Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: The Once and Future Hero

 

HG's WORLD: September 11, 2001 in The Rearview Mirror of Time.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!

Rick Rescorla sang this old Welsh song, and others, as he directed the orderly evacuation of 2,687 Morgan Stanley employees from the South Tower of the World Trade Center. They walked down in an orderly manner, as he had made them rehearse regularly. This last photograph of the old warrior leader was taken by one of the employees, whose life he saved on September 11, 2001.

If you have not read his story before, please start with the 2002 New Yorker article. The Washington Post article “A Tower of Strength,” written a month after the attack, is also excellent. You would not recognize him from this grainy photograph, puffy from cancer treatment, but the photograph on the original cover of We Were Soldiers Once, and Young has a young Lieutenant Rescorla in the heat of battle, bayonet fixed.

From Vietnam to the World Trade Center « Taps Bugler: Jari Villanueva

General Hal Moore records that the younger officer, seasoned in wars before his U.S. service, sang to keep his men steady through the night, between bursts of action. This was his habit, as illustrated in an account from a company commander:

I HEARD HIS VOICE long before I ever met him: ‘Gaaaa-rry Owen, Garry Owen, Garry Owen, / In the Valley of Montana all alone / There’ll be better days to be for the 7th Cavalry / When we charge again for dear old Garry Owen….’

It was the summer of 1995. I was a company commander in the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry — George Armstrong Custer’s old outfit — and an audiotape made at An Khe in the spring of 1966 had found its way into my hands. ‘Garry Owen’ is the motto of the 7th Cavalry. The voice pounding through on the scratchy tape was a voice out of the pages of history for me — the voice of Rick Rescorla.

Today, there is a memorial statue at Fort Benning:

The Department of Homeland Security recognizes The Rick Rescorla National Award for Resilience.

The Rick Rescorla National Award for Resilience is the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) first national resilience award for superior leadership and innovation by a non-governmental individual or organization who exemplifies the qualities and achievements of Rick Rescorla, emphasizing leadership in effective preparation, response, and recovery in the face of disasters.

Today’s quote is a variation on Men of Harlech, as Rick Rescorla was born in Cornwall, England. You likely heard it in the 1964 movie Zulu, as the handful of defenders sang defiantly in response to the massed Zulu army’s war song. The movie was based on the 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift.

That battle could have turned out the same as the Battle of Little Big Horn, alluded to in Gary Owen, but it did not, thanks to well trained troops led by the right young officer. Nor did the battle in the Ia Drang Valley in 1965, fought by a battalion of the newly airmobile 7th Cavalry, thanks to well trained troops and the right officers. Nor did the attack on the Twin Towers, thanks to an old 7th Cavalry officer, who effectively trained and then led Morgan Stanley’s employees to safety. He was last seen heading back up the stairwell to lead other companies’ employees out.

There are 14 comments.

  1. Arahant Member

    Sounds like a right proper warrior.

    • #1
    • September 10, 2018, at 11:56 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  2. Gary McVey Contributor

    What a magnificent post! Thanks for writing it, Clifford. 

    • #2
    • September 11, 2018, at 12:03 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  3. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    What a magnificent post! Thanks for writing it, Clifford.

    The hero’s tale almost writes itself. I reread the New Yorker essay every year. It was a pleasure finding other sources, especially the company commander’s story of the tape recording of the young officer singing!

    • #3
    • September 11, 2018, at 12:12 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  4. Vectorman Thatcher

    Clifford A. Brown: Today’s quote is a variation on Men of Harlech, as Rick Rescorla was born in Cornwall, England. You likely heard it in the 1964 movie Zulu, as the handful of defenders sang defiantly in response to the massed Zulu army’s war song. The movie was based on the 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift.

    Shameless plug: Rorke’s Drift, 1879


    This entry is part of our Quote of the Day series. We have 8 openings on the  September Schedule for your wisdom. We’ve even include tips for finding great quotes. It’s the easiest way to start a Ricochet conversation, so why not sign up today?

    • #4
    • September 11, 2018, at 3:03 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  5. She Thatcher
    She

    Men of Harlech. Such an iconic march, if you’re a Brit. One of my dad’s favorites. Here it is, sung by one of the best Welsh Male Voice Choirs. (Note that the second comment is a reference to Rick Rescorla’s actions on 9/11. People noticed, and they remember.)

    As a native Cornishman, Rick Rescorla would have known about the shared history of Cornwall (once known as “West Wales) and what we now call Wales, and I’m sure there was a bit of friendly ribbing in his rendition of the song.

    God bless him, and all those who lost or were lost on that terrible day. And all those who survived the terror. And all those who helped.

    • #5
    • September 11, 2018, at 5:25 AM PST
    • 13 likes
  6. OldPhil Coolidge

    He’s the subject of an excellent book.

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/105251.Heart_of_a_Soldier

     

    • #6
    • September 11, 2018, at 6:05 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  7. Percival Thatcher

    Music on the battlefield is old; older than the need to keep the phalanx in step and therefore in line.

    My favorite version of lyrics for “Men of Harlech” were penned by John Guard. The second verse:

    Load the martial pipes are sounding,
    Ev’ry manly heart is bounding,
    As our trusted chief surrounding,
    March we, Harlech men.
    Short the sleep the foe is taking;
    Ere the morrows morn is breaking,
    They shall have a rude awakening,
    Roused by Harlech Men.
    Mothers, cease your weeping,
    Calm may be your sleeping,
    You and yours in safety now,
    The Harlech men are keeping.
    Ere the sun is high in heaven,
    They yon fear, by panic riven,
    Shall, like frightened sheep, be driven,
    Far, by Harlech men.

    I think my Welsh ancestors would appreciate that one.

    • #7
    • September 11, 2018, at 10:18 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Thanks, Clifford. A deeply touching post. I came away with a multi-dimensional impression of this fine man, and especially enjoyed learning of his wife and best friend, Dan Hill, who was quoted in the New Yorker article:

    Dan Hill says that Susan will understand someday, as he does. “What she doesn’t understand is that she knew him for four or five years. She knew a sixty-two-year-old man with cancer. I knew him as a hundred-and-eighty-pound, six-foot-one piece of human machinery that would not quit, that did not know defeat, that would not back off one inch. In the middle of the greatest battle of Vietnam, he was singing to the troops, saying we’re going to rip them a new a–hole, when everyone else was worrying about dying. If he had come out of that building and someone died who he hadn’t tried to save, he would have had to commit suicide.

    “I’ve tried to tell Susan this, in a way, but she’s not ready yet for the truth. In the next weeks or months, I’ll get her down here, and we’ll take a walk along the ocean, and I’ll explain these things. You see, for Rick Rescorla, this was a natural death. People like Rick, they don’t die old men. They aren’t destined for that and it isn’t right for them to do so. It just isn’t right, by God, for them to become feeble, old, and helpless sons of bitches. There are certain men born in this world, and they’re supposed to die setting an example for the rest of the weak bastards we’re surrounded with.”♦

    So often we are struck by the tragedy of this day, but certain stories touch us more deeply than others. Like this one.

    • #8
    • September 11, 2018, at 11:19 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  9. Stad Thatcher

    What a man . . .

    • #9
    • September 11, 2018, at 11:38 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  10. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Thank you for a fitting tribute to an extraordinary man. I will read the links provided to find out as much as I can.

    • #10
    • September 11, 2018, at 1:18 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  11. Columbo Member

    Thank you for sharing this amazing story of true hero (throughout his life) Rick Rescorla. He answered the call twice in complete supernatural acts of selflessness.

    I am also reminded of another hero’s selfless act on that awful day … Welles Crowther.

    • #11
    • September 11, 2018, at 6:26 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  12. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    I don’t understand war. I mostly don’t approve of war, but on the other hand, there are wars that needed to be fought and won. A shame that a man like Rick fought in Vietnam, while the Generals, the contract bidders and contract power makers could have cared less if that war was won – as long as their companies profited, as long as their slush funds were filled with the nation’s treasury for the deal makers to plunder. And because the nation’s Big Shots didn’t care, that war was lost.

    Recently “All Quiet On the Western Front” was on the Old Movie Channel. I was transfixed by the notion that an entire generation of men in Europe stood, sat and laid in trenches for years, looking death square in the eye. To have nothing protecting your body and limbs and your head but a few feet of raw earth, some of it awash in a comrade’s blood, and watch intently as the mortars come raining down, 500 hundred yards away, than 300 hundred, than 100 yards, than fifty feet, then fifteen then… Sure, I have been brave at times, but could I look a mechanized death like that in the eye more than once? Could I possibly face death in the eye like that day after day, week after week, for three long years?

    Yet Rescorla was made of exactly such a powerful conviction that he eyeballed death head on, rallied the troops and sang. His end is exactly as would be fitting for such a soul. Those many New Yorkers he helped to safety had a real life guardian angel whose strength was battle forged. On a day that had been devised by demons, he put his mettle to humanity’s service. He must never be forgotten.

    • #12
    • September 13, 2018, at 1:05 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  13. Gary McVey Contributor

    CarolJoy (View Comment):

    I don’t understand war. I mostly don’t approve of war, but on the other hand, there are wars that needed to be fought and won. A shame that a man like Rick fought in Vietnam, while the Generals, the contract bidders and contract power makers could have cared less if that war was won – as long as their companies profited, as long as their slush funds were filled with the nation’s treasury for the deal makers to plunder. And because the nation’s Big Shots didn’t care, that war was lost.

    Recently “All Quiet On the Western Front” was on the Old Movie Channel. I was transfixed by the notion that an entire generation of men in Europe stood, sat and laid in trenches for years, looking death square in the eye. To have nothing protecting your body and limbs and your head but a few feet of raw earth, some of it awash in a comrade’s blood, and watch intently as the mortars come raining down, 500 hundred yards away, than 300 hundred, than 100 yards, than fifty feet, then fifteen then… Sure, I have been brave at times, but could I look a mechanized death like that in the eye more than once? Could I possibly face death in the eye like that day after day, week after week, for three long years?

    Yet Rescorla was made of exactly such a powerful conviction that he eyeballed death head on, rallied the troops and sang. His end is exactly as would be fitting for such a soul. Those many New Yorkers he helped to safety had a real life guardian angel whose strength was battle forged. On a day that had been devised by demons, he put his mettle to humanity’s service. He must never be forgotten.

    Okay, Carol Joy, on this site we may not agree on everything, but a comment as wonderful as this earns you a spot in Ricochet Heaven. 

    • #13
    • September 13, 2018, at 1:13 AM PST
    • 1 like
  14. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    CarolJoy (View Comment):

    I don’t understand war. I mostly don’t approve of war, but on the other hand, there are wars that needed to be fought and won. A shame that a man like Rick fought in Vietnam, while the Generals, the contract bidders and contract power makers could have cared less if that war was won – as long as their companies profited, as long as their slush funds were filled with the nation’s treasury for the deal makers to plunder. And because the nation’s Big Shots didn’t care, that war was lost.

    Recently “All Quiet On the Western Front” was on the Old Movie Channel. I was transfixed by the notion that an entire generation of men in Europe stood, sat and laid in trenches for years, looking death square in the eye. To have nothing protecting your body and limbs and your head but a few feet of raw earth, some of it awash in a comrade’s blood, and watch intently as the mortars come raining down, 500 hundred yards away, than 300 hundred, than 100 yards, than fifty feet, then fifteen then… Sure, I have been brave at times, but could I look a mechanized death like that in the eye more than once? Could I possibly face death in the eye like that day after day, week after week, for three long years?

    Yet Rescorla was made of exactly such a powerful conviction that he eyeballed death head on, rallied the troops and sang. His end is exactly as would be fitting for such a soul. Those many New Yorkers he helped to safety had a real life guardian angel whose strength was battle forged. On a day that had been devised by demons, he put his mettle to humanity’s service. He must never be forgotten.

    Okay, Carol Joy, on this site we may not agree on everything, but a comment as wonderful as this earns you a spot in Ricochet Heaven.

    I understand the war profiteers narrative AND I believe it distracts from a more disturbing and messy reality. LBJ was caught between fear of being labeled soft on Communism (losing Vietnam to the Reds) and losing domestic political support for his fundamental transformation of our politics through the Great Society project. So, he incrementally increased our commitment while always restraining it, playing not to lose.

    On the military side, the tragedy was that a tank general was put in charge, whose vision was uniquely suited to fail on that terrain with that enemy. We glimpse the path not taken when the son of another famous tank general achieved tactical and some operational success late in the war. The strategic die had been cast in the hearts and minds of the American public, or at least in the political parties. But, things likely would have been different had Marine Corps General Victor Krulak’s strategy been adopted from the outset.

    • #14
    • September 13, 2018, at 10:20 AM PST
    • 2 likes