Death in the Afternoon: The USS LIBERTY, Israel and You



Forty five years ago on June 8th, 1967, the USS LIBERTY was deliberately attacked by Israel and two thirds of those on board the LIBERTY were either killed or wounded. The cover up began that very day and continues now all these years later. Today’s post commemorates that solemn event and is in three parts.

The third part is by “Cat” who is a long-time supporter of the men of the USS Liberty and who has also produced two haunting songs about what happened on June 8th, 1967. Part 3 is followed by one her songs from youtube. The video and music together will affect the coldest of hearts.

The second part is a partial and lightly-edited transcript of an interview that USS LIBERTY survivor Phil Tourney did recently with a young American veteran of the war in Afghanistan. There’s lots to ponder in their conversation – two ordinary working class Americans neither of whom understood that they were about to be involved in extra-ordinary things nor why. Lot’s to ponder. If you read nothing else in this post, read that transcript.

The first part is an excerpt from Phil’s book about the USS LIBERTY entitledWhat I Saw That Day. It is his own personal account of the attack and its devastating impact on his life and the lives of others ever since. It also will help explain Skulz’s depiction above of that awful day.

Part 1

As the [Israeli] helicopter hovered over us at about fifty feet above the deck, I could see that my worst suspicions had been proven correct. This was not a rescue helicopter. Instead, like a hornet-swollen hive there were commandos on board, special forces, armed with sub machineguns used for close-quarter combat.

I knew immediately they were not there to give us help. They were here to finish what their fellow assassins had been unable to accomplish. They were going to murder the entire crew of the USS LIBERTY. Then, once we were all dead and they were free to move about as they pleased, they would place explosives in strategic areas of the ship, detonate them and sink us all. The perfect crime, leaving no witnesses.

As the helicopter hovered for a moment, I saw that the troops inside were preparing to board the ship. From no more than 75 feet away, I stood like a dumb-ass in an open doorway where they had a clear shot at me. I locked eyes with one of my would-be assassins who was sitting on the floor of the helicopter. His legs were hanging out and he had one foot on the skid below as he waited for the order to repel down to the ship’s deck and finish us all off.

I stepped out of the hatch and stood on the deck of my battered and bloody ship. I thought about everything that had happened over the course of the last hour or so. My good friend, Francis Brown, his brains splattered all over the bridge. ..David Skolak, who was left in chunks of flesh, bone and internal organs. . .and all the other men whom I had never gotten to meet or know and who were now gone forever.

And so, the only thing I could do in that moment in letting my killers know what I thought about what they had done to my ship, to my friends and to my country, was to give them the finger. The one Israeli with whom I had locked eyes merely chuckled at the sight of something as impotent and harmless as my middle finger in the midst of all his machine gun-toting buddies, he simply smiled and gave me the finger back.

Suddenly, without any apparent reason or warning, the helicopter hauled ass out of there like a vampire being exposed to sunlight. The sight of them scurrying off sent a wave of euphoria through the crew.

Phil Tourney

What I Saw That Day

Part 2

The following partial and lightly-edited transcript is from Phil Tourney’s April 7, 2012 interview with a young sergeant who served in Afghanistan. The interview took place on Phil’s show on RBN. In many ways it is much more important than Phil’s account of the murder and betrayal of Phil’s shipmates on the USS LIBERTY. This story is one of the many sons (and daughters) of that betrayal.

Phil: Bryce I know that you are a person who went into the United States Army and a young man. What encouraged you to join the army at a time of war?

Bryce: Well, I wanted to serve my country. I wanted to do some good and I also wanted to make myself feel better and hopefully help eradicate who attacked the US.

. . .

Phil: What were your feelings about going to war in Afghanistan? Were you thrilled, were you happy, were you ready to go?

Bryce: Well my original feelings were that I originally wanted to go to Iraq because that is where all the hype and the media was – you know was focusing their – the media attention was on Iraq – so I was a little upset that I didn’t go to Iraq. So I said “Well, you are going to Afghanistan, there’s really not much going on there. [That] was my initial feeling and then when I got there I was immediately reminded that this is still an active war zone and that there is a lot of things happening over there.

Phil: Okay Bryce, I don’t need to go into exactly what your MOS was, what you did. [Note: MOS = Military Occupational Specialty.] But I do know that you stood in, that you went on a lot of missions and you kicked in a lot of doors. Let’s start there. When you first got there did you get an initiation type of thing? Did you get right on the front lines? How did that work for you?

Bryce: Well, when I initially landed and I landed in Bagram, Afghanistan, in the airfield. It was on Christmas Eve, 2008. My first encounter in Afghanistan was the first 15 minutes. We stood on the flight line getting ready to in process into the base. And actually my first encounter there was a fallen soldier. We stood on the flight line and we saluted his body wrapped in an American flag as he drove by. That was my first 10 minutes in the country. . .

Phil: I believe you said you went out of country, excuse me not out of country, but out of Bagram. Where did you go from there?

Bryce: Well I headed south with my unit to a little place called (drops out) in Logar province.

Phil: What was that again Bryce, I didn’t quite get it?

Bryce: It was FOB Shank. [Note: Foward Operating Base Shank in Logar province.]

. . .

Bryce: We got there and it was immediately non-stop action from there.

Phil: Okay, now when you say “non-stop action” I take that to mean that you were pulling a lot of duty, going on missions and doing things like that is that correct?

Bryce: . . . But mainly I mean just the enemy, the rocket attacks, the IEDs, the small arms fire. You know it was just constant. We would get rocketed three or four times a day.

Phil: . . . How do you know who is the enemy? . . . I can’t imagine the mental strain that was put on you every minute, every hour of the day not knowing who was going to blow you up, if it be a child or an old man or an old woman. How does a person handle that type of pressure?

Bryce: Well Phil the way I did was I treated everybody as the enemy. I mean there really is no way to tell who is harboring the Taliban or who is the Taliban or who is planting the IEDs at night that you run over or who is shooting at us when we drive by, you know. I mean we did everything we could for those people. We built them a mosque, we gave them humanitarian aid. We’d teach them how to use the weapons, try to build up their army. But at the same time even their army (drops out) are embedded with Taliban. You cannot trust a single person over there. It was really really tough to distinguish friend from foe over there.

Phil: . . . Did you ever do that and try to help the kids? Were they a hindrance or were they helpful? How did that work out for you Bryce?

Bryce: The children actually were terrible. They would come up in hordes, I talking like an entire elementary school back home. They would come just rip every piece of clothing and equipment on you that wasn’t attached. Then when you leave they throw rocks at you. They throw rocks, they just ask you for a Pepsi or a biscuit. You wanna help them out but at the same time these little kids are even [want] to throw rocks at Americans when they drive by. . .

. . .

Phil: . . . with the Afghan people and Bales. Now as I said before, I don’t condone what he did. As I didn’t condone the Mai Lai massacre . . . In your mind Bryce after being there, what were you there 14, 15 months?

Bryce: I was there for almost 13.

Phil: Okay 13 months in combat. You are a seasoned combat vet. And here we’ve got Bales that had spent three tours in Iraq and then they sent him to Afghanistan when they said they wouldn’t. Can you understand the stress and strain under a person – of his combat experience. Can you understand him going off like that or is there no excuse for it?

Bryce: Well I wouldn’t say there’s no excuse and I can’t say I can understand because being myself a disabled combat veteran I’ve learned that you can never understand what’s in someone else’s head. You know he must have been tormented and I don’t know what was going through his head or how he felt. But at the same time I don’t condone it and I do feel bad for the guy because he (drops out) such extremes and I feel bad for the families because I’m sure they were innocent civilians – at least some of them. I can’t really say one way or the other. I do feel bad for him but at the same time I don’t know what was going through his head.

. . .

Bryce: I think the army didn’t give him sufficient help. Yes, I think he probably needs a lot of help.

Phil: Yes. Absolutely he needs a lot of help. Absolutely. . . . Now you can answer this if you want to Bryce. Did you kill anybody in the service of your country in Afghanistan?

Bryce: Yes.

Phil: Okay, okay. Uh, How do you feel about that? Does that work on you pretty hard?

Bryce: Um, you know, I ah, I’ve learned to kind of just block it out. and a – try to forget about it but you know there’s um, there’s times where it does bother me yes. Um, you know I guess it’s just part of the process. But it is difficult at times, yes.

Phil: How about your fellow soldiers? What do they feel about Afghanistan? And be as honest as you can Bryce about it. Do they feel it is worth fighting these wars? Or do they feel like hey, we got Obama, Obama – excuse me. Osama bin Laden. And I know who killed him. I know who killed bin Laden and I’m not going to out the people that did it like the President of the United States and these other people to make headlines because I think it is disgusting, disgraceful, despicable, treasonous and dishonest to out the people that killed this guy. All they would have had to have done was say “Hey, we got him” instead of instead of bragging about who did it, all for political gain. And not two or three weeks or a month later we lose some of our finest people in the world in a helicopter that was shot down. And I think you’ll agree with that won’t you Bryce?

Bryce: Well I definitely agree that that was a terrible tragedy but I don’t speak for any other soldier than myself. When I was over there the consensus was to kind of put the politics out of your mind because you had your friend to your left and right and yourself to look after. We didn’t really think about really why we were there. We thought about just continuing the mission, completing it and going home safe.

Phil: I understand that. Now that you are home and you are out of the army, I know that you spent 14 or 15 months in the wounded warrior program debriefing yourself back into civilian life. As a sergeant honorably discharged twice out of the United States Army would you go back and fight in another war for a country that isn’t our country? And I mean that with all sincerity because I believe that in my heart and soul the two wars we were fighting with Iraq and Afghanistan is all for the benefit of Israel. We have bases all around surrounding Iran right now. And we have our soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen all in harm’s way all for a foreign government. What are your thoughts on that Bryce?

Bryce: My thoughts are I would not go back for any amount of money. I wouldn’t go back if it was – the only way I would go back to war is if it was on our shores. And meaning who we are fighting for – I can’t really say. But I know it’s not for the United States.

Phil: . . . And did the wounded warrior program after that – was it 15 months you spent in that trying to get yourself back together?

Bryce: It was 17 months.

. . .

Phil: Well Bryce, I honor you for your service. It is a blessing to America to have people like you that go (into) the military and do what they can for their country. What bothers me is when you go into the military and your country puts you in harm’s way as they did me and my shipmates and other people that we don’t even know about, put you in harm’s way to be murdered or slaughtered or blown up or just forgotten about. No I would never do it again either. . .

Bryce: . . . I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and when I was leaving my regular unit for the wounded warrior unit my commanding officer told me that he should have knocked me down to E-1 because I could no longer catch bullets for him.

Phil: Repeat that.

Bryce: My commanding officer when he (found out) I was leaving his unit for the wounded warrior unit he told me he would have knocked me down to E1 because I could no longer catch bullets for him.

Phil: Boy that’s a nice way to leave army, isn’t it?

Bryce: Yeah.

Phil: That’s a nice farewell, that’s a very nice farewell. Well, I’ll tell ya, I know your ears are messed up, your legs, your (psyche) and everything else. Bryce remember there’s people out there who love you and care about you and honor you and respect you and always will – and always will for your service. As well as all the other people that have served their country, dead, they are long gone, and the people will be long gone after you and I are gone and everybody else that has served this country. Let’s just pray that we don’t have to fight any more wars for Israel. . .

. . .

Phil: . . . What struck was that you said you had to relearn things, learn how to sleep again. How is that going for you?

Bryce: Well, it’s an ongoing battle that I’m dealing with. You know with suicidal tendencies and regrets. You know relationships that I have in my life are being affected. Every aspect of my life is being affected.

. . .

Phil: Welcome back folks. Here we go with the last few minutes of “Your Voice Counts” and I wanted to thank Bryce, Bryce Evan Tourney, my son, for your service, your honor, your dignity. I never knew the day you were born that you would still be fighting the war that I fought back in 1967 but you are. And I honor you son. Stay well, your family loves you and your country appreciates what you do, the country that really cares. Bryce we have another caller . . .

Part 3

Below is a copy of a comment Cat made to an earlier post on this blog. Treason seems to cross generations.

One Response to “John McCain Confronted About USS Liberty Cover-up Memorial Day 2012”

Cat says:
May 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm
This so-called “heckler” is a true American patriot–who has dedicated a big part of his life–for many years– fighting for the Liberty crew, to get their truths out, and to help them finally get their justice! He was not “heckling”, he was asking a question, and speaking up for the USS Liberty survivors, and for the men that died who cannot speak for themselves!
The only “jerks” in this story are John McCain (, and all the people who booed James, didn’t stand up for him or let him ask his question, or tell his story–and also the people in the media who never even bothered to ask what the “heckler” was saying! They know nothing of the USS LIBERTY ATTACK, know nothing of the 34 brave young men who were killed that day, know nothing of the 171+ who were wounded that day (many severely), and they know nothing of the coverup of the attack, and of the threats made to these men if they told what they knew! They have gone through all of these 45 years being ignored, pushed aside, called conspiracy theorists, threatened, and called many other things that these ignorant people use when they are still living under their rocks, who turn away when anyone mentions the Liberty, and those who still stand by Israel–who is fooling and bullying far too many! Lyndon Baines Johnson wanted the Liberty “sunk to the bottom: “Two groups of fighter aircraft were sent to defend the Liberty but unbelievably they were recalled by the White House. The Admiral in Command of the sixth fleet called Washington to confirm the recall order. Secretary of Defense MacNamara came on the line followed by the president himself who told the Admiral, “I want that God-Damn Ship going to the bottom” One of the Navy bigwigs pushing hard for a sanitized Liberty inquiry was none other than Sen. McCain’s father, Admiral John S. McCain, Jr., Commander-in-Chief, Naval Forces Europe. He wanted the investigation done in less than a week. Boston said a “proper inquiry would take at least six months.” Admiral McCain also wouldn’t permit Admiral Kidd to travel to Israel or to contact any potential Israeli witnesses. In fact, according to Boston, the written affidavits of 60 witnesses from the Liberty itself, who were hospitalized at the time of the restricted Inquiry, were also excluded from the final report and not considered as part of the evidentiary record. Boston is convinced, too, that the Israelis’ machine-gunning of the Liberty’s lifeboats, while the crew was trying desperately to assist their colleagues that were seriously wounded, was “a war crime.” Boston said higher ups wanted “to put a lid on everything” concerning the Liberty. THIS IS NOT OLD NEWS OR ANCIENT HISTORY–PEOPLE NEED TO WAKE UP, LEARN ABOUT THE LIBERTY, AND IT IS NOW TIME TO BE GIVEN A LEGAL PROPER INVESTIGATION, INSTEAD OF THE FRAUDULENT ONE THAT WAS DONE IN 1967! THE TIME HAS COME TO GIVE THESE MEN THE JUSTICE THEY HAVE WAITED FOR FAR TOO LONG!!


Listen to the reed flute, how it tells its tale of separation

From the Masnavi of Jalal al-Din Rumi

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