USS Cole (DDG-67) was laid down on 28 February 1994 at Pascagoula, MS, by Ingalls Shipbuilding Division, Litton Industries; launched on 10 January 1995; sponsored by Mrs. Lee Perry, wife of Secretary of Defense William J. Perry; and commissioned on 8 June 1996 at Port Everglades, FL, Commander M. Stewart O'Bryan in command.
On 8 August 2000, with Kirk S. Lippold in command, Cole was deployed with guided missile frigate Simpson (FFG-56) and Military Sealift Command (MSC)-manned oiler USNS John Lenthall (T-AO-189) from Norfolk to the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Indian Ocean. On 12 October, while Cole refueled at Aden, Yemen, two al-Qaeda terrorists brought an inflatable Zodiac-type speedboat that carried a bomb alongside the destroyer, port side amidships, and detonated their lethal cargo. The explosion blew a 40-foot wide hole in Cole, but the crew’s valiant damage control efforts saved her.
The attack killed 17 Sailors: 31-year-old Lt. j.g. Andrew Triplett; 35-year-old ETC Richard D. Costelow; 30-year-old EW1 Kevin S. Rux; 21-year-old HT2 Kenneth E. Clodfelter; 24-year-old EN2 Mark I. Nieto; 24-year-old EW2 Ronald S. Owens; 32-year-old OS2 Timothy L. Saunders; 22-year-old MS3 Ronchester M. Santiago; 19-year-old MSSN Lakeina M. Francis; 21-year-old ISSN Timothy L. Gauna; 22-year-old SMSN Cherone L. Gunn; 19-year-old ISSN James R. McDaniels; 22-year-old SN Lakiba N. Palmer; 19-year-old ENFN Joshua L. Parlett; 19-year-old FN Patrick H. Roy; 26-year-old FN Gary Swenchonis Jr.; and 19-year-old SN Craig B. Wibberley. In addition, 37 of their shipmates sustained wounds.
The ships that supported Cole during Operation Determined Response from 12-31 October 2000 included: amphibious assault ship Tarawa (LHA-1); dock landing ship Anchorage (LSD-36); amphibious transport dock Duluth (LPD-6); guided missile destroyer Donald Cook (DDG-75); guided missile frigate Hawes (FFG-53); and Military Sealift Command (MSC)-manned tug USNS Catawba (T-ATF-168); along with Marines of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), and British frigates Cumberland (F.85) and Marlborough (F.233).
Cole carried out emergent repairs and on 29 October stood out of Aden. The following day, MSC-manned heavy lift vessel Blue Marlin loaded the destroyer on board and sailed her to Pascagoula for extensive repairs, reaching that port on 13 December. Cole’s crewmembers were flown to Rhein-Main AFB Germany, and from there to Norfolk, VA. Cole’s Sailors then completed convalescent leave through 1 December, and the ship returned to the water on Christmas Eve and continued repairs and maintenance into 2001. On 12 October 2001, the USS Cole (DDG-67) Memorial was dedicated at Naval Station Norfolk to honor the memory of the victims. The Navy subsequently enhanced global force protection training during crucial transits, and Sailors qualified to fire M60 and Browning M2 .50 caliber machine guns to defend against assaults by low-slow flying aircraft and small boats.
USS Cole Memorial Dedication
USS Cole Memorial at Naval Station Norfolk
At 1118 on the morning of October 12, 2000, as USS Cole (DDG-67) was refueling in Aden Harbor, Yemen, suicide bombers detonated an explosive-laden boat directly against the port side of the ship. The resulting blast killed 17 Sailors, wounded 37 others, and tore a hold forty by sixty feet in the ship’s hull. In the aftermath of the explosion, the crew of USS Cole fought tirelessly to free shipmates trapped by the twisted wreckage and limit flooding that threatened to sink the ship. The crew’s prompt actions to isolate damaged electrical systems and contain fuel oil ruptures prevented catastrophic fires that could have engulfed the ship and cost the lives of countless men and women. Skillful first aid and advanced medical treatment applied by the crew prevented additional death and eased the suffering of many others. Drawing upon their Navy training and discipline, the crew heroically conducted more than 96 hours of sustained damage control in conditions of extreme heat and stress. Deprived of sleep, food, and shelter, they vigilantly battled to preserve a secure perimeter and restore stability to engineering systems that were vital to the ship’s survival. By their sacrifice and bravery in the fact of daunting adversity, the crew of USS Cole personified Honor, Courage, and Commitment.
Published figures for the number of Sailors injured in the USS Cole explosion range from 37 to 47—the official number is 37. Discrepancies among the numbers reflect inclusion of evacuated Sailors whose conditions were not a direct result of the explosion and/or those whose injuries did not meet the threshold for award of the Purple Heart.