On June 8, 1967, 34 American sailors of the USS Liberty lost their lives serving their country. These Americans died when Israel, America’s “ally,” launched a murderous attack on the virtually unarmed American intelligence ship. To this day, many Americans are unaware that this attack even took place. Recently, PRAVDA.Ru had the opportunity to interview Mr. Hrankowski, a survivor and crew member of the USS Liberty.
Greetings Mr. Hrankowski! We at PRAVDA.Ru greatly appreciate this exclusive interview. We feel that, as a USS Liberty survivor, you are in the unique position to shed light on actually what happened and why. It is a great tragedy that 34 young American sailors died while serving their country. It is a even greater tragedy that the general public knows next to nothing about this event.
What position did you serve on the USS Liberty?
My position on the USS Liberty was in the Engineering Department. I was a boilerman. I also worked for the chief engineer in the log room office.
One of the main questions regarding this attack is whether or not the Israeli attackers knew that they were attacking an American ship. The Israelis have claimed that they misidentified the Liberty for the Egyptian horse carrier El Quseir, but it has been reported that the USS liberty flew an American flag and was distinctly marked with US markings. It is also known that slow moving recon planes flew over the USS Liberty numerous times. Is there any doubt in your mind that the Israeli military knew that they were attacking an American ship?
There is no doubt in my mind that the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty was deliberate. Israel has claimed that it was a mistake and that they were firing upon an arab horse freighter. The El Quesir was the name of the Arab ship. It was tied up and not sea worthy during the Six Day War, and the Israelis knew this.
As for our Flag. All American ships fly the flag. Ours was flying until the Israelis shot it down and within seconds another was put up. It was our holiday Ensign, sized 9 feet by 13 feet.
As for the slow moving aircraft. Planes started flying over us and checking us out at 5:30am and did so 9 to 13 times until the attack at 2:00PM. There is no doubt in my mind that they knew who they were attacking.
It has been reported that the USS Saratago, responding to a SOS from the Liberty, launched jets to help the Liberty approximately 15 minutes into the Israeli attack. Why were the jets recalled? One could say that this act left American sailors to be murdered by an enemy force?
A message from the USS Liberty got to the USS Saratoga 9 minutes into the attack. The USS Saratoga launched a flight of fighters immediately and they were called back. This happened three different times throughout the attack. Robert MacNamara called them back twice, and President Johnson called them back once, saying his thoughts were not for the USS Liberty. He did not want to embarrass his ally Israel. That act did leave us to get murdered, and what it actually is called is abandonment.
Once your captain, William Loren McGonagle, realized that the Liberty was in danger of sinking, he ordered the crew to abandon ship. At thic point, there were only three life rafts left that weren’t damaged. Your crew placed as many wounded into the life rafts and lowered them over the side of the Liberty. Please tell us what happened next.
The order was given by the captain to abandon ship, because he thought we were going to sink. Three life rafts were in the water, but then Israeli Torpedo boats came up to them and shot two of them up and grabbed one on the boats. That is against the Geneva Convention.
What prompted the Israelis to terminate their assault?
I'm not sure what caused them to terminate the attack, but after 2 hours, they could not sink us. I would think that their time had run out.
How long did it take for American help to arrive?
It took 16 hours for the American fleet to get to us. But that night, while we were sailing to the sixth fleet, a Soviet ship offered help to us. They said that they would stay just at the horizon and if our ship was going to go down, they would help us.
In a recent letter to President Bush, survivor Phillip F. Tourney claimed that the crew of the USS Liberty were “ordered to remain silent under threat of court martial, imprisonment, or worse, and we all know what worst meant.” Did you yourself experience such threats?
Admiral Kidd was the one who ordered us silent. That was a direct order to all of the crew. I heard it myself that day.
If what has been reported is true, the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty can only be described as deliberate. In your opinion, why did this attack take place?
As for why the Israelis attacked us, I'm not sure. I would not be able to give you a reason, because it would only be a guess. There is a new film out by the BBC called Dead in the Water. It was released in England on 6-10-02 and it gives some startling new evidence as to why the attack happened.
Has the American government considered reinvestigating the attack?
There are a few Congressmen interested in helping us. We're hoping that they are really willing.
It would seem that this event has been covered up. Giving all the information that has come forth and the testimony of such people as Secretary of State Dean Rusk and former JCS Chairman Admiral Thomas Moorer, the version that this attack was a mistake is very hard believe, which means that it was covered up for some reason. Why, in your opinion, was such a tragic event as an attack on US sailors covered up?
You ask if the USS Liberty attack was covered up. My answer is simple: yes, it was. The question still remains today as to why. And with a Congressional Investigation, all the facts should be laid out and the reasons known.
Your commanding officer, Captain William Loren McGonagle, received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his services to his country. However, unlike tradition, when the president of the United States bestows the Congressional Medal of Honor, Captain McGonagle was awarded his medal in the Washington Navy Yard. In your opinion, why wasn’t your captain awarded the medal according to tradition?
Our Captain did receive the Congressional Medal of Honor but not in the White house like it usually is given, but in a shipyard in Washington DC. Not many of us knew that he got it until many years later. On his written citation, there is no mention that Israel was the attackers. The same goes for all of our medals and citations; the Israelis are not mentioned at all.
In your opinion, if the general American public were to become fully aware of Israel’s attack on the Liberty, could this affect the “special” relationship that America shares with its "ally" Israel? For instance, if many Americans learned of the attack and the cover-up, they might be less willing to bankroll Israel with financial and military aid.
I’m not sure if that would happen. I think that if the truth be known about the attack it would hurt for a little while, but it would be a piece of history finally put to bed.
Do you keep in contact with fellow Liberty survivors? If so, do they express hope that American will reinvestigate the attack?
We USS Liberty survivors are always in contact. We all fight for the same thing. They want the investigation to happen soon, so we can all go on with our lives.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
I thank PRAVDA.Ru for the time to express my views of the June 8, 1967 attack on my ship, the USS Liberty. I do hope your country will be able to see the new film by the BBC Dead in the Water by Mr. Christopherer Mitchell. There is also a new book that goes along with the new film. It was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Mr. Peter Hounam and is due to come out very shortly. The film and book open the incident up very well.
Questions compiled by Justin Cowgill
Mr. Hrankowski can be contacted at the following address:
John Hrankowski 45 Drumcliff Way Rochester, New York 14612 USA 1-585-225-0385 http://www.ussliberty.com