By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eric Lockwood, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
USS Cole (DDG 67), is named after Medal of Honor recipient Marine Corps Sgt. Darrell Samuel Cole. He enlisted in the Corps on Aug. 25, 1941. After completing basic training at Parris Island, S.C., he reported to Company H, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division. Although designated as a Field Music (bugler), he frequently put down his instrument and took up the position of a machine gunner. This earned him the nickname “The Fighting Field Music.” He saw action with various units at Guadalcanal , Roi-Namur, Saipan, but eventually was killed during the Battle of Iwo Jima while attached to Company B, 1st Battalion, 23d Marines, 4th Marine Division.
Almost immediately after reaching the shore in that battle, Cole and the squads he led were pinned down by enemy fire from two directions. “Taking stock of the situation,” says the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. “Cole crawled forward and wiped out both positions with hand grenades. His Marines resumed their advance until three Japanese pillboxes opened fire on them.” They were only able to neutralize one of them before their main gun jammed.
At great danger to himself, Cole again acted valorously and charged forward by himself to attack the pillboxes. Upon his return after taking them out, an enemy grenade killed him on Feb. 19. Cole was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for “his dauntless initiative, unfaltering courage and indomitable determination during a critical period of action.”
USS Cole (DDG 67)
USS Cole was laid down on Feb. 28, 1994, at Pascagoula, Miss., and later commissioned on June 8, 1996, at Port Everglades, Florida, with Cmdr. Frederick D. Allard Jr. in command.
It wasn’t long before the ship encountered the purpose for which she was built—war. On Aug. 8, 2000, she deployed with several other ships from Norfolk, Virginia, to the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, and all waters in between. After one of her far-reaching patrols, she needed to pull into port to replenish.
On Oct. 12, seizing an opportunity, two members of al-Qaida approached Cole in a small boat.
The terrorists exploded themselves on the port side of the ship, ripping a hole through the hull 40-by-60 feet wide. The blast killed 17 Sailors, injured another 42 and forced the remaining crew to fight the ship while triaging the casualties. By day three, they had a handle on the flooding and other damage. Not until Oct. 30 was the ship prepared and ready to leave. The Military Sealift Command heavy lift vessel Blue Marlin lifted the ship out of the water and sailed with it back to Pascagoula.
Though much of the rest of America might consider September 11th as the start of the War on Terror, Cole in fact, absorbed the opening shot.
Today, aboard USS Cole, there is the “Hall of Heroes” in a passageway along the mess line leading to a memorial listing the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Seventeen stars are embedded in the blue-speckled deck, representing the Sailors who walked that hallway over 15 years ago.
Want to know more about USS Cole’s history? Check out, Honoring Those Lost: Taking the Fight to the Enemy