I am forever indebted to the US Navy for the training I received at Imperial Beach California in the 50’s, and at Goodfellow AFB during the early 60’s.
That training made a man of me, and believe me I wasn’t that man when I came there. A wide eyed young male, with no idea what was going to happen to me.
I was the POIC of the body recovery after the attack on the USS Liberty, June 8, 1967. I am not sure to this day which affected me more, that event, or the attack itself.
This was a surprise attack, and it happened just after a GQ drill, after we had stood down, and were relaxing from it all. The time was 1401 as I remember, and I had just came back to my work space, which was two decks down below the main deck, and was beginning my usual afternoon work. I wasn’t there long, maybe less than five minutes, when a sound that I had never heard before came from above my head, on the main deck. That sound reminded me of when I was a small boy back home in Nebraska, of a hail storm on a tin roof, and I was astounded by it, to say the least. I tried to explain it away, even to the point of thinking maybe we had run aground. A ridiculous explanation, but never the less, it did cross my mind. What is was, was the first strafing run by the jet planes that were attacking our ship. The sound came again maybe three or four minutes later, and again, and again. Little did I know that those strafing runs killed 9 of my shipmates, who were top side. This was the beginning of a vicious attack, meant to put us to the bottom with all hands on board.
There has been a lot of information recovered about the attack in the last fifty years, and I am not remiss in saying, we were all meant to die.
My next recollection as we went through the strafing runs, was the captain coming on the 1MC (ships intercom) and saying, “Prepare for torpedo attack”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and remember thinking this only happens in the movies, this can’t be happening to me. I think the shock of it all really begin to sit in with the announcement by the captain. As I said I grew up in NW Nebraska in a farming community, and was sent out the door each Sunday to go to Sunday School, and to church, and so my first instinct was to pray for my life. I did so, promising the good Lord that I would do anything to save my own life. After the prayer I came back to my desk, and just sort of stood there, frozen in time, waiting for what was going to happen next. Here is what happened as I remember it.
By Mr. Ronald Kukal