||Kept Afloat By The Hand Of God
By: Ronald Kukal
I have been asked to give my testimony, and I have hesitated, because words never seem to be enough. By the same token, the Bible is filled with those people who never felt adequate in doing God's will. I believe this to be exactly what God requires of me, and so the following is given so that as
many as possible will know the power of Almighty God.
On June 8, 1967 during the Vietnam War, I was aboard a Navy vessel called the USS LIBERTY. This unarmed ship was sailing the waters off the coast of Israel during the "Six Day War", and the crew was not expecting what happened to us that day. For those of you who don't remember the attack on the Liberty, let me refresh your memory just a bit.
The ship was sailing 15 miles off the coast in international waters when the Israeli Defense Force attacked her. She was subjected to torpedoes, 50 caliber machine gun fire, napalm, and rocket fire. There was over 800 holes in the Liberty after the attack, she was listing about 10 degrees to the starboard, and was on fire in many places. Thirty-four men were killed and close to 70% of the crew were wounded, of which I was one. For those that would like to read about the attack with a blow, by blow description, I would suggest that you contact me, and I can send you the book, "Assault on the Liberty".
What I want to talk about is the reason that I am alive, and the many miracles that I was exposed to during, and after the attack.
On June 8, 1967 at approximently 1400, French built Mirage jets attacked the Liberty. As I was not topside when the attack started, the sound of the rocket fire, and 50 caliber rounds sounded like hail as they struck the main deck. I thought we had run aground, but common sense told me this couldn't be true, and it was furthermost from my mind that we were under attack. The sound of the rocket fire, and bullets hitting the deck above me went on for what seemed like an eternity, and there was a time of silence in between as the planes made their pass over, and then swung around for another strike. When the planes were done, they had left ten men topside dead, as the only armament we had were 50 caliber machine guns, and they were like peashooters against the Mirage jets, and besides that we were not ready for any kind of attack whatsoever. The element of surprise was theirs.
I survived the attack by the planes, but the worst was yet to come, as the torpedo boats were bearing down on us, with one thing in mind, and that was to put us to the bottom. Five torpedoes were fired at the Liberty with only one of them finding its mark. If more then one had hit the ship, I know I would not be here telling this story. This was the second miracle that I was exposed to that day, the first being the surviving of the onslaught by the jet aircraft.
The torpedo hit the Liberty almost amidships on the starboard side, and I was approximently thirty feet from the explosion. There were a couple of bulkheads between the explosion, and myself but they were like paper to the several tons of TNT that tore up the bowels of the Liberty. What had been several compartments were turned into one big room in a very short time. I was immediately immersed in sea water, and it was rising fast to the point where it would be above my head in a short time, and even though I could swim, the compartment would soon become completely full, and there would be no place to go. The hatch to the above deck was closed, and dogged down, and so my life again depended completely on what God would do. Just before the compartment became fully flooded the hatch above me was opened to let as many of us as possible out of there before we became a part of a watery grave. This was the third miracle that I saw that day, but there was even more to come, and so as I ran to get to the main deck, I was slipping and sliding because of the water, and blood that was awash within each passageway.
As I reached the hatch to the main deck the Engineering officer, Mr. Golden, told us to turn around and go back down below to make sure all had gotten out. This was not to my liking, but I did as I was ordered. There seemed to be no one left to rescue when we got back to the torpedoed part of the ship, and had I known that twenty four more men were already dead down below, I'm not sure I would have wanted to go back.
We then headed topside as quickly as we could, and one of my shipmates told me that we were welcomed by hails of machine gun fire from the torpedo boats. Many, including myself were oblivious to the machine gun fire, because we were very happy to be away from what had happened down below.
The fourth miracle had just occurred when I was exposed to the machine gun fire on the main deck, and still remained alive, and still there was more to come. Every antenna we had, was shot to pieces except one, and it had never worked very well. One of the radiomen told me that he tried several times to call for help, and finally when he realized that all the antenna were shot, he switched to the one that had always given him trouble, and when it was needed, it worked. We were able to call the Sixth Fleet, and notify them of our predicament through an antenna that had hardly ever worked. The fifth miracle had just occurred.
Shortly after our call for help, the attack seemed to subside, and many of us were able to move around being very cautious of the torpedo boats, and planes coming back.
The attack had gone on for two hours, or more, but it seemed like only a few minutes. The captain told us that we had lost our steering control, and that we would have to go aft, and steer the ship manually. Several of us were still able to move about, and went immediately to the aftersteering to do as the captain ordered. We were able to make headway, and in time were headed for the island of Malta, and to dry dock. This was almost one thousand miles away, and here we were with a ship that had a forty by forty-foot hole in her side, on fire, and riddled with holes.
Most of us slept topside at night because we were told that the Liberty could go down at any minute, and that we should be ready to abandon ship. We, of course, were in complete agreement. We did sail the thousand miles without incident, and this had to be the sixth miracle of the day.
Upon entering dry dock, we were told that when the dock was drained of all its water that we would have to go down below, and help to identify, and recover our own shipmates bodies. I was one of the crew that went down below, and I know that God gave me the strength to go and do what was expected of me. I will not describe what we saw down there, as I don't believe it will help my testimony in any way. Let it suffice to say that, under the conditions, only men that were strengthened, and held up by God himself would be able to enter the dark area down below.
The body recovery was done, by the crew, the crew did the identification, and the crew accomplished the packing of the men's belongings that died. After this was all taken care of, many of us were told we could go home for extended leave. I was more then ready, and we were flown to Madrid, Spain to catch the next flight out for the United States.
The Liberty story has been mostly covered up, and as it is embarrassing to our government, not much is said. I was the chaplain for the USS Liberty Veterans Association for several years, as we all decided to try and stay together in the form of an association, for reunions, and such. The Liberty was kept afloat by the hand of God, not all of the crew believes that, but I do. I have tried to convince my shipmates that there was no other way we could have survived, and to many it doesn't seem to make much sense. They would rather give themselves credit for our survival.
I do not know how many miracles happened on that fateful day, and I am sure there were many more then I am aware of. I also do not believe that I would have ever come to know the Lord, without this particular incident in my life. It has humbled me, and shown me the power of the hand of God.
This last paragraph is not meant to cause any controversy, but there are some who believe that on June 7, 1967 with the taking back of the old city of Jerusalem by the Jews, signaled the beginning of the last generation, which would be forty years. I leave you to draw your own conclusions as to that belief. I would like to say that I have felt strongly that it may be possible that the only reason God saved the Liberty was so that we could tell our story, for the glory of God, and God alone. I do also believe that the end times are very near, and we need to be a testimony for all to see, that Christ, and Christ alone is the only way to eternal life.
Luke 12:2 - "For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known."
To those who have never heard of the Liberty before, and especially to those who attacked this unarmed ship: Look closely at the destruction that has occurred here. Look closely at the number of holes in this ship, the forty by forty foot hole that was punched in her starboard side, the fires that were set by napalm, and then you decide. Where was God that day?
How could anyone survive this destruction on their own? I think it is very apparent where He was that day, and what He was doing for the crew of the Liberty.
Take heed those that think they have God on their side.
Here is a warning from the Word of God concerning the taking of the ark of the covenant out of Shiloh, 1 Samuel 4. It is a warning to those, even today, who think they can do what they want when they want, and that God will be with them.
1 Samuel 4:1 - And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Ebenezer: and the Philistines pitched in Aphek.
The crew of the Liberty consisted of whites, blacks, Jews, and many nationalities. I remind you all that Scripture says that the Gentiles have been grafted in, along with the Jews. We are all as one who believe in Christ's resurrection and the price that He paid. No one can take that away, and it is ours for eternity.
1 Samuel 4:2 - And the Philistines put themselves in array against Israel: and when they joined battle, Israel was smitten before the Philistines: and they slew of the army in the field about four thousand men.
1 Samuel 4:3 - And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.
1 Samuel 4:4 - So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from thence the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth between the cherubims: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
1 Samuel 4:5 - And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again.
1 Samuel 4:6 - And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the LORD was come into the camp.
1 Samuel 4:7 - And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore.
1 Samuel 4:8 - Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.
1 Samuel 4:9 - Be strong and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit yourselves like men, and fight.
1 Samuel 4:10 - And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen.
1 Samuel 4:11 - And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.
1 Samuel 4:12 - And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head.
1 Samuel 4:13 - And when he came, lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching: for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city, and told it, all the city cried out.
1 Samuel 4:14 - And when Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said, What meaneth the noise of this tumult? And the man came in hastily, and told Eli.
1 Samuel 4:15 - Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were dim, that he could not see.
1 Samuel 4:16 - And the man said unto Eli, I am he that came out of the army, and I fled to day out of the army. And he said, What is there done, my son?
1 Samuel 4:17 - And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken.
1 Samuel 4:18 - And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years.
1 Samuel 4:19 - And his daughter in law, Phinehas' wife, was with child, near to be delivered: and when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was taken, and that her father in law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and travailed; for her pains came upon her.
1 Samuel 4:20 - And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her, Fear not; for thou hast born a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it.
1 Samuel 4:21 - And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband.
1 Samuel 4:22 - And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.
This site is set up for the Glory of God. It is meant by testimony, to show others that the time is now to turn your life over to the Lord. Please contact me through the following email address:
I am available for speaking engagements.
Please contact me with the above email address.
Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power after the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Chaplain for the USS Liberty Veterans Association
I have been looking for an artist that could paint a picture of God holding the USS LIBERTY up. One hand on the stern of the ship and the other on the bow. If anyone is interested, email me at: [email protected]
"Take The "Liberty" Not To Forget"
By: Major Van Harl