Ward Boston is right about Liberty attack
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 American flag. 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 out.
The following is the San Diego Union Tribune article which Mr. Truman wrote the above referenced Letter to the Editor about:
EX-OFFICER ALLEGES COVER-UP IN PROBE OF SPY SHIP
From the web site at: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/military/20040217-9999-1n17liberty.html
EX-OFFICER ALLEGES COVER-UP IN PROBE OF SPY SHIP ATTACK
By James W. Crawley
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
February 17, 2004
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
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 truth.
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
"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 of negligence.
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' militaries.
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
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," Boston
In his affidavits and a recent interview, Boston recounted how
he and Kidd discussed their conclusions about the survivors'
"(Kidd) referred to the Israelis as 'murderous bastards,' "
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 deliberate act.
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
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
The judge, during a recent telephone interview, discounted
Boston's contention that Johnson and McNamara covered up Israel
"I think those (accusations) are kind of nonsense," Cristol
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
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
"I'm a dinosaur," he said. "I use a pencil with an eraser and a
James W. Crawley: (619) 542-4559; email@example.com
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