In 1967, American Legion Post 52 in Houston, Texas adopted a resolution concerning the deadly Israeli attack earlier that summer on the USS Liberty (AGTR-5), a signals intelligence collector operating in the eastern Mediterranean in support of the National Security Agency. Post 52’s resolution characterized the attack on the Liberty as “crimes on the high seas” and called for Israeli authorities to be prosecuted.

Whether Post 52’s resolution was approved by the Department of Texas is unknown to this writer. However, it was published in the August 3, 1967, edition of the Congressional Record at the request of Senator John Tower. Later that summer, The American Legion, at its annual national convention, adopted a different resolution from the Department of Pennsylvania concerning the attack on the Liberty. That resolution was designated National Convention Resolution 508 (NCR 508).

NCR 508 characterized the attack as “unwarranted and unprovoked” and “denounce[d] and condemn[ed] Israel’s irresponsible attack on the USS Liberty”. And although NCR 508 criticized the report of the U.S. Navy’s Court of Inquiry as “fail[ing] to provide the American public with a satisfactory answer as to the reason for the attack” the authors of NCR 508 nevertheless shied away from characterizing the attack as a criminal act or calling for the prosecution of Israeli authorities.

In 1967, a call for criminal prosecution seemed to many neither unreasonable nor impractical. Fifty years after the attack it was clear that simply getting the U.S. government to “publicly, impartially, and thoroughly investigate the attack on the USS Liberty” would be well-nigh impossible. That was the goal of a resolution, NCR 40, from Post 40 in the Department of Washington that was adopted by the The American Legion at its 2017 annual national convention.

Even though the Legion’s Constitution declares that the “legislative body of The American Legion shall be the National Convention” The American Legion’s elected officers and paid staff never apparently took any action to lobby Congress to open the investigation called for in both NCR 508 (1967) and NCR 40 (2017). That both resolutions were adopted by the national convention delegates demonstrates that the Legion’s rank-and-file members support the quest for full disclosure regarding the attack on the Liberty but Legionnaires have been unable or unwilling to hold the national leadership and staff accountable for failing to press Congress on the subject. NCR 508 was rescinded in 1984 and NCR 40 was allowed by the Legion’s National Executive Committee to expire at the end of 2017.

This year Legionnaires have another opportunity to push for an investigation and full disclosure as Post 40 has adopted two more Liberty resolutions. The first resolution calls for a Congressional investigation while the second calls for the release of a 1967 House Appropriations Committee report that the committee has repeatedly refused to release in the nearly fifty-six years since it was completed. But other Legionnaires will have to step up to get those resolutions adopted as the Department of Washington may not be able to participate in the national convention due to credible allegations of corruption and misconduct by Department officials. If you do pass Liberty resolutions in your Legion Department then be prepared to be falsely told there are already such resolutions in effect in the National Legion. Ask anyone who tells you that to send you a copy of the resolutions.

Hat tip to Joe Meadors, a USS Liberty survivor, for bringing Post 52’s resolution to my attention.

By Michelle J. Kinnucan

The five Liberty resolutions mentioned in the above article: