Book Review: Erasing the Liberty (2016)

My battle to keep alive the memory of Israel’s attack on the USS Liberty
By Phillip F. Tourney
Reviewed by Brian R. Wright

Erasing the Liberty is the third book I’ve read since firing myself up to support these men of the Liberty and their families seeking truth and justice all these years. The other two books are Attack on the Liberty (2009) by James Scott and Assault on the Liberty (1979) from surviving injured crew member James Ennes, Jr. I’m beginning to see that each of the books has unique strengths.

I met the author, injured survivor Phillip Tourney and his coauthor-editor, Dave Gahary, at the USS Liberty 50th Anniversary Reunion, June 8-10, 2017, Norfolk, Virginia. The authors have arranged the information in compact, highly readable units, and the latest revision is readily navigable to thumb thru and find related events to those you are reading.

What Erasing the Liberty provides that the other two books do not, or not to the same degree, is a deck-level, sailor’s view from start to finish of the attacks. Tourney, as petty officer, took a leadership role in damage control and personally wound up at the center of several of the major incidents during the action. He was directly aware of:

  • initial surveillance of the Liberty by Israeli planes
  • the unmarked jet aircraft strafing runs
  • brutal casualties on the deck and all over the ship
  • telecommunications problems in getting out distress signals
  • the torpedo that killed 25 in the ‘spook’-passenger computer room
  • medical emergencies and setting up the mess hall for the injured
  • Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunning the life rafts and stretcher bearers
  • Israeli gunships bearing commandos to kill survivors and scuttle the ship

… and a lot more, based on his continuing contact with key personnel who shared their own knowledge of what happened afterward. His writing style is engaging, as well. A couple of pertinent examples:

1) The Israelis, using their unmarked jet aircraft to knock out our means of communication, must’ve believed they completed their mission. And they would have been right, if not for one, lone 24-foot whip antenna that escaped targeting [because its power was off and did not generate heat for the tracking missiles—bw], and one brave Liberty sailor who risked life and limb to do his job. In fact, if not for the brave actions of this young man, I would not be writing this, and the fate of my ship and its history, as well as world history, would be much different today.

Incredibly, for more than 40 years this story of heroism in the face of fire was not known to most of the Liberty crewmen…. Texas native James Terry Halbardier, a 21-year-old Third Class ET, explained in various interviews what happened that day. From the video Loss of Liberty:

“On the first pass the jets knocked out our ability to call for help. The one remaining antenna, which I had shut down, because it had some problems in the tuner—which is probably why it didn’t get hit (since the antenna was shut down, it wasn’t generating any heat)—I had to jury rig a coaxial cable directly from the transmitter to the antenna. A coax, or coaxial cable, is a type of cable that has an inner conductor surrounded by an insulating layer, like the cable lines that most of us have in our homes.”

With the jets still strafing the Liberty, Terry ran onto the deck and attached new wire to the antenna so the radiomen could send out an SOS to anyone out there. Per Lt. Commander Dave Lewis, Terry was struck three times with shrapnel while carrying the coax to the antenna. — Page 61, 62

And this regarding the commandos in two Aérospatiale SA 321 Super Hornet helicopters—after the jets and torpedo boats—who were coming in to board the Liberty for the systematic execution of the unarmed remaining crew:

2) 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, and locked eyes with one of my would-be assassins who was sitting on the floor of the chopper. His legs were hanging out and he had one foot on the skid below, waiting for the order to rappel 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 did to my ship, friends and 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, and in the midst of all his machine gun-toting buddies, he simply smiled and gave me the finger back. — Page 100, 101.

Erasing the Liberty is an impressive work that covers virtually every area of what happened, the coverup, and dealing with the forces who do not want the truth to get out. One very important area to which Tourney contributes: What and when occurred in the chain of command following the distress signal received by Sixth Fleet vessels at 14:09 Liberty time on June 8, 1967? What aircraft were launched for rescue purposes and when, from what ships (or land)? When did all important communications from the president and McNamara and others occur?

We can hope that a full official people’s independent grand-jury-like body with subpoena power will finally get to the full truth of the matter. Dispel for all time the obvious Big Lie the American people have been sold, which is buttressed by frantic, copious smokescreens of official, Zionist-led apologia.

Phil’s passion for justice and for telling us what it was like in his own eyes and terms is a bracing tonic, I’m sure to the surviving crew and families, but also to civilians like me who have come late to the game. Because of his sustained enthusiasm for truth, justice, and the Liberty, I’ve become fired up. I feel justice for the Liberty is perhaps as important a truth meme ( as bringing truth and justice to the 911 attacks (

An essential for anyone’s library on the true face of Zionist Israel and its agenda.

[Coffee Coaster Review link]

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Erasing the Liberty (2016)

  1. Donald, so happy to have your comment. You may obtain the book here: And I believe the Liberty Veterans Association ( will carry it as well, along with many other materials. I’m only a a civilian supporter of these fine men and the ones who were murdered in cold blood by a supremely vicious and deceptive enemy, and I know they will love to hear from you. You may contact my chief contact, Ronald Kukal, here:

  2. I happen to read in the NY Times Book review The book “erasing the Liberty”. I was an original plank owner on the AGTR5 and met her in Portland, OR; up to Bremerton, WA and around to Norfolk VA. for two tours of duty Was relieved as crew changed for its fateful journey. I remember toe postal clerk (PC) shipped over for his wife had new baby. He was killed at his duty station. Would be interested in obtaining a copy of this book. Have tried our public library but to no avail. Please tell me how. Wasn’t aware of her 50th reunion, would have loved to have attended. Thank you.

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