About That Recover
NY Times 'reports' below.
Para 12 was mighty interesting.
Just part of the Navy's "We care" public relations scam.
Looking for Speicher never had any priority.
After a Bulkhead Collapses
By JOHN F. BURNS
ADEN, Yemen, Oct. 15
With 12 dead crewmates still lying trapped in buckled, flooded compartments below decks, sailors of the destroyer Cole struggled again today to keep their stricken ship afloat, winning praise for their heroism from commanders who were forced to cancel a memorial service for the dead.
The collapse of an underwater bulkhead early this morning sent tons of water flooding back into parts of the Cole that had been pumped out in the frantic struggle that began when a small boat laden with explosives rammed the guided missile destroyer on Thursday morning. Seventeen sailors died in what American investigators describe as a terrorist attack. By nightfall today, more than 16 hours after the bulkhead caved in, the task force commander assigned to head efforts to save the Cole and bring the ship home safely described the collapse as a "catastrophe," but said that worse had been averted.
"We've got it patched up," said Rear Adm. Mark Fitzgerald, deputy commander of the Navy's Central Command, based in Tampa, Fla. "They've stopped the flooding and saved the ship."
Admiral Fitzgerald, like others who have visited the Cole and seen the devastation caused by the explosion, spoke with emotion about the crew, many of them recent enlistees and most in their late teens or early 20's. He said the sailors had shaken off the shock of the attack and worked relentlessly, with little sleep, to keep the ship from sinking. "It was a heroic effort," he said.
The crisis occurred when generator-driven pumps on the Cole failed, causing water pressure to build up and collapse the bulkhead.
American officials, describing the ship as "a crime scene," said evidence gathered so far had thrown into question one element in initial accounts of the explosion, the kind of boat used in the attack. A senior Navy officer said "thousands of pieces" of "confetti sized" debris from the boat, including possibly human remains from the two men who were believed to have carried out the attack, were spread over the decks of the Cole.
A preliminary conclusion from those shards, other Navy officials said, was that the attack was not carried out from a Zodiac-type rubber inflatable as originally believed, but from a boat with a white fiberglass hull.
The Navy was forced to cancel the memorial service for the dead that was to have been held at midmorning on the Cole's upper deck. Then, worried about men and women who had worked four days in debilitating heat to keep the ship afloat, it began rotating crew members onto three other Navy ships that have formed a protective cordon around the Cole since the blast. Sailors from the other ships were transferred to the Cole to take over.
Eventually, but probably not for a week or more, the Navy plans to make the Cole sufficiently seaworthy to tow it from its sheltered position in the Bay of Aden to a rendezvous with a Norwegian-owned ship that is a combination of a seagoing flatbed and drydock.
A Navy announcement in Washington said plans were made for the Norwegian ship, the 700-foot Blue Marlin, now in dock in the Persian Gulf state of Dubai, to build blocks on its deck to support the Cole. It will make the five-day journey to Aden, then slide under the Cole in the open sea and begin a 25-day piggyback journey back to the United States.
For now, the 9,100-ton Cole, a four- year-old, billion-dollar vessel packed with some of the most advanced military technology afloat, still lies listing heavily, several feet lower in the water than normal. But with onshore fire mains linked up after the bulkhead collapse, it is successfully pumping water out faster than it can flow back in.
As water levels receded, the search for the missing crewmen, described by the Navy as its next highest priority, began again.
This afternoon, teams of Navy divers with underwater strobe lights and metal-cutting equipment began probing the twisted, blackened compartments behind the gaping hole on the destroyer's port side, trying to cut through twisted steel, collapsed deckheads and masses of tangled cables to reach the areas where the dead sailors were believed to lie.
Having concluded from searches of the harbor floor that none of the dead sailors were thrown out of the ship, the Navy was hoping to begin recovering the bodies during daylight on Tuesday before starting them on the long journey home.
Navy officials said probes conducted soon after the blast had fixed the location of two dead crew members, whose bodies had been identified but not removed because of the difficulty of freeing them. Ten others officially still listed as missing were believed to be trapped somewhere in an area said to be about the size of four large hotel rooms, comprising what was the engine room, associated engineering quarters and three below-deck mess halls. The bodies of five crew members recovered previously were flown back to the United States on Saturday.
Thirty-three of the sailors wounded on the Cole arrived at their home port of Norfolk, Va., this afternoon to a welcome from 1,500 sailors and hundreds of relatives and neighbors. A receiving line of wheelchairs and gurneys glinted in the afternoon sun, but most of the sailors, several using crutches or canes, walked off the gray C-141 that brought them from Germany. The control tower on the Norfolk airfield was decorated with red, white and blue bunting and a hand-lettered banner that said, "Our Heroes/We Join Hands and Hearts to Welcome You Home."
Once the bodies are recovered, the Navy said it planned to concentrate on solving a troubling mystery: how two men in the kind of small, outboard-powered boat that could be rented or bought in almost any harbor in the world were able to infiltrate the flotilla of service vessels gathering around the Cole as it prepared to refuel here.
In dingy cafes and other gathering places in this dilapidated port, angry young Yemenis hostile to the United States because of its Middle East policies, or jealous of American power, have begun speaking of the attack on the Cole as a sort of David-and- Goliath metaphor for how their world mostly poor, mostly Muslim, widely resentful can strike back devastatingly at the Western power in whose shadow they live.
The view is a fringe one here, at odds with opinions voiced by most people in this ancient port, who have expressed sympathy for the sailors and good will for the United States.
Aden, and Yemen as a country, are still emerging from decades as outcasts, rejected by the West for links to the Soviet Union, and in the last decade Iraq, as well as for the country's history of harboring Islamic terrorist groups. From that there has flowed a residue of frustration and resentment toward the West, and therefore of satisfaction for some at the attack on the Cole.
"You Americans thought we could do nothing!" a young man who gave his name as Gamal said in a cafe today. "But look look at your ship now!"
Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's president, met with the American ambassador, Barbara Bodine, today. Reversing previous statements, he acknowledged for the first time that the attack on the American ship was the work of terrorists, and not, as he had previously maintained, an "accident" brought on by an explosion aboard the Cole. American officials said they expected Mr. Saleh to confirm his conclusion in public.
It was not clear what caused Mr. Saleh to change his mind, nor why he had chosen to insist for several days that the blast was an accident when anybody who looked out at the Cole from the Aden harborside saw that the metal plates of the ship were buckled inward by the blast.
But senior American officials, relieved, were not disposed to quibble, and suggested that the Yemeni leader had shifted his position after conducting his own inquiry. "He's not going to be dependent on what we tell him," an American official said. "He came to his own conclusion."
Although the Americans insisted for the record that the Yemenis had cooperated eagerly from the start, and had detained and questioned about 75 Yemeni port workers and others in their own inquiry into the blast, Navy officials acknowledged that some recovery operations had been hampered by high-handedness from Yemeni security officials.
By tonight, the Yemenis had appointed a senior official answerable directly to Mr. Saleh to oversee Yemeni liaison efforts, and Aden harbor had taken on the appearance of an American outpost. Apart from the four Navy ships in the harbor, the sky above buzzed with Navy helicopters, and marines in desert camouflage carrying rifles and pistols were on guard wherever Americans went. Sophisticated military communications systems were set up on the harbor side and in a nine-story hotel overlooking the port.