Most of us in the Information Warfare/Cryptologic Warfare community are well aware of the attack on the USS LIBERTY. Last year, June 8 was 50 years since the attack and most commands paused to remember.
Some commands remembered the attack by recounting the timeline of events leading up to and through the attack; others called out the names and presented the pictures of those who died followed by ringing a Navy bell to honor each man. However, there is another group of Sailors that are sometimes forgotten. They are known as LIBERTY survivors. Along with their families, some have been surviving the attack for over 51 years.
I would like to introduce such a man, a young Sailor at the time who had a promising career as a communications technician. Starting tomorrow, StationHYPO will be posting a four part series titled, “I was There When USS LIBERTY was Attacked” by CT1 Ronald Kukal, USN.
His biography and his story are in his own words:
I enlisted in little Rushville, Nebraska in 1959. I was one of those who grew up needing discipline, and really never getting any. My mother told me one day that I could no longer live there, and it made me angry, so I went straight down and enlisted in the Navy that afternoon. Best thing I ever did. I was sent to San Diego for training, and this little disciplined boy learned a lot in 9 weeks. My duty stations started with CT training at Imperial Beach, then on to advanced school at Goodfellow AFB, where I learned the “T” Branch part of the training. After this training I received orders to San Miguel, in the Philippines. I re-enlisted there, and was sent to further training at NSA, Fort George G. Meade, and then I got to use that training at Kamiseya, Japan. From Japan I ended up in Cheltenham, and from there to the USS Liberty. I guess you would say my career was ended when the attack on the Liberty took place. I was a first class petty officer, and ready to take the Chief’s test when the attack occurred.
Changed my life, in a little over two hours, although I didn’t know it would then. After the attack I was sent to CincLantFlt Headquarters to be discharged. I couldn’t wait to get away from the U.S. Navy, and on Aug 25th. 1967, that did happen. I didn’t work for over five years, but I did finally get a job with the Nebraska State Patrol. I decided I needed more training and so went to another school to learn the journeyman electrical trade. I finished, got my license, and after a time went into partnership with another fellow, and we had our own company. We did well for several years, but I wanted to get a job with the government, and I got one at the VA Medical Center in Sheridan, WY. I worked there until retirement, and that brings me up to date, as I have been retired now since 2001. Always felt bad that I couldn’t wear the Chief’s uniform, and I didn’t miss it by far. My department head who was severely injured during the attack told me I would have made a fine LDO. I sure would have liked that.