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First Name: Cyril

Last Name: Rescorla

Birthplace: Hayle, GB

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)



Middle Name: Richard



Date of Birth: 27 May 1939

Date of Death: 11 September 2001

Rank: Colonel

Years Served:
Cyril Richard Rescorla
'Rick'

   
Engagements:
•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)

Biography:

Cyril Richard "Rick" Rescorla

Colonel, U.S. Army

 

Cyril Richard "Rick" Rescorla was killed "in action" by terrorists who flew an airliner into the World Trade Center Two building on 11 September 2001. Before he died, Rick's actions allowed all but 13 of Morgan Stanley's 2,700 WTC employees to survive the terrorist attack.

The Early Years

Cyril Richard "Rick" Rescorla was born on 27 May 1939 in Hayle, a seaport on the north coast of Cornwall, Britain. In 1943, his home town of Hayle served as headquarters for the 175th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. 29th Infantry Division, largely composed of American soldiers from Maryland and Virginia. Young Rescorla idolized the American soldiers, and wanted to become a soldier someday because of them.

He was the only child of a single mom but didn't know it; he thought he had a 'regular' working-class family. He later learned that his "parents" were actually his grandparents and that his "sister" and "brother" were really his mother and uncle. Even after learning the truth, he continued to call his mother "Sis" until the day he died. (He never met his father.)

Rescorla was a sports natural; he set a school record in the shot put and was an avid boxer. When a professional boxing match was scheduled between a British boxer and an American heavyweight contender named Tami Mauriello, his friends backed the Englishman. Rescorla stated, "I'm for Tammy," and after Mauriello won the fight, everyone in Hayle began calling Rescorla "Tammy." According to his friend, Mervyn Sullivan, he was also a talented and highly competitive rugby player. Sullivan has a scar on his forehead where Tammy kicked him 50 years ago while chasing a ball - and Tammy was on his team!

British Military Service

Rescorla enlisted in the British Army in 1957 and because he hated his given name "Cyril," he began using the name "Rick." He trained as a paratrooper with the Parachute Regiment and then served with an intelligence unit in war-torn Cyprus during the Cypriot insurgency. He then served as a paramilitary police inspector in the Northern Rhodesia Police (now the Zambia Police Service).

After returning to civilian life in London, he joined the Metropolitan Police Service and became a detective at Scotland Yard. However, he soon became bored with the job and paperwork and moved to the U.S. where he lived at a YMCA in Brooklyn until he was able to enlist in the Army.

U.S. Military Service

Rick enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1963 and underwent basic training at Fort Dix, NJ. While in basic training he met Dan Hill, who would become his best friend. Rick and Dan were the only two recruits in basic with combat experience; the situation was the same when they attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, GA (they also took Airborne training). After graduating from OCS and being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in April 1965, Rescorla was assigned as a platoon leader in Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). Like many other units, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment was sent to Vietnam in the fall of 1965; a time when the Vietnam War was beginning to seriously escalate.

Vietnam and the Battle of Ia Drang

In a remote part of the Central Highlands lay the hills of the Ia Drang Valley, an area so named because of the Drang River which runs through the valley northwest of Plei Me ("Ia" means "river" in the local Montagnard language). On 14 November 1965, elements of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 7th Cavalry Regiment and the 5th Calvary Regiment began being dropped into the Valley. The first night, American troops were encircled at a landing zone they called X-Ray, and one company was virtually wiped out in a hellish firefight.

The next day, Rescorla's company was ordered to replace it on the perimeter at the foot of the Chu Pong mountain ridge. In a later letter to Moore and Galloway, Rescorla recalled that when he arrived - after a U.S. fighter jet had mistakenly dropped napalm on his men - he found corpses scattered everywhere from the night before, including an American with his hands still clenched around a North Vietnamese soldier's throat. "Are your men up for this? Do you feel they can hold?" asked Myron Diduryk, his commander. "If they break through us, sir, you'll be the first to know," Rescorla replied.

Rescorla risked sniper fire that night to study the terrain from the enemy viewpoint. He ordered his men to dig new foxholes 50 yards back, lay booby traps, reposition their machine guns and artillery. After midnight, he sang a slow Cornish mining tune: "Going Up Cambourne Hill Coming Down." Lund remembers Rescorla stopping by his foxhole to reset his bayonet and critique his fields of fire, joking as if they were preparing to play paintball. "What a command presence," recalls Lund, "We all thought we were going to die that night, and Rescorla gave us our courage back. I figured, if he's walking around singing, the least I can do is stop trembling." He was indeed a very rare Second Lieutenant.

The next morning, Bravo Company beat back four assaults, cutting down about 200 enemy soldiers while sustaining only a few injuries. "A quietness settled over the field," Rescorla wrote later. "We put more rounds into clumps of bodies nearest our holes, making sure. Forty yards away a young North Vietnamese soldier popped up from behind a tree. He started his limping run back the way he had come. I fired two rounds. He crumpled. I chewed the line out for failure to fire quickly."

Although it sounds callous, Rescorla had a vicious job to do. Minutes later, he saved several of his men by dropping a grenade on an enemy machine-gunner. When his company was airlifted back to base, Rescorla still had the gunner's brain matter on his fatigues. "The stench of the dead would stay with me for years after the battle," he wrote. "Below us the pockmarked earth was dotted with enemy dead. A grenadier next to me threw up on my lap. He was, like many, a man who had fought bravely even though he had no stomach for the bloodletting."

The next day, while Bravo Company rested, the rest of 2nd Battalion marched into a vicious ambush near a landing zone called Albany. Bravo was sent back to the rescue. "You know the battalion is in the [expletive]," Rescorla told his men. "We've been selected to jump into that [expletive] and pull them out." Once again, Rescorla sprinted into a ragged perimeter -- after a bone-rattling 10-foot jump from a Huey under fire -- and immediately lifted the spirits of weary soldiers who thought they were done. "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.' "

Rescorla was right, 2nd Battalion fought its way out of Albany. Rescorla left the field with a morale-boosting trophy of war: a battered French Army bugle that the North Vietnamese had once used to signal troops. It became a talisman for his entire division

The Battle of Ia Drang took place during 14-18 November and it was the first major battle between the U.S. Army and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). The area in which the battle took place would become known as the Valley of Death. A total of 305 Americans died in the Battle of Ia Drang, more than in the entire Persian Gulf War. The NVA death toll was 3,561. But the worst news of all was that the leaders on each side decided after the battle that they would be able to outlast the other side in a war of attrition.

The bloody battle was described in the book and movie We Were Soldiers Once… And Young, co-authored by Lieutenant General Hal Moore, U.S. Army (Ret) and war correspondent Joseph Galloway. Rick Rescorla is the gaunt, unshaven soldier pictured on the book's jacket cover carrying his M-16 rifle with bayonet fixed. Lieutenant General Moore described him as "the best platoon leader I ever saw." "What a unique man." Rescorla's men nicknamed him "Hard Core" for his bravery in battle, and revered him for his good humor and compassion towards his men.

Rick is also mentioned in the book Baptism by Larry Gwin, who also fought at Ia Drang. The fourteenth chapter of that book is called Rescorla's Game and describes him as the "Cornish Hawk." Gwin described him as a charming raconteur with a "crazed irreverent twinkle" at play, but also a ruthless killer with a "cold steely glint that could sear through you like the icy stare of death" in the bush.

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!"

Another story involves 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 sharpening his knife. He was flat out the bravest man any of us ever knew."

Larry Froelich, an OCS classmate, remembers "Most of us were in awe of Rick. It came as no surprise when the stories began to trickle back from Vietnam about his exploits in the field."

Rescorla served one tour in Vietnam. He hated the way the Washington politicians were running things; their kill ratios, no-fire zones, and half-baked commitment to victory. He believed they were underestimating the enemy's resolve by mistaking fervent nationalism for Soviet-style communism, and that they were piling up body bags in a losing cause. He liked to say the higher-ups "saw things through the rosy red hue." "When I heard that Rick had quit the war, I felt in my heart that this was the wrong war for us," Froelich recalls. "I never thought he'd walk away from a noble pursuit."

Medals and Awards

Silver Star Medal
Bronze Star Medal (2 Awards: 1 with Combat "Valor" Device)
Purple Heart
Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry

Badges

Combat Infantryman Badge
Parachutist Badge
British Parachutist Badge

Post-War Military Service

Rick finished his Army tour back at Fort Benning, and received his U.S. citizenship there.

He later trained officers for the Oklahoma National Guard and took another job training security guards in hand-to-hand combat. But although he remained in the Army Reserve for years, the pure-macho stage of his life was over.

Rick retired from the Army as a Colonel.

Vietnam was always in the background. He told his daughter, Kim, that he wasn't the same man who used to kill 20 people before breakfast. He felt uneasy at reunions, complaining in an e-mail to Shucart about their "strange mixture of sentimentality, camaraderie, hucksterism and revisionist history." He once wrote that men who died in Vietnam were "as valid as any American hero in any war this country has ever fought," and he often visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. But he could not relate to veterans who still greeted him with "Welcome home, brother," and who never got over their bitter homecomings.

Civilian Life

In 1968, Rick began his studies in literature at the University of Oklahoma on the GI Bill. He hung around bookstores and coffee shops. He read up on American Indians and the Wild West and studied creative writing. He earned Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Literature and then began law school. "I'm sure everyone's talking about Rick the Celtic warrior, Rick the hero, but he also had a deep intelligence," says Fred McBee, a fellow student who later became a philosophy professor. "He'd lay Shakespeare on you. He'd quote Proust."

In 1972, Rick became a Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina. However, academia was not his calling. "Can you imagine Rescorla sitting around with a damn pipe in his mouth?" Dan Hill asks. The money wasn't great, either. So Rescorla shifted into corporate security, first at the Bank Administration Institute, then at a Chicago bank.

In 1985, Rick moved to New Jersey to be Director of Security for the Wall Street brokerage firm Dean Witter, which later merged with the investment bank Morgan Stanley. He brought a military regimen to the job, frequently calling his guards at night to make sure they were at their posts, and constantly analyzing new security threats.

World Trade Center Risk Assessment

During the Gulf War, Hill says, Rescorla concluded that the main threat at the World Trade Center was a truck-bomb attack on the pillars of the basement parking garage. "We walked the garage together, and that was obviously the soft spot," says Hill, who had been hired by Rescorla as a consultant. "He warned Port Authority, but they said it was none of his business."

In 1993, a terrorist truck bomb in that very garage created pandemonium. Although legend has it that Rick dropped his pants to get the crowd's attention, that Rescorla story isn't quite true. He only jumped on a desk in the middle of the firm and threatened to drop his pants if his people didn't chill out and listen. In the stunned silence that followed, he launched an orderly evacuation, refusing to leave until the entire tower was empty.

Rescorla and Dan Hill reasoned that the World Trade Center was still a target for terrorists and that the next attack could be a plane crashing into one of the towers. Rick expected a cargo plane, possibly loaded with chemical or biological weapons. He recommended to his superiors at Morgan Stanley that the company leave Manhattan. Office space and labor costs were lower in New Jersey, and the firm's employees and equipment would be safer in a proposed four-story building. However, this recommendation was not followed as the company's lease at the World Trade Center did not terminate until 2006. At Rescorla's insistence, all employees, including senior executives, then practiced emergency evacuations every three months - walking down stairways, two abreast.

11 September 2001

Rescorla was supposed to be on vacation that day. His wife Susan's daughter, Alexandra, was getting married the next week in a 10th Century Tuscan castle, and they had planned to go abroad early. But his deputy, Ihab Dana, wanted to visit Lebanon, so Rescorla delayed his own vacation and covered his shift. "It should've been me in there," Dana says. "Rick was like a father to me."

Rescorla was also scheduled to attend a lunchtime meeting to discuss the lawsuit Morgan Stanley was filing against the Port Authority about the security lapses that led to the 1993 attack.

At 8:15 a.m., Rick called Susan from his corner office on the 44th floor. "He told me he loved me. He said he didn't need the movies -- he had me," she says.

At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 struck World Trade Center Tower 1 (WTC 1). Rescorla, following his evacuation plans, ignored building officials' advice to stay put and began the orderly evacuation of Morgan Stanley's 2,700 employees on twenty floors of WTC 2, and 1,000 employees in WTC 5. Rescorla reminded everyone to "...be proud to be an American ...everyone will be talking about you tomorrow," and sang God Bless America and other military and Cornish songs over his bullhorn to help evacuees stay calm as they left the building, including an adaptation of the song "Men of Harlech:"

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 had most of Morgan Stanley's 2,700 employees, as well as people working on other floors of WTC 2, safely out of the buildings by the time United Airlines Flight 175 hit WTC 2 at 9:03 a.m. After leading many of his fellow employees to safety, Rescorla returned to the building to rescue others still inside. When one of his colleagues told him that he too, had to evacuate, Rescorla replied, "As soon as I make sure everyone else is out."

Susan Rescorla watched the United Airlines jet carve through her husband's tower, and she dissolved in tears. After a while, her phone rang. It was Rick. "I don't want you to cry," he said. "I have to evacuate my people now." She kept sobbing. "If something happens to me, I want you to know that you made my life." The phone went dead.

According to Stephan Newhouse, Chairman of Morgan Stanley International, Rescorla was seen as high as the 72nd floor evacuating people, clearing the floors and working his way down. He was last seen heading up the stairs of the tenth floor of the collapsing WTC 2. His remains were not recovered.

As a result of Rescorla's actions, all but 13 of Morgan Stanley's 2,700 WTC employees survived. They are: Richard C. Rescorla, Titus Davidson, Wesley Mercer, Jennifer de Jesus, Joseph DiPilato, Nolbert Salomon, Godwin Forde, Steve R. Strauss, Lindsay C. Herkness III, Thomas F. Swift, Albert Joseph, Jorge Velazquez, and Charles Laurencin.

Personal Life and Health

Rick married Elizabeth, a special-needs teacher, in 1972. She once found his medals hidden in a round tin in their attic. "He always said: 'The war was part of my life. It's not my life,' " she says.

In 1994, Rick was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent surgery to remove his prostate. Initially, the prognosis was positive, but by 1998 the cancer had spread to his bone marrow.

After his divorce from Elizabeth, Rescorla met Susan Greer in 1998 in the townhouse complex where he lived. Susan was an assistant to a dean at Fairleigh Dickinson University. When Rescorla's cancer went back into remission, he credited Susan, who had introduced him to a specialist in herbal medicine. They married on 20 February 1999 at Castillo de San Marcos, in St. Augustine, FL, because it reminded him of his childhood home on the coast of Cornwall.

Family

Rick left behind a widow, Susan Rescorla, two children, Kim and Trevor; and three stepchildren. His mother died in 2002.

Rescorla's daughter, Kim, was in law school at Seton Hall University in Newark, NJ, on 9/11. She and her brother, Trevor, were living with their mom, Rescorla's first wife, Betsy, in Morristown, NJ, when the attacks occurred.

They were not surprised that he died in the line of duty. Trevor says, "I knew he would be the last person out, because it was his command. As long as there were people in there, he would try to get them out."

"It was part of who my father was. He stayed to help evacuate the building in 1993 and would not have done anything different that day," Kim says.

This was Rescorla's last e-mail to Kim at law school, dated 10 September:

"Your mission... should you choose to accept it... dream, then scheme... This country will be coming out of its slump about two years from now. It's going to be a time for legal eagles of all kinds to leave their rocky promontories, spread their wings, and do what eagles tend to do..."

Tributes

A memorial stone was erected in his hometown of Hayle, Cornwall, to commemorate his life.

The Richard C. Rescorla Memorial Foundation

A biography of Rescorla, Heart of a Soldier by James B. Stewart (ISBN 0-7432-4459-1), was described by Time Magazine as "the best non-fiction book of 2002." The book is the subject of an opera by Christopher Theofanidis, with libretto by Donna DiNovelli; starring Thomas Hampson as Rescorla, and featuring William Burden. It was premiered by San Francisco Opera on 10 September 2011.

Rescorla was the subject of a 2005 documentary entitled The Man Who Predicted 9/11. The film was shown on Channel 4 in the UK and the History Channel in the U.S.

Rescorla was honored with the White Cross of Cornwall/An Grows Wyn a Gernow award from his native Cornwall in 2003 by the Revived Cornish Stannary Parliament.

Amanda Ripley's 2008 book, The Unthinkable: Who survives When Disaster Strikes-and Why, profiles Rescorla in the "Conclusion" section of the book.

In 2006, Fort Benning, GA, unveiled a statue of Rick Rescorla.

On 11 November 2009, Colonel Rescorla was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame.

There is a Forward Operating Base in Farah Province, Afghanistan named after him, FOB Rescorla.

Raptor Preserve, a Memorial Site in Morris County, NJ, contains a Memorial Plaque for Richard C. Rescorla. He once told Susan that if she wanted a memorial for him, he'd be okay with a plaque at a nearby bird sanctuary called the Raptors. It'll go on the American eagle cage.

On 25 March 2009, Rick was awarded the Above & Beyond Citizen Medal - the most prestigious civilian award in America. Every year, on National Medal of Honor Day, three U.S. citizens are awarded the Above & Beyond Citizen Honor. They receive this award from a group of Americans whose actions have defined the word courage: the fewer than 100 living members of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Rick's children, Kim and Trevor, accepted this honor at a ceremony held in the shadow of the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery.



Origin of Nickname/Handle:
When Rescorla enlisted in the British Army in 1957, he began using the name "Rick" because he hated his given name, "Cyril."

Honoree ID: 2032   Created by: MHOH

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