ISRAELI NAVY MAN DESCRIBES THE ATTACK ON USS LIBERTY
THE NEW YORK TIMES, July 7, 1967
The following article was written for The
Associated Press by Micha Limor, described as an
Israeli naval reservist who was serving on one of
the torpedo boats that attacked the United States
communications ship Liberty off the Sinai coast on
June 8. Other accounts describe Limor as an
Israeli journalist. Whatever Limor is, he does
not appear to have been a witness to the attack as
he claims. Not only does he describe things that
did not happen, such as circling the ship several
times before firing torpedoes, he claims to have
hit the "left" (port) side with his torpedo. The
torpedo struck the "right" (starboard) side of the
ship, instantly killing 25 men.
Limor tells us that the ship flew no flag. Not
so. An oversize American flag flew throughout the
attack. The torpedomen examined that flag from
less than 50 feet away, then continued firing from
close range on anything that moved.
Limor tells us that the boatmen offered help. He
does not mention that the offer came more than two
hours after after the torpedo explosion.
TEL AVIV, July 6--The torpedos were ready
for firing when our three Israeli torpedo boats
zeroed in on the gray ship moving slowly on a
south-easterly course off El Arish.
At that tense moment, not one of us on
those torpedo boats could have suspected that this
was the beginning of an incident that was to cause
a long international wrangle.
On June 8, the sun was already high in the
sky when we received notification of an
unidentified vessel some 12 miles off El Arish
susoected of being an enemy craft.
Formations Taken Up
Within moments, the face of our torpedo
boat changed. Sailors took their positions,
engines were revved up, and in five minutes we
were moving out in formation, torpedo boat, after
torpedo boat, toward th deep sea..
We spotted the objective once on the radar
screen. She was moving on a steady course,
southeast at about 10 knots. We sailed toward the
objective at an increased speed, looking at her
through binoculars in an effort to identify the
vessel. Two of our planes flew over our heads a
few minutes afterward. We saw them circle the ship
several times, and then dive into the attack.
They spat two rockets into the gray ship,
and plumes of smoke rose from her. Then the two
jets headed away toward the coast.
About 2,000 yards from the ship, a strange
spectacle met our eyes. The high masts and the
many weird antenna showed that this was a warship.
The side of the vessel was blotted out by smoke.,
and aprt from three numbers along her side, which
meant nothing to us, we could not discern a thing.
`We could see no flag on the mast, nor was
anyone to be seen on the decks and bridge.
[The United States Navy, investigating the
incident, reported the Liberty was flying the
American flag when the planes attacked. It
conceded, however, that the resulting smoke might
have obscured the view of the attacking torpedo
No Answer Received
We spent several minutes trying to contact
the ship and demanding identification. We tried by
radio and by heliograph, in accordance with
internationally accepted means. But she gave no
answer. It also seemed that she had managed to
control the fires and continued on a stable
It was decided to pass by her in battle
formation and demand identification by firing
across her bow. So we moved past at a tremendous
speed, firing across the empty bridge and the bow.
Suddenly, a sailor appeared in view and
started firing at us with a heavy nachine gun from
the bridge. We took the challenge and directed
cannon fire against him. A moment later he fell
together with the machine gun.
Thus there was no doubt that we were faced
by the enemy. The prolonged refusal to identify
herself, the absence of any flag, the shooting at
usm and above all, the weird contraptions on the
ship left us without doubt.
We wanted to make the ship surrender
without sinking her. Once again we circled the
vessel in battle formation, firing again and
again. This had no effect. No one appeared. No one
reacted. The shells caused little damage to the
hull and the ship proceeded on her way.
You could almost hear the men's teeth
grinding aboard our boat. Nothing can annoy a
torpedo boat crew more than being completely
ignored, The order was given to prepare for a
We drew up along the left side of the ship
and advanced at full battle speed. Just as in
dozens of training exercises we reached the right
angle and range--and let go.
We thought only a mirace would save the
ship. One of the torpedos hit amidships. There
followed an enormous explosion and a huge water
And then fires broke out and the ship
leaned sideways as if about to sink. We watched
for survivors, as is customary, whether friend or
enemy. But no one appeared on deck.
Suddenly, something fell into the sea. One
of our boats approached and picking it up from the
waters, found it to be a rubber lifeboat with the
lettering "U.S. Navy."
That was the very first sign of
A moment later there arrived on the scene
the helicopter that was to have picked up
prisoners. He hovered over the ship and then
"They are raising the American flag."
It was crystal clear we had hit friends.
Dozens of shells, rockets and torpedoes
were needed to drag a sign of identity from them,
said one of my seamen who, like the rest of his
mates, was bitterly upset at this turn of events.
He was right. The showing of the Stars and
Stripes at the first stage would have prevented
all that happened subsequently.
We received orders directly from the
officer commanding the navy to give all necessary
help. So we approached the Liberty and offered
help through a loudspeaker,
Then an officer appeared for the first
time on the bridge and screamed, "Go to hell!"
Learning they did not need aid, we left.
And the Liberty returned to her regular
operations. It seemed any other ship would have
It was only later that we learned how many
casualties had been caused by our torpedoes.