Cultural Revolutions

A Sudden Attack

The U.S.S. Liberty was suddenly and deliberately attacked on June 8, 1967—a date that should live in infamy—by naval and air forces of the state of Israel.  Although the lone vessel, conducting surveillance in international waters, identified herself as an American craft—as if the 12-foot-tall and soon-to-be-shot-up Old Glory were not enough—she withstood a sustained attack by Israeli fighter jets and gunboats that strafed and torpedoed the Liberty, killing 35 and wounding 170 of her crew.  (The crew’s 70-percent casualty rate included seamen shot as they loaded the wounded into lifeboats.)

Curiously, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered that the attack be designated “a case of ‘mistaken identity’ despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary,” according to the senior legal counsel to the Navy’s investigation of the incident.  An affidavit from (retired) Capt. Ward Boston, released at a Capitol Hill news conference in late October, broke 36 years of silence ordered by his superiors.  (The publication of Jay Cristol’s The Liberty Incident, an “insidious attempt to whitewash the facts,” was too much for Captain Boston to stomach.)  His affidavit was released along with the corroborating findings of an independent commission consisting of retired military men (e.g., a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of...

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