218. Telegram From the U.S.S. Liberty to the Chief of Naval Operations (McDonald)1

081715Z. Situation following air attack.

At 081205Z while ship on course 283 deg speed 05 knots position 31 deg 35.5 min north 33 deg 29 min east ship attacked by unidentified [Page 375] jet fighters, believed to be Israeli. Approximately six strafing runs made on ship. Approximately 081225Z three torpedo boats one identified as Israeli approached ship on stbd qtr at high speed. Hull number of one boat was 206–17. Approximately 081227Z took torpedo under fire with 50 caliber machine guns have range of 2000 yards. Torpedo boat launched torpedo and straffing attack. One torpedo passed approx 25 yards astern approximately one minute later ship sustained torpedo hit stbd side. Ship is 10 deg stbd list water tight boundaries established and holding after attack torpedo boat cleared to east about five miles. Clearing area at 10 knots.
Photos of aircraft and boats taken. After attack completed two Israeli helicopters orbited ship at about 081255Z range 500 yards. Israeli insignia clearly visible. Photos taken. Several projectiles have been recovered from topside areas. Number dead is estimated at 10, number seriously wounded at 15. Total wounded 75, number missing currently undetermined.
Ship unable to carry out mission, will submit personnel casreps as soon as possible separately.
Extensive superficial damage topside. Lower deck spaces forward destroyed.
Comm capabilities limited. Will provide film and projectiles recovered as directed. Ship will require drydock and extensive refitting.
  1. Source: Naval Security Group Records, Box 896, USS Liberty Pre-76 Inactive Files, Box 1, U.S.S. Liberty, 5750/4, Chronological Message File. Unclassified; Immediate. Repeated to CINCUSNAVEUR, CINCEUR, JCS (JRC), CINCLANTFLT, COMSIXTHFLT, and COMSERVLANT. Received at 1916Z.