The American Legion — the nation’s largest veterans’ service organization — wants Congress to investigate the circumstances surrounding the June 1967 attack upon the Navy technical research ship Liberty. Israeli fighter aircraft and torpedo boats attacked the Liberty while the ship was on patrol in the Mediterranean Sea. Liberty’s skipper — Capt. William L. McGonagle — was awarded the Medal of Honor for his role in saving the ship despite receiving severe wounds. Thirty-four Liberty sailors — mainly in cryptologic technician ratings — died, while another 171 were wounded. The Legion approved a measure calling for the congressional probe during its national convention in Reno, Nevada, last month.
In calling for the investigation, the Legion cited:
* CIA and National Security Agency evidence that Israel knew the Liberty was American, and that Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Dayan personally ordered the attack.
* Testimony from Navy officers stating that Defense Secretary Robert McNamara ordered them to conclude that the attack was a case of mistaken identity, and that the Israeli attackers intended to destroy the ship.
* An official Navy inquiry conducted at the time failed to provide adequate answers the attack.
The Legion would like to see Congress conduct the inquiry before the end of the year, which marks the 50th anniversary of the attack.