USS Cole October 12, 2000
By Garland Davis
On the morning of Thursday, 12 October 2000, USS Cole, under the command of Commander Kirk Lippold, docked in Aden harbor for a routine fuel stop. Cole completed mooring at 9:30; and began refueling at 10:30. Around 11:18 local time (08:18 UTC), a small fiberglass boat carrying C4 explosives and two suicide bombers approached the port side of the destroyer and exploded, creating a 40-by-60-foot (12 by 18 m) gash in the ship’s port side, according to the memorial plate to those who lost their lives. Former CIA intelligence officer Robert Finke said the blast appeared to be caused by C4 explosives molded into a shaped charge against the hull of the boat. Around 400 to 700 pounds (180 to 320 kg) of explosives were used. Much of the blast entered a mechanical space below the ship’s galley, violently pushing up the deck, thereby killing crew members who were lining up for lunch. The crew fought flooding in the engineering spaces and had the damage under control after three days. Divers inspected the hull and determined that the keel was not damaged.
Seventeen sailors were killed and 39 were injured in the blast. The injured were taken to the United States Army’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center near Ramstein, Germany, before being sent to the United States. The attack was the deadliest against a U.S. naval vessel since the Iraqi attack on USS Stark on 17 May 1987. The asymmetric warfare attack was organized and directed by the terrorist organization al-Qaeda. In June 2001, an al-Qaeda recruitment video featuring Osama bin Laden boasted about the attack and encouraged similar attacks.
Al-Qaeda had previously attempted a similar but less publicized attack on the U.S. Navy destroyer USS The Sullivans while in port at Aden on 3 January 2000, as a part of the 2000 millennium attack plots. The plan was to load a boat full of explosives and explode it near The Sullivans. However, the boat was so overladen that it sank, forcing the attack to be abandoned. Planning for the attack was discussed at the Kuala Lumpur al-Qaeda Summit shortly after the attempt, which was held from 5 to 8 January 2000. Along with other plotters, it was attended by future 11 September hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar, who then traveled to San Diego, California. On 10 June 2000, Mihdhar left San Diego to visit his wife in Yemen at a house also used as a communications hub for al-Qaeda. After the bombing, Yemeni Prime Minister Abdul Karim al-Iryani reported that Mihdhar had been one of the key planners of the attack and had been in the country at the time of the attacks. He would later return to the United States to participate in 9/11 on American Airlines Flight 77, which flew into the Pentagon, killing 184 victims.
The first naval ship on the scene to assist the stricken Cole was the Royal Navy Type 23 frigate, HMS Marlborough, under the command of Captain Anthony Rix. She was on passage to the UK after a six-month deployment in the Gulf. Marlborough had full medical and damage control teams on board and when her offer of assistance was accepted she immediately diverted to Aden. Eleven of the most badly injured sailors were sent via MEDEVAC to a French military hospital in Djibouti and underwent surgery before being sent to Germany.
The first U.S. military support to arrive was a U.S. Air Force Security Forces Quick Reaction Force from the 363d Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, 363d Air Expeditionary Wing, based in Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, transported by C-130 aircraft. They were followed by another small group of United States Marines from the Interim Marine Corps Security Force Company, Bahrain flown in by P-3 Orion aircraft. Both forces landed within a few hours after the ship was struck and were reinforced by a U.S Marine platoon with the 1st Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Company (FAST), based out of Norfolk, Virginia. The Marines from 6th Platoon, 1st FAST arrived on the 13 October from Norfolk, Virginia. The FAST platoon and security forces airmen secured USS Cole and a nearby hotel that was housing the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen.
USS Donald Cook and USS Hawes made best speed to arrive in the vicinity of Aden that afternoon providing repair and logistical support. USNS Catawba, USS Camden, Anchorage, Duluth, and Tarawa arrived in Aden some days later, providing watch relief crews, harbor security, damage control equipment, billeting, and food service for the crew of Cole. LCU 1666 provided daily runs from Tarawa with hot food and supplies and ferrying personnel to and from all other naval vessels supporting Cole. In the remaining days, LCU 1632 and various personnel from LCU 1666 teamed up to patrol around Cole while MV Blue Marlin was preparing to take up station to receive Cole.
17 Sailors were killed and 39 others wounded in the al-Qaeda attack on USS Cole.
Those killed in the attack:
- Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter, 21, of Mechanicsville, Virginia
- Chief Electronics Technician Richard Costelow, 35, of Morrisville, Pennsylvania
- Mess Management Specialist Seaman Lakeina Monique Francis, 19, of Woodleaf, North Carolina
- Information Systems Technician Seaman Timothy Lee Gauna, 21, of Rice, Texas
- Signalman Seaman Cherone Louis Gunn, 22, from Virginia Beach, Virginia
- Seaman James Rodrick McDaniels, 19, of Norfolk, Virginia
- Engineman 2nd Class Marc Ian Nieto, 24, of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
- Electronics Warfare Technician 2nd Class Ronald Scott Owens, 24, of Vero Beach, Florida
- Seaman Lakiba Nicole Palmer, 22, of San Diego, California
- Fireman Joshua Langdon Parlett, 19, of Churchville, Maryland
- Fireman Patrick Howard Roy, 19, from Keedysville, Maryland
- Electronic Warfare Technician 1st Class Kevin Shawn Rux, 30, of Portland, North Dakota
- Mess Management Specialist 3rd Class Ronchester Manangan Santiago, 22, of Kingsville, Texas
- Operations Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Lamont Saunders, 32, of Ringgold, Virginia
- Fireman Gary Graham Swenchonis Jr., 26, from Rockport, Texas
- Ensign Andrew Triplett, 31, of Macon, Mississippi
- Seaman Craig Bryan Wibberley, 19, of Williamsport, Maryland
Medical care of the wounded was assigned to CDR Thomas Preston Davis of Naval Medical Center Portsmouth.
A wreath laid by the crew of USS Cole at the Norfolk Naval Station memorial, Oct. 12, 2011.
A memorial to the victims of the attack was dedicated at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia on 12 October 2001. It was erected along the shore of Willoughby Bay and overlooks the channel used by Navy ships transiting to sea. Seventeen low-level markers stand for the youthfulness of the sailors, whose lives were cut short. Three tall granite monoliths, each bearing brass plaques, stand for the three colors of the American flag. A set of brown markers encircling the memorial symbolize the darkness and despair that overcame the ship. In addition, 28 black pine trees were planted to represent the 17 sailors and the 11 children they left behind.
The memorial was funded by contributions from thousands of private individuals and businesses to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, which gave the memorial to the Navy. Its design originated as a vision of USS Cole crew members, who then teamed with Navy architects and the Society to finalize the project.] The Cole memorial is located about 500 feet (150 m) west of the Naval Station memorial for the USS Iowa turret explosion. There is also another memorial marker placed at Wisconsin Square in the city of Norfolk, near USS Wisconsin.