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
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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
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
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
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.
Shortly after my conversation with Cristol, I received a telephone call from
Admiral Kidd, inquiring about Cristol and what he was up to. The Admiral spoke
of Cristol in disparaging terms and even opined that “Cristol must be an Israeli
agent.” I don’t know if he meant that literally or it was his way of expressing
his disgust for Cristol’s highly partisan, pro-Israeli approach to questions
involving USS Liberty.
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
Dated: January 9, 2004
at Coronado, California.
Ward Boston, Jr., Captain, JAGC, USN (Ret.)
Senior Counsel to the USS Liberty Court of Inquiry
McCain declined my offer to raise his voice on behalf of the
Liberty. He said
that he wasn’t going to do anything about it because the “matter was thoroughly
reviewed.” Really! In his letter to me, dated, April 28, 1997, he relied on the
results of the now totally discredited Naval Court of Inquiry, which was
conducted by Rear Admiral Isaac Kidd, USN. It began on June 10, 1967, and lasted
less than a week. A scathing and devastating
rebuttal of that seriously flawed Naval Inquiry can be found in the
“Declaration,” dated Jan. 8, 2004, of Capt. Ward Boston, Jr., JAGC, USN (Ret). .
So, McCain, the “Conscience of the Senate” wasn’t going to do anything about
bringing justice to the Liberty! He did, however, say something else in his
letter that made me feel suspicious about his do-nothing position. He said, “The
attacking nation” did not submit any evidence or testimony on their behalf about
the assault at the inquiry. “Attacking nation!” What is that suppose to mean?
Why couldn’t McCain just come right out, he is the “Conscience of the Senate”
after all, and simply say: The Israelis? Why use a deceptive term, like: “attacking
nation?” Talk about Orwellian Double Speak! I can’t imagine McCain writing
about the attack on U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941, and instead of
stating up front that Japan was responsible, refer to that sneaky, militant
aggressor as the “attacking nation.”
By A. Jay
Judge Cristol is the author of the Liberty Incident: The 1967 Israeli Attack on
the U. S. Navy Spy Ship.
On June 8, 2007, the San Diego Union Tribune published an article titled "Time
for the Truth About the Liberty," with a byline, Ward Boston, Jr.
Ward Boston, Jr.served his country as a naval aviator during World War II. He
completed law school and then, after a stint with the FBI, he returned to the
Navy as a legal specialist in the days prior to creation of the Judge Advocate
Generals Corp. By 1967, he had been promoted to the rank of Captain and
established a fine reputation as a legal officer. When the Liberty incident
occurred, he was selected by then Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, Jr. as counsel to
the U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry, convened by order of Admiral John McCain (the
father of Senator John McCain) Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe.
When Boston reentered the Navy, he took an oath to faithfully perform his duties
as a United States Naval Officer and upon the opening of the Court of Inquiry,
on the record at page 106, he took another oath to faithfully perform his duties
as counsel to the Court. Also sworn to faithfully perform their duties on the
Court were Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, Jr. As President, Captain Bernard J.
Lauff, a highly respected veteran of Wake Island, and Captain Bert M. Atkinson,
Jr., a Naval Academy Graduate, as members, Lieutenant Commander Allen Feingersch,
as associate counsel and YNC Joeray Spencer, as court reporter.
The Court convened at forty-six minutes before midnight on June 10, 1967, in
London, moved to the USS Liberty to take sworn testimony of the crew, and then
back to London where it closed for deliberations at 16:45 London time on June 16
and filed its report on or about June 18, 1967 with Admiral McCain, who endorsed
it. "The foregoing comments by the convening authority lead to an overall
conclusion that the attack was in fact a mistake." It was sent immediately to
Washington to the Chief of Naval Operation Admiral David McDonald, being carried
personally by Admiral Kidd in a brief case chained to this wrist.
The Boston article goes on to recite some hearsay, "I know from personal
conversations with the late Adm. Isaac C. Kidd - President of the Court of
Inquiry - that President Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara
ordered him to conclude that the attack was a case of mistaken identity." The
article fails to explain how or when President Johnson or Secretary McNamara
transmitted the orders.
Prior to the publication of the June 8, 2007 article, Ward Boston signed an
affidavit which was released on October 22, 2003, making similar allegations and
later supplemented the affidavit by declaration making additional allegations.
So, Boston, who signed the Court of Inquiry findings under an oath in 1967, now
says under oath in 2003 that he participated in a lie in 1967. If he is telling
the truth now, he confirms lying in 1967, or if he was truthful in 1967, then
obviously he is lying now. So how does one decide when Ward Boston was lying?
Then or now?
Perhaps an analysis of the June 8, 2007 San Diego Times Unions article, Boston’s
affidavit, and the supplemental declaration will help determine when, not if,
but when, Ward Boston lied.
First, a look at the article raises a question of whether it was written by Ward
Boston or written by someone else for him. The first paragraph talks of the
"bombing" of the ship. Boston was aware and the record is clear, the ship was
not bombed. It was attacked with 30MM cannons by the aircraft and then by 20MM
cannon, 50 caliber machine guns and torpedoes by the torpedo boats. The second
paragraph says 34 American sailors died. In fact, 33 sailors and one NSA
civilian died. It says 172 were wounded. The official records show 171 were
wounded. Next. the article says the cover-up has haunted us for 40 years. If the
Johnson administration had engaged in a "cover-up," why did the next seven
administrations, five Republican and two Democrat, continue the "cover-up"?
The next paragraph is a repetition of the demand of various conspiracy theorists
requesting a congressional hearing and suggesting the survivors be allowed to
testify. One hundred and fifty four pages of sworn testimony of the Liberty’s
Captain, William McGonagle, the ship’s officers and key crew members was taken
on June 13 and June 14, 1967 and is available for review by any member of the
public. Not one shred of additional evidence has been produced or disclosed by
the conspiracy theory supporters since 1967. What is being requested is a
platform to make allegations and charges before TV cameras without any prior
showing that there is new or credible evidence to support he allegations. In our
system of justice, first there must be the presentation of some credible
evidence of probable cause to support the charges. To date, neither Boston nor
anyone else has produced such evidence.
The article confirms that "we," Boston and Admiral Kidd, boarded the Liberty and
interviewed the survivors and states that "the evidence was clear" but does not
state what that evidence was. What evidence was clear? This is the point where
Boston makes a leap of faith. He says "we both believed with certainty that the
attack was deliberate."
Boston, the lawyer, if he wrote those words, knows better. He could say "I
believed" but when he attributes that belief to Admiral Kidd, he violated the
hearsay rule and the Dead Man Statute which forbids quotation of a dead man
because the dead man can neither confirm nor deny the statement. The article
says "I heard testimony that made it clear the Israelis intended there be no
survivor." What testimony did Boston hear? A careful reading of the 154 pages of
sworn testimony does not even suggest it. Who testified about what? Since no
Israelis participated in the Court of Inquiry, who was able to testify about he
intent of the Israelis and where is that testimony?
And an even better question, if the Israelis intended to sink the Liberty, then
why didn't the Israeli Armed Forces, which had destroyed the entire Egyptian Air
Force in minutes, had destroyed thousands of Egyptian tanks and artillery in a
few days, had captured the Sinai, the Suez Canal, the Old City of Jerusalem, the
West Bank and a day later destroyed the Syrian army and its armor and captured
the Golan Heights, all in six days, why didn’t they sink the ship, if that is
what they intended?
The myth Boston repeats about Israel committing a war crime by machine gunning
three life rafts was initiated by Lloyd Painter about ten years after the event.
The sworn testimony of Lloyd Painter taken June 13, 1967 does not mention
machine gunning the three life rafts, nor does the testimony of the Captain or
any of the crew, who were there on the bridge and on the deck with Lloyd Painter
at the time on June 8, 1967.
Boston states "I am outraged at the efforts of Israel’s apologists to claim this
attack was a case of ‘mistaken identity.’" This outrage, coming in 2003 - 36 to
40 years after Boston signed the Court of Inquiry findings under oath raises a
number of questions.
Why was Boston not outraged on June 18, 1967 by the report of the Court of
Inquiry signed by, according to his definition apparent apologists for Israel,
Admiral Kidd, Captain Atkinson, Captain Lauff and Captain Boston?
Why was Boston not outraged on June 18, 1967 when apologist for Israel, Admiral
John C. McCain, in Boston’s presence, endorsed the Court of Inquiry with the
comment: "15. The foregoing comments by the convening authority lead to an
overall conclusion that the attack was in fact a mistake"?
Why was Boston not outraged in July 1967 when apologist for Israel, Defense
Secretary Robert McNamara before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee stated,
"In the case of the attack on the Liberty, it was the conclusion of the
investigatory body headed by an Admiral of the Navy [Isaac C. Kidd, Jr.] in whom
we have great confidence that the attack was not intentional. I read the record
of investigation and I support that conclusion, and I think . . . it was not a
conscious decision on the part of either the government of Israel . . . [t]o
attack a U.S. vessel." (Released by U.S. Government printing office: 1967.)
Why was Boston not outraged on September 15, 1967, when distinguished journalist
and, by Boston’s definition "apologist for Israel," James L. Kilpatrick wrote in
an article published in the National Review, on page 958, ". . . that the
Israeli government was heavily dependent upon the goodwill of the united States;
it would have been utterly irrational for the Israeli Navy knowingly to have
launched an attack on the U.S. ship; and that the only reasonable explanation is
that the incident was mistake arising from the natural tensions and fallible
judgments of a hot war."
Why was Boston not outraged on February 27, 1978 when "apologist for Israel,"
the CIA Director Admiral Stansfield Turner, stated in a letter to Senator
Abourezk, "It remains our best judgment that the Israeli attack on the USS
Liberty was not made in malice toward the United States and was a mistake."
Why was Boston not outraged on September 19, 1978 when the Director of Central
Intelligence, Admiral Stansfield Turner, stated publicly on ABC television in a
discussion about the Liberty incident: ". . .we released an evaluated over-all
document which said very clearly that it was our considered opinion that the
Israeli Government had no such knowledge at that time."
Why was Boston not outraged on July 11, 1983 when "apologist for Israel," the
National Security Agency released in its partially declassified 1981 report
"Liberty was mistaken for an Egyptian ship as a result of miscalculations and
Why was Boston not outraged on September 5, 1991 when "apologist for Israel,"
President George H.W. Bush’s (41) White House, wrote ". . . A thorough
investigation into the USS Liberty incident was conducted and the conclusion was
that it was a tragic case of mistaken identity."
Why was Boston not outraged on May 10, 1995 when "apologist for Israel,"
President William Clinton’s White House, wrote, "There is no information
available that demonstrates that the attack was deliberate."
Why was Boston not outraged on August 30, 1995 when Clark Clifford’s July 18,
1967 report was declassified revealing the conclusion, "The weight of the
evidence is that the Israeli attacking forces originally believed their target
was Egyptian . . .2. The information thus far available does not reflect that
the Israeli high command made a premeditated attack on a ship known to be
Why was Boston not outraged on October 2, 2002, when President George W. Bush’s
White House, wrote "The results of the investigations . . . were considered
satisfactory . . .there is no precedent to reinvestigate this case."
Why was Boston not outraged on July 2, 2003 when the "apologist for Israel"
National Security Agency further declassified a portion of page 64 of its 1981
Report, which stated, "While these reports revealed some confusion concerning
the nationality of the ship, they tended to rule out any thesis that the Israeli
Navy and Air Force deliberately attacked a ship they knew to be American."
Boston says "Let former intelligence officers testify that they received
real-time Hebrew translations of Israeli commanders instructing their pilots to
sink the American ship. This myth is perhaps the easiest of all to debunk.
Although the conspiracy theorists have claimed for years that there exist NSA
audio intercepts between Israeli pilots and their controllers which prove the
attack was deliberate, no such tapes have ever been produced. What has been
produced on July 2, 2004, as a result of this author’s Freedom of Information
Act lawsuit, are audio tapes and translations of communications between Israeli
pilots and their controllers which clearly establish that the Israelis believed
the target ship was hostile, most likely Egyptian, until 3:12 PM, approximately
44 minutes after the attack was concluded. The National Security Agency confirms
that there are no other tapes.
Dr. Marvin Nowicki, the U.S. Navy/NSA person who recorded and initially
translated the intercepts has stated clearly that they show the attack to be a
mistake. See letter of the Dr. Nowicki to Editor of the Wall Street Journal
published May 16, 2001 at page A23.
Richard Hickman, the NSA Hebrew linguist at headquarters, who made the final
translations of the intercepts and briefed NSA Director Marshal Carter on the
tapes, also confirmed that the tapes make it clear the attack was a mistake.
The reader may hear the tape recordings in Hebrew and read the official
transcripts of English translation on the National Security Agency’s NSA
So who told Ward Boston about the former intelligence officers receiving
"real-time Hebrew translations"? Could it have been Ron Gotcher who helped
Boston with his initial affidavit and declaration and very likely wrote or
assisted in the preparation of the June 8, 2007 article, bylined Ward Boston,
Jr., published in the San Diego Union Tribune. Ron Gotcher has long made claims
of the existence of the alleged incriminating tapes on his website. Gotcher also
claimed to have worked for the National Security Agency; however, reference the
"Documents" page of
www.libertyincident.com and go to "Gotcher Debunked." There the viewer will
see the actual letter from the National Security Agency, in response to a FOIA
request, confirming that Gotcher never worked for NSA.
What or who is behind these continuing false charges that have induced Boston, a
naval officer with a distinguished career, to dishonor himself by admitting to
have violated his oath, either in 1967 or more recently. Ron Gotcher is only a
bit player in a much broader propaganda effort.
The propaganda emanates from a small but well-funded and very vocal group of
people and organizations principally supported by Saudi Arabian money. The
groups include the American Educational Trust (AET) operated in Washington, DC
by former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Andrew I. Kilgore, and a circle of
others whose agenda is to attack the present excellent symbiotic relationship
between the United States and Israel. It includes: the Americans for Mideast
Understanding (AMEU) which was reportedly founded with money from Arabian
American Oil Company, ARAMCO, and has former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia,
James Akins, who was dismissed by the U.S. State Department in 1975 "for being
too compliant to Saudi demands" and former congressman Paul Findley serving on
its National Council; and the Liberty Alliance operated by Tito De Nagy Howard,
who is described as "a man at war with the Israelis" by Anthony Pearson. Howard
met Pearson in Dubai and upon learning that Pearson was considered by the PLO to
be pro-Palestinian, gave him "an idea to resurrect the Liberty incident as a
whole new story."
It all started with former Illinois congressman Paul Findley (who was defeated
for re-election after he announced his support for the terrorist organization,
the PLO) and former California congressman Paul "Pete" McCloskey, who speaks
regularly at meetings of Holocaust denial organizations in California and
Washington and was defeated for re-election. Findley and McCloskey were the
moving force in founding the Liberty Veterans Association. Findley served as its
advisor and McCloskey incorporated the association and served as its attorney.
They continue to manipulate and distress Liberty survivors and their families by
prodding this old wound and preventing its healing – all for their own political
agenda. And what is that agenda? Findley and McCloskey are also the founders of
the Council for the National Interest (CNI), whose publicly announced purpose is
to be the anti-Israel lobby.
Distorted explanations of events obfuscate the picture and destroy the ability
to learn real lessons for the future. Multiple official investigation reports
and endorsements have all concluded the incident was the result of a tragic
mistake or that there is no evidence that the attack was deliberate.
Nevertheless, dozens of conspiracy stories, in addition to Ward Boston’s sad
confession that he dishonored his oath taken in 1967 and remained silent about
it for 36 years, have become part of the literature
through the actions of persons and organizations with their own political
agenda. The conspiracy stories continue to multiply and become more extreme.
They detract from the possibility to learn from the tragedy. They also inflict
pain and suffering upon the victims and their families creating an additional
tragedy by provoking, goading and torturing the victims with inaccurate, false
and even absurd theories about that sad day, not with the goal of bringing
closure and peace but for political objectives.
As for the victims, they should be left to believe whatever brings them peace.
As for historians seeking the truth, it is respectfully suggested that a review
of all evidence, now declassified and available, will confirm the official
conclusion that the Liberty incident was a tragic case of mistaken identity as a
result of numerous mistakes by both the United States and Israel, and will
explain the conflicting recollection of Ward Boston, who boasts he is now in his
eighties. Perhaps the quotation from a recent speech by U.S. Supreme Court
Justice Stephen G. Breyer explains. Breyer said "I am now at the age where I
remember quite clearly and with great detail, many things that never actually
After forty years, it is time to close the book. Let those who lost their lives
rest in peace and be honored in treasured memory. Let the survivors be honored
and respected and let them and their families have peace and closure.