Historical research leads to some unsettling assertions about a violent incident shrouded in secrecy for over 50 years.
The attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967, during the Six-Day War, left 34 dead and 174 wounded, along with myriad unresolved questions even after Israel admitted responsibility, claiming it had acted in error. This book represents a massive undertaking, whereby Mellen (English Emerita/Temple Univ.; Faustian Bargains, 2016, etc.) systematically and persuasively dismantles the narratives espoused for decades by reviewing official documents, evaluating publications, and conducting personal interviews. Disturbingly, the author’s solid research indicates that the United States and Israel collaborated in planning, executing, and covering up this operation in order to implicate Egypt, bomb Cairo, and precipitate Gamal Abdel Nasser’s downfall. The author astutely points out that it wouldn’t be the first time the American government resorted to such tactics, citing the Maine in 1898 and the Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War. She also contextualizes the Liberty incident amid “the hothouse of 1967,” signaling the Cold War’s paranoia and brinkmanship together with the Vietnam War escalation and oil supply concerns. To Mellen’s credit, her clear writing style and organizational abilities allow even readers unfamiliar with the events of the time to become engrossed in technical details, political intrigue, the military chain of command, and personal stories. Against all odds, through many sailors’ concerted effort, the Liberty managed to stay afloat despite a torpedo hit and send an SOS signal. The author darkly claims: “The survival of the ship was unanticipated by those in highest authority.”