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William Loren McGonagle

Date of birth: November 19, 1925
Date of death: March 03, 1999
Burial location: Arlington, Virginia
Place of Birth: Kansas, Wichita
Home of record: Thermal California

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.


Medal of Honor

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Awarded for actions during the U.S.S. Liberty Incident

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Captain William Loren McGonagle (NSN: 494467), United States 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.

Action Date: June 08 & 9, 1967

Service: Navy

Rank: Captain

Company: Commanding Officer

Division: U.S.S. Liberty (ATGR-5)