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September 14, 2001 USS Cole Re-Floated

 

Repaired and renewed, the Cole heads home
By MATTHEW DOLAN, The Virginian-Pilot
© April 20, 2002

Crowds gathered and waved flags in Pascagoula, Miss., Friday as the Cole headed home to Norfolk 18 months after an attack in Yemen left a gaping hole in the destroyer's side. Photo by Martin Smith-Rodden / The Virginian-Pilot.

 

PASCAGOULA, Miss. -- Norman Larson's last deployment isn't over.

The 45-year-old chief petty officer served aboard this once-wounded ship, the Cole, from its birth six years ago through the day terrorists punched a gaping hole in its portside in October 2000.

 In December, he reluctantly took a new shore duty assignment in Norfolk, leaving his disabled destroyer at a south Mississippi shipyard.

So this week, Larson did what he said he had to do.

He drove through the night to see the Cole leave just before 11 a.m. on a hot, hazy Friday morning from the swampy banks of Pascagoula Bay into the Gulf of Mexico.

 


Background Coverage:
Restored Cole fit to fight again

The Cole anniversary:
- A year after the Cole - a timeline

- Victims' names ring out at Cole memorial dedication

And he'll also be present when the Cole -- fully repaired, if not improved -- pulls into its home at the Norfolk Naval Station next week.

``For me, a deployment is you leave your homeport and you come back to your homeport,'' he said, wearing a Cole T-shirt and ball cap outside the Northrop Grumman Ingalls Shipbuilding facility earlier this week.

Larson's loyalty to this beleaguered ship and his attachment to its belated homecoming is just one of myriad signs that the 18-month ordeal of the Cole endures.

After the attack claimed 17 lives and injured 39, the warship became one of the most potent symbols of the perils of military service and the vulnerability of the nation's armed forces abroad.

``The attack on the Cole was really the first strike in the war,'' said Assistant Secretary of the Navy John J. Young Jr., one of a half-dozen speakers who addressed hundreds of shipyard workers, Cole sailors and their loved ones Friday morning before the ship's voyage home.

But the homeland strikes on Sept. 11 and the resulting war against Cole bombing suspect Osama bin Laden and other terrorists may have eclipsed the Cole's singular status.

Still, those affected by the Cole attack -- the sailors who survived, those who were aboard but have since left, sailors newly stationed aboard the Cole, and the loved ones of those who perished -- struggle with its legacy.

For Kate Brown , the struggle is daily. Her son, 19-year-old Fireman Apprentice Patrick Howard Roy, died aboard the ship.

``I'm pleased that she's returning to sea,'' Brown said in a telephone interview from her Maryland home. ``It represents my feeling at least that what happened to the Cole in Yemen is not going to keep us as a nation from what we believe.''

But memories of her son continue to haunt her.

She said she wrestled with grieving privately, as the nation seemed to expect her to share her loss.

Just after a massive transport ship dropped the Cole off at the ship-repair yard on Dec. 14, 2000, Brown visited the site of her son's last moments. Onboard, she remembered a promise unfulfilled.

``I told Patrick that I wouldn't see him off on the cruise,'' she said. ``But I also told him that I would be with him when the ship returned. So I needed to come.''

She toured the berthing where her son once slept. And she smiled when she learned its number: 13. For mother and son, the number had always been a good luck charm.

``I was able to open the compartment where he had his stuff,'' she said. ``There were just a couple of safety pins. They let me take them and that meant a lot.''

Though heartened by the support of the ship's crew and her son's friends, Brown is angry -- and disappointed -- by the speed of the Cole investigation.

``There are lots of things I'd like to know, and what's being done about it,'' she said. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have diverted some of the nation's focus, she said.

``It's sad for me to hear (NBC anchorman) Tom Brokaw talk about the victims of terrorism and no mention of the Cole,'' she said. ``I worried that the Cole was not that long ago and many people have put it behind them.''

For Lt. j.g. Elizabeth McElwee, 24, the transition was relatively easy to the Cole this year. She had just completed a tour as part of the Carl Vinson battle group, led by an aircraft carrier that garnered its own celebrity when the ship launched fighter jets over Afghanistan last year.

``I was expecting to be part of something historic when I came here,'' said McElwee, the Cole's anti-submarine warfare officer, who lives in Virginia Beach. ``But the focus here now is really more on the future.''

Douglas Malott, however, wasn't as confident when he heard he was going to the Cole. Eighteen and fresh out of boot camp, Malott said he nearly passed out.

``I was home, sick the day of the attack,'' he said. ``I started to cut out newspaper articles about it after that. And then I found out I'd be here.

``I thought it was a mistake.''

Last week's sea trials helped Malott adjust, he said.

``I'm happy to be a part of something that means something,'' he said. ``I'm not worried now.''

But the young fireman, who cleans the ship while learning the skills of the engine-room trade, said he still has questions about his ship's past.

``I'd ask people who had been here what it was like,'' said Malott, who attended high school outside of Dallas. `` `What was going on that day? Do you have any pictures?' ''

One of the crew members he turned to was Chadwick Atwood, 23, who vividly remembers the day of the attack.

``I was in my workshop, frame 126,'' said Atwood, a petty officer second class who joined the Cole's crew three years ago. ``There was a sudden shock. The ship flew up like four or five feet. Everyone was slammed around. I wasn't sure what happened.''

As smoke clouded his vision and communication among the sailors grew frantic, the fire controlman, who works on the ship's missile guidance system, heard his crewmates search for the explosion's cause.

Was it a fuel line explosion sparked by the ship's refueling? Was the Cole struck by a supply ship? Was it a bomb?

When the questions yielded no answers, he said, ``I became more and more scared.''

The aftermath ``was hard to deal with,'' Atwood said. ``There are constant reminders everywhere.''

But early last year, Atwood decided to stay on. The Navy gave him a choice to leave, and he doesn't begrudge others who chose to do so.

``I don't think it was the right or the wrong decision,'' Atwood said. ``But I'm glad to be here today. I'm only one of 40 left. I think that means something.''

 

As the Cole pulled slowly from the Mississippi dock Friday, Larson said he wished he had been aboard, too.

Early last year, Larson participated in a survey of the ship's crew to help gauge whether members should remain aboard the Cole. He eventually was told he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition he said many of his former crewmates share.

Taking prescription anti-depression medication put him on limited duty. But Larson, who is single, said his doctor recommended that he stay on the Cole.

``He said it would be good for me, to see the ship heal,'' said Larson, who put off his retirement to remain aboard.

But fate, in the form of another assignment in Norfolk, intervened, and Larson left in December.

Now Larson won't depart the Navy until July 2003. He has family in Missouri, where he may eventually settle. But until the Cole reaches home, he said, little else seems as important.

``When the TR came home, people were on the pier,'' Larson said, referring to the return of the Norfolk-based aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in March. ``It's a happy time. We need that, too.''

 

 

USS Cole (DDG 67) returns to the Fleet

Full-screen images are linked from the images captioned in story below.
High resolution, full-size .jpg images are hyperlinked from the words "Hi-Rez".
Cole glides out of Pascagoula
Pascagoula, Miss., Apr. 19, 2002 — The guided missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) glides to sea this morning, passing Pascagoula area pleasure fishermen, to rejoin the U.S. Atlantic Fleet following 14 months of repairs after a terrorist bomb blew a hole in the port side of the ship while it was refueling in the port city of Aden, Yemen, on Oct. 12, 2000, killing 17 sailors. The repairs were done at the shipyard of Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, Ingalls Operations. U.S. Navy photo by Stacey Byington. [020419-N-0000B-002] Apr. 19, 2002 Hi-Rez.

Cole being pushed to Pier 4
Pascagoula, Miss., Dec. 24, 2000 — Two tug boats gently push USS Cole (DDG 67) to Pier 4 of the Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., on Dec. 24, 2000. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer was the target of a terrorist attack in Aden, Yemen, on Oct. 12, during a scheduled refueling. The attack killed 17 crew members and injured 39 others. Cole was transported from Aden to Pascagoula by the Norwegian heavy transport ship M/V Blue Marlin. A 60 foot by 60 foot patch was welded to the hull of the destroyer before it was off-loaded from Blue Marlin. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer's Mate Johnny R. Wilson. [001224-N-3580W-540] Hi-rez.

 

Additional images:

Related pages:

 

Remarks from Memorial Service
in Norfolk, Oct. 18:

 

Transcripts of briefings:

 

Pascagoula, Miss., April 19, 2002 — After a successful 14-month effort to repair the damage suffered in a terrorist attack in Aden, Yemen, Oct. 12, 2000, USS Cole (DDG 67) will depart Pascagoula, Miss., today, and will return to its homeport of Norfolk, Va.
 

Cole was in the Yemini port for a refueling stop when a small boat laden with explosives was detonated beside the ship, blasting a hole in its side. Following the attack in which 17 Sailors were killed and 39 were injured, Cole was returned to the U.S. aboard the Norwegian heavy transport ship M/V Blue Marlin owned by Offshore Heavy Transport of Oslo, Norway. The ship was off-loaded Dec. 13, 2000, from Blue Marlin in a pre-dredged deep-water facility at the shipyard of Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, Ingalls Operations.
 

Ingalls, in coordination with the Navy’s Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Repair and Conversion (SUPSHIP) Pascagoula, recently completed repairs to the AEGIS destroyer, which included replacing more than 550 tons of steel on the exterior plating and major upgrades giving it more in common with the latest Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Additional, a passageway with 17 white stars embedded in blue tile and a plaque memorizing the lost crewmembers, pays tribute to those killed. The passageway is on the serving line on the ship's mess decks.
 

Planning for the repairs was begun while Cole was still in Yemen, with engineering assessments to determine the extent of repair required. Personnel riding M/V Blue Marlin during the six-week transit from the Arabian Gulf assisted in that assessment, which was completed by Ingalls and the Naval Sea System Command.
 

The decision to have Ingalls repair Cole followed a thorough review of the capabilities, costs and schedules associated with public and private shipyards, and included an assessment of how the selection would impact Cole sailors and their families. Ingalls was determined to be the shipyard best suited to make the repairs.
 

The selection of Ingalls allowed most of the work to be done by civilian workers experienced in building this type of ship. Ingalls was the builder of Cole. Most of the ship's crew will be able to remain in Norfolk, Va., living and working as a team based in existing pre-commissioning facilities.
 

Cole is an Arleigh Burke-class, or Aegis, guided missile destroyer, and is based in Norfolk. The ship was part of the USS George Washington Battle Group, and was in transit from the Red Sea to a port visit in Bahrain when the ship stopped in Aden for routine refueling. The destroyer departed Norfolk for its deployment Aug. 8, 2000, and was scheduled to return home Dec. 21.
 

Cole was towed out of Aden harbor Oct. 29, 2000, to deeper water by the Military Sealift Command's fleet ocean tug USNS Cataba (T-ATF 168). The process of loading Cole onto the transport ship required a water depth of at least 75 feet since it involved partially submerging Blue Marlin and maneuving Cole into position over Blue Marlin's deck. The transport ship was then raised, and Cole was lifted aboard. The destroyer was canted on Blue Marlin's deck to protect her propellers and her sonar dome.
 

A Navy review, a JAG Manual investigation released in January 2001, examined the preparations that USS Cole made for refueling in Aden.
 

 

-USN-

 

 

Celebrations mark end of repairs to USS Cole

April 15, 2002 Posted: 8:24 PM EDT (0024 GMT)
 

PASCAGOULA, Mississippi (AP) -- The USS Cole, the destroyer damaged 18 months ago in a terrorist attack that killed 17 seamen, is back in the water and ready to return to Navy service.

Several hundred Cole crew members, Gulf Coast residents and employees of the Northrop Grumman Ingalls shipyard gathered Sunday to celebrate completion of repairs to the ship.

"It feels pretty good right now, especially since we didn't know how it was going to all come together," said Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Aaron Morgan, 30.

Morgan was one of about 30 members of the present crew who were aboard the Cole on October 12, 2000, when a small boat laden with explosives was detonated beside the ship in the Yemeni port of Aden.

  EXTRA INFORMATION
• Timeline: The attack on the USS Cole

 
• See a 3-dimensional image of the USS Cole

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• Animation of a transport ship conducting a recovery procedure at sea
 

 

In addition to the 17 who were killed, 37 sailors were injured in the blast, which tore a hole in the ship's side.

Last Friday, the newly restored Aegis guided-missile destroyer set sail on a two-day sea trial.

"It's been a long time coming," said Cmdr. Kevin Sweeney, who took charge of the destroyer last year.

The Cole will get an official send-off this Friday before it sails back to its homeport of Norfolk, Virginia.

"During sea trials, she performed better than expected," Sweeney said. "There were a lot of risks and an enormous amount of work involved in the repair. ... We're very pleased with the new ship."

Morgan said the explosion was a "reality kick that showed things can happen."

"Now when we go overseas we'll be looking at it not just as an opportunity to see other countries, but what those other countries might do to us," he said.

 

 

The Cole memorial was dedicated Friday, one year after the attack, at the Norfolk Naval Station's Vista Point. Photo by Martin Smith-Rodden / The Virginian-Pilot.

NORFOLK -- A monument to the 17 sailors killed in the terrorist bombing of the USS Cole a year ago was dedicated today, the anniversary of the attack, with Navy officials vowing they will not be deterred by terrorism.

``Today, we honor 17 American heroes at this beautiful site that will forever carry their names,'' Rear Adm. John B. Foley III, commander of the Atlantic Fleet's surface forces, told about 1,000 Cole crew members and relatives.

A 10-foot-tall monolith encircled by 17 granite slabs was dedicated at the Norfolk Naval Station on a site overlooking Willoughby Bay _ where ships leaving and returning from sea pass by.

With the bombing of the Cole and the terrorist attacks last month against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Foley said that terrorism is ``a word that is now part of our daily vocabulary.''

Foley echoed President Bush's pledge that the terrorists will be hunted down.

``These terrorist attacks will never be forgotten, but nor will they deter us,'' he said.

To the family members of the Cole victims, Foley said, ``You are not alone. We cannot help ease your pain, but our country and our Navy will stand by you.''

The ceremony at the Norfolk Naval Station included a 21-gun salute, the playing of ``Taps'' and a final roll call for the victims. A bell rang after the name, age and hometown of each sailor was read.

Sherman Saunders said the memorial will help to ensure that people never forget what happened to his cousin, Timothy Saunders of Ringgold, and the 16 other Cole sailors who were killed.

``The more we remember, the less likely we will become complacent, the less likely we will be less alert, the less likely this kind of thing will happen again,'' said Saunders, an Army veteran from Danville.

The monument also pays tribute to the 37 sailors injured in the attack and the crew members who saved the Norfolk-based destroyer from sinking in Yemen's Aden harbor after a skiff pulled alongside the ship and detonated explosives.

U.S. officials believe Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network is behind both the bombing of the Cole and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Monument designer John Blackburn, a landscape architect with the Navy's worldwide engineering corps, took input from some of the Cole's crew in developing his design.

A 10-foot pillar of mahogany granite is the centerpiece of the design. At its top, the granite slopes 45 degrees, a symbolic salute to passing ships. The names of those who died are inscribed on two brass plaques. A third plaque in between reads: ``In lasting tribute to their honor, courage and commitment.''

Hardy Japanese black pines were planted at the site: one each of the 17 sailors killed and one for each of the 11 children hthey left behind.

Donations paid for the $143,000 cost of the memorial.

The Cole is being repaired at Northrop Grumman Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., and is expected to return to Norfolk next spring.

 

 

25 July, 2001

From Colonel ----
CO, MATSG-33

Yesterday afternoon around 15:10, some of you may have seen me
standing in front of my office with a female Navy Petty Officer 1st Class. She was wearing her dungaree uniform. She was shaking, she was crying, and it was obvious that she was in severe emotional pain. You may have
seen me hug her, you may have seen us talk for about four minutes until she turned and left the building. Four minutes is not very long, but those were four of the most eye-opening minutes I have ever experienced as a U.S. Marine.

The Petty Officer entered the front hatch of MATSG-33 looking confused and distraught. Thinking she was just another sailor looking for directions somewhere aboard NAS Oceana, I walked out of my office and greeted her and asked if I could help her. The name on her shirt said, "Stewart". PO1 Stewart remained silent and stationary, staring blankly at the deck. I asked her if everything was okay. Her hands started shaking and her bottom lip started to quiver as tears began streaming down her face. She just stood there, clutching her cover tightly in both hands as she cried silently for about twenty seconds before she could manage to get a word out. I was feeling helpless at this point because I had no idea what to say to her without knowing what was wrong. After she told me, I
still had no idea what to say. I was just proud to be a Marine.

Through choked-back tears, PO1 Stewart told me why she came to MATSG-33. She said she was talking with four of her closest friend's one day while they were on ship last October. Their ship was the USS Cole.
She said that it all happened so quickly. One moment they were talking as usual and the next moment, all four of her friends were lying beside her, and she was the only one alive. PO1 Stewart said the real terror sunk in moments after the explosion, after she saw the dead, soot covered bodies of her friends, when she realized that at any moment, another explosion may take the lives of more of her shipmates or her own. She said she was so afraid that the terrorists weren't finished with them yet. Then she saw the Marines. The Marines came and secured the area. The Marines came and secured the survivors. PO1 Stewart said that she knew, and everyone on the USS Cole knew, that the terrorists had got their one deadly shot in, but no more lives would be lost that day while the Marines were there.
 
I know that it was one of the FAST companies that responded that day.
PO1 Stewart only knows that it was the Marines. I used to be an infantryman and part of the Marine Security Force, but that was five years ago. I have never set foot on the USS Cole or patrolled its surrounding waters. The day the USS Cole was bombed, I was sitting at a desk doing paperwork on a quiet Navy Base in Virginia Beach. Yet on an ordinary summer day, a Navy Petty Officer 1st Class who felt the explosion of the USS Cole and saw her shipmates die before her, walked into Marine Aviation
Training Support Group-33 to find any Marine whom she could look in the face and say thank you to.

I was choked up and absolutely stunned by what I had just heard. I hugged PO1 Stewart and I offered to contact the FAST companies to locate the Marines who responded that day, but she told me that she was retiring this week and this was closure for her. By saying thank you to a Marine,
 she is ready to try and move on from her nightmare. I told her that I would extend her thanks. PO1 Stewart said thank you once more, turned and walked out of MATSG-33. I sat back down in the chair of my quiet office and continued my paperwork - with a much better view of the big picture.

 From PO1 Stewart, formerly of the USS Cole; Thank you, Marines

 

The USS Cole under repair

 

 

USS COLE RETURNS HOME
DECEMBER 13, 2000

 

 

BURIALS AT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY 

Richard Costelow
Chief Petty Officer, United States Navy

Cherone L. Gunn
Seaman, United States Navy

Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter
HM-3, United States Navy

 

 


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