USS Liberty (AGTR-5)

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USS Liberty (AGTR-5) underway in Chesapeake Bay on 29 July 1967 (K-39927).jpg
USS Liberty (AGTR-5) in Chesapeake Bay, 29 July 1967
United States
Name: SS Simmons Victory
Namesake: Simmons College in Boston
Owner: War Shipping Administration
Operator: Coastwise, Pacific Far East Line
Builder: Oregon Shipbuilding Corp.
Laid down: 23 February 1945
Launched: 6 April 1945
Completed: 4 May 1945
Fate: Transferred to US Navy in 1964
United States
Name: USS Liberty
Acquired: 1964
Commissioned: 1 December 1964
Decommissioned: 1 June 1968
Out of service: June 1967
Struck: 1 June 1970
Homeport: Norfolk, Virginia
Fate: Damaged beyond economical repair by Israeli attack in June 1967 and subsequently sold for scrap 1973
Badge: USS Liberty (AGTR-5) insignia, 1964 (NH 83352-KN).png
General characteristics
Displacement: 7725 tons (light displacement)
Length: 139 m (456 ft)
Beam: 18.9 m (62 ft)
Draft: 7 m (23 ft)
Propulsion: Westinghouse steam turbines, single shaft, 8500 horsepower (6.3 MW)
Speed: 17.5 knots (32.4 km/h) maximum sustained, 21 knots emergency
Range: 12,500 nmi (23,200 km; 14,400 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
  • 62 Merchant Marine and 28 US Naval Armed Guards as Victory ship.
  • 358 officers and enlisted for USS Liberty
Aircraft carried: none
Notes: [1]

USS Liberty (AGTR-5) was a Belmont-class technical research ship (electronic spy ship) that was attacked by Israel Defense Forces during the 1967 Six-Day War. She was built and served in World War II as SS Simmons Victory, as a Victory cargo ship.[2]

Service history[edit]

A Victory Ship, her keel was laid down on 23 February 1945, as Simmons Victory, a Maritime Commission-type (VC2-S-AP3) hull, under a Maritime Commission contract at Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation of Portland, Oregon. She was delivered to the Maritime Commission on 4 May 1945, and chartered to the Pacific Far East Line of San Francisco.

SS Simmons Victory was detailed with the duty of delivering ammunition for troops. On SS Simmons Victory loaded with 6,000 pounds (2,700 kg) of ammunition as an ammunition ship at Port Chicago Naval Magazine in Port Chicago, California and traveled to Leyte in the Philippines for the Battle of Leyte from 17 October - 26 December 1944. Simmons Victory loaded up on ammunition to prepare for the Operation Downfall the Invasion of Japan. With the war ending, she waited three months in Leyte, before returning her ammo to Port Chicago. From Port Chicago she took supplies to Baltimore though the Panama Canal. [3] [4][5][6] SS Simmons Victory served as merchant marine naval supplying goods for the Korean War. About 75 percent of the personnel taken to Korea for the Korean War came by the merchant marine. SS Simmons Victory transported ammunition, mail, food and other supplies. About 90 percent of the cargo was moved by merchant marine naval to the war zone. SS Simmons Victory made nine different trips between 18 November 1950 and 23 December 1952 helping American forces engaged against Communist aggression in South Korea.[7][8][9]

She operated in commercial trade until 1958, when Simmons Victory was returned to the Maritime Administration for layup in the National Defense Reserve Fleet at Olympia, Washington.

In February 1963, the U.S. Navy acquired Simmons Victory and converted her to a "Miscellaneous Auxiliary" ship at Willamette Iron and Steel of Portland. On 8 June the vessel was renamed USS Liberty and given the hull classification symbol AG-168. On 1 April 1964, she was reclassified a Technical Research Ship (AGTR-5). She was commissioned at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, in December 1964.

National Security Agency missions[edit]

In February 1965, Liberty steamed from the west coast to Norfolk, Virginia, where she was further outfitted (cost: US$20 million) to suit her for a mission of supporting the National Security Agency by collecting and processing foreign communications and other electronic emissions of possible national defense interests. In June Liberty began her first deployment, to waters off the west coast of Africa. She carried out several more operations during the next two years, and went to the Mediterranean Sea in 1967. During the Six-Day War between Israel and several Arab nations, she was sent to collect electronic intelligence in the eastern Mediterranean.

On 8 June 2007, the National Security Agency (NSA) finalized the review of all material relative to the 8 June 1967 attack on USS Liberty. This additional release adds to the collection of documents and audio recordings and transcripts previously posted to the site on 2 July 2003.[10]

Israeli attack[edit]

NSA National Cryptologic Memorial. Many of the names are from June 8, 1967
USS Liberty receives assistance from units of the Sixth Fleet, after she was attacked and seriously damaged by Israeli forces off the Sinai Peninsula on 8 June 1967. An SH-3 helicopter is near her bow.

On the afternoon of 8 June 1967, while in international waters off the northern coast of the Sinai Peninsula, Liberty was attacked and damaged by the Israel Defense Forces; 34 crewmen were killed and 174 wounded. Although severely damaged with a 39-by-24-foot (11.9 m × 7.3 m) hole amidships and a twisted keel, Liberty's crew kept her afloat, and she was able to leave the area under her own power. Later, Israel apologized for the attack, stating it had mistaken the Liberty for an Egyptian ship, as the incident occurred during the Six-Day War. In total Israel gave close to $13 million (approximately $65 million in 2017) to the U.S. in compensation for the incident. This includes compensation to the families of those killed, the wounded and to cover damage of the ship.[11]

The incident has become a subject of controversy and debate, with many books written on the topic.[12]

After the attack[edit]

She was escorted to Valletta, Malta, by units of the Sixth Fleet and was given temporary repairs. After the repairs were completed, Liberty returned to the United States on 27 July 1967. She was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 28 June 1968. She was laid up in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet of Norfolk until December 1970, when she was transferred to the Maritime Administration for disposal. In 1973, she was sold for scrapping to the Boston Metals Company of Baltimore, Maryland.

USS Liberty is listed in the online Naval Vessel Register, where more details about the ship can be found.[13]

Crew awards[edit]

USS Liberty was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, and Commander (later Captain) William McGonagle, Liberty’s commanding officer, received the Medal of Honor. Numerous members of the crew were decorated, including eleven members of the crew who were awarded Silver Stars, twenty with Bronze Stars, and over two hundred who received Purple Hearts.[14]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Ennes, Jr., James M. (1979). Assault on The Liberty. New York: Random House.


  1. ^ Babcock & Wilcox (April 1944). "Victory Ships". Marine Engineering and Shipping Review.
  2. ^ Ship building history Victory ships
  3. ^ Merchant Marine Survivors of World War II: Oral Histories of Cargo Carrying, By Michael Gillen, page 118
  4. ^ Rep of Ops in the Philippine Is Area 10/24-28/44
  5. ^ US Central Philippine Attack Force, 20 October 1944
  6. ^ Chapter XX, The Philippines Campaign, Forces and Vessels--Logistic Support of the Seventh Fleet--Battle of Leyte Gulf
  7. ^ Korean War Educator, Merchant Marine, Accounts of the Korean War
  8. ^ Small United States and United Nations Warships in the Korean War, By Paul M. Edwards
  9. ^ US Navy History, Liberty III (AGTR-5) 1964-1970
  10. ^ Declassified National Security Agency (NSA) documents concerning USS Liberty
  11. ^ "History Channel: Israel attacks USS Liberty".
  12. ^ "Christian Science Monitor, June 4, 1982". 4 June 1982. Retrieved 2012-02-23.
  13. ^ "LIBERTY".
  14. ^ "Awards of the Silver Star for Conspicuous Gallantry in Action aboard the U.S.S. Liberty (June 8, 1967)". Archived from the original on December 31, 2008.

External links[edit]