205. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

Mr. President:

We have a flash report from the Joint Reconnaissance Center indicating that a U.S. elint (electronics intelligence) ship, the Liberty, has been torpedoed in the Mediterranean. The ship is located 60–100 miles north of Egypt.2

Reconnaissance aircraft are out from the 6th fleet.

We have no knowledge of the submarine or surface vessel which committed this act.

We shall keep you informed.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Middle East Crisis, Vol. 3. No classification marking. A handwritten “L” on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. Rostow telephoned the President at 9:49 a.m. This memorandum apparently confirmed information Rostow had given him in that telephone conversation. At 10 a.m., Johnson telephoned Secretary McNamara. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) No record has been found of either of these conversations.
  2. At 10:15 a.m., National Security Agency Director General Marshall S. Carter telephoned Naval Security Group Director Captain Cook to request that he telephone Secretary McNamara with information about the Liberty and the number of personnel aboard. At 10:30 a.m., Deputy Naval Security Group Director Captain Thomas briefed McNamara by telephone about the Liberty, its mission, its location, and the personnel aboard. McNamara asked whether the Joint Chiefs of Staff had directed the ship’s withdrawal to 100 miles from shore. Thomas could not confirm this. (Chronology of Events, Naval Security Group File on U.S.S Liberty, Naval Security Group Files, Box 702, CNSG Pre-76 Inactive Files 168, NAVSECGRU File on USS Liberty)