Information Warfare Training Command (IWTC) Corry Station observed the 50th anniversary of the attack on USS Liberty (AGTR-5) during a ceremony in the chapel onboard Naval Air Station Pensacola Corry Station, June 8.
Liberty, a technical research ship, came under fire from Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats on June 8, 1967 while conducting operations in international waters. The Six Day War between Israel and neighboring Arab countries had broken out on June 5, 1967.
During the ceremony, Chief Information Systems Technician Nachelle Scott read the timeline of events from the day of the attack and two students read a letter from a survivor, retired Lt. Frank McInturff, who was a cryptologic technician seaman at the time.
"The attack is without a doubt a significant event in our cryptologic history and should be studied by all," McInturff wrote in his letter. "Moreover, I believe Liberty's lasting legacy is the remarkable performance of the crew, when 34 crewmen gave their lives and 170 were wounded, performing their duty that day in the eastern Mediterranean Sea."
Following significant damage from the aircraft strafing, one torpedo struck the ship, resulting in 25 of the 34 casualties.
"While the reason for the attack remains disputed to this day in the minds of many, what is clear is that the entire crew: 16 officers, nine chiefs, 263 petty officers and seaman, three Marines and three civilians performed their duties with excellence," wrote McInturff, who later received a Bronze Star Medal. "Without their heroic efforts, many more would have been killed and the ship would have been lost."
The keynote speaker for the event, retired Cryptologic Technician (Technical) Senior Chief Greg Welch, also served aboard Liberty and shared his memories and lessons learned from the event with those in attendance.
"Most of us wonder why we do these damage control drills as much as we do," said Welch. "It's so that when the real thing happens, you know exactly what you need to do. That preparedness is what saved the ship that day. You never know when these things happen or if it will happen to you, so you need to always take the training seriously."
After Welch's speech, the audience stood as the names of the crew members who perished were read aloud.
Cmdr. Christopher Eng, commanding officer, IWTC Corry Station, reiterated Welch's message of preparedness before requesting the audience take a moment of silence to honor the victims.
"We must use this tragedy to fight against complacency," said Eng. "Conflict can strike at any time. Our Navy has been largely untested in the last four decades, which spans the career of our most senior officers and master chiefs. What will win the day against a near-peer adversary or an asymmetric threat will be the mental and physical strength of our Sailors against that of our adversary."
More on the history of USS Liberty and the attack is available at https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/l/liberty-agtr-5-iii.html and https://www.nsa.gov/news-features/declassified-documents/uss-liberty/.
IWTC Corry Station, as part of the Center for Information Warfare Training, provides a continuum of training to Navy and joint service personnel that prepares them to conduct information warfare (IW) across the full spectrum of military operations.
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