I write this testimony not just about me but about my shipmates as well, what they have told me about themselves.
I look in the mirror and I am them.
How did we get here together with our lives so intertwined when we all went our different ways, not to see each other for as much as 20 years or more and yet we are the same? I have walked in your shoes, brothers.
I was a 20-year old sailor, loving life, enjoying seeing the world. I had great shipmates, family and friends. I was just an all around red-blooded American young man. At 2:00 on June 8, 1967 my life changed forever.
My ship, the USS LIBERTY, was deliberately and savagely attacked by our so called ally, Israel, in an attack that lasted about as long as the attack on Pearl Harbor. In this sneak attack our attackers knew exactly who they were attacking. They have admitted as much on film for all to see. The Israelis attacked their American friends anyway, murdering 34 brave, young sailors and marines and wounding 174 others. In this vicious attack they used rockets, canons, napalm, 50 caliber armor piercing bullets, and torpedoes against our helpless ship. Our ship was in international waters doing what our government had ordered us to do. We were no threat to anyone, especially Israel.
Our government recalled the lifesaving rescue aircraft sent to our aid from the USS SARATOGA on orders from the chain of command from Admiral John McCain to Robert McNamara to LBJ himself. We were left out there on our own to have the Israelis do to us as they wished and they did. They shot at our life rafts to insure no survivors would be allowed, no one was to be left alive, which is in itself a war crime.
In this 2 hour attack the Government of Israel used jet aircraft, torpedo boats, and troop bearing helicopters against our ship. The helicopters left the scene just as they were getting ready to board our ship and finish us off. They left because of an incorrect message that help was on the way. What Israel left behind was a ship in distress with over 800 rocket and canon holes in her, thousands of armor piercing bullets in her skin, fire burning us up from the napalm and a 40 by 40 foot torpedo hole in her starboard side. We did not see any help from our government for about 18 hours after the attack, when help was only 15 to 20 minutes away. A disgraceful testament to the United States Government in their complicity with Israel to let them murder us all and blame it on Egypt. We put a monkey wrench into their plans. We didn’t sink as planned and we could identify our murderers.
Several days after the attack Admiral Isaac Kidd came aboard our ship to get testimony from the surviving crew. He got his testimony and we told him how barbaric our Israeli friends were to us. His stern and repulsive answer to us was to shut up and never repeat a word of this act of treason or the cover up of such by our government and the murdering Israelis.
Admiral Kidd’s order came from none other than Admiral John McCain, Jr., Senator McCain’s father. The orders were if any of us spoke a word about this attack to anyone, including our families, we would go to prison for the rest of our lives or worse and, of course, we all knew worse meant - death!
We were treated this way by our own government when we had served our country with dignity, honor, and courage. The LIBERTY crew is one of the most highly decorated crews in naval history. Our ship is second to none in battle damage.
The crew was disposed and we all went our own ways. When I got discharged off the LIBERTY on Dec 12, 1967, my tour of duty was up. I wasn’t that same 20 year old young man with the rest of his life ahead of him anymore. I felt like I was 50 years old and with no future ahead of me. I was married at the time and had a baby on the way, living day by day with the LIBERTY monster on my back. I didn’t feel sorry for myself, but I didn’t feel good about myself, either. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I went to the VA and told them my problems the best way I could. I was turned away as a ‘malcontent’. They didn’t believe what I told them concerning what had happened to me. They said I was making this story up. They had never heard about the USS LIBERTY and said Israel would never do such a thing. Once again, my government let me down.
I went deeper and deeper into the bottle. I was drunk most of the time. I was mean to my family, not just my wife, but my whole family–parents, brothers, sisters, everyone. Everything I could do destructive to myself, I did. Always chasing other women, fighting with who ever wanted a piece of me. I thought I was bullet proof. No one wanted to be around me, especially my now ex-wife, after 13 years of hell. The destructive life style stayed with me for about 20 years after the attack, still not knowing how to get out of the hell hole I had dug myself into. Then, I read an article by Master Chief Stan White, a shipmate aboard the LIBERTY, that was in the Rocky Mountain News. I almost fell over! I thought no one would dare speak about the LIBERTY. I knew I hadn’t because of the fear of God the government had put in my soul. I then found out that a few survivors got together and were talking about the injustice that had befallen us. I was relieved to be reunited with my mates and found out through another shipmate, Ron Kukal, that his life was also just like mine and he said to go back to the VA. They will help you, now. I was very reluctant to do so but I did and found a new door had opened for me. I found out I was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
How could our government betray their service men and allow Israel to get by with murder then, as they are doing to this day, by protecting them? The only explanation that makes sense is that one is just as guilty as the other. It’s disgusting and un-American.
I have been re-married now for 25 years. My wife never knew anything about the LIBERTY when I married her, but, she knows now, BOY, does she know about the LIBERTY. It has been extremely hard for her to live with me, just as it has been for all LIBERTY wives and families. We bring our nightmares upon them on a daily basis. The LIBERTY cover-up has destroyed so many good, loving, caring people. It’s heart breaking. Why do our families still love us? I don’t know but they do and they now understand how important that this piece of history be set straight in the history books, where we are nowhere to be found, not the lies Israel and our government would have you believe. We are very lucky to be alive and loved by our families.
Phillip F. Tourney, survivor
Three time president of LIBERTY Vets. Assoc.
Co-host of the LIBERTY HOUR republicbroadcasting.org