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Remembering LIBERTY and Calling for a Second American Revolution!

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Part II in the Series: “It was God that kept us afloat.”

In 1967, Lt. Commander David Ed Lewis was the officer in charge of 195 men out of the total crew of 294 on the USS LIBERTY. After we spoke for over an hour on the phone on November 3, 2007, 76 year old spry Dave was off to pull out his frozen garden harvested berries and begin making elderberry jelly.

Dave is the fifth USS LIBERTY Veteran thus far to speak to me about that day in infamy on June 8, forty years ago when Israel tried and failed to take an American spy ship down as she sailed in international waters flying the American flag.

Although I couldn’t see Dave, I heard his grief and heartbreak as he said, “Twenty-eight of the thirty-four that were murdered that day worked for me. I also still feel personally responsible for the loss of my Communication Officer and Communication Chief. Just before the LIBERTY sailed they both brought me their retirement papers. They both had all their time in and I asked if one of them would do me a favor in the interest of continuity and go on one last assignment. They both replied, ‘For you Commander, we’ll both go!’”

“Not only did they die, their families also paid a price. One widow went over the edge and the state took her kids away.”

I responded, “This is an area I have been wondering about. The trauma all of you veterans experienced and how it has played out. I am aware of broken marriages, bad backs, addictions and I have barely scratched the surface here. I wonder about the lives of all you guys and your families who have all been traumatized and irrevocably altered, not just because of the unmerited violence done to you, but mostly because of our government’s cover-up.”

Dave replied, “Some of my men were threatened with being put in a mental institution if they spoke out. None of us had any contact with the other until the first reunion of the LIBERTY twenty years after the attack. Everybody was assigned to different duty stations to keep us apart.”

I joked, “Sounds like apartheid!” But upon reflection I understand that more precisely what was implemented was the standard operating procedure of all empires to divide and conquer.

Dave recalled, “That morning I saw a couple of the Israeli overflights, we waved at each other. We all felt safe as they were friends. I was back in my general quarter’s station two levels down when I heard the thud-thud-thud of the rockets overhead, but they never penetrated the bowels of the ship.

“It was such a well planned accident. They took out just about every antenna we had. All of them were knocked out except for one that never worked right. It was also the first satellite communications in the U.S.A. It leaked hydrochloric fluid but when it worked right, it bounced off the moon.”

According to Peter Hounam’s research in Operation Cyanide, “All the aerials were destroyed save one that had been malfunctioning, and was thus turned off and ‘cold’. This turned out to be a godsend. A signalman thought he could get it going, and wired up the only transmitter still working. Miraculously, it began to load up with current and a sense of relief spread through the radio room.”-page 28, Operation Cyanide, by Peter Hounam.

The LIBERTY’S transmissions were jammed by the attacking planes “with the specific intention of preventing the ship communicating with the outside world… [and the] international distress frequency, used for Mayday messages, was also jammed.”-IBID, page 29.

Ten minutes after the attack began the LIBERTY was miraculously able to communicate their distress and received a reply from the USS Saratoga. The shipmates breathed a sigh of relief thinking that the Sixth Fleet was on the way to their rescue and that the Pentagon also now knew of their dire need for immediate assistance.

No help arrived from their brothers in arms until the next day, but about fifteen minutes after the jets attacked Israeli torpedo boats came bearing down on the American spy ship.

Dave informed me,” The torpedo explosion happened less than ten feet from where I stood and blew out the bulkhead and covered me with twenty years of navy paint. All the troops within twenty feet of me were killed instantly. The bulkhead [wall] protected me as a shield from the blast. I shouldn’t have even survived. I was on the second level down and the compartment was sealed. Seamen Shnell broke regulations and saved my life. It’s against regulations to break water tight integrity, but he took the risk of sinking the ship to check for survivors.

“I would have loved to have seen the carnage as devastating as it was, but the last thing I heard was the call to stand by for torpedo attacks on the starboard side. The next thing I knew I was sitting on the deck up against a bulkhead. My eyes were seared shut with burnt paint and not until the next morning when I was helicopter lifted out, all wrapped up from head to toe so tightly that a coreman couldn’t tell my head from my feet and he sat on my head the entire ten minute flight. I was cyanotic when they unwrapped me, I nearly suffocated.

“The Dr. stood me up against a wall to lance my eyes open and told me don’t move, just keep your eyes on the scalpel so he didn’t blind me. Then they took me straight away to Rear Admiral General Geiss who had been waiting just for me.

“Rear Admiral Lawrence Geiss was in charge of the USS Saratoga and USS America. He swore me to secrecy until his death, which happened about nineteen years later.

“What he told me I kept secret until I learned of his death at the first reunion and twenty year anniversary of the veterans of the USS LIBERTY.

“He told me that as soon as he got the word of our distress he launched aircraft and notified D.C. Immediately he heard from McNamara to recall the aircraft.

“He said he assumed it was because some idiots in Washington thought that he was launching nuclear weaponry. He reconfigured and then re-launched aircraft without nuclear capabilities.

“Admiral Geiss notified Washington of this and once again the immediate response that came from McNamara was the order to recall the aircraft.

“Admiral Geiss challenged the order and pleaded that people are dieing!

“LBJ was heard to say, ‘I don’t give a damn! I won’t embarrass an ally.”

“McNamara had been talking to Geiss on an unsecured but plain language telephone, the Automatic Digital Network; Autodin.

“President Eisenhower had once gotten so upset when it took three days once to receive critical information and he established the CRITTICOM system. This enabled all critical intelligence to be delivered to the White House within two minutes and CRITTICOM is how Geiss and McNamara exchanged information.”

According to an October 4, 2007 article by Israeli journalist, Yossi Melman, a Haaretz Correspondent, “Oliver Kirby, the NSA’s deputy director for operations at the time of the Liberty attack, was quoted by the Chicago Tribune confirming that the Israeli Air Force was well aware the ship was the USS LIBERTY, an intelligence gathering ship and that the “U.S. National Security Agency was able to intercept Israeli Air Force communications according to which, at some stage, the pilots identified the ship as American but were nonetheless instructed to push ahead with the attack. According to the report, some of the transcripts and intelligence information have disappeared, while the rest can be found in U.S. government archives.

“Oliver Kirby, the NSA’s deputy director for operations at the time of the Liberty attack, is quoted by the Tribune as confirming the existence of the transcripts, saying he personally read them.

“They said, ‘We’ve got him in the zero,’” Kirby was quoted as saying, “whatever that meant - I guess the sights or something. And then one of them said, ‘Can you see the flag?’ They said ‘Yes, it’s U.S, it’s U.S.’ They said it several times, so there wasn’t any doubt in anybody’s mind that they knew it.”

Kirby told the newspaper that the transcripts were “something that’s bothered me all my life. I’m willing to swear on a stack of Bibles that we knew they knew.”

The report also states that then U.S. defense secretary Robert McNamara ordered jets that had been dispatched to assist the Liberty turned around.

On June 8, 2007, this reporter attended the 27th annual American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s Washington , D.C. Conference.

It was 86 year old, walker-bound Congressman Paul Findley, a moderate Republican who blew my mind that day, when he addressed the luncheon crowd:

“I was here for the first convention 27 years ago and I still have a fire in my belly for the civil and human rights of Arabs. It is time to speak openly and honestly about Israel. But, in American politics, that is still forbidden.

“…Pity that we cannot seem to shed our fear of Israel. We are afraid to speak out on Capitol Hill, for fear of losing the next election. They are more like trained poodles jumping through hoops than leaders!

“Why this fear? How did we get here?

“Forty years ago to this day, June 8, 1967 the change occurred, the floodgates opened and money poured into Israel as never before. When President Johnson heard about the U.S.S. Liberty being attacked by Israel he ordered the rescue fighter planes to return to the deck. The rescue mission was aborted and the survivors have said they heard LBJ’s voice tell Admiral Giess, ‘Get those planes back on deck. I don’t care if the ship sinks, I will not embarrass Israel .’

“LBJ also threatened to court martial anyone who reported what had happened. Johnson accepted Israel’s false claim of “mistaken identity” and he knew it was a lie. That is when the change began and Israel learned they could get away with murdering U.S.A. soldiers.”

In 1776, fifty-five rich white land owners had the wisdom and foresight to write:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that, among these, are life, [and] liberty ; [and] that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; and, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it. - July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence”

“The nation which indulges toward another…is in some degree a slave…a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils.”-President George Washington, Sept. 17, 1796 Farewell Address.

On with the second American revolution!

November 5, 2007 © Copyright Eileen Fleming, Reporter and Editor Author KEEP HOPE ALIVE and Memoirs of a Nice Irish American Girl’s’ Life in Occupied Territory, Producer “30 Minutes With Vanunu.” Permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media if this credit is attached and the title remains unchanged.