts and Entertainment Network. The film is structured around interviews of USS Liberty survivors, who unanimously have been saying since the attack that it was deliberate.
At 2:14pm, twenty minutes before an Israeli torpedo boat launches what is intended to the killing blow which sinks the Liberty, both the tape in the documentary and the Jerusalem Post transcript, which is based on the notes of a Post reporter who was allowed to listen to the tape, show the exchange between Israeli commanders:
Officer One: "To what country does she belong?" (translated)
Officer Two: "American"
After the torpedo hits, torpedo boats circle, machine-gunning the ship with armor-piercing projectiles for another 40 minutes. At 3:15pm, as lifeboats are lowered into the water, the Israelis proceed to machine-gun the lifeboats. This is a full hour after confirmation has been given that the ship is American.
Despite the bare admission in the Post that the Liberty had been identified as American as the attack progressed, the radio traffic described by Steve Forslundan, intelligence analyst for the 544th Air Reconnaissance Technical Wing at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, is even more damning. Forslundan states that
the real-time intelligence he was reading as the day progressed:
"made specific reference to the efforts to direct the jets to the target which was identified as American numerous times by the ground controller. Upon arrival, the aircraft specifically identified the target and mentioned the American flag she was flying. There were frequent operational transmissions from the pilots to the ground base describing the strafing runs. The ground control began asking about the status of the target and whether it was sinking. They stressed that the target must be sunk and leave no trace."
Forslundan's recollections were reaffirmed in an interview
by the Chicago Tribune in 2007.
The USS Liberty incident has long been controversial, with the survivors
and investigators insisting that the official version of the attack, which maintains it was a tragic accident and instance of misidentification, is a cover-up. Critics of the official conclusion by the Navy Board of Inquiry, over which the lead counsel of the Board resigned, had said that the numerous American flags flying on the ship, the freshly-painted American identification markings, the distinct size and profile of the ship, the appearance and uniforms of the sailors, and Israeli radio traffic make the official conclusion of the Board flatly impossible. USS Liberty survivor John Hrankowski recounted
"We had been surveilled all morning and part of the afternoon by Israeli forces. They knew who we were. We heard them reporting over radio who we were and how we were sailing and where we were sailing. They saw the flag and everything else. We were in international waters."
The Liberty was nearly twice the length of the World War I era Egyptian ship that Israel says it was mistaken for, and as a spy ship stood out with a giant satellite dish and a bristling array of antenna and transmitters. It was painted with its 20-foot tall American identification markings "GTR5" on the bow and the words "USS Liberty" on the stern.
Admiral and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Thomas Moorer, as recently as 2007, penned an article for Stars and Stripes repeating that the results of his own investigation led him to conclude that the attack on the Liberty was deliberate, and an effort by Israel to blame the sinking of the ship on Egypt, in order to draw the US into war against Egypt. Israel was fighting the Six Day War.
Admiral Moorer wrote:
"In attacking the USS Liberty, Israel committed acts of murder against U.S. servicemen and an act of war against the United States."
The interviews recall harrowing, almost unimaginably horrific moments as the Israeli Air Force and Navy conducted its organized and prolonged attack over the course of two hours, after many previous hours of low-pass flyover surveillance in which Israeli pilots flew low enough to actually wave at American sailors.
Survivor Larry Weaver recalled an Israeli Air Force Noratlas Nord 2501 circling the ship, and told former ABC News investigative reporter James Bamford
in his book on the attack:
"It had a big Star of David on it and it was flying just a little bit above our mast. I was actually able to wave to the co-pilot. He waved back and actually smiled at me - I could see him that well. There's no question about it. They had seen the ship's markings and the American flag. They could damn near see my rank."
The Navy Board of Inquiry concluded that the Liberty had been hit by over 800 30mm cannon rounds, rockets, a torpedo, and napalm bombs over the course of about 2 hours. As American sailors lowered lifeboats to evacuate the most seriously wounded, Israeli patrol boats pulled up and at close range machine-gunned the lifeboats.
Survivor Phil Tourney, in public speeches around the country, has called the fact that the Liberty did not sink a "miracle."
Although the survivors of the Liberty have held a commemoration ceremony for their fallen shipmates in Washington, DC each year on the anniversary of the attack, no member of Congress has ever attended. The survivors have pledged to try to hold a commemoration ceremony for as long as any of them remain alive, and continue to demand that the government acknowledge that the attack was deliberate.
In an exclusive email interview for this article, surviving crew member Joe Meadors told this reporter:
"I was a Signalman, responsible for visual communications between ships. Since we steamed independently I stood Quartermaster watches. My work space was the Signal Bridge which is the highest deck on the Liberty. Since my workstation was on the Signal Bridge I saw all of the reconnaissance flights that happened before the attack. That included one aircraft that flew so low we waved at the pilots and they waved back as their engines made the deck plates vibrate...I saw the initial attack from the signal bridge and it happened so fast I couldn't see the markings on the aircraft. I thought they were Egyptian since the Israelis were our friends and didn't learn that they were Israeli until I saw the flag on the torpedo boats."
The attack commenced at 1:58 pm
on June 8th, 1967 with Israeli Mirage Jets methodically destroying the ship's four .50 caliber machine guns and signal antennae so it could neither defend itself nor call for help. Over the course of the sustained attack, the ship was strafed, rocketed, and napalmed. Israeli patrol boats then approached to ship to launch torpedoes in an attempt to make her sink. The Liberty sailors fought fires and ship damage while wounded and tending to the most severely wounded. The heroism of the crew was commended by the Navy as the sole reason the ship did not sink.
According to Admiral Moorer and students of the Liberty incident, the Israeli plan was for the ship to sink and to leave no survivors so the attack could be blamed on Egypt
, which would have forced the US to retaliate and enter the Six Day War on the Israeli side.
Survivors recall that, as the .30 caliber cannon rounds coming from the jet fighters were designed as heavy "tank killers," they punched easily through the Liberty's relatively thin steel hull, in one side of the ship and out the other, butchering men deep within their living quarters. One survivor in the Belfield film recalls it was like shooting through a "cardboard box."
As news got out that the Liberty did not sink, an enraged President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered what Capt. Ward Boston
, who resigned as lead investigator for the Navy Board of Inquiry, called a "cover-up" which was ordered to conclude that the attack was a case of misidentification. According to James Bamford as reported in his book, "Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency," LBJ was not enraged because the Liberty had been attacked, but because it did not sink, causing an embarrassment for his ally Israel, and depriving him of an excuse to bomb Cairo. The commander of the US fleet in the Mediterranean at the time, Admiral Lawrence Geis, reportedly told a fellow officer
that "he (Johnson) didn't care if the (Liberty) sunk, he would not embarrass his allies."
Two major political figures who believed the Israeli attack was deliberate, and not an accident, were US Senator Adlai Stevenson
and former Secretary of State Dean Rusk. Rusk, who served under LBJ, wrote in page 388 of his memoirs
"I was never satisfied with the Israeli explanation. Their sustained attack to disable and sink Liberty precluded an assault by accident or some trigger-happy local commander. Through diplomatic channels we refused to accept their explanations. I didn't believe them then, and I don't believe them to this day."
Admiral and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Moorer called the Board's conclusion
"one of the classic all-American cover-ups." Leading the Navy Board of Inquiry was Admiral John S. McCain, Jr.
, father of John McCain, the US senator and former presidential candidate. Admiral Moorer passed away in 2005, after decades of standing up for the version of events recounted by his men.
Another one of the top US generals among many who reject the "accident" version is Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, a former Director of the NSA, who is interviewed for the film.
From photos at USS Liberty Survivor Website
The unprecedented revelation in the documentary comes at a time when US-Israeli relations are under strain at a level which foreign policy observers can rarely recall.
The documentary has been uploaded to Daily Motion
as well as Youtube.
Documentary, The Day Israel Attacked America
USS Liberty Casualties
RELATED: Jerusalem Post confirms Israel knew USS Liberty was American