In the Gulf of Aden, USS Winston S. Churchill Commemorates USS Cole

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class louis Thompson Staats IV | October 12, 2020

GULF OF ADEN – Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) honored the 17 lives lost during the Oct. 12, 2000 attack on the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) with a remembrance ceremony in the Gulf of Aden, Oct. 12.

On Thursday Oct. 12, 2000, Cole pulled into Aden Harbor, Yemen, for a brief stop for fuel. Around 11:18 local time, a small boat carrying C4 explosives and two suicide bombers approached the port side of the destroyer and exploded, blowing a hole in the hull of the ship. Much of the blast entered a mechanical space below the ship’s galley, killing 17 Sailors and injuring many others.

“This event greatly impacted the trajectory of my life and many of my classmates at the Naval Academy,” said Cmdr. Timothy Shanley, commanding officer of Winston S. Churchill. “I was only a sophomore in Annapolis, but from that time on, many of us, including my classmate, Cmdr. Brian Anthony, our executive officer of Winston S. Churchill, realized that the threat that would influence the rest of our young careers was going to be the terrorist threat in the Middle East.” 

The commemoration ceremony included a speech by Shanley, words from Winston S. Churchill’s Chaplain, Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Johnson, and a wreath laying service. During the ceremony, the names of the 17 fallen Sailors were read to honor them. The ceremony concluded with the singing of Eternal Father by Electronics Technician 3rd Class Cassidy Thompson. Following the wreath ceremony, Sailors manned the rails in dress uniforms for a 21-gun salute from the ship’s Mark45 5-inch gun.

Almost 40 Sailors aboard Winston S. Churchill hand-made a wreath to commemorate those 17 Sailors who paid the ultimate sacrifice. The wreath was made of painted, tea and coffee stained paper leafs. Each of the fallen17 Sailors’ names, rates, ranks and hometowns were written on gold-painted leaves to commemorate their lives.

“It is important to honor the lessons of those who have gone before us,” said Yeoman 1st Class Elizabeth Roberts, organizer of the commemorative wreath. “Everything changed after the attack. The perspective of who was friend and who could be foe was forever changed.”

Winston S. Churchill departed Norfolk, Va., Aug. 10 for a regularly scheduled deployment.

Winston S. Churchill is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and Pacific through the Western Indian Ocean and three critical chokepoints to the free flow of global commerce.