WASHINGTON (Jun. 8)
The U.S.S. Liberty, a naval technical research ship, was torpedoed by mistake by an Israeli torpedo boat and attacked by Israeli aircraft in the Mediterranean 15 miles north of the Sinai Peninsula, the U.S. Navy announced today. The announcement reported 10 sailors dead and 75 injured.
The Navy said the attack was made “in error by Israeli forces” which assaulted the American ship in belief that it was an Egyptian vessel. The Israel Government has made a formal apology to the United States. The Liberty was steaming north from the area at a slow speed and was thought in no immediate danger of sinking. U.S. Navy ships are moving to meet her.
The Navy announcement said the Liberty arrived at its position early today to “assure communications between U.S. Government posts in the Mideast and to assist in relaying information concerning the evacuation of American dependents and other American citizens from countries of the Middle East.” Aboard the ship were 15 U.S. Naval officers, 279 enlisted men, and three civilian technicians.
Authoritative sources here said that the U.S. Navy had failed to notify the Israel Government that the ship had entered the scene of combat operations off the coast of battle – torn Sinai Peninsula. The ship was of a type not conventionally used by the U.S. Navy and no special measures had been taken to identify her as a neutral vessel in a war zone.
Secretary of State Dean Rusk summoned Israel Ambassador Avraham Harman to the State Department and delivered a protest to the Ambassador against the accidental Israeli attack on the ship. Mr. Rusk asked that Israel take measures to assure that such an accident does not recur. The Ambassador voiced the deep regret of Israel for the unfortunate mistake.