Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, August 2007, pages 61-62
USS Liberty Crew Waits 40 Years For Investigation
(L-r) A Navy officer, Liberty survivor Ernie Gallow, master of ceremonies Bill Perry, and Stan White pay tribute to the USS Liberty crew (Staff photo D. Hanley).
THE ANNUAL memorial service at Mass Grave 1817, Section 34, of Arlington Cemetery was especially moving this year, the 40th anniversary of Israel’s 1967 attack on the USS Liberty. Some of the survivors are fighting health problems, but 30 of them came to pay their respects to their shipmates as well as their Captain, William L. McGonagle, who is buried on a nearby hill overlooking the mass grave. Wives, sons and daughters, grandchildren, siblings and sweethearts joined together to grieve for the men lost, and to support those they love who were wounded on that fateful day. Every survivor carries a wound that won’t heal until Congress agrees to investigate the attack on their ship.
Nodding toward their skipper’s grave, Ernie Gallow, president of the USS Liberty Veterans’ Association, said, “We feel his presence at the helm. We’re confident our captain will get us through no matter what. He inspires us to keep fighting for justice.”
Stan White, the former senior chief petty officer on the Liberty, closed the ceremony with a moving tribute toLiberty heroes, dead and alive, captured on You-Tube, thanks to Baltimore journalist William Hughes.
Referring to his shipmates killed in the Israeli attack, White said, “These 34 brave sailors who joined the U.S. Navy to serve their country would be so disappointed now if they knew in their time of need the U.S. government would not allow U.S. Navy planes to come to their assistance. It’s unbelievable this could ever happen in this country that I love.”
White said he was shocked that his country continues to block an inquiry.
Americans use the word “hero” to describe TV or movie stars or athletes, he noted, but “That’s not a hero to me.” American sailors who displayed valor while under attack from “rockets, cannons, machine-gun fire and even napalm and then, when things couldn’t get worse, torpedoes...now that’s a hero to me.” White recalled their beloved captain, who, wounded, stayed on duty 17 hours, “steering by the stars because our equipment was out.” The ship’s doctor, Richard F. Kiepfer, also injured, worked for hours putting people’s bodies back together as other wounded men waited, without complaint, for someone to come to help them.
“Those who survived and those who died are real American heroes,” White said. “They’re my friends and shipmates. Maybe someday when some real American is running this country, this ship and its crew will have a place in history books, as they should,” he concluded.
The following day, Liberty survivor Mark Kram and his wife, Karen, saw their National Guard son off to war in Iraq. Forty years after President Lyndon Johnson chose to sacrifice American lives to protect Israel, many Libertysupporters wish their leaders had learned a lesson in 1967.
For more information visit <www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7knH1jnzoo>, a number of articles listed on theWashington Report’s home page <wrmea.com>, and an excellent Veterans of Foreign Wars article in the June/July 2007 issue of VFW Magazine.
—Delinda C. Hanley