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Awards of the Silver Star

for 
Conspicuous Gallantry
in Action aboard the
U.S.S. Liberty
(June 8, 1967)

 

On June 8, 1967, during the Israeli conflict with the Arab states of Egypt, Jordan and Syria (the Six-Day War), the U.S.S. Liberty (AGTR-4) was at sea in International Waters of the Mediterranean Sea when it was attacked by Israeli fighter planes and torpedo boats. Subsequently, both the Israeli and American governments conducted multiple inquiries into the incident, and issued reports concluding that the attack was a tragic mistake, caused by confusion about the identity of the Liberty, an American intelligence gathering ship under the command of Captain William McGonagle.

The second-deadliest attack on an American ship since World War II, during the brief but bitter attack on the Liberty, 34 American sailors and Marines were killed and at least 173 were wounded. In a quiet ceremony, held without fanfare due to the fact that Israel and the United States were allies, Captain McGonagle was awarded the Medal of Honor for his valiant leadership throughout the attack. Two valiant members of his crew were awarded the Navy Cross--posthumously. According to Captain McGonagle's own records, a total of 11 members of the crew were awarded the Silver Star (3 posthumously), in addition to 20 Bronze Stars, 9 Navy Commendations, and 204 Purple Hearts.

Award Status Name Branch
Medal of Honor (1)   McGonagle, William Loren USN
Navy Cross (2) KIA Armstrong, Philip McCutcheon, Jr. USN
KIA Brown, Francis USN
Silver Star (11)   Bennett, Maurice H. USN
  Brooks, Richard J. USN
  Golden, George Houston USN
  Kiepfer, Richard F. USN
  Larkins, Dale D. USN
  Lockwood, Bryce F. USMC
  Lucas, David George USN
  Scott, John Deadrick USN
KIA Skolak, David USN
KIA Thompson, Alexander Neil, Jr. USN
KIA Toth, Stephen Spencer USN

CITATIONS

McGONAGLE, WILLIAM L.
Citation:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to William Loren McGonagle (494467), Captain, U.S. Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. LIBERTY in the Mediterranean Sea on 8 and 9 June 1967. Sailing in international waters, the 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 severely wounded during the first air attack, Captain McGonagle remained at his battle station on the badly damaged bridge and, with full knowledge of the seriousness of his wounds, subordinated his own welfare to the safety and survival of his command. 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. Captain McGonagle's extraordinary valor under these conditions inspired the surviving members of the LIBERTY's 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, Captain McGonagle 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 LIBERTY and permitted himself to be removed from the bridge. Even then, he refused much needed medical attention until convinced that the seriously wounded among his crew had been treated. Captain McGonagle's superb professionalism, courageous fighting spirit, and valiant leadership saved his ship and many lives. His actions sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
Born: November 19, 1925 at Wichita, Kansas
Home Town: Thermal, California



*ARMSTRONG, PHILIP McCUTCHEON, JR. (KIA)
Citation:
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Philip McCutcheon Armstrong, Jr. (569825/1100), Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy, for extraordinary heroism in connection with an armed attack on the U.S.S. LIBERTY (AGTR-5) in the Eastern Mediterranean, on 8 June 1967. During the early afternoon hours, the U.S.S. LIBERTY was attacked without warning by jet fighter aircraft and three motor torpedo boats. Subjected to intense incendiary, machine-gun, and rocket fire, and placed in extreme jeopardy by a torpedo hit below the waterline on the starboard side, the U.S.S. LIBERTY sustained numerous personnel casualties and severe structural damage. Serving as Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Armstrong was on the bridge when the first strafing attack occurred. A large fire erupted in the vicinity of two 55-gallon gasoline drums, creating the grave danger that the drums might explode and cause a widespread conflagration. Lieutenant Commander Armstrong fearlessly exposed himself to overwhelmingly accurate rocket and machine-gun fire while proceeding to jettison the gasoline drums and organizing a party of men to extinguish the blazing lifeboats nearby. At this time, he received multiple injuries which proved to be fatal a few hours after the attack terminated. By his aggressiveness, composure under fire, and inspiring leadership, Lieutenant Commander Armstrong upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Authority: Navy Department Board of Decorations and Medals
Born: July 4, 1929 at Detroit, Michigan
Home Town: Detroit, Michigan


*BROWN, FRANCIS (KIA)
Citation:
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Francis Brown (7787670), Quartermaster Third Class, U.S. Navy, for extraordinary heroism in connection with an armed attack on the U.S.S. LIBERTY (AGTR-5) in the Eastern Mediterranean, on 8 June 1967. During the early afternoon hours, the U.S.S. LIBERTY was attacked without warning by jet fighter aircraft and three motor torpedo boats. Subjected to intense incendiary, machine-gun, and rocket fire, and placed in extreme jeopardy by a torpedo hit below the waterline on the starboard side, the U.S.S. LIBERTY sustained numerous personnel casualties and severe structural damage. Serving as Quartermaster, Petty Officer Brown was on the bridge during the initial phase of the air attack. When the helmsman became incapacitated, Petty Officer Brown fearlessly exposed himself to overwhelmingly accurate rocket and machine-gun fire while assuming the helmsman's duties. He steadfastly maintained the ordered course while many men in the immediate proximity received serious and fatal injuries, remaining on his post until felled by strafing fire from the torpedo boats at the moment the torpedo struck the ship. By his aggressiveness, composure under fire, and courageous actions, Petty Officer Brown upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Authority: Navy Department Board of Decorations and Medals
Born: May 6, 1947 at Albany, New York
Home Town: Troy, New York

 



BENNETT, MAURICE H.
Synopsis:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star Medal to Maurice H. Bennett, Lieutenant, U.S. Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as Communications Officer on board the U.S.S. LIBERTY (AGTR-5), in action in the Mediterranean Sea on 8 June 1967. Lieutenant Bennett assumed duties as the ship's communications officer and labored below decks during the attack. His on this occasion were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.


BROOKS, RICHARD J.
Synopsis:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star Medal to Richard J. Brooks (4546263), Chief Machinist's Mate, U.S. Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving on board the U.S.S. LIBERTY (AGTR-5), in action in the Mediterranean Sea on 8 June 1967. In spite of dreadful circumstances in the machinery spaces, Chief Machinist's Mate Brooks, being in charge of the engineering watch during the action, kept the "heart of the ship" in working order, and thus held the LIBERTY's survival in the realm of possibility. The actions of Chief Machinist's Mate Brooks on this occasion were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.


GOLDEN, GEORGE HOUSTON
Synopsis:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star Medal to George Houston Golden (574328/6302), Lieutenant, U.S. Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as Engineering Officer on board the U.S.S. LIBERTY (AGTR-5), in action in the Mediterranean Sea on 8 June 1967. In spite of dreadful circumstances in the machinery spaces, Lieutenant Golden kept the "heart of the ship" in working order, and thus held the LIBERTY's survival in the realm of possibility. The actions of Lieutenant Golden on this occasion were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Home Town: Virginia Beach, Virginia


KIEPFER, RICHARD F.
Synopsis:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star Medal to Richard F. Kiepfer (710107/2105), Lieutenant (MC), U.S. Navy (Reserve), for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as Medical Officer on board the U.S.S. LIBERTY (AGTR-5), in action in the Mediterranean Sea on 8 June 1967. With complete disregard for his own personal safety, Lieutenant Kiepfer exposed himself to overwhelmingly accurate rocket and machine gun fire by going to different stations and compartments to administer first aid after sick bay became untenable and evacuated following a rocket hit. He treated men for pain, shock, and took emergency measures to control, hemorrhage and later performed a chest operation. After the torpedo hit, he organized personnel for removing the wounded in case of an order to abandon ship and made trips through some of the damaged areas to the medical storeroom for needed supplies. He conducted a major surgical operation, giving the anesthesia (spinal) himself . The actions of Lieutenant Kiepfer on this occasion were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.


LARKINS, DALE D.
Synopsis:
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Silver Star Medal (Posthumously) to Dale D. Larkins (9294893), Seaman, U.S. Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving on board the U.S.S. LIBERTY (AGTR-5), in action in the Mediterranean Sea on 8 June 1967. Courageously and single-handedly, Seaman Larkins operated Mount 51 and fired on attacking torpedo boats until ordered to cease fire. His aggressiveness and coolness under fire was exceptional inspirational leadership in an hour of awesome peril and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

 


LOCKWOOD, BRYCE F.
Synopsis:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star Medal to Bryce F. Lockwood (1859856), Staff Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving on board the U.S.S. LIBERTY (AGTR-5), in action in the Mediterranean Sea on 8 June 1967. Despite severe burns, the rapid rise of water, heavy smoke and complete darkness, was instrumental in the rescue of personnel from the flooded compartments, thus averting even further loss of life. Without regard for his personal safety or his injuries, Staff Sergeant Lockwood assisted in the rescue until ordered to leave. His calm, rational thinking and actions evidenced a high degree of professional competence and moral fibre. The actions of Staff Sergeant Lockwood on this occasion were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Home Town: Springfield, Missouri


LUCAS, DAVID GEORGE
Synopsis:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star Medal to David George Lucas (710515/1105), Ensign, U.S. Navy (Reserve), for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving on board the U.S.S. LIBERTY (AGTR-5), in action in the Mediterranean Sea on 8 June 1967. Ensign Lucas assumed duties as Executive Officer, Operations Officer, Officer of the Deck, quartermaster of the watch, lookout, messenger, and hospital corpsman during the attack. The actions of Ensign Lucas on this occasion were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.


SCOTT, JOHN DEADRICK
Synopsis:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star Medal to John Deadrick Scott (700158/1105), Ensign, U.S. Navy (Reserve), for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as Damage Control Officer on board the U.S.S. LIBERTY (AGTR-5), in action in the Mediterranean Sea on 8 June 1967. The actions of Ensign Scott on this occasion were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.


*SKOLAK, DAVID (KIA)
Synopsis:
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Silver Star Medal (Posthumously) to David Skolak (B501783), Fireman First Class, U.S. Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving on board the U.S.S. LIBERTY (AGTR-5), in action in the Mediterranean Sea on 8 June 1967. Fireman First Class Skolak was mortally wounded while gallantly performing his duties without regard for his own personal safety. The actions of Fireman First Class Skolak on this occasion were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Born: August 12, 1946 at Gary, Indiana
Home Town: Gary, Indiana


*THOMPSON, ALEXANDER NEIL, JR. (KIA)
Synopsis:
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Silver Star Medal (Posthumously) to Alexander Neil Thompson, Jr. (7704721), Gunners Mate Third Class, U.S. Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving on board the U.S.S. LIBERTY (AGTR-5), in action in the Mediterranean Sea on 8 June 1967. Courageously and single-handedly, Gunner's Mate Third Class Thompson operated machine gun 51 and continued to fire on the aircraft in defense of his ship and shipmates until he was fatally wounded by a rocket blast. His aggressiveness and coolness under fire was exceptional inspirational leadership in an hour of awesome peril and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.


*TOTH, STEPHEN SPENCER (KIA)
Citation:
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Silver Star Medal (Posthumously) to Stephen Spencer Toth (669613/1100), Lieutenant, U.S. Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as Intelligence Officer on board the U.S.S. LIBERTY (AGTR-5), in action in the Mediterranean Sea on 8 June 1967. Lieutenant Toth was on the starboard wing of the flying bridge, 04 level, when the first strafing attack occurred. It became a vital matter to quickly establish the national identity of the aircraft that had initiated the vicious attack in order to inform higher authority. With complete disregard for his own personal safety he fearlessly exposed himself to overwhelmingly accurate rocket and machine gun fire to obtain this data. While engaged in this task a violent explosion on the starboard side of the bridge inflicted fatal injuries . The actions of Lieutenant Toth on this occasion were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Born: September 12, 1939 at San Diego, California

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