Sailors from the USS Cole (DDG 67) pay their respects to recently buried Cole crew members at
Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 11, 2000. Cole sailors were invited to take part in Veterans
Day receptions and ceremonies at the White House and Arlington Cemetery. The Arleigh Burke
class destroyer was the target of a suspected terrorist attack in the port of Aden, Yemen, on October
12, 2000, during a scheduled refueling. The attack killed 17 crew members and injured 39 others.
Casualties of the USS Cole Returned To The United States
14 October 2000
Photo Courtesy of DefenseLink
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
Clinton Speech at USS Cole Memorial
Secretary Cohen, General Reno, Secretary Danzig, General Shelton, distinguished members of the Senate and House, Governor, Admiral Clark, Admiral Natter, Chaplain Black, Master Chief Hefty, to the sailors of the USS Cole, the family members and friends, the Norfolk naval community, my fellow Americans, today we honor our finest young people, fallen soldiers who rose to freedom's challenge. We mourn their loss, celebrate their lives, offer the love and prayers of a grateful nation to their families.
For those of us who have to speak here, we are all mindful of the limits of our poor words to lift your spirits or warm your hearts. We know that God has given us the gift of reaching our middle years, and we now have to pray for your children, your husbands, your wives, your brothers, your sisters, who were taken so young.
We know we will never know them as you did or remember them as you will, the first time you saw them in uniform or the last time you said goodbye.
They all had their own stories and their own dreams. We Americans have learned something about each and every one of them over these last difficult days as their profiles, their lives, their loves, their service have been given to us.
For me, I learned a little more when I met with all the families this morning. Some followed the family tradition of Navy service, others hoped to use their service to earn a college degree. One of them had even worked for me in the White House. Richard Costelow was a technology wizard who helped to update the White House communications system for this new century.
All these very different Americans, all with their different stories, their life lines and love ties, answered the same call of service and found themselves on the USS Cole headed for the Persian Gulf where our forces are working to keep peace and stability in a region that could explode and disrupt the entire world.
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.
And in particular, I ask us to thank God today for the lives, the character and courage of the crew of the USS Cole, including the wounded and especially those we lost or are missing: Home Maintenance Technician Third Class Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter; Electronics Technician Chief Petty Officer Richard Costelow; Mess Management Specialist Seaman Lakeina Monique Francis; Information Systems Technician Seaman Timothy Lee Gauna; Signalman Seaman Apprentice Cheron Ouis Gunn; Seaman James Rodrick McDaniels; Engineman Second Class Mark Ian Nieto; Electronics Warfare Technician Third Class Ronald Scott Owens; Seaman Apprentice Lakiba Nicole Palmer; Engine Fireman Joshua Langdon Parlett; Fireman Apprentice Patrick Howard Roy; Electronics Warfare Technician Second Class Kevin Shawn Rux; Mess Management Specialist Third Class Ronchester Mananga Santiago; Operations Specialist Second Class Timothy Lamont Saunders; Fireman Gary Graham Swenchonis Jr.; Ensign Andrew Triplett; Seaman Apprentice Craig Bryan Wibberley.
In the names and faces of those we lost and mourn, the world sees our nation's greatest strength: people in uniform rooted in every race, creed and region on the face of the Earth, yet bound together by a common commitment to freedom and a common pride in being Americans.
That same spirit is living today as the crew of the USS Cole pulls together in a determined struggle to keep the determined warrior afloat.
The idea of common humanity and unity amidst diversity, so purely embodied by those we mourn today, must surely confound the minds of the hate-filled terrorists who killed them. They envy our strength without understanding the values that give us strength. For them, it is their way or no way: their interpretation, twisted though it may be, of a beautiful religious tradition; their political views; their racial and ethnic views. Their way or no way.
Such people can take innocent life. They have caused your tears and anguish, but they can never heal or build harmony or bring people together. That is work only free, law-abiding people can do, people like the sailors of the USS Cole.
To those who attacked them we say: You will not find a safe harbor. We will find you and justice will prevail.
America will not stop standing guard for peace or freedom or stability in the Middle East and around the world. But some way, some day, people must learn the lesson of the lives of those we mourn today, of how they worked together, of how they lived together, of how they reached across all the lines that divided them and embraced their common humanity and the common values of freedom and service.
Not far from here, there is a quiet place that honors those who gave their lives in service to our country. Adorning its entrance are words from a poem by Archibald MacLeish, not only a tribute to the young we lost, but a summons to those of us left behind. Listen to them.
"The young no longer speak, but they have a silence that speaks for them at night. They say, we were young, remember us. They say, we have done what we could, but until it is finished, it is not done. They say, our deaths are not ours, they are yours. They will mean what you make them. They say, whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope, we cannot say. It is you who must say this. They say, we leave you our deaths; give them their meaning."
The lives of the men and women we lost on the USS Cole meant so much to those who loved them, to all Americans, to the cause of freedom.
They have given us their deaths, let us give them their meaning, their meaning of peace and freedom, of reconciliation and love, of service, endurance and hope. After all they have given us, we must give them their meaning.
I ask now that you join me in a moment of silence and prayer for the lost, the missing and their grieving families.
Amen. Thank you, and may God bless you all.
Navy Revises Initial Account Of Bombing
Saturday , October 21, 2000
The Navy yesterday gave a new account of the terrorist attack on the USS Cole, saying the destroyer had already moored and was refueling when it was approached by a small boat laden with explosives in Yemen eight days ago.
The revision casts doubt on previous assertions by top Navy commanders that the bombing was virtually unpreventable because the small boat blended in with harbor workboats helping the U.S. warship tie up to a fueling station in the port of Aden.
In fact, the Navy now says, the apparent suicide attack took place more than 90 minutes after mooring had been completed. At that point, as the ship was already refueling, there was no reason for a small boat to approach the Cole. Sailors with guns had been posted on deck.
The new account also raises questions about the extent to which the attack was an "inside operation." While the terrorists may have had advance knowledge of the ship's arrival, it is unclear whether they had infiltrated the port's work force. Investigators now believe the boat may have been launched from the shore and may have had no connection to the Yemenese company contracted to perform the refueling.
The revelation that the Cole was taking on high-test fuel for its gas-turbine engines at the time of the explosion also means there was a greater danger of a catastrophic explosion that might have sunk the ship or killed more of its crew. The bombing took the lives of 17 sailors and injured 39.
In repeated public statements over the past week, Adm. Vernon Clark, the chief of naval operations, had argued that because the small boat was involved in the mooring, the crew of the Cole "had no reason to suspect . . . that there was anything to be suspicious about," as he put it in an interview on "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" last week.
"The reason that a ship, a small boat like this, could get in this proximity to the USS Cole is that it was part of the party, the support party that was assisting the ship in tying up to their berthing position," Clark said in an interview with CBS News.
According to a written statement by the Navy yesterday, the erroneous accounts "by senior Navy leadership were based on initial voice and relayed reports from the ship that were not confirmed." Those reports, the statement said, "contained some errors, and in some cases were misunderstood back here."
Over the past week, Clark and other senior Navy officials here have spoken with the Cole's skipper, Cmdr. Kirk Lippold, as well as with Adm. Mark Fitzgerald, who is overseeing emergency operations on the scene, and with other Navy officers on the eight-ship flotilla now assembled in Aden.
However, no one asked them to clarify the Navy's initial account of the bombing, said Cmdr. Gregg Smith, a Navy spokesman. Instead, all of the Navy's public statements have been based on two reports filed by duty officers at Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain in the hours immediately after the blast.
The first report was based on cellular telephone conversations with Lippold and a U.S. military attache in Yemen. It stated that an explosion had occurred onboard the Cole while it was refueling and that the blast "immediately followed impact" by a small boat. That report made no mention of the mooring operation, a senior Navy official said.
The second report, filed two and a half hours later, gave an account of another conversation with Lippold. It said the small boat with two men aboard had been used to tie up mooring lines, the senior official said.
"We have no clarity about what happened on the scene other than this cryptic report," Smith said. The investigation is now in the hands of the FBI, and the Navy does not know whether Lippold's remarks were accurately related in the reports. If they were accurate, the Navy does not know his basis for stating that the small boat had taken part in the mooring operation, Smith said.
What is clear is that, contrary to the Navy's previous assertions, the attackers did not use the mooring operation as a cover for approaching the ship. Even if it had helped tie up the Cole earlier, the boat was not taking part in harbor operations when the explosion occurred.
The Navy revised its account of the bombing in response to an inquiry by Navy Times, a Gannett Co. publication, which said it had received information from a "source associated with the Port of Aden" contradicting the Navy's chronology.
Originally, the Navy said the attack occurred at 12:15 p.m. local time (5:15 a.m. EDT) while the Cole was mooring and well before it had a chance to start taking on fuel. According to the new chronology, the Cole had completed mooring operations by 9:30 a.m. local time. Refueling operations began approximately an hour later and were still underway when the explosion occurred at 11:18 a.m.
Yesterday in Aden, American officials said that with all the bodies removed from the wreckage, salvage crews could proceed with patching the Cole to make it sufficiently seaworthy to be moved from the harbor to deeper waters and then loaded on a massive transport ship, the Norwegian-owned Blue Marlin, for a return voyage to the United States. The transport vessel is expected to arrive in Aden from Dubai within 10 days, officials said.
"Things are are moving ahead of schedule, better than we could have thought," said Adm. Charles W. Moore Jr., commander of the Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain, who visited Aden yesterday.
During a visit to the Cole, Moore joined a weary crew at an on-deck picnic of hotdogs, hamburgers and ice cream. He also participated in a ceremony for two sailors who had chosen to reenlist since the bombing. "To have gone through that and to decide to continue serving is a testimony to their commitment," Moore said.
The bodies of the last sailors recovered from inside the mangled metal of the Cole were dispatched yesterday on a C-130 transport plane to Bahrain, the first stop on a journey to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
In a brief ceremony at Aden airport, on an airstrip dark but for television lights, Navy pallbearers in white uniforms carried the flag-draped caskets one by one along a red carpet, past a six-man Marine honor guard and up a ramp into the belly of the plane.
U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Barbara K. Bodine
stood at attention at the far end of the red carpet, joined by two Yemeni
colonels. The only sound was the rumble of a generator in the distance
and the repeated order to salute.
When the USS Cole sailed from its home port of Norfolk on Saturday, the destroyer carried reminders of terrorist attacks that both the ship and the nation have suffered in recent years.
On a blue tile floor of a passageway in the Cole, 17 stars have been laid, each representing a sailor lost October 12, 2000, when a small boat laden with explosives blew up next to the warship in the Yemeni port of Aden. Mounted on a bulkhead in the mess deck is a box containing debris left by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America. The remnants, presented by the Port Authority of New York, are metal, marble and glass from the destroyed World Trade Center.
The Cole rejoined the fleet in Norfolk last year after 16 months and $250 million worth of repairs and upgrades in Pascagoula, Miss. The third anniversary of the attack on the Cole, which also left 39 wounded, was marked Oct. 12 with a wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery, where several of the sailors are buried.
The deployment last week is the Cole's first overseas since the attack. With about 100 family members watching on Saturday, the Cole sailed with two other destroyers, the USS Thorn and the USS Gonzalez. Heavy seas delayed their departure by a day.
The ships are heading to the Mediterranean Sea and will "participate in regional exercises with allies, make diplomatic port calls and respond to any contingency, including those associated with the ongoing war on terrorism," the Navy said in an announcement of the deployment. The destroyers are part of the Enterprise carrier strike group, which departed in October.
Because of normal crew rotations, only 10 members of the present Cole crew of 340 were aboard the ship when it was attacked three years ago. None of those veterans spoke to reporters before the ship's departure. But one crew member told the Virginian-Pilot that the memory of the 17 lost sailors remains strong aboard the Cole.
"We have a saying about how vanishing souls help steer the ship, so we believe we are a little protected by them," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Nancy Patterson.
Posted: 20 October 2000 Updated: 21 October 2000 Updated: 12 January 2001 - Updated: 7 December 2003 Updated: 29 October 2005