337. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara1



  • USS Liberty Incident (U)
(TS) Immediately following the Israeli air and naval attack on the USS Liberty (AGTR–5) during the recent Arab–Israeli war, a Joint Chiefs of Staff ad hoc fact finding team was established to investigate the incident. The team conducted an accelerated investigation and submitted a report based upon the information obtained.2 The time and facts available to the team limited the comprehensiveness of the report.
(TS) This report contained 17 recommendations and attributes the fact that the USS Liberty did not receive time-critical messages to a combination of:
Human error.
High volume of communications traffic.
Lack of appreciation of the sense of urgency regarding USS Liberty movement and location.
(TS) Most of the recommendations relate to the delay attributed to delivery of time-critical messages to the USS Liberty. Had these messages been received, the ship might have cleared the danger area prior to the attack. The study requires further analysis. However, preliminary comments on the report are forwarded as Appendix A hereto.3
(TS) The Joint Chiefs of Staff have referred the report to the Services and the appropriate Joint Staff agencies and directorates for further study and recommendations. You will be apprised of the status of the follow-up actions.
(U) A copy of the report is contained in Appendix B hereto for your information.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Earle G. Wheeler
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 72 A 2467. Top Secret; Sensitive. A stamped notation on the source text indicates that it was received in the office of the Secretary of Defense at 1431 hours, July 1; another notation, July 17, indicates the Secretary saw it.
  2. The “Report of the JCS Fact Finding Team: USS Liberty Incident, 8 June 1967,” undated, consisting of an introduction, findings of fact, recommendations, and 6 annexes, one of which includes 77 messages, is attached to the source text as Appendix B. A copy is also in JCS Files, 898/392. The fact-finding team was headed by Major General Joseph R. Russ, USA.
  3. Appendix A, “Comments by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Recommendations Made by the Fact Finding Team,” is attached but not printed.