Survivors of the brutal attack on the USS Liberty ship in 1967 gather together, earlier this month, to honor the fallen and preserve the memory of what happened on that terrible day.
By Dave Gahary
NORFOLK, Va.—The 50th reunion of the most decorated ship for a single action in the U.S. Navy’s 241-year history took place from June 8-11 at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel. Norfolk, home to the largest Navy base in the world—Naval Station Norfolk—was the Liberty’s home port city from its commissioning in 1964 to its decommissioning in 1968. Crewmembers, along with their families, and supporters converged on the hotel, determined to not let the truth about the Liberty fade from the pages of time. By all accounts, the reunion cemented old friendships, forged new ones, and launched a new round of supporters, eager to tell the Liberty’s story to all who will listen.
Exactly 34 Liberty crewmembers were slaughtered on that beautiful, sunny day in the Eastern Mediterranean on June 8, 1967, and that exact number of survivors was present for the reunion—one unofficial representative for each man killed that horrific day. Additionally, over 100 family members and supporters were at the reunion, making it one of the best attended get-togethers since they began meeting.
The first stop for those honoring the ship and crew was Arlington National Cemetery for a noon memorial service for those murdered by Israel, attended by around 150. Liberty survivor Bob Scarborough and his wife came up from Georgia for the reunion, and he spoke with this reporter about his time at the national military cemetery.
“I was proud and happy to see that it was the biggest crowd I’d seen among those ceremonies so far,” he said.
Sadly, no public officials were present for the hour-long somber event.
“I don’t recall seeing any senators or congressmen,” he said. “Thank you very much to the American government for their support. I’ve been damning them for 50 years.”
He continued: “We went straight to Arlington for the ceremony. . . . We had 34 crewmembers there, and what a coincidence that the 34 crewmembers—I thought—represented the 34 shipmates that we lost on June 8, 1967. As they called the names of the men who were lost, they laid roses on the front of the mass gravestone for the men who were killed in action and lost at sea.”
Six Liberty crewmembers—five sailors and one Marine—lie in a mass grave there, although it’s impossible to know if any of their remains are actually present, as the Israeli torpedo shredded the 25 Americans so thoroughly as to prevent identification.
The next day, following a photo shoot and a crew’s meeting, three buses were loaded at the hotel headed for Naval Station Norfolk’s David Adams Memorial Chapel for a memorial carillon concert. “Carillon” is derived from the French word quadrillon, “four bells,” and is a musical instrument usually housed in the belfry of a church, consisting of cast bronze, cup-shaped bells, struck to produce a melody or chord.
Saturday featured a noon banquet at the hotel, where the new USS Liberty Veterans Association (LVA) board was introduced and several speakers took their turn at the microphone, including three-time president of the LVA, Phil Tourney, who traveled from Colorado. Although Tourney felt this was the best reunion he had attended, he still held sour feelings for being quarantined by the power-that-be.
“The only thing that really disappoints me,” Tourney began, “is that we didn’t get any local media coverage; they’re not gonna touch us with a 10-foot pole, because of the people who attacked us. Even more disconcerting for me is how the United States Navy shunned us, as they did 50 years ago, leaving us out there alone to be slaughtered by the Zionist state of Israel.”
Tourney concluded with a message that bears remembering.
“When they attacked our ship, they didn’t just attack a U.S. naval ship in international waters, they attacked each and every American then and now,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, the U.S. government is just as guilty as Israel for covering up premeditated, cold-blooded murder.”
Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, prevailed in a suit brought by the New York Stock Exchange in an attempt to silence him. Dave is the producer of an upcoming full-length feature film about the attack on the USS Liberty. See erasingtheliberty.com or call (850) 677-0344 for more information and to get the new book on which the movie will be based, Erasing the Liberty.