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First Name: William

Last Name: McGonagle

Birthplace: Wichita, KS, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: Loren

Date of Birth: 19 November 1925

Date of Death: 03 March 1999

Rank or Rate: Captain

Years Served: 1944-1974
William Loren McGonagle

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)
•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)
•  USS Liberty Incident (1967)


William Loren McGonagle
Captain, U.S. Navy
Medal of Honor Recipient
USS Liberty Incident

William Loren McGonagle (19 November 1925 - 3 March 1999) was a U.S. Naval officer who received the Medal of Honor for his actions while in command of the USS Liberty (AGTR-5) when it was attacked by the Israel Defense Force in the Eastern Mediterranean on 8 June 1967 during the Six-Day War.

William Loren McGonagle was born on 19 November 1925 in Wichita, KS. After attending secondary school and college in California, he enlisted in the Navy in 1944 and for the next three years participated in a Navy training program at the University of Southern California. In June 1947 he accepted a commission in the Navy as an Ensign.

After accepting a commission in the U.S. Navy, McGonagle held various assignments. He was assigned to the destroyer USS Frank Knox (DD-742) and after that was posted to the minesweeper USS Partridge (AMS-31) from 1947-1950. During the Korean War he served on the minesweeper USS Kite (AMS-22) during the extensive operation that earned him and the other members of the crew a Presidential Unit Citation. From 1951 to 1966, he was assigned to various positions ashore and afloat, including commands of the fleet tug USS Mataco (AT-86) from 1957-1958 and the salvage ship USS Reclaimer (ARS-42) from 1961-1963.

McGonagle took command of the USS Liberty in April 1966 and on 8 June 1967 the Liberty was attacked while sailing in international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Israeli government claimed the ship was an Egyptian vessel and attacked it with jets, helicopters and motor torpedo boats. McGonagle was severely wounded during the first air attack but remained in command throughout the night and the seventeen-hour attack. Although the bridge had sustained heavy damage, he stayed and directed the defense of the ship, refusing to leave his post for needed medical attention. As the Israeli fighters continued their attack, he maneuvered his ship, directed its defense, supervised the control of flooding and fire, and saw to the care of the casualties. Eventually a United States destroyer arrived to assist and he permitted himself to be removed from the bridge and relinquished command of the Liberty. The combined air and sea attack killed 34 crew members including naval officers, seamen, two Marines, and a civilian. It wounded 171, and severely damaged the ship. Although the ship had a 39 ft. (12 m) wide by 24 ft. (7.3 m) high hole and a twisted keel, the crew kept the ship afloat, and were able to leave the area under their own power. When the damage to the ship was assessed, 821 rocket and machine-gun holes were found in the ship's hull.

For his heroic actions during the sustained attack, McGonagle was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor

His Medal of Honor citation (which fails to mention Israel) reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer, USS Liberty (AGTR-5) in the Eastern Mediterranean on 8-9 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 (then Commander) 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 conn his ship for more than seventeen hours. It was only after rendezvous with a United States 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 United States Naval Service.

The Medal of Honor was presented to him at the Washington Navy Yard by the Secretary of the Navy, rather than at the White House by the President.

After being promoted to Captain in October 1967 and recovering from his wounds, he was given command of the new ammunition ship USNS Kilauea (T-AE-26). His last command was as the Commanding officer of the NROTC Unit at the University of Oklahoma. He retired from active duty in 1974.

Death and Burial

Captain William Loren McGonagle died on 3 March 1999 at Palm Springs, CA. Following services at the Post Chapel at Fort Myer, VA, he was buried with full military honors on 9 April 1999 at Arlington National Cemetery with members of his USS Liberty crew in attendance. His grave can be found in Section 34, Lot 208, Map Grid U/V 11, near the common gravesite of six other members of the USS Liberty crew.

Honoree ID: 1976   Created by: MHOH




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