Several U.S. Navy veterans who survived the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty in 1967 assembled Sunday at the U.S. Navy Memorial to mark the 47th anniversary of the event. The vets also called on Congress to investigate the assault that left 34 men dead and 174 wounded.
A Naval Court of Inquiry was the sole investigation done on the incident. Its conclusion that the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty was accidental was disputed by former Navy lawyers responsible for advising the court and reviewing its work.
"While the survivors and their families are aware of the heroic efforts to complete their mission ... the cover-up that ensued soon afterwards and the event's notoriety [prevented the recognition] they justly deserved," Liberty Veterans Association President Ernie Gallo said.
The annual commemoration of the attack previously has been held at Arlington National Cemetery, where the remains of 14 crewmembers were buried together.
Survivors and their supporters have long claimed that Israel deliberately attacked the Liberty with the intention of sinking it and then blaming the attack on Egypt.But when the ship survived the attack, the Israelis claimed it was a case of mistaken identity, an explanation that President Lyndon Johnson did not publicly challenge in order to retain the support of the influential Israel lobby, according to survivors and backers.
The U.S. State Department never accepted the Israeli explanation.
During the daylight attack, the ship was hit with napalm, strafed by Israeli fighters and struck by torpedoes. Some survivors also have what's left of the life rafts they used that were shot up by the Israelis.
Capt. William McGonagle, the Liberty commanding officer, was awarded the Medal of Honor. The ship's executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. Philip McCutcheon Armstrong, and quartermaster, Petty Officer 3rd Class Francis Brown -- both killed in action -- were awarded the Navy Cross.
A dozen other men were each awarded the Silver Star and more than 208 Purple Hearts were given to the crew.
Gallo said on Sunday that Liberty crewmembers who have demanded an investigation into the attack have been ignored by the Navy and dismissed by lawmakers who claim Congress already investigated the attack.
The only congressional queries into the attack have dealt with technical and communications issues.
"If you [Congress] hear our testimony under oath you could end this anxiety ... ending this bigotry we're subjected to," said Gallo, who was a communications technician aboard the Liberty.
Frank Tims, past chairman of the American Cold War Veterans Association, also attended the wreath-laying ceremony at the Navy Memorial on Sunday.
"We stand here in solidarity with members of the USS Liberty; we salute your heroism; we salute your bravery, and your determination; we will stand with you and demand a full accounting," he said.
-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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