Skip to comments.USS Liberty crew member recalls fatal '67 US-Israeli skirmish
Posted on 06/07/2012 4:50:49 AM PDT by Colonel Kangaroo
WATERLOO, Iowa Joe Carpenter has more questions than answers about what happened on June 8, 1967 but no question about the valor of his shipmates.
Carpenter, a 1965 West High School graduate, was a crew member of the USS Liberty. The U.S. Navy ship was attacked by Israeli forces during the 1967 Six Day War, in which Israel defeated a host of Arab nations and captured the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem.
Thirty-four of Carpenter's shipmates were killed and 174 wounded two-thirds of the crew of 294. Carpenter himself was reported to have been severely wounded when he was mistaken for another "J. Carpenter" on the ship.
Friday is the 45th anniversary of the Liberty incident. Peace organizations are planning observances in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. Carpenter wants no part of anyone's political agenda.
"Some of the guys on the ship got consumed with this," he said. "I didn't do that."
He believes his shipmates particularly those who fought fires, kept the ship afloat and tended to the wounded should be remembered for their heroism along with those wounded or killed.
Though the U.S. was officially neutral in the conflict, Israel and the U.S. traditionally had been considered friends. Initially Carpenter thought the attack was from an Arab nation.
"Myself, I thought it was probably Egypt," Carpenter said. But the attacking planes and torpedo boats were identified as Israeli.
It was ironic, given the pro-Israel sentiments of much of the Liberty's crew
"We could see the war on the coast. We could see the planes," Carpenter said. "We were cheering the Israelis ... and then they came out and shot at us."
Israel claimed the Liberty was mistaken for an Egyptian vessel. Others have suggested the attack was deliberate. U.S. official reports say the Liberty was flying an American flag.
Now, 45 years later, Carpenter thinks the truth may never be known despite numerous investigations by both sides.
He believes Congress should have held hearings, "but the principals who were involved are all dead," Carpenter said.
"I would have liked to have seen McNamara grilled," Carpenter said. Robert S. McNamara, U.S. defense secretary under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, died in 2009.
Some have suggested U.S. officials downplayed the incident to preserve relations with Israeli -- and may even have been negligent in a military response to support the Liberty.
"It was a spy ship" for the U.S., Carpenter said, conducting surveillance on the war in international waters near Gaza and the Sinai. Carpenter was a communications technician, transmitting encrypted messages.
But the Liberty was alone and significantly outgunned.
"We had four .50 caliber machine guns," Carpenter said, going up against French-made Israeli Mirage fighter jets and torpedo boats.
"It was pretty chaotic, to be sure," said Carpenter. He may have missed death by moments. He and a friend had just left an area of the ship when it was struck by an Israeli torpedo that was responsible for most of the deaths on board.
Much of the crew's efforts were spent putting out fires and keeping the ship afloat. Carpenter recalled one sailor who got separated from the group Carpenter was with and was killed by the attacking planes.
Carpenter enlisted in the Navy at age 17 upon graduation from West and had planned to re-enlist .
"That was before June 8, 1967," said Carpenter. He is now close to retirement from Tyson Fresh Meats in Waterloo.
Forty-three sailors received medals for heroism in the incident. Ship commander William McGonagle received the Medal of Honor.
This is the first I have heard of this so freaking weird
A hell of a lot more to this story than we’ve been told.
It was done on purpose to send a message that Israel was not going to allow the U.S. to intercept its military intentions and then share it with the moosies.
Google USS Liberty
It will tell you all you need to know about Israel and our media.
Oh here we go again, attention all anti-Semites, please pick up the red and black Zyklon-B courtesy phone?
And have a nice day.
I guess those sailors killed on the Liberty were just a bunch of anti-semites also.
It’s a sickening story of betrayal, if the Israelis did this on purpose. And I say that as an otherwise strong supporter of Isreal.
Did the US claim at the time that it had apprised Isreal of the ship’s position?
Was it incumbent on the US, in a situation like this, to apprise its ally of the existence and location of such a ship?
ZOG, ZOG, ZOGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!
IIRC, war is HELL?
Some of us don’t have blinders on.
(Gong goes off loudly)
Wrong answer! Try again. That one is not even in the USS Liberty theory data base. Here are some possibles.
1). A mistake as the Israelis tried to say.
2). The Israelis were doing some human rights violations after their victory in the Sinai and the USS Liberty was sitting off the coast of Sinai and would pick up on these atrocities.
3). The Israelis were fearful that their plans to take over the Golan Heights would be found out and thus stopped. The Golan Heights is a sweet piece of very fertile land and strategically important to Israel.
4) The USS Liberty was passing messages back to a secret site (most would guess Cyprus) and then being transferred to our very close allies - the Russians.
The infamous USS Liberty event was a common topic among us Hebe linguists during our language training and as we did our thing in the Med.
There is not the slightest evidence from any credible source that the Israelis deliberately attacked the Liberty knowing that it was US Navy. The fog of war means mistakes happen.
WASHINGTON -- New documents released this week by America's National Security Agency support Israel's version of a long-festering controversy between the two countries. Israel's sinking of an American spy ship, the USS Liberty, off the coast of Gaza during the 1967 Six-Day War.
Israel has always said it had no idea the ship was American, but conspiracy theorists and anti-Israel propagandists still claim Israel sank the ship in the full knowledge that it was American.
The documents, originally defined as top secret, were made public by Florida Judge Jay Cristol, who has been investigating the Liberty incident for years and published a book on the subject last year. On Monday, the NSA gave him a transcript of conversations held by two Israeli Air Force helicopter pilots who were hovering over the Liberty as it was sinking, and these tapes confirm Israel's claim that the sinking of the ship, which killed 34 American servicemen and wounded 171, was a tragic error.
The Israeli pilots were (for the most part) trained in the US and spoke English. They identified the USS Liberty with the Stars and Stripes bolding waving in the Med sun as an American ship. They knew she was the American spy ship.
After several strafing runs on the ship (can’t remember exactly how many) a group of special forces type Israelis came out with the intention of sinking the ship.
The US has no obligation to apprise or get permission from anyone for any US vessel as long as the ship is in international waters and the USS Liberty was in international waters.
In God we trust, everybody else we monitor.
I knew someone who died on the Liberty. The families were given compensation by the Israeli Gov., but I don’t believe they ever got an explanation as to what actually happened out there.
Oh wah, wah, looks like the widdle Kangaroo couldn’t handle post #8.
No surprise there.
You got a source for all that?
Take your time, I know you’re in Thailand.
Wasn’t me who reported the post and deprived the world of the wisdom contained in reply #8.
The USS Liberty did not sink. Let me repeat that - it did not sink. They kept it afloat and were able make it back to the supporting fleet and eventually repair work done on Malta.
This, IMHO, is a huge mistake made by the article and brings into question its credibility.
The Israelis knew it was the American spy ship - USS Liberty. There was one Hebe linguist on board who was picked up in Rota, Spain. He was actually not needed since all Israeli air to ground transmissions were done in English. Where are those transcripts?
I am, BTW, very pro-Israeli. But, there was a huge coverup at the time as the survivors were threatened not to say a thing when they returned to the States. What happened and why has been a hot topic among my fellow Hebe and Arab linguist for decades. The truth is out there :-). Additionally, I became a Hebe linguist some seven years after the incident and know people who were involved indirectly. Still a mystery after all these years.
War is hell indeed, but we were not at war and the ship was in international waters.