Author Topic: Someone You Should Know, a 9-11 Story  (Read 4895 times)

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Offline bayonetbrant

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Someone You Should Know, a 9-11 Story
« on: September 11, 2012, 05:29:55 AM »
This will eventually get un-pinned and moved to Military History.  But for today, it's here.

Rick Rescorla is someone you should know.

Rick Rescorla is the guy on the cover of the book "We Were Soldiers Once, And Young"



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The PAVN Commander knows that he had severely weakened and damaged the defenders in the Charlie Co sector the previous morning. What he does not know is that a fresh company - B Co 2nd Bn 7th Cav, had taken over the position after that engagement. That company, unmolested the previous afternoon, had cut fields of fire, dug new foxholes, fired in artillery concentrations, carefully emplaced it's machine guns and piled up ammunition(1).

Rescorla directed his men to dig foxholes and establish a defense perimeter. Exploring the hilly terrain beyond the perimeter, he came under enemy fire. After nightfall, he and his men endured waves of assault. To keep morale up, Rescorla led the men in military cheers and Cornish songs throughout the night(2).

Rescorla knew war. His men did not, yet. To steady them, to break their concentration away from the fear that may grip a man when he realizes there are hundreds of men very close by who want to kill him, Rescorla sang. Mostly he sang dirty songs that would make a sailor blush. Interspersed with the lyrics was the voice of command: "Fix bayonets - on liiiiine? Reaaaa-dy - forward." It was a voice straight from Waterloo, from the Somme, implacable, impeccable, impossible to disobey. His men forgot their fear, concentrated on his orders and marched forward as he led them straight into the pages of history.(3)

The PAVN assaults four separate times beginning at 4:22 AM. The last is at 6:27 AM. They are stopped cold, losing over 200 dead. B Co has 6 wounded. At 9:55 AM, a sweep outward is made which results in more enemy dead and the position secured(1).

The next morning, Rescorla took a patrol through the battlefield, searching for American dead and wounded. As he looked over a giant anthill, he encountered an enemy machine-gun nest. The startled North Vietnamese fired on him, and Rescorla hurled a grenade into the nest. There were no survivors(2).

Rescorla and Bravo company were evacuated by helicopter. The rest of the battalion marched to a nearby landing zone. On the way, they were ambushed, and Bravo company was again called in for relief. Only two helicopters made it through enemy fire. As the one carrying Rescorla descended, the pilot was wounded, and he started to lift up. Rescorla and his men jumped the remaining ten feet, bullets flying at them, and made it into the beleaguered camp. As Lieutenant Larry Gwin later recalled the scene, "I saw Rick Rescorla come swaggering into our lines with a smile on his face, an M-79 on his shoulder, his M-16 in one hand, saying, 'Good, good, good! I hope they hit us with everything they got tonight - we'll wipe them up.' His spirit was catching. The enemy must have thought an entire battalion was coming to help us, because of all our screaming and yelling."(2)

"My God, it was like Little Big Horn," recalls Pat Payne, a reconnaissance platoon leader. "We were all cowering in the bottom of our foxholes, expecting to get overrun. Rescorla gave us courage to face the coming dawn. He looked me in the eye and said, 'When the sun comes up, we're gonna kick some ass.' "

Sure enough, the battalion fought its way out of Albany. Rescorla left the field with a morale-boosting souvenir: a battered French Army bugle that the North Vietnamese had once claimed as a trophy of war. It became a talisman for his entire division.(4)

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He had grown up in a village on England's southwest coast and left at age sixteen to join the British military. He'd fought in Cyprus and Rhodesia. He then came to America, he said, so that he could enlist in the Army and go to Vietnam. He welcomed the opportunity to join the American cause in Southeast Asia. He worked his way up through the ranks to Sergeant before being commissioned.

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The survivors of the 7th Cavalry still tell awestruck stories about Rescorla. Like the time he stumbled into a hooch full of enemy soldiers on a reconnaissance patrol in Bon Song. "Oh, pardon me," he said, before firing a few rounds and racing away. "Oh, comma, pardon me," repeats Dennis Deal, who followed Rescorla that day in April 1966. "Like he had walked into a ladies' tea party!"

Or the time a deranged private pulled a .45-caliber pistol on an officer while Rescorla was nearby, sharpening his bowie knife. "Rick just walked right between them and said: Put. Down. The. Gun." recalls Bill Lund, who served with Rescorla in Vietnam. "And the guy did. Then Rick went back to his knife. He was flat out the bravest man any of us ever knew."

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After fighting in Vietnam, he returned to the United States and used his military benefits to study creative writing at the University of Oklahoma. Literary minded, even before college he had read all fifty-one volumes of the Harvard Classics and could recite Shakespeare and quote Churchill. He had started writing a novel about a mobile-air-cavalry unit, and had several stories published in Western-themed magazines. He eventually earned a bachelor's, a master's in literature, and a law degree.

Rescorla then moved to South Carolina for a brief teaching career. He left for greener pastures; jobs in corporate security eventually led him to Dean Witter in 1985. He moved to New Jersey, commuted to Manhattan, and rose to become vice-president in charge of security at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

And, oh by the way, was still in the Army, as a Reservist, having advanced to colonel before retiring in 1990.


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Rescorla's office was on the forty-fourth floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center. The firm occupied twenty-two floors in the south tower, and several floors in a building nearby. In 1990 Rescorla and Dan Hill, an old Army friend, evaluated the security, identifying load bearing columns in the parking garage as a weak point. A security official for the Port Authority dismissed their concerns. On February 26, 1993, a truck bomb exploded in the basement.

Rescorla ensured that every one of his firm's employees was safely evacuated, and was the last man out of the building.

Rescorla met his wife while running barefoot. Still determined to be a writer he had been scripting a play set in Rhodesia, based on his experiences there. Few of the native Rhodesians had worn shoes, which was why, he explained to her, he had to feel what it was like to run barefoot.


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In St. Augustine, Dan Hill was laying tile in his upstairs bathroom when his wife called, "Dan, get down here! An airplane just flew into the World Trade Center. It's a terrible accident." Hill hurried downstairs, and then the phone rang. It was Rescorla, calling from his cell phone.

"Are you watching TV?" he asked. "What do you think?"

"Hard to tell. It could have been an accident, but I can't see a commercial airliner getting that far off."

"I'm evacuating right now," Rescorla said.

Hill could hear Rescorla issuing orders through the bullhorn. He was calm and collected, never raising his voice. Then Hill heard him break into song:

Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming;
Can't you see their spearpoints gleaming?
See their warriors' pennants streaming
To this battlefield.
Men of Cornwall stand ye steady;
It cannot be ever said ye
for the battle were not ready;
Stand and never yield!

Rescorla came back on the phone. "Pack a bag and get up here," he said. "You can be my consultant again." He added that the Port Authority was telling him not to evacuate and to order people to stay at their desks.

"What'd you say?" Hill asked.

"I said, 'Piss off, you son of a bitch,' " Rescorla replied. "Everything above where that plane hit is going to collapse, and it's going to take the whole building with it. I'm getting my people the fuck out of here." Then he said, "I got to go. Get your shit in one basket and get ready to come up."

Hill turned back to the TV and, within minutes, saw the second plane execute a sharp left turn and plunge into the south tower. Susan saw it, too, and frantically phoned her husband's office. No one answered.

About fifteen minutes later, the phone rang. It was Rick. She burst into tears and couldn't talk.

"Stop crying," he told her. "I have to get these people out safely. If something should happen to me, I want you to know I've never been happier. You made my life."

Susan cried even harder, gasping for breath. She felt a stab of fear, because the words sounded like those of someone who wasn't coming back. "No!" she cried, but then he said he had to go. Cell-phone use was being curtailed so as not to interfere with emergency communications.

From the World Trade Center, Rescorla again called Hill. He said he was taking some of his security men and making a final sweep, to make sure no one was left behind, injured, or lost. Then he would evacuate himself. "Call Susan and calm her down," he said. "She's panicking."

Hill reached Susan, who had just got off the phone with Sullivan. "Take it easy," he said, as she continued to sob. "He's been through tight spots before, a million times." Suddenly Susan screamed. Hill turned to look at his own television and saw the south tower collapse. He thought of the words Rescorla had so often used to comfort dying soldiers. "Susan, he'll be O.K.," he said gently. "Take deep breaths. Take it easy. If anyone will survive, Rick will survive."

When Hill hung up, he turned to his wife. Her face was ashen. "Shit," he said. "Rescorla is dead."(2)

The rest of Rick Rescorla's morning is shrouded in some mystery. The tower went dark. Fire raged. Windows shattered. Rescorla headed upstairs before moving down; he helped evacuate several people above the 50th Floor. Stephan Newhouse, chairman of Morgan Stanley International, said at a memorial service in Hayle that Rescorla was spotted as high as the 72nd floor, then worked his way down, clearing floors as he went. He was telling people to stay calm, pace themselves, get off their cell phones, keep moving. At one point, he was so exhausted he had to sit for a few minutes, although he continued barking orders through his bullhorn. Morgan Stanley officials said he called headquarters shortly before the tower collapsed to say he was going back up to search for stragglers.

John Olson, a Morgan Stanley regional director, saw Rescorla reassuring colleagues in the 10th-floor stairwell. "Rick, you've got to get out, too," Olson told him. "As soon as I make sure everyone else is out," Rescorla replied.

Morgan Stanley officials say Rescorla also told employees that "today is a day to be proud to be American" and that "tomorrow, the whole world will be talking about you." They say he also sang "God Bless America" and Cornish folk tunes in the stairwells. Those reports could not be confirmed, although they don't sound out of character. He liked to sing in a crisis. But the documented truth is impressive enough. Morgan Stanley managing director Bob Sloss was the only employee who didn't evacuate the 66th floor after the first plane hit, pausing to call his family and several underlings, even taking a call from a Bloomberg News reporter. Then the second plane hit, and his office walls cracked, and he felt the tower wagging like a dog's tail. He clambered down to the 10th floor, and there was Rescorla, sweating through his suit in the heat, telling people they were almost out, making no move to leave himself.

Rick did not make it out. Neither did two of his security officers who were at his side. But only three other Morgan Stanley employees died when their building was obliterated.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2015, 08:52:12 PM by bayonetbrant »
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Offline Steelgrave

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Re: Someone You Should Know, a 9-11 Story
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2012, 05:35:22 AM »
Awesome, awesome story....some never stop serving. Thanks for sharing it, BB.
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Offline Gusington

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Re: Someone You Should Know, a 9-11 Story
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2012, 05:46:57 AM »
RIP, and thank you.
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Offline Martok

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Re: Someone You Should Know, a 9-11 Story
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2012, 06:07:18 AM »
Wow.  I got misty-eyed reading that.  Thanks for sharing, chief. 


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Offline TheCommandTent

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Re: Someone You Should Know, a 9-11 Story
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2012, 06:36:50 AM »
Incredible story and one that needs repeating.  Thanks BB.
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Offline steve58

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Re: Someone You Should Know, a 9-11 Story
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2012, 06:47:55 AM »
Wow, may he rest in peace.  Thanks for sharing that...
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Offline bayonetbrant

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Re: Someone You Should Know, a 9-11 Story
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2012, 07:13:20 AM »
I'll share that one every 9-11 as long as I can.  It's too good not to.
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Offline undercovergeek

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Re: Someone You Should Know, a 9-11 Story
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2012, 07:49:43 AM »
speechless

a triumph of human spirit - if he was born with it - awesome

if he had it bred into him, learnt it - then schools all over the world should be opened with the same teachings he received

an excellent human being

Offline Centurion40

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Re: Someone You Should Know, a 9-11 Story
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2012, 09:19:27 AM »
Incredible story and one that needs repeating.  Thanks BB.

Agreed.  I've heard it before, and I'm shocked that there has not yet been (AFAIK) a major motion picture about this man's life.
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Offline LongBlade

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Re: Someone You Should Know, a 9-11 Story
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2012, 09:57:45 AM »
Incredible story and one that needs repeating.  Thanks BB.

Agreed.  I've heard it before, and I'm shocked that there has not yet been (AFAIK) a major motion picture about this man's life.

There was an hour-long special on one of the science or history channels here. It did a really good job of covering how well prepared he was for this eventuality, and what a true hero he was.

Offline Arctic Blast

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Re: Someone You Should Know, a 9-11 Story
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2012, 12:33:47 PM »
I'm sad to say that I hadn't heard about any of that before. But I'm glad that I have now.

Offline bayonetbrant

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Re: Someone You Should Know, a 9-11 Story
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2013, 05:07:43 AM »
I'll share that one every 9-11 as long as I can.  It's too good not to.

bump
The key to surviving this site is to not say something which ends up as someone's tag line - Steelgrave

"their citizens (all of them counted as such) glorified their mythology of 'rights'...and lost track of their duties. No nation, so constituted, can endure." Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers

Offline bayonetbrant

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Re: Someone You Should Know, a 9-11 Story
« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2013, 05:08:43 AM »
a video on Rescorla

The key to surviving this site is to not say something which ends up as someone's tag line - Steelgrave

"their citizens (all of them counted as such) glorified their mythology of 'rights'...and lost track of their duties. No nation, so constituted, can endure." Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers

Offline BanzaiCat

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Re: Someone You Should Know, a 9-11 Story
« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2013, 05:13:26 AM »
Amazing, amazing, amazing. Great story, thank you for sharing.

Offline Mr. Bigglesworth

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Re: Someone You Should Know, a 9-11 Story
« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2013, 05:23:56 PM »
He's the man. Sometimes you hear of someone you really would have liked to shake their hand.
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