Remembering the USS Liberty

"It was God that kept us afloat."

In 1967, Lt. Commander David Ed Lewis was the officer in charge of 195 men out of the total crew of 294 on the USS Liberty. After we spoke for over an hour on the phone on November 3, 2007, 76 year old spry Dave was off to pull out his frozen garden harvested berries and begin making elderberry jelly.

Dave is the fifth USS Liberty Veteran thus far to speak to me about that day in infamy on June 8, forty years ago when Israel tried and failed to take an American spy ship down as she sailed in international waters flying the American flag.

Although I couldn’t see Dave, I heard his grief and heartbreak as he said, “Twenty-eight of the thirty-four that were murdered that day worked for me. I also still feel personally responsible for the loss of my Communication Officer and Communication Chief. Just before the Liberty sailed they both brought me their retirement papers. They both had all their time in and I asked if one of them would do me a favor in the interest of continuity and go on one last assignment. They both replied, ‘For you Commander, we’ll both go!'”

“Not only did they die, their families also paid a price. One widow went over the edge and the state took her kids away.”

I responded, “This is an area I have been wondering about. The trauma all of you veterans experienced and how it has played out. I am aware of broken marriages, bad backs, addictions and I have barely scratched the surface here. I wonder about the lives of all you guys and your families who have all been traumatized and irrevocably altered, not just because of the unmerited violence done to you, but mostly because of our government’s cover-up.”

Dave replied, “Some of my men were threatened with being put in a mental institution if they spoke out. None of us had any contact with the other until the first reunion of the LIBERTY twenty years after the attack. Everybody was assigned to different duty stations to keep us apart.”

I joked, “Sounds like apartheid!” But upon reflection I understand, more precisely, that what was implemented was the standard operating procedure of all empires to divide and conquer.

Dave recalled, “That morning I saw a couple of the Israeli overflights, we waved at each other. We all felt safe as they were friends. I was back in my general quarter’s station two levels down when I heard the thud-thud-thud of the rockets overhead, but they never penetrated the bowels of the ship.

“It was such a well planned accident. They took out just about every antenna we had. All of them were knocked out except for one that never worked right. It was also the first satellite communications in the U.S.A. It leaked hydrochloric fluid but when it worked right, it bounced off the moon.”

According to Peter Hounam’s research in Operation Cyanide, “All the aerials were destroyed save one that had been malfunctioning, and was thus turned off and ‘cold’. This turned out to be a godsend. A signalman thought he could get it going, and wired up the only transmitter still working. Miraculously, it began to load up with current and a sense of relief spread through the radio room.”1

The Liberty‘s transmissions were jammed by the attacking planes “with the specific intention of preventing the ship communicating with the outside world… [and the] international distress frequency, used for Mayday messages, was also jammed.”2

Ten minutes after the attack began the Liberty was miraculously able to communicate their distress and received a reply from the USS Saratoga. The shipmates breathed a sigh of relief thinking that the Sixth Fleet was on the way to their rescue and that the Pentagon also now knew of their dire need for immediate assistance.

No help arrived from their brothers in arms until the next day, but about fifteen minutes after the jets attacked Israeli torpedo boats came bearing down on the American spy ship.

Dave informed me,” The torpedo explosion happened less than ten feet from where I stood and blew out the bulkhead and covered me with twenty years of navy paint. All the troops within twenty feet of me were killed instantly. The bulkhead [wall] protected me as a shield from the blast. I shouldn’t have even survived. I was on the second level down and the compartment was sealed. Seamen Shnell broke regulations and saved my life. It’s against regulations to break water tight integrity, but he took the risk of sinking the ship to check for survivors.

“I would have loved to have seen the carnage as devastating as it was, but the last thing I heard was the call to stand by for torpedo attacks on the starboard side. The next thing I knew I was sitting on the deck up against a bulkhead. My eyes were seared shut with burnt paint and not until the next morning when I was helicopter lifted out, all wrapped up from head to toe so tightly that a coreman couldn’t tell my head from my feet and he sat on my head the entire ten minute flight. I was cyanotic when they unwrapped me, I nearly suffocated.

“The Dr. stood me up against a wall to lance my eyes open and told me don’t move, just keep your eyes on the scalpel so he didn’t blind me. Then they took me straight away to Rear Admiral General Geiss who had been waiting just for me.

“Rear Admiral Lawrence Geiss was in charge of the USS Saratoga and USS America. He swore me to secrecy until his death, which happened about nineteen years later.

“What he told me I kept secret until I learned of his death at the first reunion and twenty year anniversary of the veterans of the USS Liberty.

“He told me that as soon as he got the word of our distress he launched aircraft and notified D.C. Immediately he heard from McNamara to recall the aircraft.

“He said he assumed it was because some idiots in Washington thought that he was launching nuclear weaponry. He reconfigured and then re-launched aircraft without nuclear capabilities.

“Admiral Geiss notified Washington of this and once again the immediate response that came from McNamara was the order to recall the aircraft.

“Admiral Geiss challenged the order and pleaded that people are dieing!

“LBJ was heard to say, ‘I don’t give a damn! I won’t embarrass an ally.”

“McNamara had been talking to Geiss on an unsecured but plain language telephone, the Automatic Digital Network; Autodin.

“President Eisenhower had once gotten so upset when it took three days once to receive critical information and he established the CRITTICOM system. This enabled all critical intelligence to be delivered to the White House within two minutes and CRITTICOM is how Geiss and McNamara exchanged information.”

According to an October 4, 2007 article by Israeli journalist, Yossi Melman, a Haaretz Correspondent Oliver Kirby, the NSA’s deputy director for operations at the time of the attack on the Liberty, was quoted by the Chicago Tribune confirming that the Israeli Air Force was well aware the ship was the USS Liberty, and that the

U.S. National Security Agency was able to intercept Israeli Air Force communications according to which, at some stage, the pilots identified the ship as American but were nonetheless instructed to push ahead with the attack. According to the report, some of the transcripts and intelligence information have disappeared, while the rest can be found in U.S. government archives.

Oliver Kirby, the NSA’s deputy director for operations at the time of the Liberty attack, is quoted by the Tribune as confirming the existence of the transcripts, saying he personally read them.

They said, “We’ve got him in the zero,” Kirby was quoted as saying, “whatever that meant — I guess the sights or something. And then one of them said, ‘Can you see the flag?’ They said ‘Yes, it’s U.S, it’s U.S.’ They said it several times, so there wasn’t any doubt in anybody’s mind that they knew it.”

Kirby told the newspaper that the transcripts were “something that’s bothered me all my life. I’m willing to swear on a stack of Bibles that we knew they knew.”

The report also states that then U.S. defense secretary Robert McNamara ordered jets that had been dispatched to assist the Liberty turned around.

On June 8, 2007, this reporter attended the 27th annual American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s Washington , D.C. Conference.

It was 86 year old, walker-bound Congressman Paul Findley, a moderate Republican who blew my mind that day, when he addressed the luncheon crowd:

“I was here for the first convention 27 years ago and I still have a fire in my belly for the civil and human rights of Arabs. It is time to speak openly and honestly about Israel. But, in American politics, that is still forbidden.

“…Pity that we cannot seem to shed our fear of Israel. We are afraid to speak out on Capitol Hill, for fear of losing the next election. They are more like trained poodles jumping through hoops than leaders!

“Why this fear? How did we get here?

“Forty years ago to this day, June 8, 1967 the change occurred, the floodgates opened and money poured into Israel as never before. When President Johnson heard about the USS Liberty being attacked by Israel he ordered the rescue fighter planes to return to the deck. The rescue mission was aborted and the survivors have said they heard LBJ’s voice tell Admiral Giess, ‘Get those planes back on deck. I don’t care if the ship sinks, I will not embarrass Israel .’

“LBJ also threatened to court martial anyone who reported what had happened. Johnson accepted Israel’s false claim of “mistaken identity” and he knew it was a lie. That is when the change began and Israel learned they could get away with murdering U.S.A. soldiers.”

Warning from Past

President George Washington, in his Sept. 17, 1796 Farewell Address warned: “The nation which indulges toward another… is in some degree a slave… a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils.”

  1. Operation Cyanide, by Peter Hounam, p. 28. []
  2. Operation Cyanide, by Peter Hounam, p. 29. []
Eileen Fleming is the author of Keep Hope Alive and Memoirs of a Nice Irish American Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory and the producer of 30 Minutes With Vanunu. Email her at ecumei@gmail.com. Read other articles by Eileen, or visit Eileen's website.

13 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Ken said on November 7th, 2007 at 10:18am #

    This article is full of technical misinformation.

    For example, the quote from Dave Lewis: “… All of [the antennas] were knocked out except for one that never worked right. It was also the first satellite communications in the U.S.A. It leaked hydrochloric fluid but when it worked right, it bounced off the moon.”

    What was the first satellite communications in the U.S.A.? Is Dave Lewis talking about the TRSSCOMM antenna? If so, it leaked hydraulic fluid, not hydrochloric fluid.

    Here’s another example: “McNamara had been talking to Geiss on an unsecured but plain language telephone, the Automatic Digital Network; Autodin. … CRITTICOM (sic) is how Geiss and McNamara exchanged information.”

    AUTODIN was a data communications network used for automatically routing (teleprinter) traffic, not voice traffic. If McNamara was talking with Geiss, he was likely using either a secure (encrypted) or unsecure voice channel via HF (High Frequency) radio; i.e., radiotelephone. The CRITICOMM network was used for CRITical Intelligence COMMications via teleprinter — not voice. (The automatic routing networks for secure and unsecure voice traffic were AUTOSEVOCOMM and AUTOVON, respectively.)

    The author’s reliance on Peter Hounam’s “research” material for fact-finding is misplaced. Hounam’s work is peppered with technical misinformation. (By the way, it was an Electronics Technician, not a Signalman, who ran a large coax cable from the transmitter room to the port-side whip antenna, on the aft side, main deck.)

    With all of the fairly reliable technical reference information assets available on the Internet these days, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to do fact-checking — especially on claims involving technical matters. The fact that the author of this article didn’t bother to get her technical facts straight leads one to wonder what other “facts” about the matter she got wrong.

  2. hp said on November 7th, 2007 at 12:18pm #

    She didn’t get the murdered sailors part wrong.

  3. Eileen Fleming said on November 7th, 2007 at 1:44pm #

    Dear Ken,

    Thanks for your info and I will FWD it onto Dave Ed Lewis and a few of the other LIBERTY Vet’s to get this all cleared up and will be back.

    I also wonder how come you know so much?

    And, might you be interested in being my fact checker and editor as I have only just begun following this story.

    e

  4. Eileen Fleming said on November 7th, 2007 at 5:14pm #

    RESPONSE from Dave Ed Lewis:

    I did say hydraulic fluid not hydrochloric but I did use the wrong
    terminology for the phone hook-up, It was AUTOVON. After all these years ones memory lapses..

    There was no AUTOSEVOCOM (secure communications) to
    the ships as Cristol was quick to point out. MacNamara learned of the
    attack by CRITICOMM. He communicated to the ships by AUTOVON. I tried not to get into technical detail. – Dave Lewis

    Thanks again to Ken for his sharp eyes and knowledge.

    Ken, I seriously hope you will consider helping this over burdened, techie-challenged pro-bono civilian journalist out and be my pro-bono fact checker for my [third] book which will be about the LIBERTY!

    Only in Solidarity do “We have it in our power to begin the world again”
    Tom Paine

    e

  5. Ken said on November 7th, 2007 at 5:28pm #

    Eileen, I’ve been deeply involved in investigating the USS Liberty attack for about four years. Some results of my efforts are posted here: ussliberty-inquiry.us

    I’ll contact you via email…

  6. Ardie said on November 7th, 2007 at 5:59pm #

    A former Navy Corpsman (67-71), I will say what my brothers cannot say, I think 9/11 was an Israeli false flag operation, and before that, the assassination of JFK, the pasty being Oswald.

    With regard to 9/11 as with any police investigation, Israel can’t be ruled out. Turning to JFK, I found this on LexisNexis Academic:

    “Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu has said Jerusalem was behind the assassination of President John F Kennedy, who was exerting pressure on the then Jewish head of the state to shed light on the Dimona nuclear plant” (The Statesman (India) July 27, 2004).

    I am beginning to wonder who is going to stand up for America? But I have the gut feeling that something is going to happen in which the gods will be on our side, calling forth the Nemesis.

  7. Ken said on November 8th, 2007 at 7:44am #

    Adding to my previous technical fact-checking comment: The final radiotelephone link, for the voice communications channel between Geiss and McNamara, would have been via a land-based NORATS (Navy Operational RAdio and Telephone Switchboard) equipped communications station (e.g., NAVCOMSTA Morocco) and the ship carrying Giess.

    The radiotelephone link could have been either secure or unsecure. At that time, secure radiotelephone links were possible via narrowband (i.e., voice frequency) terminal equipment like the HY-2/KG-13 combination. (The HY-2 encoded/decoded voice to/from a narrowband digital signal, and the KG-13 encrypted/decrypted the HY-2’s digital signal for transmission/reception via a narrowband modem and radiotelephone link.)

    Of course, whether or not the radiotelephone link was secure or unsecure isn’t too important. The important point is that McNamara’s communicaton with Geiss revealed his willingness to put the political interests of Israel and the Johnson administration above the lives of America sailors under his command.

  8. Louis Proyect said on November 8th, 2007 at 7:45am #

    Eileen needs to do more fact checking before she appears at conferences with neo-Nazis, 2007 October 14 | The Official Website of Representative David …
    The Official Website of Representative David Duke, PhD. … Mike Piper, Rabbi Dov Weiss, Paul Fromm, Wendy Campbell, Dr. Frederick Toben, Eileen Fleming, …
    http://www.davidduke.com/date/2007/10/14
    http://www.davidduke.com/general/zio-lobby-shuts-down-no-more-wars-for-israel-conference-first-amendment-rights-violated-boycott-of-anti-american-marriott-corporation-urged_2911.html
    http://onepeoplesproject.com/site/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=82&Itemid=27
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Fredrick_T%C3%B6ben
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willis_Carto

  9. Nick Cohen said on November 8th, 2007 at 7:52am #

    >…A former Navy Corpsman (67-71), I will say what my brothers cannot say, I think 9/11 was an Israeli false flag operation, and before that, the assassination of JFK, the pasty being Oswald.
    The thesis of Far Right-Wingnut Michael Collins Piper in,
    http://www.serendipity.li/zionism/final_jgmt_reviews.htm Longtime writer for Willis Carto’s newspapers, The American Free Press and The Spotlight. And The Barnes Review, a Holocaust Denial journal full of favorable articles on the Nazi Waffen SS.
    http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/2006w50/msg00032.htm
    [Marxism] Holocaust ‘revisionist’ carnival in Iran

  10. hp said on November 8th, 2007 at 3:49pm #

    Were the Waffen SS even Germans? I thought they were mostly other Europeans from practically every country in Europe, who enlisted to protect their countries from the dreaded Russians, or as they were known then, the Jewish Bolsheviks.

  11. Eileen Fleming said on November 8th, 2007 at 5:46pm #

    LOL at the right wing zionist cabal that follows me all over the www, and continues to regurgitate about the October 13, 2007 conference where I WOKE UP about the injustices done to our Veterans on the LIBERTY and the callous disregard by our government!!!

    MY STATEMENT about that conference can be read @

    WAWA Blog October 16, 2007:
    What happened on October 13, 2007 in California and “It’s NOT over ’till the fat lady sings”

    http://www.wearewideawake.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=680&Itemid=179

    I am also THANKING GOD for Ken and his offer to HELP this little one with all the grunt work: fact checking for the articles/book? that will be pouring out of me seeking JUSTICE for the LIBERTY VETS and honoring the dead who were cold blood-edly MURDERED by Israel!

    And I confess:

    Yes, I make mistakes.

    Yes, I am naive and I can be gullible for I have a child-like faith that enables me to see the good in everyone,

    I am NOT an idiot and I know people lie, mislead and will screw me over,

    BUT!

    I continue to trust God’s promise that ALL things work for the GOOD for those who LOVE God and are called to his purpose. -Romans 8:28

    “IT WAS GOD THAT KEPT THE LIBERTY AFLOAT!”-

    I believe-I KNOW that!

    And I have been told that by every LIBERTY survivor and supporter I have spoken to thus far!

    AND:

    I have ONLY just begun!

  12. Dissident Voice : June 8, 1967: July 4th in Hell without the Ice Cream said on December 24th, 2007 at 5:01am #

    […] previous parts: Remembering the USS Liberty, The Torpedo that Hit the USS Liberty: Made in the USA?, and Seconding Captain McGonagle’s Two […]

  13. Remembering the USS Liberty “It was God that kept us afloat.” | USS Liberty Cover Up said on December 8th, 2009 at 11:26pm #

    […] According to Peter Hounam’s research in Operation Cyanide, “All the aerials were destroyed save one that had been malfunctioning, and was thus turned off and ‘cold’. This turned out to be a godsend. A signalman thought he could get it going, and wired up the only transmitter still working. Miraculously, it began to load up with current and a sense of relief spread through the radio room.”1 […]