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Attack on the Liberty: One theory is more than a stretch

June 09. 2018 11:35PM

The USS Liberty was attacked in 1967 by Israeli planes and torpedo boats, killing 34 crew members and injuring 173, including David Edwin Lewis of Colebrook, a now-retired Navy commander. 

Our Sunday News feature last week on the deadly 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty spy ship was informative. It is an event that few people knew of then or now. But one of its claims, while sensational, remains unsubstantiated.

There is no doubt that the Liberty was attacked, with great loss of life, by Israeli forces during the Six-Day War. The attack, from both air and sea, lasted about 25 minutes. Thirty-five men aboard were killed; another 173 were injured. One of them, Lt. Commander David Lewis, is a Colebrook native now living back in his hometown.

Israel claimed that it didn't know this was an American ship. The "fog of war'' was its defense, saying it thought it was an Egyptian vessel.

The evidence suggests otherwise. It points to a deliberate attempt by the Johnson administration to order American rescue forces away from coming to the Liberty's aid. An open channel caught radio traffic in which top U.S. brass refused to send aid.

That has led many to wonder just what else went on here. The author of an upcoming book claims that President Johnson was in on a deliberately-staged attack designed to destabilize the regime of Egypt's Nasser by blaming it for the attack.

This is, of course, the same Johnson who used a phony claim of North Vietnamese attacks on our warships to ratchet up our involvement in Vietnam.

Still, the claim that a President ordered the sinking of a U.S. ship sounds a bit too much like the claim that our moon landings were all staged on a Hollywood back lot. We await the book's evidence.

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