Ward Boston, Jr.,Captain, JAGC, USN (Ret.)
Counsel to the U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry's
investigation into the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty
I, Ward Boston, Jr. do declare that the following statement
is true and complete:
For more than 30 years,
I have remained silent on the topic of USS Liberty.
I am a military man and when orders come in from the
Secretary of Defense and President of the United States, I follow them.
However, recent attempts to rewrite history compel me to share the truth.
In June of 1967, while serving as a Captain in the Judge Advocate
General Corps, Department of the Navy, I was assigned as senior
legal counsel for the Navy's Court of Inquiry into the brutal attack
on USS Liberty, which had occurred on June 8th.
The late Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, president of the Court,
and I were given only one week to gather evidence for the Navy's
official investigation into the attack, despite the fact that we both had
estimated that a proper Court of Inquiry into an attack of this magnitude
would take at least six months to conduct.
Admiral John S. McCain, Jr., then Commander-in-chief, Naval Forces Europe
(CINCUSNAVEUR), at his headquarters in London, had charged Admiral Kidd
(in a letter dated June 10, 1967) to
“inquire into all the pertinent facts and circumstances leading to
and connected with the armed attack; damage resulting therefrom; and deaths
of and injuries to Naval personnel.”
Despite the short amount of time we were given,
we gathered a vast amount of evidence, including hours of heartbreaking
testimony from the young survivors.
The evidence was clear. Both Admiral Kidd and I believed with certainty
that this attack, which killed 34 American sailors and injured 172 others,
was a deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew.
Each evening, after hearing testimony all day,
we often spoke our private thoughts concerning what we had seen and heard.
I recall Admiral Kidd repeatedly referring to the Israeli forces responsible
for the attack as “murderous bastards.” It was our shared belief,
based on the documentary evidence and testimony we received first hand,
that the Israeli attack was planned and deliberate, and could not possibly
have been an accident.
I am certain that the Israeli pilots that undertook the attack,
as well as their superiors, who had ordered the attack, were well aware
that the ship was American.
I saw the flag, which had visibly identified the ship as American,
riddled with bullet holes, and heard testimony that made it clear that
the Israelis intended there be no survivors. 10.
Not only did the Israelis attack the ship with napalm, gunfire, and missiles,
Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunned three lifeboats that had been launched
in an attempt by the crew to save the most seriously wounded --
a war crime.
Admiral Kidd and I both felt it necessary to travel to Israel to interview
the Israelis who took part in the attack. Admiral Kidd telephoned Admiral
McCain to discuss making arrangements.
Admiral Kidd later told me that Admiral McCain was adamant that we were not
to travel to Israel or contact the Israelis concerning this matter.
Regrettably, we did not receive into evidence and the Court did not consider
any of the more than sixty witness declarations from men who had been
hospitalized and were unable to testify in person.
I am outraged at the efforts of the apologists for Israel in this country
to claim that this attack was a case of “mistaken identity.”
In particular, the recent publication of Jay Cristol's book,
The Liberty Incident, twists the facts and misrepresents the views
of those of us who investigated the attack.
It is Cristol's insidious attempt to whitewash the facts
that has pushed me to speak out.
I know from personal conversations I had with Admiral Kidd that President
Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered him
to conclude that the attack was a case of “mistaken identity”
despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Admiral Kidd told me, after returning from Washington, D.C. that
he had been ordered to sit down with two civilians from either
the White House or the Defense Department, and rewrite portions
of the court's findings.
Admiral Kidd also told me that he had been ordered to
“put the lid” on everything having to do with the attack
on USS Liberty. We were never to speak of it and we were to caution
everyone else involved that they could never speak of it again.
I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of that statement as I know
that the Court of Inquiry transcript that has been released to the public
is not the same one that I certified and sent off to Washington.
I know this because it was necessary, due to the exigencies of time,
to hand correct and initial a substantial number of pages.
I have examined the released version of the transcript and I did not see
any pages that bore my hand corrections and initials.
Also, the original did not have any deliberately blank pages,
as the released version does. Finally, the testimony of Lt. Painter
concerning the deliberate machine gunning of the life rafts by the
Israeli torpedo boat crews, which I distinctly recall being given
at the Court of Inquiry and included in the original transcript,
is now missing and has been excised.
Following the conclusion of the Court of Inquiry,
Admiral Kidd and I remained in contact. Though we never spoke
of the attack in public, we did discuss it between ourselves, on occasion.
Every time we discussed the attack, Admiral Kidd was adamant that it was
a deliberate, planned attack on an American ship.
In 1990, I received a telephone call from Jay Cristol,
who wanted to interview me concerning the functioning of the Court of Inquiry.
I told him that I would not speak to him on that subject and prepared to
hang up the telephone. Cristol then began asking me about my personal
background and other, non-Court of Inquiry related matters.
I endeavored to answer these questions and politely extricate myself
from the conversation. Cristol continued to return to the subject
of the Court of Inquiry, which I refused to discuss with him.
Finally, I suggested that he contact Admiral Kidd and ask him about
the Court of Inquiry.
At no time did I ever hear Admiral Kidd speak of Cristol other than
in highly disparaging terms. I find Cristol's claims of a
“close friendship” with Admiral Kidd to be utterly incredible.
I also find it impossible to believe the statements he attributes to
Admiral Kidd, concerning the attack on USS Liberty.
Several years later, I received a letter from Cristol that contained
what he purported to be his notes of our prior conversation.
These “notes” were grossly incorrect and bore no resemblance
in reality to that discussion. I find it hard to believe that these
“notes” were the product of a mistake, rather than an attempt
to deceive. I informed Cristol that I disagreed with his recollection
of our conversation and that he was wrong. Cristol made several attempts
to arrange for the two of us to meet in person and talk but I always found ways
to avoid doing this. I did not wish to meet with Cristol as we had nothing
in common and I did not trust him.
Contrary to the misinformation presented by Cristol and others,
it is important for the American people to know that it is clear that Israel
is responsible for deliberately attacking an American ship and murdering
American sailors, whose bereaved shipmates have lived with this egregious
conclusion for many years.
Dated: January 9, 2004
at Coronado, California.
Ward Boston, Jr., Captain, JAGC, USN (Ret.)
Senior Counsel to the USS Liberty Court of Inquiry