There are definitely quite a few people–both in Israel and the United States–who would like the whole affair involving Israel’s treacherous and murderous attack on the USS Liberty to be forgotten, but for the survivors of that attack, amnesia is not an acceptable option. For them, the often-used term that so many hear today of ‘never forget’ means exactly what it implies–never forget–and as such they keep the memory of what took place that day alive.
This past June 8th marked the 40th anniversary of the attack on the USS Liberty by the air and naval forces of the state of Israel, resulting in the deaths of 34 American servicemen and a cover-up that has been maintained throughout the entire period. In remembrance of the day that–for many–will always be a day that will live in infamy, the Liberty Veterans Association (LVA) organized a reunion that included several ceremonies marking the event. Owing to the fact that American Free Press has been covering the Liberty incident throughout the months of April and May, the LVA invited America’s last real newspaper to attend as a special guest.
The ceremonies began on Friday, June 8th with a trip to Arlington national cemetery to honor the Liberty dead buried there. Although it was a blazing hot day and the humidity was high, the heat did not deter these men from making good on their oath of protecting America from all enemies foreign and domestic, just as the rockets and napalm did not deter them 40 years ago. The crowd of about 300 was addressed by various speakers, including incoming-president of the LVA and Liberty veteran Ernie Gallo who spoke of the ultimate sacrifice paid by those interred in the hallowed ground of America‘s most important cemetery. During the ceremony, as in years past, each of the members took turns approaching the mass grave holding the remains of 6 crew members killed that day, salutes, and then announces the name of one of the 34 members who perished. After the last name is read, a bugler in a white Naval uniform played “Taps” in respectful remembrance of the dead.
From there the group went by bus to the Fort Meyers Officer’s Club for a luncheon and small presentation and for a much-needed break from the heat and humidity. It is wind-down time for the attendees as they mingle from table to table, shaking hands or hugging shipmates they have not seen in many years. Some stayed in the air-conditioned room, some wandered outside for a smoke.
From there they boarded the busses again and headed for the Naval Memorial in downtown Washington DC on Pennsylvania Avenue. All took their seats and listened to a series of speeches from several individuals associated directly or indirectly with the LVA, including shipmate Glen Oliphant and former US Ambassador Edward Peck who spoke of the injustice that the men of the Liberty endured in the cover-up of Israel’s attack these last 4 decades. Again, the names of the Liberty victims were recited aloud and a bell was wrung following the recital of each name. Afterwards, a wreath was laid at the Statue of the Unknown Sailor and “Taps” was played to a silent and somber crowd. Following this, the crowd was invited to view the DVD documentary on the Liberty incident by BBC investigative journalist Peter Hounam at a location nearby. Afterwards the ceremonies ended for the day and everyone returned to the Marriot Courtyard Hotel in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, where a good number of the crew members gathered in the bar on the 2nd floor, threw back a few beers, talked, laughed and cried.
The next day began with a trip to the Annapolis Naval Academy in Maryland where a plaque was presented by that institution in honor of the 3 graduates from the academy–Philip Armstrong, David Lewis and Stephen Toth–who were on the USS Liberty June 8th 1967 during the attack. The ceremony featured speeches from educators from the academy and a very emotional invocation and benediction by former Chaplain George Evans. The plaque was accepted by Lt. Commander Dave Lewis who was the Intelligence Officer onboard the Liberty and a graduate of the academy as well. After the ceremony a traditional American lunch was served right there at the academy consisting of hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad, and of course, beer. Once the attendees had their stomachs filled, all boarded the bus for the trip back to Virginia.
The bus ride back afforded the best opportunity in seeing the members of the Liberty crew in a manner up close and personal. They sat in the back just as they would have in the mess hall of the ship that day, telling jokes, teasing each other and talking of trivial matters. It was when the talk turned to politics though, politics past and present, that it became obvious these were no longer young men who had not seen the world at its worst. Beginning on June 8th, 1967 and continuing every day since, they had learned how politics in the Zionist occupied territory known as the United States works and had paid dearly during that schooling process. You could see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices. It was clear in the expressions that their faces made when speaking of it all–the betrayal 40 years ago by the same government they swore to serve…the indifference on the part of the American people to what happened to them, their visceral hatred for the people who subjected them to a living hell on earth when missiles, torpedoes and napalm were hurled against their ship for over an hour and who–as of yet–are to pay the price for what they did that day, and last but not least, where it is all going with regards to American involvement in the wars to save Israel taking place today.
That evening, the last of the ceremonies took place, which was the banquet. A wonderful meal was served and there were addresses from several crew members of the Liberty, but most importantly, a member of the US Intelligence community (who insisted that his speech not be recorded nor his name mentioned) confirmed what the members of the Liberty have known all along–that Israel’s attack on their ship 40 years ago was neither an accident nor a case of mistaken identity, as Israel has falsley claimed these last 4 decades. He had the highest clearance possible in the US government and had seen all the raw intelligence dealing with the attack and was able to confirm conclusively that Israel knew the ship was American and that it was the intention of the Jewish state to sink her that day and kill everyone aboard.
At the end of the 3 day ceremony, what the casual observer was left to conclude is that the Liberty boys exemplify the best of what America once was and could be again–loyalty, devotion and the will to fight to the very end to keep their ship afloat, despite all that is brought to bear against them. This casual observer has no doubt about the fact that the men from the USS Liberty will fight to the last man to keep the memory of what happened forty years ago alive and in the finest tradition of the US Navy will do all in their power to protect America from all enemies foreign and domestic, just as they did June 8th 1967 and every day since.
2007 by Mark Glenn–correspondent for American Free Press Newspaper