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Remembering the 17 sailors who died in the USS Cole bombing 17 years ago

October 12, 2017

The guided-missile destroyer USS Cole was attacked by suicide bombers while refueling in Yemen 17 years ago today, Oct. 12. The explosion blasted a large hole in the hull of the ship.

Al-Qaida claimed the 2000 attack, during which 17 sailors died and 39 others were injured. This was the deadliest attack against a U.S. Navy destroyer since 1987.

USS Cole after the suicide bombing (Released)

It was reported that the event foreshadowed the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which would take place less than a year later.

A U.S. judge ruled that Sudan was responsible for the attack. Another judge released more than $13 million in frozen Sudanese assets to the families of those sailors who were killed.

The 17 sailors who were killed were:

  • 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; and,
  • Seaman Craig Bryan Wibberley, 19, of Williamsport, Maryland.

Because of the attack, the U.S. Navy has reconsidered its rules of engagement.

The rules in 2000 prevented the destroyer’s guards from firing on the small boat prior to the explosion, which was not known at the time. The small vessel had not obtained permission from the captain to approach.

Then-President Bill Clinton had proclaimed the attack a “despicable and cowardly” act of terrorism, and promised to find those responsible.

There is now a memorial for the victims at Naval Station Norfolk, which was dedicated on the shore of Willoughby Bay one year later.

USS Cole Memorial (U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Elizabeth Williams)

There are 17 low-level markers, which represent the youthfulness of the sailors who were killed; and three tall monoliths, which represent the three colors of the American flag.

There is also a set of brown markers around the memorial that symbolize despair and darkness, and 28 black pine trees that were planted to represent the sailors who were killed and their 11 children.