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38 years after the incident, survivors of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty are still without answers as to why 34 of their shipmates were killed and over 200 wounded by America's ally in the June 1967 war between Israel and the United Arab Republic. Mike Smith recently talked with a Liberty survivor and has this story:
38 years ago today, around 2pm local time 17 miles off the Gaza Strip, the sound of rocket and machine gun fire filled the air as Israeli aircraft and motor boats launched an attack on the USS Liberty as the ship lay in international waters of the eastern Mediterranean. Before the day was over, 34 US Sailors and Marines lay dead. More than 200 Purple Hearts would be awarded to the wounded who survived the attack.
Bryce Lockwood is a retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant. Today he lives in Strafford Misouri, but on Thursday June 8th 1967, on direct orders from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Lockwood was serving as a Russian linguist aboard the Liberty when Israeli aircraft and motorboats bombed, strafed, and torpedoed the ship. Lockwoods orders placed him on the Liberty for tempoary duty for the National Security Agency which was using the ship as a listening post monitoring communications of Israeli and Arab forces at the beginning of the June 67 war.
Lockwood tells KSMU News of hearing bullets hit the ship and reporting to his General Quarters station where a torpedo shot from an Israeli motor boat entered and exploded killing 25 crewmen in his compartment. Lockwood was awarded the Silver Star for saving the lives of two sailors wounded in the attack. Lockwood himself was severly wounded and also recieved the Purple Heart.
The Israeli's claim the attack was a case of mistaken identity. They say they thought the ship was of Arab origin, but Lockwood says there's no doubt the attack was deliberate.
He says the American flag flying above the ship when the attack began was shot down, and a brave signalman then hoisted the "Holiday Flag" which was the larges American flag aboard. Lockwood says with the ships markings and the Holiday Flag flying, there is no way the Israeli's could've been mistaken
the ship for anything but American.
Lockwood and his shipmates hope those responsible will be held accountable. Calling it and accident,the Israeli government says it regrets the incident and compensated the families of those killed with $100,000. Wounded survivors recieved $20,000.
For KSMU News, I'm Mike Smith.