Ernie Gallo is a survivor of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. He is president of the USS Liberty Veterans Association. Mr. Gallo is a former Communications Technician, Second Class in the Navy Reserve. Following his active duty with the U.S. Navy, he had a 28-and-a-half-year career with the CIA, supporting U.S. communications around the world. Ernie Gallo is a co-author of the book Remember the LIBERTY!
The Liberty Story Is A Microcosm To A Much Bigger Middle East Problem
By Ernie Gallo, USS Liberty Survivor
I am here to tell a shocking, alarming, and hopefully interesting story. Why listen to anything I have to say? I am here not to tear down our wonderful country but to alert you to an untenable Middle East situation. The American Israeli bond is formed based on lies and deceit to the American public. Israel is so powerful, to include over 200 nuclear warheads, that they do not need our sons and daughters to fight their wars. I believe a case can be made that if America guarantees Israel’s security and the American public has been deceived by both countries, how can we commit our sons and daughters to that security? Furthermore, why on earth do we give foreign aid to Israel, the 22nd richest country in the world? Suggestion: The aforementioned 3.5 Billion Dollars a year could instead provide increased security in our schools. Additionally, it is illogical for America to be fighting ancient wars between the Shiites, Sunnis, and the Kurds. America should remove itself from the Middle East as quickly as possible. Let me explain.
But first, every year on June 8th around noon in Washington, DC, we remember, mourn, and honor 34 USS Liberty crew (31 sailors, 2 marines, and a NSA civilian) who were killed by Israeli Defense Forces during the Arab-Israeli war. Our 34, who were sons, brothers, husbands, shipmates, and friends, will not return from our ill-fated May 1967 African cruise. The sorrow knife is still painful to a number of Liberty families. May all USS Liberty shipmates that have passed rest in peace in the arms of our loving Lord.
We will not go quietly into the night! Living through this nightmare for over 51 years, the Liberty crew has observed deceit and wrongdoing by our government with no help from the media. Given the chance, we have the details and proof that would stand up in a court of law. America gave us honesty and integrity to be assigned to a highly classified intelligence ship. You taught us to determine what is right and wrong. You gave us the passion and the will to complete our mission despite any adversity. Yet the Navy, at the behest of the White House, abandoned us under fire. Yes, America, you abandoned us. Why? Our adversaries never realized that our love of country would compel us to keep on fighting for the truth to be known about the cowardly attack. America, you taught us that we would be remiss if we did not stand up for this terrible wrong. That is why I am here.
On June 8, 1967, the Israelis deliberately and viciously attacked the USS Liberty at 2 PM for 90 minutes on a sunny day in the Mediterranean Sea after Israeli planes observed us all morning. We are here to tell you our ensign was proudly flying, yet the Israelis claimed they did not know that we were a United States Navy vessel. Our size and markings were absolutely different from the Egyptian ship they claimed we resembled. Nevertheless, after 831 bulkhead penetrations, a 39 by 24 foot torpedo hole in our starboard side, napalm canisters dropped port and starboard, 34 were killed and 174 wounded; 2/3 of the crew was taken out. Since they used torpedoes, it was the attempted murder of 294 Americans. Since all lifeboats were destroyed and inflatable life rafts were machine-gunned by the Israeli motor torpedo boats, our only hope to survive was to rescue and care for our wounded, maintain water-tight integrity, and maintain our propulsion system. By the grace of God that’s what we did.
We did not have the ability to fight back, as the Liberty was not a man-of-war but an intelligence ship. The Israelis knew that, and the Liberty was safe target practice. They attacked with fighter aircraft, fighter bombers, 3 torpedo boats, and 2 helicopters with commandos aboard (however, they were called back). When all was said and done, the U.S. government indicated that the attack was accidental, and our attackers were then given a free pass by President Lyndon Baines Johnson. In addition, the White House ordered a gag order to anyone knowing these details as part of a cover-up. The political benefit to LBJ must have been enormous. He immediately reversed an Eisenhower and Kennedy arms embargo to Israel, and the U.S. arms manufacturers have been benefiting ever since.
Did the Israelis know they were attacking an American ship? Absolutely! Unbeknownst to the Liberty and the Israelis, there was a U.S. Air Force intelligence aircraft flying nearby and taping the conversations between the attacking aircraft and their ground controllers. In real time, the Hebrew linguist sent his translation to an Air Force station in Crete. Lt. Richard Block was on duty, and he realized the importance of the transmission and sent it out on the Air Force Security Group circuit. Lt. Steve Forsland and Lt. Ronald Gotcher have told us the same story— all working at different locations. That is, the Israeli aircraft told the ground controllers that it was indeed an American ship, but their ground controllers told them to “take out the target.” We know the original order came from the Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan.
Our country sent us into wartime conditions; refused our request for a destroyer escort; prevented Sixth Fleet planes from coming to our aid; and then, ordered us never to talk about the attack to anyone. The American public had no idea what happened to us. The gag order worked from 1967 until James Ennes' book was published in 1979, entitled Assault on the Liberty. Where were the investigative reporters? I only know of one, John Crewdson from the Chicago Tribune, on October 2, 2007. While the Baltimore Sun printed it, no one else carried the story. Do you think the North Koreans paid attention as they took the USS Pueblo 9 months later?
Yes, America, the crew of the USS Liberty has been abandoned. During the attack, after hearing our need for rescue, the Sixth Fleet launched aircraft only to be recalled, initially by McNamara and then by President Johnson. Ironically, since the Israeli attacking aircraft were unmarked, we did not know who was attacking us at that time and, therefore, neither did the Sixth Fleet. It could have been the Soviets. Not knowing the attackers were Israeli, Rear Admiral Raymond Geis, commander of the Sixth Fleet, challenged the order. However, LBJ, knowing it was the Israelis, stated, “I don't care if the ship sinks, I will not have my ally embarrassed.”
The Navy Court of Inquiry turned out to be fraudulent, as indicated by Captain Ward Boston, Jr of the Navy Inquiry legal counsel in a sworn 2004 affidavit. With sworn crews’ testimony under oath removed from the Inquiry Report, it indicated the attack was accidental and made no mention of the War Crimes committed. What the hell? Whatever happened to the Uniform Code of Military Justice? Our conclusion is that 288 sailors, 3 marines, and 3 NSA civilians were denied justice by interference from the White House – That is judicial interference at the highest level. When do our 34 deceased shipmates and their families receive justice? Does it matter?
Hear us, America, as our Congress has not and will not investigate this attack even though our Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, mandates and I quote, “the House of Representative shall define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations.” They have done so for every attack except one – the USS Liberty. The second arm of our tripartite form of government – Congress – is collectively hiding under their desks, and that includes Senators Rubio and Nelson. Why? I have to wonder if AIPAC has control over most of Congress.
In seeking justice in 2005 (with the Israeli machine-gunning of our life rafts and shooting at our stretcher bearers in mind – both cited Geneva War Crimes), the USS Liberty Veterans Association filed a formal War Crimes Report to the Pentagon. With our official request in hand, they refused to look into our claim whatsoever because the aforementioned Navy Court of Inquiry had completed the formal investigation, and a new investigation was not needed. But wait a minute. The Pentagon had to know that the Liberty crew were eyewitnesses to the crimes. Following up on our War Crime would not be a good thing for the Israelis. Are you getting the picture?
America, when the Liberty crew recites the Pledge of Allegiance, when do we receive “liberty and justice for all”? What about our civil rights?
Now this is very important; please take note. Since our truthful claim that the attack was deliberate and the power structure claims otherwise, we are then labeled bigots, anti-Semitic, evil, mean-spirited, and conspiracy theorists. To capture some of the events that we have endured, I was so upset, I authored a book entitled, Liberty Injustices: A Survivor's Account of American Bigotry. If you want additional information, please read my book. It is available at Amazon.com. If you are not angry after listening to me, you should well be after reading my book. Food for thought: How far will the U.S. Government go to place Israel before its own citizenry?
We thus suffer embarrassment and condemnations. As a recent example, in my town of Palm Coast, Florida, I cannot have a 6 by 11-inch plaque honoring the Liberty placed in our Heroes Memorial Park because of their bigotry toward the USS Liberty. Our town administrator stated that a segment of our citizens would be offended, as it states “attacked by Israel.” As a combat veteran, I must assume their rights are better than mine. Then, I had to endure their bitterness and comments implying I was a troublemaker. Voltaire stated: To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.
The Liberty crew was awarded 1 Medal of Honor, 2 Navy crosses, 12 Silver stars, 26 Bronze Stars, 208 Purple Hearts, the Presidential Unit Citation, and more. The USS Liberty is the most decorated navy ship for a single engagement, and we are diminished and curtailed by the power structure from giving the USS Liberty the proper place and prestige warranted to this high honor in history. To wit: Our Skipper, Captain William McGonagle, received the Medal of Honor – not from LBJ, but at a low-level ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard from the Navy Secretary. Press were not invited.
In addition, the Navy will not name a new Navy ship USS Liberty for fear of offending certain people. Littoral combat ship (LCS 2) was supposed to be named USS Liberty to augment other LCS USS Freedom and USS Independence. That lasted about two months, and the Liberty name was dropped. However, soon the Navy will launch the USS Lyndon Baines Johnson destroyer. This is the same man that gave our attackers a free pass for killing 34 Americans and for the attempted murder of 294. He is the same supreme communist fighter who fraudulently created the Bay of Tonkin Resolution to build up Vietnam, killing thousands of American troops to get him re-elected in 1964.
Please, America, for the little time left for the crew, we are asking for justice as we will soon be joining our deceased shipmates. Or, do we do everything to protect the holy name of Israel at all costs and the status quo? Is that what you want? No, I don't think so. I have faith in the collective American soul. As a believer in prayer, I know our God will not let us down.
So, for those who are inspired, please pray for the USS Liberty crew. Our support numbers are growing by leaps and bounds. When our truth and justice comes, some folks are going to be very upset. Please wake up America – soon!!
For the Christian Israeli supporters, do you think Jesus Christ would approve of killing women and children to make Israel biblically whole again? That thought would be totally against all His New Testament teachings. Think about it.
Why, America? Why, America, can't you see the controls being placed on the US Government's direction, fairness, and sanity? This is not the form of government our Founding Fathers created—inspired by God as the most humane form of governing the world has ever known, a government based on law. It is in jeopardy. Our grandkids will not have the same form of government we grew up in. I pray God will bless America by using us to realize the tragedy that is taking place. We are living it, and we are the case study!! As a country, when did we cease to care for all people’s rights, including those living in and around the Holy Land?
In closing: We must never forget the Holocaust; however, in concert, it is equally important for the future of the United States to never forget the USS Liberty. Historians must get the Liberty story correct and accurate. We still have War Crimes that need justice. As sent to me from a Liberty supporter, paraphrasing wise words, “Choose you this day whom you will serve, Israelis or Americans.”
God bless all of you, and thank you for inviting us. God bless America!