Text size

Until his dying day, Moorer believed the version of the malicious Israeli plot to attack the spy ship Liberty. Many Americans share that belief. Their view is bolstered by former classified documents that are slowly being made available by the electronic information gathering agency NSA [National Security Agency], in whose service the U.S. Navy operated the Liberty.

In a forthcoming book, Brigadier General (res.) Yiftah Spector claims he was the leader of the air attack, although his partner is identified only as Y. The two were flying Mirage planes, on intercept readiness, armed with missiles and shells for dogfights. Thus, in the absence of bombs, the "Liberty" was not sunk, only damaged.

"Both of us had sharp eyes," Spector writes. They looked for flags on the ship, which looked like a military vessel, but in vain. "If you are certain that it is a military ship, you are authorized to attack," the controller said. Spector still hesitated, and transmitted, with a minor error, letters and a number that were painted on the ship's flank. The ship was identified, the controller updated him, as a "mobilized cargo ship" of the Egyptians, which carried out combat activity against IDF troops at El Arish and fled west. "Attack it and stop it."

So vague was the information that when Spector landed at Hatzor airbase, the squadron's duty operations officer, David Ivry, later the commander of the Israel Air Force, told him, "with a strange expression," that "you were mistaken in the identification. It was our ship."

Spector was appalled. "I dropped the flight equipment, left the room, suffered a dizzy spell, almost threw up. Without doubt I had caused a terrible disaster. I started to become more and more convinced and to recall clearly seeing an Israeli flag on the mast. What had I done? I had shot at my friends. I would not be able to live in this country anymore. Maybe suicide? Maybe escape - to America, to Australia, to Brazil?"

Ivry put Spector out of his misery. "There was a mistake. It wasn't our ship." The ship that was attacked, Ivry told him, was French.