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(Credit: Dimitri Messinis / Associated Press)

By Charles Apple
The Spokesman-Review

On this date 20 years ago, two suicide bombers in a rubber boat rammed into the side of the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Cole as it was refueling in Aden Harbor in Yemen. In addition to the attackers, the blast killed 17 crewmen and injured 39 more.

A terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack, but most Americans had never heard of Al-Qaeda. They would hear of them again, 11 months later.

(Credit: U.S. Navy)

The blast blew a 40-by-60-foot hole in the side of the Cole, just below the ship’s galley. The force of the blast pushed the ship’s deck upward, killing crewmen who had lined up for lunch.

Injured crewmen were flown to Ramstein, Germany, for treatment. Flooding aboard the ship was brought under control within three days.

(Credit: Danny Johnston / Associated Press)

Eighteen days after the attack, the Norwegian heavy transport vessel Blue Marlin lifted the Cole out of the water and placed it on its deck for transport to a shipyard near Pascagoula, Mississippi. Repairs were completed by 2003 and the ship returned to service a year later.

The attack had been planned by Al-Qaeda member Khalid al-Mihdhar. Mihdhar would hijack American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

Earlier this year, the government of Sudan agreed to pay $30 million to the families of sailors killed in the attack.

Other notable peacetime incidents against U.S. Navy vessels

Not including the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 ...

June 22, 1807

(Credit: U.S. Naval Historical Center)

A British warship pursues, attacks and boards a U.S. frigate, looking for deserters from the Royal Navy. The British seize four crewman. The incident leads to political strife – and, eventually, war – between Britain and the U.S.

Feb. 1, 1855

(Credit: Library of Congress)

A U.S. gunboat making a survey of the Río de la Plata is fired upon as it passes Fort Itapirú, Paraguay. The helmsman of the ship is the only fatality. Four years later, Paraguay would apologize and pay the crewman’s family.

Feb. 15, 1898

(Credit: Naval History Heritage Command)

A U.S. battleship anchored in Cuba’s Havana Bay explodes and sinks, killing 261 of the 355 men aboard. The U.S. accuses Spain of a mine attack and eventually declares war. Evidence suggests the explosion was an internal accident.

Dec. 12, 1937

(Credit: U.S. Signal Corps)

A U.S. gunboat and three Standard Oil tankers anchored in the Yangtze River near Nanjing are sunk by Japanese planes. Three sailors are killed. The attackers say they didn’t notice the giant U.S. flags flying from the ship.

Sept. 4, 1941

(Credit: Associated Press)

A German U-boat fires torpedoes at a destroyer on convoy duty in the Atlantic. The Greer drops depth charges. No hits were made by either vessel, but – with the U.S. still officially neutral – politicians are upset by the exchange.

Oct. 17, 1941

(Credit: Naval History Heritage Command)

A destroyer on guard duty near the U.S. naval base in Reykjavik, Iceland, is attacked by a German U-boat. Eleven sailors are killed and 22 injured. The Kearny was nursed to Boston, where permanent repairs were made.

Oct. 31, 1941

(Credit: Naval History Heritage Command)

World War I-era destroyer on convoy duty is sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Iceland 38 days before the U.S. enters World War II. One hundred of the crew of 136 officers and sailors are killed.          

June 8, 1967

(Credit: U.S. Navy)

U.S. surveillance vessel in the Mediterranean Sea near the Sinai Peninsula is mistakenly attacked by an Israeli jet and PT boats. Thirty-four crew members are killed and 171 more wounded. Israel would pay $13 million in damages.

Jan. 23, 1968

(Credit: Korean Central News Agency)

U.S. surveillance vessel in international waters is attacked by the North Korean Navy, killing one sailor. The Pueblo surrenders and the crew of 83 is held with little food and occasional torture. They were released 11 months later.

May 17, 1987

(Credit: U.S. Navy)

An Iraqi jet fires two Exocet missiles into the side of a Navy frigate patrolling off the coast of Saudi Arabia during the Iran-Iraq War. Thirty-seven crewmen were killed, eight more would die of their injuries and 21 others were injured.

April 14, 1988

(Credit: Associated Press)

Navy frigate on tanker escort duty in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War strikes an Iraqi mine. The blast leaves a 15-foot hole in the hull and breaks the keel of the ship, which nearly sinks it. Ten sailors are injured.

OCT. 3-15, 2016

(Credit: U.S. Navy)

Destroyer patrolling off the coast of Yemen is attacked three times over two weeks by missiles fired by Houthi insurgents. Some of the missiles fell short. Others were intercepted by cruise missiles fired from the Mason.

Sources: U.S. Navy,, the Washington Post, the San Diego Union-Tribune, Associated Press, CNN, CNBC, BBC, NPR, Bloomberg,