Washington, DC - March 7, 2014 8AM-5PM at the National Press Club

"..a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils."

-George Washington, Farewell Address


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  The U.S.S. Liberty: what really happened? What did not?
(Video YouTube, Audio MP3)

by Ernie Gallo is president of the USS Liberty Veterans Association.  He is a former Communications Technician, Second Class in the Navy Reserve. 

Following his active duty with the U.S. Navy Gallo had a 28-and-a-half year career with the CIA supporting U.S. communications around the world. 

Gallo is the author of the 2013 book, Liberty Injustices: A Survivor's Account of American Bigotry.

Let me first start out by saying Congressman Paul Findley and Ambassador Kilgore, LVA still loves you. Thank you and God bless us. And I also want to thank Alison Weir for inviting me.


I represent the USS Liberty Veterans Association (the LVA). I am the LVA’s current President. Our mission statement states that we strive to have the truth told to the American public about the Israeli attack, that is, the attack was brutally deliberate.


Personally, I have been to over 45 countries in my life travels and it does not get any better than the United States for a system of government. Ergo, my love of country and the Liberty incident has opened my eyes. Our creator gave our founding fathers the grace to create the most humane form of governing and it is threatened from within. I have taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States and no one has told me to stand down. It is vitally important that our tripartite form of government remains intact providing “checks & balances”. My focus is not only with the Johnson Administration and the military but Congress now, during, and present. I am not critical towards the American public as they have been deceived by our government, Israel, and the media which is influenced and/or controlled by the Israeli supporters. To wit: Laws have been broken or thwarted to maintain our relationship with Israel and I will provide you with details as I know them. It is my contention that by investigating the Liberty story, a very sinister historical blight becomes defined. I pray America has the guts to look inwardly and take the right steps to correct not only the Liberty Injustices but also become acutely aware of Israelis’ action past, present, and future against humanity and Palestine.


Did you notice that Paul Pillar, Michael Scheuer, and Ray McGovern are all former CIA employees? Well, I spent almost 29 years working for them also. I went from being a Navy spook to become a CIA staff officer working for the Office of Communications. Why do you think there are so many former CIA employees so concerned about the Middle East? Why are we so passionate about what happens in Palestine? I believe it has something to do with love of country. We care – it is part of our culture. As my British friends would say, we bloody well care. Speaking for myself -- but I think they feel the same -- I sense the calamity that is possible if we continue down our current course.


What is the price for caring? Bigotry. I have written a book and some of what I think I will talk about you will find documented. It is appalling the length Israeli supporters will go to ensure you are silenced and harassed. However, the USS Liberty story is very important and it must be told truthfully and accurately. If you would like a copy, please see me.


Before I get into the nitty-gritty about the attack, I need to mention the Moore Commission which completed its task on October 22, 2003. The Commission was made up of: Admiral Thomas Moorer, U.S. Navy, deceased, who was the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Chief of Naval Operations; General Raymond G. Davis, Marine Corps, (deceased) Medal of Honor recipient and former Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps; Rear Admiral Merlin Staring, U.S. Navy, deceased, former Judge Advocate of the Navy from 73 to 75; and, Ambassador James Atkins, (deceased) former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.


The mission: Findings of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty, the Recall of Military Rescue Support Aircraft while the ship was under attack, and the Subsequent Cover-up of the United States Government. The Moorer Commission is the bench mark identifying the Liberty injustices that our government will not address.


I am a USS Liberty survivor. What does that mean and how does that work into the reassessment of our relationship with Israel?


I survived the 2 hour deliberate Israeli attack on the U.S. Naval Intelligence ship, USS Liberty AGTR 5. On June 8, 1967 during the Arab/Israeli Six Day war, Israel tried to sink this ship attempting to murder the crew of 294 Americans. They launched 5 torpedoes but our Captain William McGonagle assertively dodged 4 of them, however, the fifth hit us on our starboard side just forward of mid ships killing 25 of the 34 Americans. We did not sink but two thirds of the crew was incapacitated. There were wounded or dying sailors all over the ship. It was literally blood bath. It is miraculous we didn’t sink and I will say more on that later.


A little after 2:00 PM, 3 Israeli unmarked fighter jets began strafing the ship with 20mm cannon and rockets killing the young sailors manning the .50 caliber machine guns. The radiomen immediately tried to call for help discovered all U.S. Navy selected frequencies were being jammed. The Israelis knew the frequencies we were attempting to use. Nevertheless, the radiomen finally got through to the 6th fleet. No help was forthcoming that day as the 6th fleet had White House orders not to launch aircraft to come to our aide.


Next, came two fighter/bombers that dropped napalm canisters on each side of the ship. Even though they were being shot at, the Liberty crew eventually put out the fires. After a brief lull, 3 torpedo boats arrived strafing the ship with their 40mm cannon and .50 caliber machine guns. Then they proceeded to drop their torpedoes in the water. One finally did find its mark. Our skipper passed the command to prepare to abandon ship. Three inflatable life rafts that remained sea worthy were dropped over the side and were machine gunned by the motor torpedo boats. Our life vests were now our only hope for survival and the more seriously wounded would never survive. However, the engine room was able to bring the boilers back to life and the Liberty had power. In addition, damage control indicated that the ship stopped taking on water and the ship came to a 9 degree list to starboard. So, our skipper wisely decided not to abandon ship.


About that time, Israeli helicopters hovered near the ship and repel boarders were ordered. However, for whatever reason, their attack was called off and all hostilities ceased. I personally risked going topside to ascertain what was happening and saw two Israeli helicopters carrying armed marines.


The USS Liberty is currently the most decorated U.S. Navy ship for a single engagement. There were 208 Purple Hearts given alone. The military does not award Purple Hearts, the Medal of Honor, Navy Crosses, Silver and Bronze stars for mere accidents.


But that is exactly what the Johnson Administration attempted to call it initially. In order to secure the Jewish vote for upcoming elections, they could not have Israel taken to task. This was a major historical event. Any other time, their action would be an act of war. This event had to be buried quickly, quietly, and without fanfare. Therefore, a couple of actions were immediately taken. The Navy told the Liberty survivors never to talk about the attack to anyone including our families or face a $10,000 fine and/or 10 years imprisonment. With a cold and matter of fact authoritarian counsel, they meant business. The Navy would handle the press. In other words, the crew was given a gag order. At the same time, the crew had to be made to feel that everything was OK and being done by the book. So, the brave were honored and appropriate medals issued. Everything appeared on the up and up.


To legally prevent us from future actions, the Navy Court of Inquiry had to come to the conclusion that the sailors did their job to defend the ship and therefore there could be no court-martials delay burying the story. The attack had to be declared accidental. It was a masterful job and the Johnson Administration pulled it off.


So, the White House ordered the Court to come to that conclusion as indicated by the Navy lawyer of the court, Captain Ward Boston, deceased. Before he died, he gave us a sworn affidavit stating that Admiral Kidd and others deliberately ignored the crew’s testimony and falsified the evidence. He was also video taped giving details of the affidavit. In private conversations between Boston and Kidd, they knew the attack was deliberate and stated in the affidavit. They were good Navy officers and kept their secret until the end of 2003.


Why is this so important? This is obstruction of justice at the highest level. Let that sink in. I will say it again…this is obstruction of justice at the highest level. That is, when the crew gave their testimony to the court, they testified the Israelis machine gunned our life rafts and shot at fire fighters and stretcher-bearers. They are all war crimes. We assumed their testimony and official log book data were acquired. No. They were eliminated. Whatever happened to the Uniform Code of Military Justice that all American military were sworn to observe?


Now let’s fast forward to June 2005. The Bush Administration was concerned that war crimes were being committed during the Iraqi War. In order to be non-intimidating, the Pentagon indicated that if anyone witnessed a war crime, a system was created within the Dept. of the Army to expedite all war crime reports.


Therefore, on June 8, 2005, the LVA filed a war crimes report with the Pentagon and guess what? Nothing happened. We were devastated and appalled as we did everything by the book. We were informed that the ’67 Navy Court of Inquiry had already investigated the incident and no action was required. If you write your congressman today, you will get the same answer. In other words, the ’67 Navy Court of inquiry forms the official basis to explain the attack. The Liberty crew had been slam dunked.


Why would the White House do this to their crew who, on one hand exemplified themselves militarily, but on the other hand had to be contained and diminished? Israel. For example, our skipper, Captain William McGonagle was awarded the Medal of Honor not by President Johnson at the White House which is the custom but at a low level ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard by the Secretary of the Navy. No press was invited. Are you starting to get the picture?

We now know that the order to attack came from Moshe Dayan. We have a declassified CIA cable exposing his order. One of the Generals in the room that morning exclaimed, “This is pure murder.” But they went ahead as the order came from their Defense Minister until an IDF Navy Admiral later gave the order to stop the attack as the ship refused to sink.


You see their war plans included taking Syrian Territory, the Golan Heights. By June 8th, the IDF had taken out the air forces of Jordan, Egypt, and Syria, captured the west bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Sinai – but not the Golan Heights. In the mean time, the Soviets were going crazy as Egypt and Syria were their client states and Israel was kicking their behinds. The Soviet Prime Minister Brezhnev indicated to Johnson that they were ready to enter the war with paratroopers at the ready and worse if Israel did not stop acquiring their clients’ land. So, Johnson passed that concern back to Israel insisting they come to the peace table ending hostilities. We certainly did not want the Soviets involved. However, Dayan was not finished yet and the Liberty could be intercepting Israeli military communications moving troops out of the Sinai to the Syrian border. Secrecy was essential and he was concerned our intelligence would be shared with our allies friendly to Egypt and therefore if found out, Egypt could counter attack and take back the Sinai. In his eyes, the Liberty had to be taken out in order to take the Golan Heights. Going against American guidance, on June 9th, Israel took the Golan. We have learned that the Soviet Union was ready to use military force and nuclear weapons had Israel made an attempt to invade Cairo and/or Damascus.


My point is -- is a belligerent Israel important enough to risk America cities being annihilated by Arab nuclear weapons today? No. A belligerent Israeli is not worth it! It is only a matter of time that fanatical Islamics will have nuclear weapons. It may not necessarily be Iran. What if nuclear Pakistan falls into the hands of their fanatical Islamics over injustices in Palestine? Fanatical Islamics are not stupid and are analyzing everything we do in the Middle East. In order for Americans to be united when it is absolutely necessary for the defense of this wonderful country of ours, we had better behave in an upright and honest manner. Protecting a belligerent Israel and its apartheid is not a just ideal. Why can’t Congress understand Israel does not want peace in Palestine? Isn’t it obvious?

OK then who is responsible for the dangerous track we are currently traveling? In my opinion, Congress the mouth piece of the America public. With that said our Constitution states in Article 1, section 8 that Congress shall investigate all American Navy ships attacked on the high seas during peace time. When the Constitution was written, piracy was a concern. History indicates they have done so for every incident except one – the USS Liberty. Liberty crew as well as the Liberty supporters have written and had one on one conversations with Congressmen about providing justice, not only to the crew, but more importantly the 34 who were killed in action. For almost 47 years their response has been empty and dismal.


So, why is this important? Because our system of check and balances, an objective and independent Congress might not come to the same conclusion as the military which comes under the Executive Branch especially if the Commander in chief wanted to either create a war like situation or dodge a situation that warrants a military or diplomatic response. The military will not disobey orders from the President.


If the President’s political party controls both houses, then Congress can stand down if so directed.


How did our Congress get this way? What happen to our sense of values? I can tell you from negative Congressional replies we have received over the years, that without the crew’s testimony under oath, pertinent information has been buried or destroyed that will prevent an objective and independent investigation. The Liberty crew is not getting any younger but our memories are clear and honest. Our collective families taught us to be that way and that is why some of us were selected to serve in the Naval Security Group. During the interim, the Liberty crew are called anti-Semitic, conspiracy theorist, and worse by Israeli supporters, because we refuse to lie about the attack. The Navy League and the American Legion have indicated they favor support for Israel by discriminating against Liberty crew. The bottom line is because of Congress’s lack of backbone to investigate the Liberty incident bolsters the bigotry we suffer.


I hope I have convinced you that the Liberty story is vitally important but if not, I want to leave you with this thought. I have stated before that by all Navy accounts, the Liberty should have sunk with all hands lost. The torpedo hole alone was 35 by 40 feet and most of it was below the water line. The torpedo hit the ship at the only place that we would not break apart or explode our boilers. Even with the power of Washington, James Ennes, our division officers had the courage to write a book and get it published in 1979 despite the Navy’s gag order. Do you think that some of the Pentagon knew the Liberty crew was getting shafted and wanted to do the right thing?


In conclusion, I must end this on a spiritual note. I have prayed about the attack and the guidance He provided me is the clear realization how important the Liberty story is to our nation especially since Israel does not want peace. There are 34 Liberty souls who are screaming for justice, not only for them, but also the American public who were and are being duped today. For their sake, please become aware that most Congressmen are reluctant to do anything negative against Israel or have a firm belief that Israel comes first. Americans must take Congress back to objectively do the right thing all the time for America and humanity.


For the sake of our grandkids and the pre '67 America we knew, I pray your effort is successful. God bless America!


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