Betrayal of a Great Man by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society
(This article first appeared May 31, 2021 on the ‘If Americans Knew’ website https://ifamericansknew.org/)
A Tribute for Memorial Day
I don’t use the word hero lightly. If you don’t either, you might ask how a rank and file sinner
like me presumes to call out a Society that, however you feel about war, is made up of heroes: a small,
astonishing Society where each and every member embodies character, selflessness, initiative, endurance,
tenacity, and courage in the face of death. This Society, proven by feats of arms at the limits of what’s
humanly possible, wears our country’s coveted Congressional Medal of Honor. Yes, heroes. But there’s a
stain on the Society. Nobody else is calling them out. They’ve got it coming. So I’ll do it. So there.
In betraying one of its own, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, which was chartered by
Congress in 1958, aids and abets the most disgraceful cover-up in American military history. For those
unfamiliar with the list of Medal of Honor Society recipients, let me say I could stop right here and those
people who are familiar with that list know exactly which recipient I’m talking about. No further clues
As of May 2021, there are a total 3,508 recipients of this medal. Their stories on the Society’s
website, especially the ones dating from today back to the mid-1900’s, follow a particular format
including: the recipient’s name, birth date, home state, where the award was presented, who presented it,
and a copy of the official award citation. Those citations also follow a format.
It’s tradition for the President of the United States to award living recipients of the Medal of
Honor in a ceremony at the White House. Just fifteen Navy men and one from the Naval Reserve earned
the medal during what they call the Vietnam Era. Six were awarded the medal posthumously having died
of their wounds in battle. All ten who lived were awarded their medal by the President of the United
States—except one. All their citations name the enemy attackers—except one. All their citations name the
country where the fight took place—except one. All their citations give the precise location within the
country—except one. All their citations give the known strength of the enemy force—except one. All the
citations give very specific details of the fight—except one.
That one, Captain William L. McGonagle, along with his crew, was threatened with “…court
martial, imprisonment, or worse.” if they exposed what happened on June 8-9, 1967 when Israel attacked
McGonagle’s ship, the USS Liberty.
Yes, you read that right, Israel. Now observe the picture of Captain McGonagle from the
Congressional Medal of Honor Society website. What does it say? ‘Vietnam’ In fact, Vietnam appears
with bold letters in three different places on Captain McGonagle’s memorial page. International waters
also appears three times. Geographically, this is like awarding a medal for heroism at Gettysburg and
claiming it was for a different war, with unnamed opponents, in a battle that was fought in international
waters off Spain. At the very end of the page, where no one looks, there’s a little colored box with an
image of the medal and in little yellow letters, ‘Eastern Mediterranean.’
Next observe part of Captain McGonagle’s Medal of Honor citation (which I’ll cite in full
‘Attacked without warning by a jet fighter aircraft and motor torpedo boats which inflicted many
casualties among the crew and caused extreme damage to the ship.’ There you have it. Unique among
recipients, they don’t say who the attacker was. At all. Nowhere.
Attacked by a jet? Singular? The USS Liberty, an unarmed intelligence gathering ship, was
attacked by multiple Israeli jet fighters and three Israeli torpedo boats on a clear, calm day with unlimited
visibility. The jets napalmed our servicemen who’d been sunbathing on deck. Strafed the decks. Jammed
the emergency distress channels. Blasted hundreds of holes in her, killed 34 sailors and marines, wounded over 170. Through superb seamanship, Captain McGonagle dodged four torpedoes with his burning ship
before a fifth blew a hole in her below the water line that was bigger than a school bus. Even then, under
McGonagle, the officers and crew fought to save the vessel while Israeli gunners shot at our sailors
lowering life rafts in case the ship rolled. [More info & citations here]
To be clear
The Liberty had been ordered, without an armed escort, to monitor the war Israel started with air
attacks against Egypt on June 5. She was the most sophisticated, easily identifiable spy ship in the
Mediterranean, carrying a massive antenna array, further identified by her lines, paint job, five foot tall
letters on the bow and stern, and flying an American flag. To this day, Israelis claim they
mistook the Liberty for a 1920’s era Egyptian horse carrier a quarter of its tonnage, the El Quiser.
To it’s shame, the same Congress that’s the namesake of the Medal of Honor, has never held a
real investigation of the Liberty attack. To his credit, Admiral Thomas Moorer, the Chief of Naval
Operations in 1967 and later Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, never forgot the USS Liberty. He
formed a private commission of investigation. Their report is in the Congressional Record and it’s a
damning one. Their conclusion was that the attack was deliberate. Among a mountain of evidence is an
American spy plane recording of an Israeli military pilot identifying the Liberty as an American naval
ship multiple times and being ordered the hit it anyway. There are other recordings but they remain
classified Top Secret fifty-four years later.
While under attack, which lasted hours, the Liberty got a distress call out to the Sixth Fleet
because the Israelis had to stop jamming during strafing runs. Immediately the Sixth Fleet launched jets to
assist our people. President Lyndon Baines Johnson ordered those jets to return to their carriers without
helping the Liberty. The fleet Admirals, not believing they were to abandon their shipmates, launched a
second wave. Johnson ordered them back a second time. Not only that, Johnson—in Washington, DC,
—apparently knew the attackers bombing the Liberty were Israelis before Captain McGonagle did.
After Israel failed to sink the ship, it was towed to Malta. As part of the cover-up, traumatized
sailors were put to work removing corpses and body parts that had been fermenting in the Mediterranean
sun behind water tight doors. Local repair crews worked around the clock patching all the holes. They
repainted the whole ship in a few days. Then it was brought to the US where the press could take pictures
of a ship that looked pretty good, though inside it was an empty tomb. She was sidelined,
decommissioned the following year, and eventually sold for scrap.
What our sailors and marines did in June, 1967 is as epic as anything in the archives of the
Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Moreover, Captain McGonagle’s actions had farther reaching
consequences for our country than any other Medal of Honor recipient. Except for him—this could be a
very different world, today. If the Liberty had gone to the bottom with no survivors,
the blame would have been fixed on Egypt and its Russian backers. America would have been in a
disastrous war, probably involving Russia (which also had naval presence nearby), at the same time
hundreds of thousands of our troops were mired in Vietnam.
In 1968, Captain William Loren McGonagle was presented with the nation’s highest military
award by the Secretary of the Navy in a secret ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard. Small wonder he
wasn’t invited to the White House. I believe Johnson wasn’t man enough to face him.
The Congressional Medal of Honor Society page for Captain McGonagle is not in keeping with
the dignity or mission of the Society. Instead, it reads like it was crafted by Israeli propagandists;
infamous not for what it contains but for what it leaves out. The only thing worse could be if it were
changed to the, ‘This was a tragic accident.’ narrative. No one ever won the Congressional Medal of
Honor by that sort of half-stepping equivocation. First among those who say the attack on the USS Liberty
was deliberate is the Captain of the ship who broke his silence in a ceremony at Arlington National
Cemetery thirty years to the day after the attack. Believe him, or believe the Israeli attackers. For myself,
it’s no contest. I’m with the Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. With respect I request the Society
erase this one stain by setting this man’s page right with the same direct determination they showed in
winning their own medals.
Meanwhile, here’s to Captain McGonagle. Fair winds and following seas. We remember you with
Below is the text from the Society’s page on Captain McGonagle
Clicking on his photo from the Vietnam Era recipients page, which says, ‘Vietnam War International Waters’ we get to the main article that reads like it was written by the Israeli embassy, it says:
Vietnam War – U.S. Navy
William Loren McGonagle
Rank: Captain (Rank at time of Action: Commander)
Conflict/Era: Vietnam War
Unit/Command: U.S.S. Liberty (AGTR-5)
Military Branch: U.S. Navy
Medal of Honor Action Date: June 8-9, 1967
Medal of Honor Action Place: International Waters
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sailing
in international waters, the Liberty was attacked without warning by a jet fighter aircraft and motor
torpedo boats which inflicted many casualties among the crew and caused extreme damage to the ship.
Although severely wounded during the first air attack, Capt. McGonagle remained at his battle station on
the badly damaged bridge and, with full knowledge of the seriousness of his wounds, subordinated his
own welfare to the safety and survival of his command. Steadfastly refusing any treatment which would
take him away from his post, he calmly continued to exercise firm command of his ship. Despite
continuous exposure to fire, he maneuvered his ship, directed its defense, supervised the control of
flooding and fire, and saw to the care of the casualties. Capt. McGonagle’s extraordinary valor under
these conditions inspired the surviving members of the Liberty’s crew, many of them seriously wounded, to heroic efforts to over come the battle damages and keep the ship afloat. Subsequent to the attack,
although in great pain and weak from loss of blood, Capt. McGonagle remained at his battle station and
continued to command his ship for more than 17 hours. It was only after rendezvous with a U.S. destroyer
that he relinquished personal control of the Liberty and permitted himself to be removed from the bridge.
Even then, he refused much needed medical attention until convinced that the seriously wounded among
his crew had been treated. Capt. McGonagle’s superb professionalism, courageous fighting spirit, and
valiant leadership saved his ship and many lives. His actions sustain and enhance the finest tradition of
the U.S. Naval Service.
Accredited to: Thermal, Riverside County, California
Awarded Posthumously: No
Presentation Date and Details: June 11, 1968 Admiral Leutze Park, Washington Navy Yard,
Presented by Sec. of the Navy Paul R. Ignatius
Born: November 19, 1925, Wichita, Sedgwick County, KS. United States
Died: March 3, 1999, Palm Springs, Ca, United States
Buried: Arlington National Cemetery (MH) (34-208), Arlington, Va, United States
Then there’s that colored little box with an image
of the Medal and
William McGonagle, Commander,
Dick Callahan writes from Juneau, Alaska. He spent four years as a Navy Hospital Corpsman, leaving as
an HM2 (E-5) with 2nd Recon Bn. USMC, in 1979. He never went anywhere near Vietnam.