Charles J. Ingerson

EXTREMES: USS LIBERTY REMEMBERED

Insignia of USS Liberty (AGTR-5), 1967
Insignia of USS Liberty (AGTR-5), 1967
Turning the other cheek
attacked and killed
shipmates and friends
while protest stilled.

Our minds remember
what others have hid
seeking to know why
the leaders truth forbid.

What was their price
in pelf paid for to lie;
soldiers and sailors
who vanquished die?

Extremes now to know
behavior of powers lust
when a nation cries
having lost sacred trust.

USS Liberty: June 1965
USS Liberty receives assistance from units of the Sixth Fleet.. A SH-3 helicopter is near her bow.

In June 1965, Liberty began her first deployment, to waters off the west coast of Africa. She carried out several more operations during the next two years, and went to the Mediterranean in 1967. During the “Six-Day War” between Israel and several Arab nations, she was sent to collect electronic intelligence in the eastern Mediterranean. On the afternoon of 8 June 1967, while in international waters off the Sinai Peninsula, Liberty, though clearly marked as a U.S. Navy ship, was struck by Israeli aircraft. After suffering damage and many personnel casualties from gunfire, rockets and bombs, she was further attacked by three Israeli Navy motor torpedo boats. One torpedo hit her on the starboard side, forward of the superstructure, opening a large hole in her hull. In all, thirty-four men were killed in the attacks and nearly 170 wounded. Israel subsequently apologized for the incident, explaining that its air and naval forces had mistaken the Liberty for a much smaller Egyptian Navy ship.

Though severely damaged, Liberty’s crew kept her afloat, and she was able to leave the area under her own power. She was escorted to Malta by units of the U.S. Sixth Fleet and was there given interim repairs. After these were completed in July 1967, Liberty returned to the United States. She was decommissioned in June 1968 and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register two years later. USS Liberty was sold for scrapping in December 1970.