Project Cyanide is discussed in a new Liberty video called Dead in the Water and in a new book by prize-winning investigative reporter Peter Hounam called Project Cyanide.
Details of the Liberty story continue to unfold. How, I wondered in Chapter 10, could the Navy have
produced and approved a Court of Inquiry report with so many obvious errors and omissions?
For instance, Captain McGonagle’s testimony has long been a puzzle, partly because his recorded
testimony in the Court of Inquiry file is at odds with the recollections of every known survivor. Indeed, for
35 years, when asked about the attack, Captain McGonagle would say only that his crew believed that the
attack was deliberate. He declined to express an opinion.
Finally, on June 8, 1997, shortly after he was diagnosed with lung cancer, Captain McGonagle, in a
speech at Arlington National Cemetery honoring his dead crewmen, told the assembled group that “for
many years I wanted to believe that the attack was pure error” but “it appears to me that it was not a pure
case of mistaken identity” and called upon the governments of both countries to release details that would
explain why the ship was attacked. He died March 3, 1999, without any answers.
Admiral Kidd, who died in 1999, defended his work to the end. In several letters and long telephone
conversations with me, Admiral Kidd never disputed my conclusions and encouraged me to persist in my
effort to tell the story. Yet when I challenged his official findings, he insisted that the evidence I point to
was not available to him during the proceeding, and that in any case I have not had access to the “full
picture.” Asked if the “full picture” includes information withheld from the record, he denied that anything
was excluded, yet he was unable or unwilling to clarify the many inconsistencies and contradictions in the
record or to explain why weather logs, pertinent deck logs, my sworn testimony and other vital records are
A report from Navy headquarters in London, however, does show that Kidd’s Court of Inquiry report
did not have smooth sailing between completion in London and official acceptance in Washington.
The just-completed report, we have learned, was personally delivered by Kidd to Admiral John S.
McCain, Jr., the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, who had convened the Court. There it
was assigned to the staff legal officer, then-Captain Merlin Staring, to review and to prepare a forwarding
letter for McCain’s signature. But Staring, who eventually became Judge Advocate General of the Navy
and retired from the Navy as a rear admiral, was not impressed with the caliber of the record.
Israeli apologist A. Jay Cristol (The Liberty Incident, Brassey’s) characterizes Staring as a pedant and
claims that his concerns were for errors of spelling and punctuation. This was not the case at all. Staring
had very serious concerns about the quality and integrity of the Court’s work. Before he had even
completed reading the 700-plus pages, he had compiled a long list of questions and apparent discrepancies.
Among other things, he was concerned that many of the Findings were unsupported by and even contrary to
the evidence in the record.
Admiral McCain, however, was under pressure from Washington to speed the report along. So rather than
deal with Staring’s questions, he had another officer prepare a “quickie” endorsement and forwarded the
flawed report to Washington –warts and all. Kidd conveyed it personally to Washington in a locked briefcase
chained to his wrist.
Since review of the Court of Inquiry was Staring’s responsibility as staff legal officer, he feared that the
hasty approval would reflect badly upon his professional reputation and integrity. He was so concerned, in
fact, that he sent a personal letter to the Judge Advocate General of the Navy disassociating himself from
the report. The Court of Inquiry report, however, even without Staring’s endorsement, had been officially
approved by Admiral McCain. It sailed quickly through the approval process without a single question
Perhaps because he was alerted by Captain Staring, however, the Judge Advocate General did have
some obvious problems with the report. Usually JAG’s endorsements are pro forma forwarding letters,
particularly when the convening authority is a four star admiral who has given the report his full approval.
Not this one. Here the Judge Advocate General prepared an unprecedented 23-page summary of evidence in
the record, while almost entirely ignoring the “findings.”
JAG, in other words, took his summary from the testimony and evidence in the record, not from the
“findings” of the court. And, unlike the “findings,” which would have us believe that reconnaissance was
almost nonexistent, the air still and the attack brief, the JAG endorsement describes eight reconnaissance
flights, a flag that fluttered in a good breeze and an extended attack – exactly as described in Assault on the
This exceptional endorsement, while not acknowledging any errors in the report itself, did serve to
correct the most obvious errors and contradictions. It spared JAG any embarrassment for having forwarded
a flawed report, and it presented the Chief of Naval Operations with a summary that could be approved in
good conscience – for certainly no senior officer would take time to read the full report. And none of this
would come to light for many years, since it was all classified Top Secret and locked away.
The final stamp of approval and acceptance was given by a Deputy Chief of Naval Operations
subordinate to Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, who approved the report for the Navy. And citizens who
question the report’s defects – for there are many defects and they are obvious – receive boiler-plate replies
that ignore the questions. The Navy’s acceptance makes the report “legal and final,” inquisitive citizens are
told. No further review is possible. The matter is closed.
Apologist Cristol maintains that “the quality of the report is outstanding.” Any layman reading the
report can readily see that this is not the case. Such a claim coming from a lawyer of Cristol’s experience
only reveals his bias.
For years, that badly flawed report has been considered the final word on the attack; it in turn has
spawned other flawed reports, such as the Clark Clifford report to President Johnson which concluded,
based solely upon Clifford’s review of the flawed Kidd report, that there was no evidence that the attack
Years ago I wrote to every member of the Court of Inquiry to ask how the Court could justify Findings
of Fact that were contrary to and unsupported by evidence in the record, which is a legal requirement. None
of the members answered my letter.
Finally, in June, 2002, Navy Times demolished the 35-year-old charade when they interviewed retired
Navy Captain Ward Boston, who served as Admiral Kidd’s legal advisor to the Court. Both he and Admiral
Kidd regarded the attack as deliberate, Captain Boston told Navy Times. How could the Court report legal
Findings that the attack was probably accidental when they believed it was deliberate? “Officers follow
orders,” Captain Boston said.
For 35 years that corrupt report has been the source of other flawed reports. Israeli sources claim
constantly that the Court of Inquiry report “exonerates Israel”. The flawed report is cited constantly by
apologists for Israel who claim that survivors’ stories cannot be true because they are inconsistent with the
Court of Inquiry report. Now we know, directly from the Court’s own legal advisor, that the report itself
was a sham because “officers follow orders”.
In January 2004, Captain Boston repeated his story in much more detail in a signed affidavit published
in www.ussliberty.org and elsewhere. Here he affirms that evidence and testimony were changed and
withheld from the record on the specific orders of President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense
McNamara to present a false report of an attack that the Court knew to be deliberate.
The Court of Inquiry Report, says Captain Boston in his sworn statement, was doctored and rewritten in
Washington after it was signed by the Members of the Court. Damning testimony, such as that referring to
the machinegunning of the life rafts and extended firing at close range after the torpedo attack, was excised
from the record to create a deliberately false picture of what happened.
Reports continue that the United States learned on June 7 that Israel intended to attack the Liberty a day
later. Perhaps the best work on that subject was done by author Stephen Green in Taking Sides (Morrow,
1984). Green learned through interviews with members of the intelligence working group of the 1967
Defense Subcommittee on Appropriations that the subcommittee had inquired into the Liberty affair in
September of that year as part of an appropriations subcommittee hearing. The committee concluded, Green
tells us, that the attack was deliberate and that the United States knew in advance of Israeli plans to attack.
Senior CIA and NSA officials testified before that committee, Green learned. Both reported that they
considered the attack deliberate – although neither has admitted publicly to foreknowledge of Israeli plans.
The report itself is still Top Secret 37 years later. The official justification, we are told, is that release would
“embarrass an ally.” Even today, the report’s contents are staunchly protected by several pro-Israel
congressmen who still refuse to release it.
To verify Green’s report even further, we had a long interview with a former CIA analyst who confirms
the essential details. According to the analyst, the CIA was asked three questions by the White House
immediately after the attack. The CIA reply:Yes, the attack was deliberate. Yes, Israel knew in advance it
was an American naval vessel. We do not yet know who in Israel ordered the attack. (Not long after, as we
know, the CIA received a report from Israel that Moshe Dayan ordered the attack.)
Further evidence of deliberate intent came from a career U.S. Navy intelligence officer known
personally to me who wishes to remain anonymous. The officer attended a senior cryptologic manager’s
course at the National Security Agency in 1979 when the USS Liberty was discussed. The instructor, my
friend reports, informed the class that Israeli plans to attack were known to NSA twenty-four hours
beforehand and that they were the reason for the frantic attempts to move the ship.
Yet another report came from retired Air Force Lt. Colonel Ralph Hoppe, now retired, who had access
in 1967 to an intelligence analysis of the Liberty attack. According to Hoppe, a Top Secret message from
the Defense Intelligence Agency reported the consensus of the entire U.S. intelligence community that the
attack was deliberately conducted against a ship known by the Israelis to be American. The incriminating
report, however, proved too dangerous to stay in print. Almost immediately, it was ordered canceled. All
copies were collected and destroyed, along with all supporting documents. Colonel Hoppe has told this
story on national television and is willing to testify before Congress if asked.
Of all the reports from the scene to support survivors’ claims that the attack was deliberate, probably
none are more revealing than several reports of intercepted messages between the attacking Israeli jets and
Shortly after Assault on the Liberty was first published, I was contacted by an Israeli pilot named Evan
Tovni who called from New York to say that he flew the first attacking Mirage. On his first pass, he said,
he saw the American flag and asked his headquarters for instructions. “Attack,” he was told. He refused to
do so and returned to headquarters, where he was arrested. His wingmen followed orders and continued the
Ambassador Dwight Porter in Beirut was informed of this intercept and eventually told the story to me
and to columnists Evans and Novak, who wrote about it in their syndicated column. Israeli Major Seth
Mintz also told us – and denied later – that he heard those conversations from within an Israeli war room.
Still, Israeli supporters claimed the stories were untrue.
Eventually author James Bamford reported in Body of Secrets (Doubleday) that Navy intercept operator
Marvin Nowicki, overhead in a US Navy EC121, had also intercepted fighter pilots’ messages which
indicated that they knew they were attacking Americans. Nowicki later recanted, saying he was misquoted,
but others were coming forward to tell the same story.
Richard Block, an Air Force watch captain at the 6931st All Source Reconnaissance Center in
Crete, was receiving airborne intelligence and confirms the Nowicki/Bamford account. Charles Tiffany, one of the
EC121’s navigators, also confirms the story and adds that Israeli jets were scrambled with orders to shoot
down his aircraft. They narrowly escaped by gaining speed with a power dive from 12,500 feet and very
quickly leaving the area. Block confirms the Tiffany account of the near shootdown. Another Air Force
analyst in Nebraska, who talked to us and only agreed to film his recollections if he was shown in shadow,
confirms in the Dead in the Water documentary that the Israeli pilots knew they were attacking Americans.
Still others who do not wish to be identified publicly have confirmed that the United States has known from
the beginning that the attack was no accident. Now, with recent publicity and convenient email access,
these people are coming out of hiding to blow away all pretense that the attack was accidental.
Professor Ahron Bregman (A History of Israel), after listening to recordings of the actual
communications, tells us that, contrary to claims by apologist Cristol, they leave no doubt that the Israeli
pilots knew they were attacking an American ship. How can Cristol and other apologists claim otherwise?
“Either they are lying, or they don’t speak the language very well,” Dr. Bregman told us.
Many Liberty survivors have come forward to add vital details to the story. For instance, the Israelis
claim that their decision to attack was based partly upon Liberty’s failure to fly a flag and her refusal to
identify herself when asked. Kidd, despite his calculated whitewash, determined that claim to be untrue.
Now former signalman Russell David provides further confirmation. According to David, he and signalman
Joe Meadors together hauled up the oversize American flag well before the torpedo boats came within
visual range. Also, unknown to McGonagle, David repeatedly signaled “USS LIBERTY, US NAVY SHIP”
to the boats in English as they approached. David first used the ship’s 36-inch signal light on the starboard
side of the bridge, then moved to the 12-inch lamp when the larger one was disabled. He used that light to
signal repeatedly to the approaching boats until he was struck by gunfire and the lamp was shot out. Then
Meadors took over the task and continued to signal to the boats.
The Israeli claim that the ship refused to identify herself was also investigated by Admiral Kidd
separately from the Court of Inquiry proceedings, and his findings were reported to Washington by message
on July 6, 1967, almost a month after the attack. According to the Israelis, McGonagle sent a signal “AA”
supposedly meaning “identify yourself first.” Kidd determined, however, that no such signal was sent. Even
if “AA” had been sent, however, the signal should not have caused the attack. According to the Navy
Historian and other experts, “AA” is merely an invitation to communicate. It has never meant “identify
yourself” as the Israelis claim.
Chief Radioman Wayne Smith has described in more detail the scene in the ship’s radio room during the
attack. The room was filled with smoke, Smith reports, due to napalm and gasoline fires that raged just
outside, causing paint inside the room to blister and smoke on the overheated steel bulkhead. Radiomen
worked on their hands and knees to try to stay below the smoke, reaching up to tune transmitters and
receivers. The work was especially difficult, Smith reports, because the frequencies needed were being
blocked by Israeli radio jamming equipment – thus confirming findings of the Court of Inquiry that
Liberty’s radios were jammed. Of the six frequencies needed to call for help, Smith reports, five were
blocked by a buzz saw sounds apparently broadcast from the jets. Smith reached the carrier Saratoga with
his call for help only because the Israelis overlooked a sixth frequency, which he was able to use.
Smith’s report is important, because Israel could not possibly have blocked the signal without knowing
who we were and what language we were using. Israel and its defenders deny that jamming occurred at all,
attributing the report to me and claiming I am wrong or malicious. However, that report came from the
Court of Inquiry and has been confirmed by conversations with the radiomen involved.
The Israeli Government has now produced at least seven official and semi-official and often
contradictory accounts of what “really” happened to the USS Liberty. Many of those accounts are specific
attacks on the story told here. Unfortunately, rather than address the facts as documented in U.S.
government records, the Israeli accounts generally attribute the story exclusively to Jim Ennes and then
attempt to discredit Ennes as a bigot, a racist, a pro-Arab propagandist, or an emotional hot-head whose
perceptions have become distorted by battle and the sight of blood. Also overlooked by the Israelis is the
fact that the same story is told by scores of Liberty survivors. Then the Israelis simply retell their original
stories, often with variations to rebut new details as they are revealed. None of these accounts examine the
readily available evidence in U.S. government records or attempt to resolve the difference between U.S. and
A striking example is a 55-page study of the Liberty attack created by the Israeli Defense Force History
department specifically as a rebuttal to Assault on the Liberty and sent personally to the American Chief of
Naval Operations in 1982. While earlier accounts have asserted that the Israeli torpedo boats left their base
at Ashdod during the noon hour to investigate reported shelling at El Arish, the new account claims that the
boats were already at sea when they received those orders – thus did not have as far to travel. According to
the new version, the boats were 22 miles from the Liberty at 1341 (not 27 miles as earlier reports would
have it) when they made the fatal radar plotting error that supposedly brought the order to call in aircraft.
Even detection at 22 miles, the Israelis acknowledge, was “highly unusual.” Due to the size of the vessels
and the curvature of the earth, we believe any detection beyond 12 or 15 miles was impossible.
The IDF report also goes on to describe, in somewhat more detail than most other accounts, the careful
steps the Israelis claim to have taken in their efforts to identify the ship before attacking. The lead pilot
dropped to low level and circled the ship twice, they claim, looking for a flag or other markings but could
find none. His second-in-command also circled, but could see no identifying marks. Both men concluded
that the ship was Egyptian. As we know, however, dozens of Liberty crewmen saw those aircraft
commence their attack without any attempt to examine her closely.
The IDF account also mentions reports in the book that the ship was circled thirteen times during eight
daylight reconnaissance visits. “Ennes’s claim regarding reconnaissance can be dismissed as exaggerated,”
the Israeli report claims. Any aircraft seen from the Liberty were transport planes high in the sky whose
pilots probably failed to notice the ship at all, they say. Yet, all eight reconnaissance visits are fully
documented in the Court of Inquiry and other official American records including sworn testimony of
Soon after that report was published, Liberty’s Master Chief Petty Officer, Stan White, wrote directly to
the President of Israel and to the head of the IDF History Department asking them to reconsider their
conclusions in view of documented contrary evidence in U.S. government files. Replies from both men
informed Master Chief White that the Israeli government was quite content with the report as it now stands
and will not consider any additional evidence.
Like the other ever-changing Israeli accounts, we believe the IDF History Department report is an
Even now, following several books and television documentaries, Israel and its supporters cling
doggedly to the claim that the attack was a tragic accident caused because we flew no flag, “tried to escape
when spotted,” and refused to identify ourselves when asked, none of which is true.
A most persistent argument from the Israeli side is that the attack could not have been deliberate
because there was no logical motive. “Why would Israel attack its best friend and benefactor?” they ask.
Several possibilities emerge. Clearly Israel was doing something that they did not want the US to know
about. Some US intelligence professionals have suggested that this was the planned invasion and capture of
the Golan Heights. The 1956 Suez war was still a bitter memory in which President Eisenhower forced
Israel to withdraw before they could capture the Suez Canal. Better to present the United States with a fait
accompli. Others suggest it may have been to prevent the ship from detecting the shooting of 1,000
Egyptian Prisoners of War that was then underway at El Arish, just 13 miles from Liberty’s position off the
coast. Surely this grave war crime, if known to Americans, would weaken American support for the Jewish
state. Or perhaps, as others suggest, Israel attacked the USS Liberty in order to blame the attack on Egypt,
thus providing an easy justification for the US to enter the war openly on Israel’s side.
As with any criminal act, we may never know the motive unless the criminal tells us, and these
criminals are still lying about what happened even after more than 37 years.
Yet for all the evasions and explanations presented by Israel’s many apologists, no one can explain how
competent Israeli pilots and naval officers could possibly confuse USS Liberty for a 40-year old horse
transport a quarter her size, or how the torpedomen could continue to fire by mistake on the ship from close
range for forty minutes after examining her American flag and her name in English from fifty feet away.
Some simply claim that all 250 or so living survivors are lying, which is preposterous.
Nor has the American government been entirely silent about the Liberty. Soon after the book first
appeared in 1980, I was invited to discuss the attack with then-Senator Adlai Stevenson III in his office in
Washington. The senator quizzed me privately for two hours, then had me return the next day for two more
hours of heavy questioning by several congressional staff members.
When it was over, Senator Stevenson called me at home to say that he thought the attack was deliberate
and that the American people deserve to know the truth. Then he called a news conference to announce his
intention to look into the charges. The story was widely reported on September 28, 1980, in a UPI story by
William J. Small.
Unfortunately, Senator Stevenson had not run for reelection and his term was about to expire.
Nevertheless, he set about working with Senator Barry Goldwater and other members of the Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence to start the machinery needed for an official inquiry.
Suddenly, just before Christmas, an aide to Senator Stevenson called to say that President Carter had
just agreed to an Israeli offer to pay $6-million in three annual $2-million installments for damage to the
This was a dramatic reversal, since Israel for thirteen years had steadfastly refused to pay for damage to
the ship. Negotiations had continued and the American side had never stopped demanding payment, but the
Israelis remained intransigent. Payments for the dead and wounded were made for “humanitarian” reasons,
the Israelis said; damage to the ship was caused by American blunders and would not be paid for. Now
suddenly the Israelis had reversed themselves, and I wondered why.
The next day a State Department press release announced, “The book is now closed on the USS
Liberty.” News reports around the world including a New York Times front page story announced the
agreement, usually repeating the “book is closed” caption.
And the book was indeed slammed shut. From that day on, Adlai Stevenson could not find a single
senator willing to support or even to consider an investigation of the USS Liberty. Could there possibly be a
connection, I wondered, between the September announcement of an investigation and the December
State Department files show that the two events were inextricably linked. Notes from meetings at the
Department of State reveal that Assault on the Liberty and Adlai Stevenson’s interest in the subject were
discussed. More revealing, State Department spokesmen who announced the settlement agreement were
specifically briefed on how to respond to press questions about the book. “Those charges are not new,” they
were told to say. “Allegations that the attack was deliberate have been made for years. The Department,
however, has no information to substantiate those allegations.”
Adlai Stevenson paid the usual price for his courageous support of the USS Liberty. He was branded an
enemy of Israel and his quest for the governorship of Illinois ended in defeat.
Despite continued obstruction by both the Israeli and American governments, information about the
Liberty continues to trickle out.
For instance, after years of being denied access under the Freedom of Information Act, the Israeli report
by IDF Colonel Ram Ron described in Chapter 10 was finally released. This preliminary report led to a
“preliminary inquiry” by Israeli Military Judge Lieutenant Colonel Yeshayahu Yerushalmi to determine
whether a court martial should be conducted.
The Yerushalmi report, exonerating everyone in Israel and putting most of the blame on Liberty’s
captain, was signed in Israel on July 13, 1967. It was subsequently delivered by hand on August 15 by
Israeli Foreign Minister Ephraim “Eppy” Evron to Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Eugene V.
Rostow with an urgent request that it be withheld from the American public.
Yerushalmi’s report shows, as Ram Ron’s had earlier, that the Israelis did identify the ship as American
during the morning. Like Ron, Yerushalmi claims that the ship was attacked anyway because its
identification marking was removed from a war room chart shortly before the ship was “rediscovered” and
thought to be Egyptian.
The Yerushalmi Report was then carefully analyzed by State Department legal adviser Carl Salans.
Salans had only Kidd’s bogus Court of Inquiry report and a hasty summary by Clark Clifford to work from.
Yet, despite the handicap, he found enough to discredit completely each point in the Israeli excuse. The
Salans report is the most stinging indictment of the Israeli position ever found in official U.S. files. It shows
clearly that the Israeli excuse is untrue. Worse, it shows that key American officials have been aware from
the beginning that the Israelis are lying and have chosen to look the other way. Instead of demanding
answers from Israel, however, the Department of State classified the report “Top Secret” and locked it away
until it was forced out through the federal courts in 1983.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the Liberty attack and cover-up has been the stolid refusal of
American government officials to admit that anything is wrong or even to address the subject seriously.
When asked, Members of Congress usually forward questions about the Liberty to the Navy or the
Department of State for a reply. There, clerks ignore the questions and instead pull boilerplate paragraphs
from computers to make the following points:
1. Allegations that the attack was deliberate have been made for years. The Department, however,
has no information to substantiate those allegations.
2. The circumstances of the attack were “thoroughly investigated” in 1967 “by an admiral in whom
we have great confidence” during a hearing in which survivors testified freely and messages to
and from the ship were reviewed.
3. The court had insufficient evidence to determine the reasons for the Israeli decision to attack, but
found no evidence that the attack was deliberate.
4. The Israeli government apologized and paid approximately $7-million in damages to surviving
crewmen and families of men who died. In 1980 another $6-million was paid for damage to the
5. The matter is closed. There are no plans to reopen the investigation. Any further inquiries should
be directed to the Judge Advocate General of the Navy.
Most Congressmen simply forward State’s reply with a brief statement saying something like, “As you
can see, Israel apologized and paid compensation for the attack. If I can be of any further help….”
Many Congressional replies are evasive.
“I will remember your views if this matter comes to the floor for a vote,” said Senator Daniel Moynihan,
ignoring the questions.
“Anti-Semitism is a terrible scourge,” wrote Senator Carl Levin, sidestepping the issue while impugning
the writer’s motives.
Some replies are creative.
“The USS Liberty was in Port Said, Egyptian waters of a declared war zone,” wrote a badly
misinformed Senator Paul Simon. “She and her crew were relaying intelligence information. The obvious
concern of the Israelis was that the USS Liberty was relaying to the Egyptians intelligence information
concerning Israeli military logistics.”
But despite the evasions, follow-up letters do sometimes bring offers to support an inquiry and some
members of Congress have been willing to demand better answers from the agencies involved. So far, the
voices have been small and the replies from State and Navy have been consistently unresponsive. That will
only change, we believe, when Members of Congress hear from enough of their constituents to realize that
Americans do want their government to tell the truth about the USS Liberty.
Despite the passage of time and the documented certainty that the attack was deliberate and that the
Israelis (and their American apologists) are lying about it, the story will not go away. Five television
documentaries have been made and more are planned. Frequent forums have been broadcast on national
television. Hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles argue both sides.
Survivors, with the support and encouragement of numerous senior government and military officials,
have gathered together to tell the truth about the attack to the American public and to properly honor the
memory of our lost shipmates. Through the association, Liberty survivors stay in touch, hold periodic
reunions, publish a newsletter, operate a web site at http://www.ussliberty.com, and work to tell the truth
about the attack. Many of the men speak regularly before local civic and veterans groups, write letters and
articles, and give press and radio interviews when asked. Until the U.S. government tells the truth about the
Liberty, many of the ship’s survivors are determined to do it themselves.
James M. Ennes, jr.
Errata and Notes To Reintree Press Edition
Page 13:Frank Raven wrote to me in 1983 to say that he objected, not to the mission, but to the ship’s
planned location near the contested coast. He wanted to station the ship near Crete where she would be safer.
He says he “blew up and started pushing panic buttons all over the place” when he discovered that Liberty
was moving toward the coast, but his efforts to move the ship failed. “After all that, I was heartbroken when
the Liberty was attacked,” he wrote.
Page 19:The six men who came aboard in Rota were Wilson, Blue, Blalock, Lockwood, Raper and
Rehmeyer, all Arab or Russian linguists. Only Blue knew any Hebrew, and he had learned it on his own in
his spare time for fun. He was not a qualified linguist.
Page 37:Bob Eisenberg was probably the only Jew in this room and probably the only Jew to die in the
attack. He was proud of being Jewish, identified with the Israeli war effort, and kept his own map on his
desk on which he charted the progress of the war.
Page 74:After initial attempts to communicate, Ward raced to the transmitter room to help the men there
tune another transmitter. “Ward saved the day,” Chief Smith said later. From that point on, all
communications were by Wayne Smith and Jim Halman. The room was thick with smoke from burning paint
on the hot inside bulkheads caused by the napalm and gasoline fires outside. “To keep breathing, we took
turns tuning receivers, talking into mics, and writing down whatever the captain was shouting into the ship’s
general announcing circuit, all the while hugging the deck to avoid the smoke,” Smith said. Meanwhile,
Terry Halbardier and Steve Latorre repeatedly exposed themselves to vicious fire from the aircraft in order to
repair the one serviceable radio antenna by running a coaxial cable from the damaged antenna across the
dangerous open deck and through a watertight door to a working transmitter.
Page 75:Jamming of his frequencies was thorough and sophisticated, Chief Smith reports, and consisted of
buzz saw sounds on some frequencies and bagpipe sounds on others. He could find only one clear frequency,
and this is the one they used to reach the Sixth Fleet, he says. Smith reports that the Court of Inquiry seemed
skeptical about this, and he got the impression they did not believe him, but the Court did report a Finding of
Fact that the radios were apparently jammed. Israel insists that this did not happen and claims that “Ennes is
simply mistaken,” ignoring the fact that this comes from the Court of Inquiry. And well they should deny it,
for it is impossible to sustain an argument that they did not know we were American if they knew enough
about us to jam our radio circuits.
Page 75:Chief Smith reports that he handled the emergency destruction himself in the smoke-filled room. In
confusion, smoke and haste, he tore out and destroyed only the one page they needed to prove that their call
for help was legitimate.
Page 77:The question whether nuclear weapons were launched is still hotly contested more than 35 years
later. Witnesses, including a catapult operator, UPI reporter Harry Stathos, and others who claim familiarity
with nuclear weapons all insist that the aircraft did carry nuclear bombs – for whatever reason no one can
guess. Others insist that such weapons can only be launched upon orders from Washington, and that the men
may have mistaken Bullpup missiles for nuclear bombs. In any case, F4s do not carry nuclear weapons.
While the jury is still out, I think the truth is that the weapons seen were Bullpup missiles.
Page 86:Lockwood helped rescue David Hawkins and Fred Johns and probably others, no doubt saving their
Page 88:Radarman Charles Cocnavitch tells us that Seaman Quintero fired on the center torpedo boat just as
that boat fired its torpedo at us, causing the center boat to swerve into the path of another torpedo boat,
which also swerved, thereby spoiling the aim of both boats. Thus Quintero’s gunfire may have been the most
important single act of the day, saving the ship. Quintero’s heroic act went largely unnoticed and was
unacknowledged and unrewarded.
Page 91:As we learned much later, USS America was involved in a nuclear weapons loading drill which
made it impossible for the ship to respond to our call for help for more than 90 minutes.
Page 96:Israel and its many apologists hotly contest reports that the life rafts were deliberately fired upon,
which is a serious war crime under international law. However, the act was witnessed by several Liberty
survivors, including Americo Aimetti, Tom Smith, Phil Tourney, Al Easton and Lloyd Painter, all of whom
are prepared and willing to so testify under oath if asked.
Page 106:Americo Aimetti retrieved the message packet, which was actually a brown paper lunch bag
weighted down with an orange from someone’s lunch. He raced to the bridge with the message, slipping on
some spilled oil along the way. McGonagle reacted angrily, cursing the helicopter and giving the men the
finger. Castle misinterpreted the single extended digit to mean “one casualty” and so reported in his message
Page 117:Larry Goins was dispatched by McGonagle to the forecastle with a flashlight where he spent the
night flashing “AA AA AA” into the sky to guide the expected aircraft, but no aircraft ever arrived.
Page 121:“Smokey” contacted me after reading this section. He was Roger Annan from Illinois.
Page 127:Harry Stathos called me later from New York to describe his frustration trying to uncover and
report this story. He learned from clandestine interviews with survivors that the true story was not being told
and that the attack was undoubtedly deliberate, and so reported. But he learned later that his stories were
being refiled and changed without his knowledge, removing all suggestions that the attack was not an
Page 131:USS Fred T. Berry (DD 858) not USS Barry.
Page 135:The officer with jaundice was Peyton Dobbins, a man of impeccable judgment and taste, who
eventually married nurse Felicity.
Page 154:On October 6, 1981, General Ghazala, then Egyptian Defense Minister, was wounded during the
assassination attack on President Anwar Sadat.
Page 160:Charles Rowley reported later that he gave the Court a photograph he took during morning
reconnaissance which showed the flag clearly displayed in a good breeze. The Court confiscated the
photograph and stamped it Top Secret, no doubt because it conflicted with the official finding that it was a
Page 161:El Quseir displayed pennant number 91 in black cursive Arabic script.
Page 163:Soon after the attack, Admiral Martin came personally to the flagship’s photo lab where he
confiscated all photographs and negatives depicting the Liberty.
Page 206:According to Apologist Cristol, Bennett now denies that this conversation occurred at all. It did.
Page 283:This resolution was proposed and sponsored by Frank Maria of Warner, New Hampshire. It
brought shrill protests from apologists for Israel who complained that it was anti-Semitic. The American
Legion took no action to support the resolution, eventually withdrew it, and has staunchly resisted Liberty-related resolutions ever since.