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A former Sailor whose quick action aboard the USS Liberty 42 years ago kept it from sinking was awarded a Silver Star Wednesday in the Visilia, Calif., office of Rep. David Nunes.
James "Terry" Halbardier repaired a damaged antenna while under fire by Israeli aircraft, which had already knocked out the ship's communications, according to James Ennes, an officer aboard the Liberty that day.
Israel has long claimed the attack was a case of mistaken identity.
Israeli Pilot Speaks Up
Fifteen years after the attack, an Israeli pilot approached Liberty survivors and then held extensive interviews with former Congressman Paul N. (Pete) McCloskey about his role. According to this senior Israeli lead pilot, he recognized the Liberty as American immediately, so informed his headquarters, and was told to ignore the American flag and continue his attack. He refused to do so and returned to base, where he was arrested.
Later, a dual-citizen Israeli major told survivors that he was in an Israeli war room where he heard that pilot's radio report. The attacking pilots and everyone in the Israeli war room knew that they were attacking an American ship, the major said. He recanted the statement only after he received threatening phone calls from Israel.
The pilot's protests also were heard by radio monitors in the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon. Then-U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dwight Porter has confirmed this. Porter told his story to syndicated columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak and offered to submit to further questioning by authorities. Unfortunately, no one in the U.S. government has any interest in hearing these first-person accounts of Israeli treachery.