Lest We Forget

By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)

The Cole had suffered a great deal of flooding and had little reserve buoyancy left when it was realized that she was taking on more water in her number two main engine space than could be evicted. The distance from the engine room up to the main deck and then over the side was too great for the portable pumps. The situation was becoming desperate. The water was winning, and time was running out.

And then, a desperate plan was put into effect. Recognizing that the only way the pumps could work would be to shorten the distance the water had to travel, someone suggested cutting a hole in the side of the ship, just above the waterline, through which a discharge hose could be passed, thus shortening the distance the water would have to be lifted. It was a good plan except for one frightening fact. So much fuel had been spilled in the catastrophe that there was great concern that sparks from a cutting torch might ignite it. The crew might be jumping from the proverbial frying pan into a very real fire.

Despite the frightening possibilities, the five Sailors descended into Main Number Two. They waded through chest-deep, fuel-coated water and tangled debris until one could climb up the listing bulkhead and, bracing himself against an angle iron, light the cutting torch. There were some tense moments as sparks danced about like fireflies on a summer night and cascaded into the volatile liquid below.

But their luck held. No fire started, and soon they had cut a four-inch hole into the hull. Before long, water was being discharged out of Main Number Two and back into Aden Harbor, from whence it came.

The Cole remained afloat and after an extended yard period returned to the Fleet. By then, the whole nation—wakened by the attacks on 9/11—knew what the Cole ’s Sailors already understood: the nation was at war. If the Cole ’s Sailors are any indicator of American will, the outcome is not in doubt.

 

Lieutenant Commander Cutler is the author of several books, including A Sailor’s History of the U.S. Navy and Brown Water, Black Berets .
 

Thomas J. Cutler is a retired lieutenant commander and former gunner's mate second class who served in patrol craft, cruisers, destroyers, and aircraft carriers. His varied assignments included an in-country Vietnam tour, small craft command, and nine years at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he served as Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Seamanship & Navigation Department and Associate Chairman of the History Department. While at the Academy, he was awarded the William P. Clements Award for Excellence in Education (military teacher of the year).

He is the founder and former Director of the Walbrook Maritime Academy in Baltimore. Currently he is Fleet Professor of Strategy and Policy with the Naval War College and is the Director of Professional Publishing at the U.S. Naval Institute.

Winner of the Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Naval Literature, the U.S. Naval Institute Press Author of the Year, and the U.S. Maritime Literature Award, his published works include NavCivGuide: A Handbook for Civilians in the U.S. Navy; A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy [one of the books in the Chief of Naval Operations Reading Program]; The Battle of Leyte Gulf; Brown Water, Black Berets: Coastal & Riverine Warfare in Vietnam; and the 22nd, 23rd (Centennial), and 24th editions of The Bluejacket's Manual. His other works include revisions of Jack Sweetman's The Illustrated History of the U.S. Naval Academy and Dutton's Nautical Navigation. He and his wife, Deborah W. Cutler, are the co-editors of the Dictionary of Naval Terms and the Dictionary of Naval Abbreviations.

His books have been published in various forms, including paperback and audio, and have appeared as main and alternate selections of the History Book Club, Military Book Club, and Book of the Month Club. He has served as a panelist, commentator, and keynote speaker on military and writing topics at many events and for various organizations, including the Naval History and Heritage Command, Smithsonian Institution, the Navy Memorial, U.S. Naval Academy, MacArthur Memorial Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, U.S. Naval Institute, Armed Forces Electronics Communications and Electronics Association, Naval War College, Civitan, and many veterans' organizations. His television appearances include the History Channel's Biography series, A&E's Our Century, Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, and CBS's 48 Hours.

More by this Author

BROWN WATER, BLACK BERETS
The men of the U.S. Navy's brown-water force played a vital but often overlooked role in the... Read More
BATTLE OF LEYTE GULF
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DUTTON'S NAUTICAL NAVIGATION, 15TH EDITION
As paper navigational charts are replaced by vector images on computer screens, magnetic compasses... Read More
A SAILOR'S HISTORY OF THE U.S. NAVY
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Events and Conferences

Guest Lecturer
12:30pm, “Shifley Lecture Series,” U.S. Naval Academy Museum, 118 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, MD /... Read More

 
 

Conferences and Events

Defense Forum Washington 2014

Thu, 2014-12-04

Newseum - Knight Conference Center

Defense Forum Washington will take place December 4, 2014 at the Newseum - Knight Conference Center in Washington, DC.

2015 WEST Conference

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From the Press

Guest Lecturer

Mon, 2014-11-24

CDR Youssef H. Aboul-Enein, USN

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