Cole Guards Told Not to Fire First Shot

ByABC News
November 14, 2000, 2:25 PM

Nov. 15 -- Amid reports that sailors on sentry duty aboard the USS Cole when it was attacked last month did not have ammunition in their guns, the father of one of the sailors killed lamented that lessons would be learned from the tragedy.

Its easy to sit back and criticize, but I dont think its right to do that, the father of a sailor killed in the attack on the destroyer told

I dont know what the situation was there, but I just hope we all learn from this experience, said Thomas Wibberley, father of Craig Wibberley, a 19-year-old seaman apprentice.

Seventeen sailors were killed and 39 injured when a small boat laden with explosives drew up alongside the destroyer in the Yemeni port of Aden last month and blew up, leaving a gaping hole in the destroyers side.

On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that 20 crewmembers of the USS Cole told the newspaper their rules of engagement prevented them from firing without obtaining permission from the ships captain or another officer.

Petty Officer John Washak said he was manning an M-60 machine gun shortly after the Cole was hit. Washak said he pointed the machine gun directly at an approaching boat to warn it off. But, he recalled, a senior chief petty officer ordered him to turn the gun away.

The Rules of Engagement

Washak protested, fearing the ship was still under attack. But even in the aftermath of the bombing, with blood still on my face, he said he was told: Thats the rules of engagement, no shooting unless were shot at.

Petty Officer Jennifer Kudrick, a sonar technician aboard the USS Cole, also reported being frustrated with the existing rules of engagement.

If we had shot those people, wed have gotten in trouble for it, said Kudrick. Thats whats frustrating about it. We would have gotten in more trouble for shooting two foreigners than losing 17 American sailors.