Remembering the U.S.S. Cole

On October 12, 2000 at 09:30 local time the USS Cole completed it’s mooring in to the port of Aden for refueling.

The damage done to the USS Cole - From US Navy Archives

As the process started, a little after 11 am a small craft approached the vessel. At 6,800 tons, a US Naval destroyer is not a small ship, but in the warrior class of naval warfare they are one of the lighter combatants.

However the craft that approached was much smaller. The small boat is believed to have been packed with 400-700 pounds of explosives, and the blast blew a 40-foot hole in the side of the USS Cole.

According to former CIA intelligence officer Robert Finke, the blast appeared to be caused by explosives molded into a shaped charge against the hull of the boat.

Diagram of USS Cole bombing via Rueters, 2000

(Click for larger image)

Seventeen sailors were killed and thirty-nine others were injured in the blast. The injured sailors were taken to the United States Army’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center near Ramstein, Germany and later, back to the United States. The attack was the deadliest against a U.S. Naval vessel since the Iraqi attack on the USS Stark (FFG-31) on May 17, 1987.

Those sailors killed in action were as follows:

  • Chief Petty Officer Richard Costelow, Morrisville, Pennsylvania.
  • Signalman Seaman Recruit Cheron Luis Gunn, Rex, Georgia.
  • Seaman James Rodrick McDaniels, Norfolk, Virginia.
  • Seaman Recruit Lakiba Nicole Palmer, San Diego, California.
  • Operations Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Lamont Saunders, Ringgold, Virginia.
  • Ensign Andrew Triplett, Macon, Mississippi.
  • Seaman Apprentice Craig Bryan Wibberley, Williamsport, Maryland.
  • Hull Maintenance Technician 3rd Class, Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter, Mechanicsville, Virginia.
  • Mess Management Specialist Seaman Lakeina Monique Francis, Woodleaf, North Carolina.
  • Information Systems Technician Seaman Timothy Lee Gauna, Rice, Texas
  • Engineman 2nd Class Mark Ian Nieto, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
  • Electronics Warfare Technician 3rd Class Ronald Scott Owens, Vero Beach, Florida.
  • Engineman Fireman Joshua Langdon Parlett, Churchville, Maryland.
  • Fireman Apprentice Patrick Howard Roy, Cornwall on Hudson, New York.
  • Electronics Warfare Technician 2nd Class Kevin Shawn Rux, Portland, North Dakota.
  • Mess Management Specialist 3rd Class Ronchester Mananga Santiago, Kingsville, Texas
  • Fireman Gary Graham Swenchonis Jr., Rockport, Texas

The USS Cole was recovered and returned to the United States for repairs and upgrades. She sails the waters again currently. On a blue tile floor of a passageway in the Cole, 17 stars have been laid, each representing a sailor lost.

The USS Cole Memorial at Naval Station Norfolk

Their tragic loss reminds us that even when America is not at war, the men and women of our military still risk their lives for peace.

I am quite sure history will record in great detail our triumphs in battle, but I regret that no one will ever be able to write a full account of the wars we never fought, the losses we never suffered, the tears we never shed, because men and women like those who were on the USS Cole were standing guard for peace. We should never ever forget that.

Today, I ask all Americans just to take a moment to thank the men and women of our armed forces for a debt we can never repay, whose character and courage more than even modern weapons makes our military the strongest in the world.
- Bill Clinton , excerpt of USS Cole Memorial Speech

Frmr President William J Clinton and the crew of the USS Cole during Memorial Service

The asymmetric warfare attack was organized and directed by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist organization.In June 2001, an al-Qaeda recruitment video featuring bin Laden boasted about the attack and encouraged similar attacks.

Al-Qaeda had previously attempted a similar but less publicized attack on the US Navy destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) while in port at Aden, Yemen on January 3, 2000 as a part of the 2000 millennium attack plots. The plan was to load a boat full of explosives and explode near The Sullivans. However the boat was so overladen that it sank, forcing the attack to be abandoned.

I was recalled to active duty shortly after this incident. I had been working in Spokane, WA doing cell towers for a now defunct company called O2 wireless working on a cellular network in the region.

I recall deftly sitting in my hotel room with my good friend kdwill as we looked at each other (he also a prior service member) and talking of how this would bode ill for whatever poor soul attacked us.

We were wrong.

The man who coordinated this attack, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri,, was captured. Nashiri, 45, was captured in the United Arab Emirates in November 2002, and immediately placed in CIA custody and until August of this year, 2010, court proceeding by the United States had been underway charging him with the events that felled these sailors in the line of duty.

On August 26, 2010 President Obama and his Administration halted the prosecution. In a filing that week in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the Justice Department said that “no charges are either pending or contemplated with respect to al-Nashiri in the near future

Of the suspects involved with the bombing of the USS Cole only one has been punished in any form to date. On 4 November 2002, Ali Qaed Sinan al-Harthi, a suspected al-Qaida operative, who is believed to have been involved in the planning of the Cole attack, was killed by the CIA using an AGM-114 Hellfire missile launched from an MQ-1 Predator drone.

The USS Cole, repaired and re-outfitted, returned to the Middle East on 8 June 2006 for the first time since the bombing.

USS Cole DDG-67 returns from deployment

While passing the port city of Aden the crew manned the rails to honor the crewmembers killed in the bombing.

She returned to her home port of Norfolk on 6 December 2006 without incident.

Take a moment of silence this morning, for the fallen sailors who fell not in a time of war, but in a time of peace. Defending our shores abroad as our military does, and killed by a faceless man, who hides in a cave somewhere. A man whom to this day still roams free.

Remember those sailors, and the debt we owe them.

Non sibi sed patriae

Bloggers covering the USS Cole incident today:

Trackback, or leave your own links in the response. I’ll update through out the day as I can.

4 Responses to “Remembering the U.S.S. Cole”

  • Bin Laden may be on the loose, but he is NOT free, he hides in caves, full of fear, and paranoid..He cannot show his face in public for fear of being killed…I hope the paranoia and stress of his constant hiding haunts his dreams, and the constant fear of being found causes him great health failings until the day we blow his tiny head into a million bloody bits…. VD

  • The point was that the only person we had in custody is no longer being processed.

    The others are all currently free. I’d call living in a cave with your friends, families, soldiers, internet, and choice in food around you being free versus that of Death Row or in Gitmo.

  • Oh no, I agree, point well made, however I just like to think that the others are living in constant fear, thats the only thing that keeps my mind at ease….

    And at least someone was splattered with the AGM-114 Hellfire missile!

  • True.

    I need to get out more I guess heh

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