On June 8, 1967, while conducting SIGINT operations off the Egyptian coast, USS Liberty (AGTR 5) (featured image), was attacked by Israeli aircraft and motor torpedo boats and received severe damage from a torpedo and gunfire.
The USS Liberty proceeded to Valletta, Malta for immediate repairs. The ship, however, was so extensively damaged that it was not completely repaired and never operated again in its assigned role.
After the USS Liberty incident, it became a practice of Commander Sixth Fleet to station a destroyer over the horizon in the vicinity of the SIGINT ship. The Vice Chief of Naval Operations also directed that the SIGINT ships be armed in the future. On December 14, 1967, the CNO directed that USS Banner, USS Pueblo, and USS Atakapa be armed with a minimum of two .50-caliber machine guns prior to their next mission.
USS Atakapa conducted SIGINT operations in the Mediterranean from June into October 1967. The USS Pueblo, a converted 25-year-old army FS (small coastal freighter), which had been inactive for several years following ten years of service in the Philippines, was refitted by the Navy as a surface SIGINT ship in 1967. USS Oxford and USS Jamestown continued their SIGINT collection operations in the Western Pacific area throughout 1967.
As of 1967, Black Sea operations were being carried out on at least an annual basis. Electronic intelligence (ELINT) riders and combat cameraman were assigned during such operations to expand the intelligence collections resources of the Black Sea-deployed U.S. navy ships. In the succeeding years, two such operations were conducted during 1968, three in 1969, and four in 1970.
USNS Private Jose F. Valdez conducted collection operations along the African coast with visits to Mombasa, Lourenco Marques, Luanda, Dakar, and Monrovia during the period 17 January to August 28, 1968.
USS Georgetown and USNS Sgt. Joseph E. Muller (T-AG 171), an unarmed ship with a civilian crew, conducted intelligence collection operations of Cuba from July to October 1968.
The AGTRs USS Oxford and USS Jamestown continued their collection operations in the Western Pacific throughout 1968. The modified fleet tug USS Atakapa operated in the Mediterranean from June into October 1968.
Source: A Century of U.S. Naval Intelligence
Edited by Mario Vulcano
7 August 2020 at 12:13
Thanks Mario,I remember that incident very well.
7 August 2020 at 13:01
Still no words about the Belmont? What’s up with that?
7 August 2020 at 13:59
The USNS Muller had a civilian crew operating the ship but the collections was done by Navy and Army personnel. And its operations began in early 1963, not “from July to Oct 1968.” The armory consisted of a few rifles, hand guns and at least one machine gun.
7 August 2020 at 16:20
I was conducting point-to-point communications with the Valdez once in 1968, using a special technique (bouncing signal off the moon), when something scary happened. The Valdez operator told me to wait a second, as they were in trouble. Communications immediately stopped, and I was concerned that we had another Liberty situation. My supervisor told me to just wait. 45 minutes later, the Valdez operator resumed communications. I asked him what happened. He said that Egyptian jets buzzed his ship repeatedly, and then left. He said it happened all the time, and it was nothing to be worried about. I was quite relieved, and became much calmer. It made me realize the danger that our intelligence ships faced daily.
7 August 2020 at 18:01
Thanks Mario….Very interesting glad the USS Liberty made it back to Malta
8 August 2020 at 00:47
Great article. If anyone circa 1967 has copies of any USS Liberty-related messages or recordings you were ordered to destroy we’d appreciate your passing them along. We know that NAVCOMSTA Morocco “has voice tapes” which we learned from a message they sent to DIRNSA but the NSA won’t release them. Joe Meadors, USS Liberty survivor. Email: email@example.com
27 April 2022 at 13:10
The USNS Muller continued ops also continued ops until Oct of 1969 not 1968. I was onboard her at this time