About 15 students and community members came to hear USS Liberty Survivor Larry L. Bowen speak at the Michigan League about the true story of the USS Liberty incident on June 8, 1967. This event was sponsored by the Veteran and Military Services in conjunction with Veterans Week sponsored by the University of Michigan.
Bowen is a Purple Heart recipient for his service on the USS Liberty incident. Philip Larson, program director for Veteran and Military Services, introduced Bowen before talking about the USS Liberty incident. Bowen is part of the USS Liberty Veterans Association, an organization that has spent the past 55 years telling their first hand accounts of USS Liberty attack.
There were 34 American casualties on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967, caused by torpedo and bombing attacks from the Israeli Defense Forces on the Mediterranean Sea. The event was officially considered an accident by both countries. Israel apologized and paid the victims’ families compensation, according to Haaretz.
According to Bowen, the U.S. Government told the survivors of the attack to never mention the USS Liberty incident and that the government has maintained this position — even today, he said, the issue is currently being treated this way.
“I feel like a man without a country because the government is refusing to acknowledge what happened,” Bowen said. “And then after the attack, we were told never to talk about it or we would be threatened with fines or imprisonment. For all this time, we’ve not been allowed to speak, been treated like criminals and we’re still not getting support.”
“Justice for the Liberty,” a documentary about the USS Liberty incident, was shown during the event. The documentary included personal accounts from USS Liberty survivors James Ennes, Richard Keipher, Larry Weaver and Ernest Gallo.
Kurt Hill, retired Veteran liaison for the College of Engineering, told The Daily that the movie really showed how the USS Liberty survivors did everything they were supposed to do for the country and how they were let down.
“I liked the historical events to look at how our servicemen did their job and were kind of left hanging in there,” Hill said. “National security and that whole operation put in effort for (the story) to not be told and that was the most important part.”
The movie also discussed post traumatic stress disorder and how it affected the lives of the USS Liberty survivors. Bowen shared his own story of how he discovered he had PTSD.
“I’m one of the late respondents of PTSD, never knew I had it,” Bowen said. “I walked in to talk to the psychiatrist and she asked some of the difficult questions that (people in the movie) were talking about and she says ‘Larry, you’ve got PTSD’. I guess I never really heard of the term before, so it was completely new to me.”
At the event, Bowen brought many books and pamphlets with information about his account of the USS Liberty incident. There were some books written by survivors of the event, including Ennes, who wrote about his first-hand account in his novel “Assault on Liberty.”
LSA junior Matthew Iamarino also told The Daily that he hopes this talk will spread the word about the USS Liberty incident and bring justice to the survivors.
“I was very happy to see the USS Liberty incident event on the email for Veterans Day. I was very excited to see that,” Iamarino said. “It’s been 50 years since the event occurred and the people on the ship still have not received justice. So hopefully more talks like this will bring attention to the event and we’ll be able to speak about what happened that day.”