- Regarding "Ex-officer alleges cover-up in probe
of spy ship attack," News, Feb. 17:
- You can call it an "allegation" if you want,
but it certainly happened exactly as retired Navy Capt. Ward Boston said
it did.I can assure you that Israel not only attacked the U.S. Naval Security
Group ship and killed American sailors, but attacked again and again and
again in a failed effort to sink the vessel, which was clearly flying the
- Why? To cover up an ongoing massacre of Egyptian soldiers
upon which the ship was eavesdropping. It was a futile effort and useless
slaughter of American lives on the Israelis' part because everything was
also being recorded by a U.S. Air Force spy plane flying above.
- Commander William L. McGonagle, the ship's captain, was
later awarded the Medal of Honor, the only recipient in history to receive
it in a private, secret ceremony.To play the apologist and claim that it
was a "mistake," as Judge Jay Cristol does in "The Liberty
Incident," is a disgrace to the memory of the many American sailors
who died that day. As usual, given enough time, the truth will normally
- HAROLD TRUMAN Pacific Beach
- The following is the San Diego Union Tribune article
about which Mr. Truman wrote the above referenced Letter to the Editor:
- EX-OFFICER ALLEGES COVER-UP IN PROBE OF SPY SHIP
By James W. Crawley
San Diego Union-Tribune Staff Writer
- Ward Boston is an unassuming octogenarian who resides
in a gated community on Coronado's Silver Strand.
- A retired Navy captain, he hardly attracts attention
in a town full of active-duty and retired sailors.
- Yet Boston is in the maelstrom of a nearly 37-year-old
controversy surrounding Israel's deadly attack on the Navy's spy ship Liberty
during the Six-Day War with Egypt, Syria and Jordan. The June 1967 attack
killed 34 Americans and wounded 171.
- Last October, Boston broke decades of silence and declared
that the Navy admiral who investigated the incident had been ordered by
President Lyndon Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to conclude
it was a case of mistaken identity, despite evidence to the contrary.
- As the chief counsel for the Navy's court of inquiry,
Boston had an insider's view.
- "I didn't speak up earlier because I was told not
to," Boston said in an interview.
- His revelation, repeated last month before a State Department
conference about the Six-Day War, has rekindled a smoldering debate over
how it happened and whether the United States and Israel covered up the
- Anti-Israel factions portray Boston's words ? true to
his legal background, memorialized in two affidavits but rarely spoken
to an audience larger than one person ? as proof of Israel's guilt.
- Israel's supporters, including a federal bankruptcy judge
who researched the attack and wrote a book on it, say Boston is lying.
Some pin an anti-Semitic badge on his lapel.
- On Web pages and through e-mail, an electronic brawl
is raging over Boston's disclosures among his admirers and detractors.
- But, for the men who survived the attack, Boston's comments
endorse views smelted in cordite, blood and smoke.
- "We feel we've been vindicated," said James
Ennes, the Liberty's officer of the deck the day of the attack, which left
him severely wounded.
- "We've been saying for 37 years that the court of
inquiry was a fraud, that it was corrupted, that it ignored evidence and
made findings not supported by the evidence," said Ennes, whose book
about the incident claims it was a deliberate Israeli attack.
- Boston's cover-up allegation is "enormously significant,"
said author James Bamford, who has written several books about the super-secret
National Security Agency, which analyzed radio intercepts from Liberty
and other U.S. surveillance ships.
- "It's equivalent to former Supreme Court (Chief)
Justice Earl Warren coming out and saying 'the Warren Commission report
on (the) Kennedy (assassination) ? everything we said was not what we believed,
but we were pressured to say it,' " Bamford said.
- "It puts an enormous shadow over everything that
was in the (Navy) report," he said.
- Even with Boston's affidavits and some newly released
documents presented at the State Department conference, no consensus was
reached on whether the attack was deliberate, accidental or the result
- The Liberty was a Navy spy ship, plain and simple.
- Like its ill-fated sister vessel Pueblo, which was captured
by North Korea six months later, the Liberty was festooned with antennas
and its cargo holds were converted into top-secret locked compartments
lined with receivers where petty officers eavesdropped on other nations'
- During the Six-Day War, the Liberty loitered off the
Sinai Peninsula, listening to Israel's lightning victory over Egypt.
- On the afternoon of June 8, 1967, Israeli jets strafed
the ship. Hours later, Israeli torpedo boats attacked. By the evening,
34 U.S. sailors were dead and 171 injured.
- Israel said the attack was a terrible mistake caused
by the misidentification of the Liberty as an Egyptian vessel. Investigations
followed, including the Navy's court of inquiry.
- That's when Ward Boston's involvement began.
- If Hollywood had discovered Boston, he could have been
the real-life prototype for Cmdr. Harmon Rabb, one of the leads on the
television show "JAG."
- In the Pacific during World War II, Boston flew harrowing
photo-reconnaissance missions over Tokyo and Iwo Jima in Navy Hellcat fighters,
sometimes making three passes over a single target ? once to take pre-bombing
pictures, then joining other planes in attacking the target and, finally,
a post-attack pass to photograph the damage.
- After the war, Boston went to law school, passed the
bar and entered private practice. Meanwhile, he continued to fly Navy fighters
as a reservist, including its first jet, the FH-1 Phantom.
- In the late 1940s, he joined the FBI and was assigned
to field offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles. During the Korean War,
he rejoined the Navy, this time as a JAG officer.
- By June 1967, Boston was legal officer for then-Rear
Adm. Isaac Kidd Jr. when the flag officer was assigned to head the hastily
convened inquiry into the Liberty attack.
- Unable to interview hospitalized sailors and Israeli
military and civilian officials, the investigative panel was given just
a week to examine the battered ship, interview survivors and collect radio
intercepts and other information.
- Boston said it was obvious then who was responsible.
- "There's no way in the world that it was an accident,"
- In his affidavits and a recent interview, Boston recounted
how he and Kidd discussed their conclusions about the survivors' testimony.
- "(Kidd) referred to the Israelis as 'murderous bastards,'
" Boston said.
- After Kidd delivered the panel's report to Washington
officials, Boston said the admiral told him, "they aren't interested
in the facts or what happened. It's a political issue. They want to cover
it up." Then Kidd admonished Boston to keep silent.
- Boston said Kidd told him privately that orders came
from Johnson and McNamara to find the incident was a mistake and not a
- There is no documentation to support Boston's account.
- Kidd died in 1999 at 79 after a career topped by command
of the Atlantic Fleet. He never spoke of a cover-up.
- The late '60s was the height of the Cold War between
the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviets were backing the Arab
nations; the United States was allied with Israel. U.S. troops were fully
engaged in Vietnam and the United States was fearful of growing Soviet
influence, especially in the oil-rich Mideast.
- Those who claim the attack was no accident argue that
Israel wanted to stop the Liberty from snooping on its military during
- Boston kept quiet too, until the 2002 publication of
"The Liberty Incident," by Judge Jay Cristol, provoked him.
- Cristol's book, based on more than 10 years of research
and hundreds of interviews and the collection of thousands of documents,
argued that Israeli pilots, sailors and top military officials, in the
heat of combat and the fog of war, were unaware the Liberty was a U.S.
ship, mistaking it for an Egyptian vessel.
- The two men spoke twice during the 1990s while Cristol
researched his book, but Boston said recently that he only discussed his
career and did not reveal details of the inquiry.
- "It is Cristol's insidious attempt to whitewash
the facts that has pushed me to speak out," Boston said in a Jan.
8 affidavit, read by Bamford at the State Department conference last month.
Boston did not attend the conference.
- Boston's affidavit was passed to Bamford by a friend
who believes that Israel is responsible for the attack on the Liberty.
- The judge, during a recent telephone interview, discounted
Boston's contention that Johnson and McNamara covered up Israel complicity.
- "I think those (accusations) are kind of nonsense,"
- Cristol ? also a former Navy pilot and JAG officer ?
said Boston's comments show that he either lied in 1967 by knowingly filing
a false report or that his memory has changed with age.
- Referring to Cristol, Boston said, "I'm not going
to get into a spitting contest with a skunk."
- He also rejected suggestions that he is anti-Semitic,
while acknowledging some sympathy for the plight of Palestinian refugees.
- As he splits his day between local organizations and
daily visits to the gym to loosen up arthritic joints, Boston remains largely
oblivious to the electronic cacophony of e-mail and Internet chat that
makes him out to be either a patriot or a patsy for anti-Israel factions.
- That's because Boston doesn't have a computer. Friends
print out and pass along Internet postings mentioning him or his statements.
- "I'm a dinosaur," he said. "I use a pencil
with an eraser and a typewriter."
- James W. Crawley: (619) 542-4559; email@example.com