In a historic move, the American Legion, at its national convention in Reno on Thursday, August 24, 2017, approved Resolution 40 (text provided below) calling for the first full U.S. government investigation of Israel’s 1967 attack on the USS Liberty.
Gunnery Sergeant Bryce F. Lockwood (USMC, ret.) was on hand during the entire convention working for passage of the resolution, which originated earlier this year from Post 40 in Seattle in the American Legion Department of Washington (state).
Lockwood was awarded the Silver Star for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action in connection with the unprovoked and unexpected armed attack on U.S.S. LIBERTY (AGTR-5), in the Eastern Mediterranean, on 8 June 1967.”
Lockwood said there were a lot of “hand shakes, hugs, and some tears” after the vote.
The American Legion’s resolution brings the nation’s largest veterans organization back on the side of the USS Liberty survivors, family, and supporter in calling upon the “115th United States Congress to publicly, impartially, and thoroughly investigate the attack on the USS Liberty and its aftermath and to commence its investigation before the end of 2017, the 50th anniversary year of the attack.”
The resolution also aligns the Legion with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which, in 2013, adopted Resolution 423 at their national convention calling for the attack to be investigated.
The Liberty was a U.S. Navy electronics ship operating in international waters in the eastern Mediterranean when it was attacked by Israeli forces, killing 34 and injuring at least 174.
The ship’s commander received the Congressional Medal of Honor and the crew is one of the most decorated for a single engagement in U.S. Navy history.
The claim is sometimes incorrectly made that the attack has already been investigated. However, a one-week-long Naval inquiry was only tasked with investigating crew performance during the attack, and Congress has never investigated it, as reported in the July 1997 issue of The American Legion Magazine and elsewhere.
While Legion members have long been supportive of the Liberty crew, Legion leaders have oftenmanaged to torpedo resolution. The resolution was passed over a recommendation by a Legion steering committee member that it be rejected.
Text of the resolution as passed by the convention National Security committee on August 20:
National Headquarters, The American Legion Ninety-Ninth Annual National Convention, Reno, Nevada August 22, 23, 24, 2017
WHEREAS, on June 8, 1967, while operating in support of the National Security Agency (NSA) in international waters, properly marked as to her identity and nationality, and in calm, clear weather in the eastern Mediterranean, the USS Liberty (AGTR-5) was the target of an unprovoked attack by Israeli military forces that killed 34 members of the Liberty’s crew and wounded 173; and,
WHEREAS, in recognition of their heroic efforts during and after the Israeli onslaught, Liberty crew members were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, 2 Navy Crosses, 12 Silver Stars, 20 Bronze Stars, more than 200 Purple Hearts, and the ship’s captain, Navy Commander William. L. McGonagle, was awarded the Medal of Honor; and,
WHEREAS, the June 28, 1967 public summary of proceedings of the Navy Court of Inquiry into the attack stated: “It was not the responsibility of the Court to rule on the culpability of the attackers and no evidence was heard from the attacking nation”; and,
WHEREAS, according to Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) information reports from June and October, 1967, sources in Tel Aviv reported: “Israel’s forces knew exactly what flag the [L]IBERTY was flying” and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan “personally ordered the attack” on the Liberty over the objections of senior uniformed military personnel, one of whom characterized the attack as “pure murder”; and,
WHEREAS, Richard Helms (Director of Central Intelligence, 1966-1973), stated in a 1984 CIA interview: “everything possible was done to keep from the American public really the enormity of this attack on an American naval vessel” and “since this is for the Agency’s record, I don’t think there can be any doubt that the Israelis knew exactly what they were doing … any statement to the effect that they didn’t know that it was an American ship … is nonsense”; and,
WHEREAS, Lieutenant General Marshall S. Carter, USA (ret.) (Director of the NSA, 1965-1969), recalled in a 1988 NSA interview that he stated at a Congressional hearing in 1967 that the attack on the Liberty “couldn’t be anything else but deliberate. There’s just no way you could have a series of circumstances that would justify it being an accident” and Carter indicated this remained his belief in 1988; and,
WHEREAS, in a 2003 affidavit published in the Congressional Record, Captain Ward Boston, Jr., JAGC, USN (ret.), legal counsel for the 1967 Navy Court of Inquiry stated: “I know from personal conversations I had with Admiral Kidd [president of the Court of Inquiry] that President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered him to conclude that the attack was a case of ‘mistaken identity’ despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary”; and,
WHEREAS, according to the findings, published in the Congressional Record, of the 2003 Independent Commission of Inquiry, chaired by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, USN (ret.): “there is compelling evidence that Israel’s attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew” and “the White House deliberately covered up the facts of this attack”; and,
WHEREAS, in 2013, the Veterans of Foreign Wars adopted Resolution 423 calling “upon Congress to immediately investigate the attack on the USS Liberty by the armed forces of Israel on June 8, 1967, in order to determine the truth behind the attack, and to bring closure to the families and crew”; and,
WHEREAS, in August 1967, after the conclusion of the Navy Court of Inquiry, the American Legion adopted Resolution 508 (rescinded in 1984 without being first reviewed) declaring the published report of the Navy Court of Inquiry “fails to provide the American public with a satisfactory answer as to the reason for the attack” and stating that “The American Legion denounces and condemns Israel’s irresponsible attack” and demanding “a complete and thorough investigation of the incident”; and,
WHEREAS, according to Gurney Williams III, writing in The American Legion Magazine (“Death Strikes the Liberty“, July 1997), Congress has never investigated the Israeli attack on the Liberty; now therefore be it,
RESOLVED, By The American Legion in National Convention assembled in Reno, Nevada, August 22, 23, 24, 2017, that The American Legion calls upon the 115th United States Congress to publicly, impartially, and thoroughly investigate the attack on the USS Liberty and its aftermath and to commence its investigation before the end of 2017, the 50th anniversary year of the attack.
The final text of the resolution is expected to soon appear on the American Legion’s digital archive page.
Top photo: This photo depicts rescue efforts the day after the USS liberty was attacked by Israeli forces. (Photo: public domain)
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