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Douglas Caddy

Blood in the Water - Joan Mellen's book on the USS Liberty

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Four launches  of USA aircraft  from aircraft carriers on 11/8/67 in the Mediterranean.   The First  with nuclear weapons  headed to Cairo, launched before the attack on the Liberty from the USS America.  Recalled when the Liberty was enabled to call out an SOS, seven minutes from launching nuclear rockets on Cairo by these jets.   The SOS also prompted the launch of aircraft to assist the Liberty from the USS Saratoga, recalled by order of Secretary of Defense McNamara.  Then, 90 minutes later, Jets were launched from both the USS Saratoga and USS America to assist the Liberty but then recalled first by Secretary of Defense McNamara, questioned  by Admiral Geis, then told personally by LBJ he didn't care if the ship sank or the Sailors died.

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Ron, I'm aware and wrote about the jet launches from the carriers (you will recall I mentioned that during much of the Cold War many of the ready alert aircraft overseas were nuke armed, specifically for a first response to any preemptive Soviet strike....the reason that the Pueblo received no assistance was that only nuke armed aircraft were available and by the time they could reconfigure with different weapons the ship had been seized).  Unfortunately nuke armed aircraft would be little use unless you put them right over the target and they managed to bluff off the attackers...of course putting them in that position with only fusion class weapons on board is a risk in itself. I'm assuming that the actual aircraft launched from the carriers were air defense fighters with weapons loads of machine gun and air to air missiles.

Would you mind giving me the specific source/citation for US nuke armed aircraft being in the air on direct flight paths to Cairo before the Liberty had either called for assistance or was attacked?  That's the part I'm really interested in...my sources show that there was a fifty minute delay between the first calls for help form the Liberty and the dispatch of any aircraft from both the Liberty and the Saratoga.

I'm assuming that Joan also discusses the point that we know about some of this because at one point in time when it was finally understood the attackers were Israeli there was discussion of ultimately sinking the Liberty so as not to embarrass the Israli's and one NSA individual was so enraged he wrote a memo for the record and locked it away for decades.

 

 

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There is no citation or specific source regarding the jets being in the air before the Liberty was attacked.  That was an inference on my part, I thought implied at least in the book.  Ms. Mellen states the opposite "There is no documentary record of the time that the USS America Sixth Fleet commander Admiral Willian Inman Martin, having conducted briefing sessions for pilots on the topography and landmarks of Cairo, dispatched three "air ready" jets with nuclear capability to bomb the city of Cairo."  At another point it's stated that given the mission at hand there would have been no written record kept.  

Then she says "Once the SOS reached the Saratoga , Admiral Martin, commander of the Sixth Fleet, had no choice but to recall the nuclear-armed planes that had been dispatched to bomb Cairo".  I thought, if they were recalled after the SOS was received, then they had to be in the air when it was.  It's also stated that the attack began at 1:55 pm.  Captain Tully on the Saratoga responded at 2:09 to the SOS.  At 2:25 a pilot was asking who the enemy was from the air. 

Here's a confusing part to me.  It's mentioned help could be there in 15-20 minutes (Tully from navigator), the Liberty was told previously help would be 10-15 minutes away, when a request for an escort was denied by Martin.   Yet it's later stated they were 512 miles west, both ships, on the other side of Crete.  A pilot mentions being able to cover 450-500 knots per hour, 520-575 mph.  How could the not have been in the air if they were 7 minutes away from launching their nukes (statement by a sailor, from a pilot I.E. yes third hand by now).  

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Without getting into the larger question of atom bombing Cairo well after the Israeli air strikes had largely destroyed the Egyptian air force I have to say that there will always be a record of the use of an atomic weapon (obviously you can't use one on Cairo without the world knowing it happened so its not going to be a secret operation).  The point being that by 1967, based on programs that JFK had implemented, all weapons were under positive control which means a whole series of communications starting with National Command authority (President/SecDef) extending through the Joint Chiefs, through the regional military commander and the force commander (who legally "owns" the weapons).  National Command authority releases them for use. Along with release confirmations positive access control codes are separately supplied to activate the weapons.  The idea of doing this without a "paper trail" really does not pass muster.

As the the Liberty, the best sources I could find (and there were multiple Navy and government investigations) show that upon being attacked the Liberty signaled for assistance but that it took 50 minutes for the situation to be assessed at Fleet command level in the Mediterranean  (the attackers could have been Egyptian, Russian, Israeli and for that matter the Liberty was not operating as a Navy unit under Navy control even though it was a flagged US ship). Only after some 50 minutes were the carriers America and Saratoga  given actual launch orders to each send four armed aircraft to the scene. The Liberty was advised of that and only then was a CRITIC national emergency message transmitted from the fleet to Washington.  After receipt of the CRITIC some 15 minutes were spent locating and briefing SecDef.  At that point LBJ was advised, and he ordered SecDef to recall the aircraft, still well away from the Liberty and with the Liberty under air and boat attack. The Navy Fleet commander entered a protest and was overridden.  An NSA officer was who was present during the discussions and at the issuance of the order was so enraged he wrote a sealed memo detailing the recall). 

There were clearly huge problems in communications, command and control, before and during the attack on the Liberty.  All of which I write about in Surprise Attack. Numerous people should have been disciplined and LBJ should have been impeached, charged and imprisoned.  But that's another story - unfortunately its a much more deadly story than similar events involving electronic surveillance vessels which occurred in  the Tonkin Gulf earlier and later with the Pueblo off Korea. 

 

 

 

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I'd never read anything about the Liberty until the chapter on it in Ms. Mellen's Faustian Bargains which was shocking to me.  Larry, I have SWHT and Nexus but not Surprise Attack and was unaware you had written about the subject in it.  I'm not trying to argue with you on behalf of Ms. Mellen or her book.  You've obviously studied the subject, and the bigger picture in great depth.  I have not and was further shocked by details in her book after the chapter in FB.  Some of them are just incredible to me.  You mention the official investigation(s), which she addresses, asserting that they were just that, officially orchestrated (Sailors threatened with court-martial and Leavenworth if they ever talked abut it by primary investigator Admiral Kidd).  A chapter in the book is called Cover Up. She leans heavily on interviews and statements of Sailors and their superiors involved on the Liberty, Saratoga and America, the only ship in the area at the time with nuclear capable planes at the time she says (e.g. it's Capitan Engen to other officers, "I sent planes with nuclear tipped weapons to Cairo" to other officers).  A primary source is Lieutenant Commander Dave Lewis, in effect de facto commander of the Liberty  as head of the intelligence gathering aspect of the ship, it's purpose for being.  He didn't have to go through Capitan McGonagle regarding order or destinations, he could go around or over him, but that wasn't his style.

I guess the most incredible aspect to me were the nuclear implications.  A years later statement by a Soviet nuclear sub commander that claimed he was stationed just off site at the time while the Russians were monitoring US and Israeli communications.  Says he was under orders that if the US attacked Cairo with nuclear weapons he was to respond in kind with an attack on Israel.  Then there's the diary of a Israeli "asset", supposedly double agent named only as Frank, once again supposedly credible based on other information from the diary.  The diary comes from the papers of  CIA asset Dick Thompson (associate of Richard Helms who never supported the operation and spoke out against it afterwards).  He supposedly spent $700,00 of his on money to produce the BBC documentary Dead in the Water.  Frank claimed the US nuclear attack on Cairo would be a signal to set off a preemptive full scale nuclear attack on the USSR itself.

In any case, as Larry said, LBJ should have been impeached and imprisoned, if not hung for Treason.  He had to have signed off on what did happen if nukes were involved, and likely what might have.  He definitely stopped assistance from being sent to the Liberty.  Good chance Angleton may have deserved the same fate.

Oh yeah.  The Israeli asset claims a US Sub commander, stationed below the Liberty a little ways from it refused an order to sink it after the Israeli's stopped their attack.  Supposedly pictures of the Liberty before and after the attack taken from it's periscope were seen by him or Thompson.

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Ron,  I think I've pretty much contributed all I have to say ....I've followed the sorts of Liberty conspiracy threads you mention over the years  so they are not totally new to me.  I remember 1967 pretty well and why Johnson - more and more heavily involved in Vietnam and with the first massive public demonstrations and draft resistance emerging - would want a preemptive strike against Russia always escaped me.  As did much of the other theorizing. 

About the only thing I would add for anyone pursuing this seriously is a deep dive into military history, operations and protocols of the period - as an example, it is a fact that nuclear armed aircraft were deployed as alert aircraft by both the Air Force and Navy, I never checked the deployment on either of the Carriers involved in this incident but its entirely possible that one or more of the aircraft dispatched was an alert aircraft,  carrying nuclear weapons and that a senior officer made a very high risk decision based on available aircraft. That in itself could explain the Captains remarks, not being a strange disclosure of a super secret mission but an admission that he had taken a huge gamble and risked his career in sending such an aircraft to  the aid of the Liberty. 

That's pure speculation on my part but is a warning in regard to how peripheral comments and observations can take on a life of their own. There was a real fear that inserting any American assets while combat was in play could result in their being attacked by either side not to mention some Russian response, which was why the efforts to communicate with and pull back the Liberty were ongoing although unsuccessful.

I tend to avoid inserting myself in new conspiracies, not enough time to deal with the ones I'm already engaged with, so with that I'll just leave it to the material in Surprise Attack and the points I raised and retire more or less gracefully.

Edited by Larry Hancock

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Some think that Israel was doing something that they did not want coming out. That is why they attacked the Liberty. 

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On 12/30/2018 at 5:30 AM, Ron Bulman said:

Larry, I have SWHT and Nexus but not Surprise Attack

Same with me  and I appreciate that Mr Hancock didn't blow anyone off by asking whether or not they read his book; he gives an explanation that can be followed more in depth by reading his book which I intend to do. My first readings of the USS Liberty, mentioned earlier, hit me like a ton of bricks and remains seared on my memory.

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Larry, I'm surprised to see you pontificating about the planes sent off by the carriers America and Saratoga without having read my book which describes the four flights, two from the USS America and two from the Saratoga. Admiral William Inman Martin sent nuclear enhanced planes to Cairo from the USS America simultaneously with the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. When they are only seven minutes from target (in Cairo) he was ordered to call them back. Three other sets of planes were sent in the direction of the USS Liberty. The first of these rescue planes were dispatched by Captain Tully of the Saratoga. Then Tully sent another set of planes simultaneously with planes sent by Captain Engen of the USS America. It's all in my book, "Blood in the Water" which was vetted by the chief intelligence officer of the Liberty and another survivor who later worked for CIA.

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Joan,  I referenced my own only in order to cite my sources and to give the larger issue of command and control problems with a number of these NSA collections missions which were subject to a very confusing chain of communications and command issues...not just the Liberty in the Med. but the destroyer missions in the Tonkin Gulf and the Pueblo off Korea.

If you note in my messages I discussed the fact that nuclear strike aircraft were routinely on alert and sometimes were the only initial aircraft available for dispatch - that occurred with the Pueblo in the Pacific - and might indeed have been dispatched as some of the earliest aircraft available on the carrier that could be sent aloft to support the Liberty.  If  you give me a source that says that nuclear strike aircraft were specifically sent to strike Cairo with atomic weapons - that Inman himself order the nuclear strike or can be quoted as receiving a nuclear attack order (which technically requires several steps including a code to activate the specific weapons involved) - that would be something very different and I would most definitely look into it not only with your book but at other sources.

If Inman is officially on record as having personally ordered a nuclear strike on Cairo it will certainly be news within the military history community and I definitely want to look bring that source/s on that to the attention of a number of those historians.  It would be really good to have the details on the weapons released for the attack but obviously he would know and remember that.

 

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On ‎1‎/‎8‎/‎2019 at 9:07 AM, Ray Mitcham said:

link to the above mentioned BBC documentary "Dead in the water"

 

 

Thanks for the link Ray.  I'd never seen it.  Finally found time.  Amazing that we in the USA, a Democracy, have to depend on the BBC for a Honest report.  All should watch for first hand reports, and deception.  

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