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William Loren McGonagle

William McGonigal - Medal of Honor Recipient

U.S. Navy
USS Liberty Incident
Medal Of Honor, Eastern Mediterranean

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Sailing in international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean, the USS Liberty was attacked without warning by jet fighter aircraft and motor torpedo boats which inflicted many casualties among the crew and caused extreme damage to the ship. Although wounded during the first air attack, Captain McGonagle remained at his battle station. Steadfastly refusing any treatment which would take him away from his post, he calmly continued to exercise firm command of his ship. Despite continuous exposure to fire, he maneuvered his ship, directed its defense, supervised the control of flooding and fire, and saw to the care of the casualties. His extraordinary valor inspired the surviving members of the crew, many of them seriously wounded, to heroic efforts to overcome the battle damage and keep the ship afloat. Subsequent to the attack, although in great pain and weak from the loss of blood, he remained at his battle station and continued to command his ship for more than 17 hours. It was only after rendezvous with a U.S. destroyer that he relinquished personal control of the ship and permitted himself to be removed from the bridge. Even then, he refused medical attention until convinced that the seriously wounded among his crew had been treated.

The U.S.S. Liberty was attacked by Israeli forces two days after the Six-Day War between Israel and several Arab nations commenced. The Israeli government apologized for the incident that  killed 34 members of the crew and wounded 171, claiming their fighters had mistaken it for an Egyptian vessel. Purportedly, in order to avoid further embarrassing the government of Israel, William McGonagle's Medal of Honor was quietly presented in a simple ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard, as was a posthumous award of the Navy Cross to the ship's Executive Officer and a member of the crew. This may be the only Medal of Honor ever awarded to an American serviceman for heroism in action against a nation that was not at war with the United States.

William McGonigal - Medal of Honor Recipientmcgonigal_aa.jpg (54753 bytes)mcgonigal_bw.jpg (43946 bytes)

 

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