...between reality and what's reported by the news.

ISSN 2993­-8589
Copyright © 2023 by ALC Press, All rights reserved
Portland, Oregon, USA

This newsletter is for those whose main news source is cable television. News networks like Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC tend to be highly biased and are greatly influenced by the two political parties and their wealthy donors. This newsletter will strive to present facts without partisan and media bias.

The name “The Gap” represents the gap between objective reality and the spin placed on stories reported by the press.

This is a copy of The Gap printed to paper. It's missing the links to the additional information you may need to fully appreciate the significance of the stories. It's best to view The Gap online here:

USS Liberty Incident

by Ed Sawicki

TWA Flight 800 (a Boeing 747) exploded and crashed into the ocean off Long Island, New York, on July 17, 1996, with 230 people aboard. Pierre Salinger reported that the plane was hit by a missile launched by a U.S. Navy vessel. Salinger was President John F. Kennedy’s press secretary and himself a journalist, so his report was seriously considered initially.

One of the arguments used to rebuff the claim is the question, “How can you keep all the sailors on a U.S. Navy ship from talking about their ship shooting down a U.S. airliner? Eventually, someone will talk.” No sailor has ever come forward with that claim, so Salinger's claim is considered a conspiracy theory.

But, could a serious incident occur on a U.S. Navy ship with the crew sworn to secrecy using threats of imprisonment for violating it?

Yes. It's happened. This is the story of the USS Liberty...and President Lyndon Johnson, the new State of Israel, the Six-Day War, and a crew threatened with “imprisonment or worse.”

USS Liberty after the attack with U.S. helicopter
USS Liberty after the attack

The USS Liberty was a Victory-class ship manufactured in Portland, Oregon, in 1945 and named Simmons Victory. It served as a cargo/supply ship delivering ammunition during WWII. In June 1963, it was back in Portland being converted into a signals intelligence ship—one of the most sophisticated spy ships at the time. It was renamed USS Liberty and reclassified as a Belmont-class Technical Research Ship (AGTR-5).

In February 1965, Liberty sailed to Virginia, where the National Security Agency (NSA) equipped her with sophisticated equipment to serve its role as a signals intelligence platform. Its decks and masts bristled with antennas, including a dish antenna (part of a system named TRSSCOM) used to communicate with its command in the U.S. by bouncing radio signals off the moon.

Her missions had her stationed off the Atlantic coast of Africa normally, but in June 1967 Liberty was ordered into the Mediterranean. The Liberty was to station itself near Egypt and Israel and intercept communications. The Liberty's captain, William L. McGonagle, asked Vice Admiral William I. Martin at the United States Sixth Fleet headquarters to send a destroyer to accompany Liberty to serve as its armed escort and as an auxiliary communications center. Martin responded, “Liberty is a clearly marked United States ship in international waters, not a participant in the conflict and not a reasonable subject for attack by any nation. Request denied.” He added that in the unlikely event of an inadvertent attack, jet fighters from the Sixth Fleet would be overhead in ten minutes.

On June 8, 1967, the ship sailed 12 miles off the Sinai Peninsula. Israeli Nord Noratlas aircraft had overflown the ship three times that morning and saw that it was a U.S. Navy ship—an ally.

At 2:05 pm local time, it was attacked with gunfire and rockets by Israeli Dassault Mirage III fighter jets firing 30mm antiaircraft explosive rounds. These attacks targeted the communications antennas and disabled the Liberty's communications—she couldn't radio for help. At 2:25 pm, three French-built high-speed motor torpedo boats fired their German-made 19-inch torpedos at the Liberty. One torpedo struck the Liberty midships, tearing a hole 24 by 37 feet, killing 26 men instantly. Most of those men were communications technicians (CT) working for the NSA.

Israeli torpedo boats
Israeli torpedo boats

This was followed by jet fighters dropping napalm bombs that set the ship on fire. Crewmen risked their lives to prevent the fire from reaching an ammunition cache. The torpedo boats circled, machine-gunning the ship with armor-piercing projectiles for another 40 minutes. One boat came in close to fire on the liferafts, suggesting the Israelis wanted no survivors should they sink the Liberty.

During the attack, Electronics Technician Terry Halbardier risked his life to repair an antenna, which allowed the Liberty to send a distress call that the USS Saratoga (CV-60) aircraft carrier received. The Saratoga was in the Mediterranean near Crete, about 450 miles away, as was the carrier USS America (CV-66). Both carriers were part of the Sixth Fleet. Satatoga's Captain Joe Tully acknowledged the call for help and dispatched four F-4 Phantom jets.

The Phantoms would take about 18 minutes to reach the Liberty. Unfortunately, they were recalled minutes later. Why? The order to recall the planes came from Washington.

Chief Petty Officer Julian "Tony" Hart was assigned to a U.S. Navy radio relay station in Morocco that handled communications between Washington and the Sixth Fleet. Hart connected the telephone conversation between Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and Rear Admiral Lawrence Geis, commander of the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, and stayed on the line to keep them connected. He remembers McNamara ordering Geis to recall the jets. When Geis protested that the Liberty was under attack and needed help, Hart said that McNamara retorted, “President Johnson is not going to go to war or embarrass an American ally over a few sailors.”

Years later, Hart confirmed that he overheard McNamara say this. McNamara refused to say anything about his or Johnson's part in the Liberty incident when he was asked in 2005.

Despite the two aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean, each with about 80 planes, help didn't arrive that day. Ironically, the first vessel to offer assistance was a Soviet Kildin-class guided missile destroyer. Liberty's captain declined the offer. The destroyers USS Massey (DD-778) and USS Davis (DD-937) sailed alongside 18 hours after Liberty was attacked.

Fortunately, shortly after Liberty broadcast its distress call, the Israelis halted their attack. Presumably, the Israelis heard the distress call as well and retreated before U.S. jets would arrive.

James Terry Halbardier
Terry Halbardier

Terry Halbardier's repair of the antenna, thus allowing the distress call, likely saved the Liberty from being sunk and the lives of all her crew. Terry received the Silver Star for this in 2009. He died in 2014, a hero.

The Massey, Davis, and ocean-going tug USS Papago (ATF-160) escorted the Liberty to Malta for repairs and debriefing of the surviving crew. Admiral John McCain Jr., the commander of U.S. naval forces in Europe and father of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chose Rear Admiral Isaac Kidd to preside over a formal Court of Inquiry in Malta. Kidd swore the crew to secrecy and threatened, “You are never, repeat never, to discuss this with anyone, not even your wives. If you do, you will be court-martialed and will end your lives in prison or worse.”

The wounded, who were taken off the ship by helicopter before Malta, were sworn to secrecy shortly afterward. Here's Larry Slaven describing how he was told to keep quiet about the Liberty incident:

The secrecy was needed because Israel soon claimed that the attack on the Liberty was a case of mistaken identity; that they confused the Liberty with an Egyptian ship. The Liberty crew knew better, but to refute that claim meant prison.

When Edward Snowden released classified information in June 2013, some were relevant to the USS Liberty incident. We now know that the Liberty's mission was directed by the NSA and Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ, Britain's NSA-equivalent) and that the Liberty crew included Hebrew translators. Liberty's mission was to spy on Israel during the Six Day War.

Why would Israel want to sink a U.S. Navy spy ship?

Israel didn't want the U.S. spying on their communications when they were planning to capture the Golan Heights that was part of Syria at the time. The Johnson administration had warned against the use of force in capturing territory during Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan's visit to the U.S. in November 1966.

Moshe Dayan
Moshe Dayan

In 1991, Dwight Porter, the US Ambassador in Lebanon at the time of the Liberty Incident, recalled that radio operators at the listening post in the US Embassy in Beirut intercepted this dialog between an Israeli fighter pilot and the IDF war room:

“This is an American ship. Do you still want us to attack?”

“Yes, follow orders.”

“But sir, it’s an American ship - I can see the flag!”

“Never mind; hit it.”

In 2009, Iftach Spector wrote a book called "Loud and Clear: The Memoir of an Israeli Fighter Pilot". Spector was the lead Mirage pilot who attacked the Liberty. In the book, he writes, “I was manipulated by somebody from a distance.” and “Was I deceived and sent to shoot up a friendly American ship?” However, he goes on to say that the Liberty wasn't flying a flag so the ship couldn't be identified. The Liberty survivors disagree. The only time the Liberty wasn't flying a flag was after it had been attacked and shot up. Then the flag was replaced.

On January 20, 2018, the American Legion published compelling evidence that the attack on the USS Liberty was deliberate, citing CIA reports from June and October 1967 that said sources in Tel Aviv reported, “Israel's forces knew exactly what flag the LIBERTY was flying” and that Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan “personally ordered the attack” over the objections of senior uniformed military personnel, one of whom characterized the attack as “pure murder”.

In 2021, a FOIA Lawsuit exposed additional information from CIA sources that the attack was deliberate.

The attack killed 34 crew members and injured 171. There was significant damage to the ship. Members of the Liberty crew were presented with 2 Navy Crosses, 12 Silver Stars, 20 Bronze Stars, more than 200 Purple Hearts, the Medal of Honor for the ship's captain, William McGonagle, and the Presidential Unit Citation. The USS Liberty and its crew are highly-decorated, but the real story of the attack is still not recognized by their government.

The U.S. Congress has been asked to declare June 8 as USS Liberty Remembrance Day, but this has yet to happen. Isn't it the least we can do for the Liberty survivors?

Source material for this article

USS Liberty Survivors

by Ed Sawicki

USS Liberty survivors
Don Pageler and Larry Slaven

I attended the 56th reunion of the USS Liberty survivors in Colorado Springs in June 2023. I had a chance to interview some of the crew.

Don Pageler is now 77 years old (in 2023). He experienced PTSD after returning to the US after the attack. This went undiagnosed for many years. A VA visit revealed life-threatening high blood pressure, but Don, like all the Liberty crew, was unable to talk about the things troubling him. He and all Liberty survivors were ordered to keep silent about the incident, and that included mentioning it in visits to the VA hospital.

Eventually, the VA sent him to a facility where he was allowed to talk about the attack with medical staff. After a few sessions, his blood pressure fell below the danger zone.

Since his wife's passing several years ago, Don's life centers around the Liberty and his fellow survivors. I saw the wife of a fellow survivor whisper encouraging words to him and kiss him on the cheek. He volunteers to speak at various gatherings where he displays photos in a slide show and tells his personal stories.

He sees his children occasionally, but I sensed loneliness. More than once, he and I stopped speaking—me to get rid of the lump in my throat. I asked if there might yet be another woman in his life, given that he's “only 77.” He smiled, but that tailed off into a stare.

Larry Slaven was severely wounded in the attack. I asked him about his wounds, and he indicated that few body parts went undamaged. He took shrapnel in his chest and limbs. One of his toes was shot off. He now wears an electronic device resembling an ankle bracelet worn by felons. He says the bracelet somehow connects to his brain, allowing him to better maintain his balance when standing and walking. Still, I noticed that the steps he takes are deliberate. Larry smiles more, and I sense that his family situation allows him to better cope.

Here's audio from an interview Larry gave:

Another Liberty veteran expressed concern that my reporting would portray the Liberty survivors as being anti-Semitic. This has been a concern of the Liberty survivors for many years. Here's a statement that appears on the USS Liberty Memorial website that addresses the issue:

The USS Liberty Memorial website abhors the racist and extreme positions taken by antiSemitic, Holocaust denial, conspiracy theorist, and other such groups which often seek to identify with us and to usurp our story as their own. We have no connection with and do not support or encourage support from any of these groups...We wish harm to no one and encourage social justice and equality for everyone; we seek only accountability for the criminal acts perpetrated against us and can do that without help from hate-mongers.

On the Israeli side, the group of pro-Israel, anti-American critics of our story, while small, persists in launching loud, vicious ad hominem attacks on anyone who attempts to discuss the deliberateness of the attack. These anti-American apologists refuse to discuss the facts of the case. Instead, they rely on propaganda and charge anyone who questions the Israeli position with being anti-Semitic.

Are aircraft carriers obsolete?

Henschel Hs 293
Henschel Hs 293 glide bomb

The article titled “Can’t Teach an Old Navy New Tricks” in Issue 2 of The Gap told the story of the U.S. Navy brass who couldn't see the days of the battleship being numbered and the aircraft carrier taking its place. We're on the brink of another such paradigm shift that the U.S. Navy will likely also not see coming.

First, some history. In 1943, Nazi Germany developed the Henschel Hs 293 radio-guided glide bomb used as an anti-ship weapon. It was used with great success, sinking at least 25 ships. Eventually, the Allies figured out that they could defeat this weapon by jamming its radio frequencies. In the 1960s, the Soviet Union developed the P-15 Termit anti-ship missile. China acquired the design and developed a variant called Silkworm. It was used to sink some ships during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. Israel developed their Gabriel Mark I missile that they used against Egyptian and Syrian ships during the Yom Kippur War (1973).

Numerous other anti-ship missiles have been developed since then, with missile range and warhead power improvements. This brings us to the present.

On April 14, 2022, Ukraine forces sunk the Russian cruiser Moskva using two R-360 Neptune anti-ship missiles. The missiles started fires that eventually caused a weapons magazine to explode, causing the ship to sink and deaths estimated to be somewhere between 40 and 300. The Moskva is likely the largest warship sunk by anti-ship missiles since WWII. The HMS Sheffield, sunk during the Falklands War (May 1982) by an Argentine AM39 Exocet anti-ship missile, was about half the size of the Moskova.

Russian cruiser Moskva
Russian cruiser Moskva

The Moskva wasn't sunk by a weapon made by a traditional Western power. The R-360 missile was designed and built in Kyiv, Ukraine. It has a limited range of up to 190 miles (300 km). There are dozens of other anti-ship missiles made in other countries with more range and bigger warheads. These weapons are a threat to U.S. aircraft carriers and their support ships, just as the Moskva.

Given that the U.S. has recently demonized China and both countries have been engaged in saber-rattling, it's useful to know what anti-ship capability China has. The Chinese Dong-Feng 21 (DF-21D) is the world's first anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM). It's a two-stage, solid-fuel rocket, single-warhead missile with a range of 1,100 miles (1,770 km). It can carry a conventional 600kg warhead or a 300-500 kiloton nuclear warhead. The Chinese Dong Feng-26 (DF-26) extends the range to 3,100 miles (5,000 km).

In August 2023, Nick Danby, currently attending Naval Officer Candidate School, wrote an article titled “Carrier Strike Groups Should Be Ready to Go Dark in Conflict”. Danby writes, “If a carrier somehow managed to flee...unscathed from the war’s initial salvos, it would have to continue...hiding...until U.S. submarines and bombers cleared out China’s ‘carrier-killer’ platforms.”

What should the U.S. Navy do? It should look to China to see how China intends to defend itself. China has three aircraft carriers, while the U.S. has eleven. The U.S. intends on maintaining that number even as carriers become obsolete—they'll be replaced at a cost of $13 billion (2018 dollars) each with certainty that Congress will approve the purchases.

China doesn't seem to be planning to match the U.S. in the number of carriers, but they do seem to intend on matching or exceeding the number of submarines. Submarines are less expensive than carriers—a Virginia-class sub is about $2.6 billion (2019 dollars)—and are stealthy, so hiding is their natural state. Also, carriers require a crew of about 5,000 while a Virginia-class sub has a crew of 130.

It could be that the Japanese had the right idea during World War II. Their I-400 class submarines had a pressurized aircraft bay that could hold three aircraft. Updated for today's technology, we could have submersible UAV platforms for less than the price of a sub, and the platform could be unmanned as well.

Why Electric Cars Are Better

by Ed Sawicki

At a breakfast meeting one day, a science-literate artist friend joked, “Elon Musk has figured out a way for cars to be powered by coal.” This confused others at the table, but I knew what he meant immediately. I added, “Electric cars are the ultimate flex-fuel vehicles.”

The others were still confused, so we had to explain that electric cars run on energy stored in batteries, and those batteries are recharged from an external power source. That power source may be an electrical outlet in your garage. The car doesn't care that the power company generates that electricity by burning coal, oil, gas, or from hydroelectric, nuclear, etc.

Suppose you're charging your car with electricity generated primarily from coal, one of the most polluting fuels. Is your electric car better for the environment than a car with a gasoline-burning, internal-combustion engine?

Chevrolet Bolt EV motor and gearbox
Chevrolet Bolt EV motor and gearbox (cutaway view)

Generally, the answer is yes. This is because of engine vs. electric motor efficiency. When an engine burns gasoline, it produces rotary motion (torque) and heat. The heat is the undesirable part and requires additional apparatus to cool the engine. If you've ever put your hand near an engine exhaust manifold, you know it gets very hot. That heat is wasted energy.

Electric motors are more efficient and produce substantially less heat, resulting in less wasted energy. For a given amount of fuel, the electric car uses that fuel more efficiently.

The electric car’s motor or motors replace the engine and transmission of a conventional car. It may also replace some of the drive train. It reduces mechanical complexity, failures, maintenance, etc. The diagram shows a cutaway view of the electric motor and gearbox used in the Chevrolet Bolt EV. The gearbox is not a typical transmission—it doesn't shift gears. The same gears are used regardless of the speed of the car. The typical EV gear ratio is between 7:1 and 10:1.

When you bring your electric car to Jiffy Lube, there's less to do. There's no oil change, though there may be with high-performance motors like on the Tesla Model S. They'll check the brake fluid, air conditioning, and air filters. Also, electric cars have power steering, but it's electric, not hydraulic, so there are no power steering fluids to check.

The regenerative braking system on electric cars charges the battery when your car decelerates. It takes less work on the part of the brakes to bring the car to a stop, so the brakes last longer.

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