Survivors from Israeli attack on U.S. spy ship Liberty to speak in Charleston Saturday

Survivors of the 1967 attack on the American spy ship Liberty will be in Charleston Saturday in an open forum where they will discuss being bombed by Israeli aircraft at sea, the loss of life and efforts to save the ship.

The event is part of a gathering of the Naval Order of the United States, which is hosting its National Congress in Charleston this week.

While most of the sessions on the agenda are closed, a panel of four Liberty survivors will tell their stories in a discussion open to the public and free of charge.

The Liberty was patrolling the eastern Mediterranean on June 8, 1967, eavesdropping on communications during the Six-Day War fought between Israel and its Arab state neighbors.

Even though the ship was identified as American, it was attacked by Israeli jets, which strafed and napalmed the practically unarmed vessel. Israeli torpedo boats also took part, landing a direct hit. Thirty-four of the Liberty’s crew were killed and 171 were injured, though the ship was saved from sinking.

Israel initially said the attack was a case of misidentification, something Charleston author James Scott has deemed implausible on what was a clear and sunny day in international waters.

“As incredible as it seems, declassified NSA documents and interviews reveal that some Washington officials, afraid the attack would spark public outrage against Israel, went so far as to contemplate sinking the Liberty at sea to prevent news reporters from documenting the awful damage,” said Scott, a former Post and Courier reporter who wrote about the incident in his 2009 account “The Attack on the Liberty: The Untold Story of Israel’s Deadly 1967 Assault on a U.S. Spy Ship.”

He added, “This was part of what would prove to be the government’s larger strategy of de-emphasizing the attack and helping to protect Israel from public outrage. The government knew that an angry American public would make it a lot harder for the administration to bury the attack.”

The session begins at 1:45 p.m. Saturday at the Francis Marion Hotel, at the corner of King and Calhoun streets in Charleston.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551

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