tv American Artifacts 1998 U.S. Embassy Bombings in Africa CSPAN September 23, 2018 9:57pm-10:41pm EDT
two 430 pound torpedoes, you had to have a strong helicopter system. you have a 300 horsepower gas turbine engine to left over 800 pounds payload. the helicopter itself weighs over 900 pounds. >> i believe they would be effective because they can deliver the torpedo close to where the enemy submarine was. the torpedo was a homing torpedo. and faster than conventional submarines. it would take out and destroy submarines. blast area i want to show you is the combat information center. this is where you have the repeaters, a radar radar man stationed on each of these units. they are picking up objects out there, possibly enemy targets. this information is being plotted on the big board back in the corner. up here would be officers making
the decisions. if these are enemy, weapons would be fired at certain enemy targets. back in this room, the control framingnd the computer -- four aiming the rockets and firing the rockets. they use this equipment to get it ready. when they were ready to fire they would go to standby which would sound the siren to let everybody know the rocket launcher is being fired. then they would go to fire. in the midst of attack it would be two men stationed here. a third one is the telephone talker relaying information by way of a sound powered telephone. probably an officer or two in here instructing the men and overseeing the actions of the men.
you also have sonar back here, which is detecting the enemy submarine. that would be the information it would be using tame the rockets. in a battle situation this is where you are controlling the battle. the officers and the men are controlling some of the major weapons systems. they are also not only the rocket launcher in the torpedoes, but i also would be -- they also would be instructing the men in the gun mounts. this is where you are controlling the weapons systems and controlling the battle you are in. >> i hope visitors get an appreciation for the ship's history and the men who served aboard ships like her and share this with their children in future generations. it is really important we preserve this history, this naval history, and we can honor the sacrifice of those who went
before us. >> our cities tour staff traveled to lake charles, louisiana, to learn about its rich history that r -- history. you were watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. on august 7, 1998, truck bombs exploded simultaneously outside the u.s. embassies in nairobi, kenya and tanzania. , the attacks killed 224, including 12 americans and wounded more than 5000. the terrorist group al qaeda and its leader osama bin laden claimed responsibility. next on american artifacts, we visit the u.s. diplomacy center in washington to tour and exhibit the markings
during the 20th anniversary of the bombings. we are joined by state department officials in charge of the embassies at the time. >> i am john lang. at the time of the east africa bombing i was the deputy chief of mission at the american embassy in tanzania. there had been a gap between ambassadors and i was the acting ambassador of the embassy at the time of the bombing. i amod morning david prudence bushnell. i was the united states ambassador to the republic of kenya at the time of the bombing. this morning, 20 years later, we are in the beautiful pavilion of the u.s. diplomacy center. john and i are going to be looking at some of the artifacts and telling stories behind them. diplomacy doesn't always mean sitting behind a desk, getting
your photograph taken, and wearing nice clothes. sometimes those nice clothes will get bloodied and dirty because it's a dangerous profession. example, this is the suit i was wearing. the two things i would point out, number one it is wool. nairobi is the land of eternal springtime in that it is close to the equator and at mile high. our august in washington is a cool springtime august in nairobi. most of the bloodstains are in the back because i was on top of a 21-story building with a colleague from the department of commerce represented by the suit he was wearing at the time. we were meeting with the minister of commerce. we heard an explosion.
most of us went to the window. 10 seconds later a freight train sound impact of high energy hit all of us. gus was hit in the head, profusely wounded. you can still see some shrapnel marks that still remain. which shows exactly where he was in the room closer to the window. -- wounded.d together with another colleague. i went down 21 and less flights of stairs, squeezed with canyons coming -- kenyans coming down. that is why the blood is primarily in the back and not in the front. the reason there is still blood
on this suit is i put it in a plastic bag. this suit moved with me to guatemala. that was our next assignment. and on to other assignments. i could never bear to throw it away. en raised i am absolutely unsentimental and couldn't bear to do that. the diplomacy center requested it. it truly makes my heart feel good that this suit has a home in such a peaceful place. >> one of the things that saved a lot of people from being injured or killed was it was not a concussion grenade 10 seconds before the bomb went off. i have to say i'm thankful even personally because when the bomb went off my instinct was to get up and go out the window.
so many people did that. not only people working at the u.s. embassy but all over downtown nairobi. so many people had eye injuries when the ball did go off and after the concurrent version -- after the concussion grenade. >> you are right. there were about 5000 people wounded in nairobi. one of the true perpetrators threw a stun grenade, which human instinct, you go to the window if you hear a loud noise. please don't go to the window. ironically i was the last one up. responses are pretty good but i swear to you after 70 security briefings, there was this -- i did get up and was blown back. not by the window. most of the wounds from the
thousands of people wounded were from chest up and very bloodied. i returned to the bomb site the next day. once i had left the building with my colleagues we got first and i went over to our aid building, which was being used as a crisis center. the next morning i returned to what was then a tomb of an embassy. look at what i found. i was given by our security engineer a hard hat he had fashioned overnight. with the consular seal and ambassador. we got through this together as a community. this is the hat of one of the marine security guards who is on duty at the time.
these are the logs in both of our embassies. the logs the marine security guards cap -- kept. ambassador on board. when i arrived on august 7 and i went over to the meeting at the department of commerce, it notes ambassador on shore. i swam across that parking lot. what this shows is we were in business all the time. >> this one similarly. it's quite striking. , 1998. for august 7 10:00 a.m. i remember that. at 10:00 a.m. i was just starting a meeting in my office. there was this usual test about three different alarm systems.
39 minutes later after the actual bomb went off that same , marine got on through the loudspeakers that was still working, saying this is not a test. says that we estimate 10:39, it is 10:44, bomb exploded in chancery. you cannot must tell by the fact that the printing is bigger than all the others. this was an excited marine in the middle of a devastating situation. i have never seen this before. >> neither have i. this one notes one of our marines, who had gone off to cash a check died. another of our brains got a purple heart for his actions. >> for us, the gunny sergeant, his wife was our liaison officer at the time.
she was badly injured. lost sight. in one of her eyes and was medically evacuated to london. it was really a sad situation. he stayed on wife was this evacuated. >> the marine security guard was wearing this hat. was in our embassy. if i could point you to this embassy, this building was built in the to earthquake standards. 1970'swhich is why on the outside it looks pretty secure. on the inside, as you can tell from the mangled remains of the television set, we were absolutely devastated. the rock from our embassy was blown into one of the vehicles.
at the time of the bombing i was on the 21st floor. the truck was 2000 pounds of tnt that exploded right here. the mound of rubble that was once a seven-story office building. when thousands of kenyans arrived on the scene, what they found was a building that looked pretty ok compared to the one they have, which was now in total rubble. that created a public relations issue. because our marines did what they were trained to do when the bomb went off. they put on their flak jackets. they got their guns out, put their helmets out, and provided perimeter security.
thousands of kenyans saw white men with guns and very determined expressions. guns pointed outward. kenyans were outraged, a point at which they needed help, particularly the hundreds of people who are under that rubble who were struggling to survive. we looked as if we were doing nothing but taking care of our own. the lesson i learned, the important lesson for me as a person and as a diplomat is sometimes you have to hear somebody's anger. it is a different perception when i tried to explain what happened i made the situation worse. sometimes you just need to understand that people have a reason to be angry. i visited you in your embassy
about two months before the bombing in june. temporary duty. i remember talking to someone in the political economic section. an american. he looked out of the embassy on to the very busy street in front and he said to me it's just a , matter of time before american is killed at the embassy. he is referring to the carjackings. nobody envisioned a bombing such as this. you knew the security concerns about a bomb being this devastating. it is something none of us really expected. been sending cables for two years saying the embassy did not meet our old department of state security standards. and because of budget we were waived. the reason for that setback is
because our embassy in beirut was blown up by a truck bomb. the purpose was to mitigate. unfortunately i was not listened gosh, people suffered as a result and will always be with you and me. when the bomb went off, 213 people were instantly killed. 48 of whom were employees of the united states government, including 12 americans. we had a 50% casualty rate. had we been part of the military we probably would have been a -- evacuated. instead we stayed. we all stayed for the next 10 months to re-create our organization, to heal and to assist kenyans who had been devastated.
75 businesses were blown up, most of them mom-and-pop. thousands of people were injured in the eye. there was a school bus of little boys waiting at the street corner for a stoplight to turn green. out ofd to pick glass those little boys' eyes. nairobian citizens were instantly incinerated. it was a site from hell. no one in nairobi will ever forget and i would like to point out that on this corner now is a peace park created by kenyan and american citizens who have the names of everybody who died the , people we remember today.
the photo taken on august 12, because the aircraft carrying american rescuers and the county -- fairfax county fire department k-9 squad over late, the israelis arrived first. they went through a funding house. a woman was called kenyon rose because for four days she survived under rubble. 15 minutes before the rescuers got to hurt she died. she was the last person to die in the rubble. the israelis had a ceremony, which included a wreath laying. i laid the wreath and one of the many photographers caught that photograph of me. my husband complained because they cut him out.
he was actually right next to me. oh well, he is the invisible power behind the throne. that photograph shows everything. pictures thatthe says a thousand words. this is the law enforcement. u.s. government clocks are battery-operated and everyone is a little different. >> and none of them are on time. >> they all stopped when the bomb went off. the shock was so great that every battery-operated clock stopped. we took an average and decided a.m. erage time was 10:39 it's one of those clocks that's recovered. this is something i recovered from my office. one of the reasons why people in our embassy were not killed was
the shatter-resistant windows. the mylar. then what happened to me, i was in my office with my back to the other wall sharing a meeting. it was a high window and the glass blew in over my head and landed on the people in front of me. they had some superficial injuries but nobody was badly injured because of the shatter-resistant film. when i look at this embassy, it israel.t in 1960 by when tanzania broke off relations in the 1967 war in the middle east, we were taking it over in 1980. but the fbi director of the investigation told me it was built like a bunker.
really thick walls, high windows, etc. here you see a water tank truck. that was really what took the brunt of the blast, the u.s. embassy's water truck. it was trying to get out of the parking lot and the parking area. when the bomb went off that water tank truck was seen by the gunny sergeant it was coming back to the embassy in a vehicle at the time coming down from three stories up. two of our employees that were there, the local employees, died. he went up and down. i had been the deputy chief and to stay in was going the dcm's office. we did not know when the ambassador would arrive.
they kept getting extended an extended and finally came in the middle of september after the bombing. they told me if i been in the ambassador's office at the time, i would have been killed. there are photographs of what the ambassador's desk looks like. it just came crushing onto the desk, including the flagpole with the american flag on it. >> a life-saving characteristic. -- humility can be a life-saving characteristic. >> collect that photograph there, which is hard to see, the president of tanzania, i gave him a tour of the exterior of the embassy. as i also did for the secretary-general of the organization for african immunity at the time. there was great interest and great support from the
government of tanzania. >> kenya as well. the canyons did everything -- kenyans did everything they could. that's what diplomacy is all about. regaining friendship when somebody tries to blow it up. >> this is a photograph from my records. when you moved to the u.s. building the building options , weren't very good because they were not secure. we moved for 72 hours. to my residence. then later moved to a temporary embassy in another employee's residents. this living room was a two-story living room. this was taken up above just before a press conference that featured lizzie slater. her husband, charlie, was based in nairobi. and laura mullen. it had been very difficult to
get washington to agree to this interview, which was really a human interest story of how these americans had been in the middle of this bombing and hurt to some extent. they were still able to continue going. it was very difficult for a public affairs officers to get washington's approval for that. once it was shown, they said we would like more of that. one of those frustrations we had. >> i like the stylized ones in the back. >> i still have that in my office in northern virginia. >> many foreign service couples have to go on separate assignments because sometimes embassies cannot accommodate both. and was the case of lizzie charlie slater. lizzie was going to tanzania as a cue vacations officer. charlie was coming to nairobi as
the head of our financial management center. lizzie had arrived. ,harlie was still in london about to get on the plane. their son was with their grandmother in london. when charlie heard about the nairobi bombing he got on the plane. he was absolutely instrumental in helping us go through the challenges as we hemorrhaged money. one of the first things i remember you and i working on was trying to get washington to approve lizzie's transfer to nairobi to reunite the couple. that was the first thing, congratulations. >> it took a long time. >> it should have been immediate
and it took far too long. the community liaison officer's office is right there. this concrete outer wall blew in. i remember when i left my office, which was around the corner from there, and i was cornered by the regional security officer to try to lift the rubble of lizzie. she had been sitting at this desk. up to in pieces of rubble and unable to move. we had to get the rubble off of her. lizzie slater being separated from charlie and having gone through the bombing even though , she was injured and had to be medically evacuated, she was a really strong-willed person. wanted to keep working. she wrote a note to her husband
and here it is. it's just amazing. my darling, i am alive and well. hope to see you soon. that -- it is a blast. lizzie was encouraging her husband to come on temporary duty. what a blast. >> shows her resiliency. >> she's just incredible. just really something to see. we were trying to communicate. it's so different nowadays when one could send text messages and tweets and things like that. the world would know immediately. back then, one of the things i'm proud i did and why i think it important that senior officials have experience and foreign experience working at various embassies abroad, i said because i knew that
communications were so bad and few of us even had cell phones of that time. i said to the counselor section, please call the state department operations center and ask them to contact every american and -- american's immediate family members to tell them they were all right. the state department initially balked at doing that. i insisted that they had to do that. my mother got a call at about 6:00 in the morning or 7:00 in the morning in milwaukee. she was surprised that i was all right. at 7:00 in the morning if she , had turn on the today show and seen devastation, u.s. embassies bombed, hundreds killed, she could have had a heart attack. it's so important for the family members that are living. 11 people died, 85 or injury. of the 11 who died, there were
nine tanzanians, one somali visa n iticant, and one kenya was about to move back to the united states with her kenyan husband. i really believe the only reason we didn't have many more deaths, one was the way that building was constructed. very much like a bunker. the other thing was the embassies were in different locations. you were in the middle of this big city with a lot of high-rise buildings. the shockwave went back and forth. as you said, the house collapsed. for us it is spread out. it was not in the center. it was more of a suburban kind of environment or the outskirts of the city. no building was higher than about three stories tall.
so the bomb went that way instead of having the wave go back and forth and affecting those buildings. i think that saved lives. we had the nigerian embassy next to us, the french embassy next to us. the russian ambassador's residence. all were badly damaged just from proximity to the bomb. easel, then the international herald tribune from pace from 1998. that i10,i did not know was on the cover of the international tribune until about two weeks later when it showed up in the mail. it would be mailed from paris and we didn't have access to them on the internet. description of the last videotape. i was under instructions not to confirm whether or not the cameras outside the embassy had tape.
so they could have recorded what was going on. they did not have tape at that time, they do now. i was told by the diplomatic security groups don't disclose that because we don't want the perpetrators to know we don't have tape. when th question came at the press conference, i said i can't confirm or deny whether it had tape. then among the front page of the international herald tribune, "was the blast videotaped?" i knew it wasn't, but i wasn't able to say that because of the restrictions. being an ambassador, you are given a little more leeway? even if you when i give permission, you take it to be more outspoken in the press. whereas i was this middle service officer. let's not haven't talked to most of the press. >> i always had permission.
seriously. within hours -- i was particularly in nairobi because i have been meeting with the minister of commerce. per protocol we had a prayer before the meeting started. the press descended the stairs, the elevator just as the bomb went off. one of the video journalist began recording, and everybody in nairobi was glued to their tv station watching the raw film of the total carnage that came in the immediate aftermath of the bombing. heightened the tensions of the people in nairobi.
fortunately that film never got to the united states. >> i have seen some video footage used in the trial. when the perpetrators of the conspiracy or tried and sentenced to life in prison. i don't know where these people came from but they had videotape of seconds or a couple of minutes at most after the bomb went off. it was quite gruesome what they showed. speaking of the trials, it was a poster that was put all around. wanted for murder. of the people believed to be in the conspiracy, including osama bin laden. when i later became the u.s. ambassador to botswana, i have it on my wall. non-americans can to visit me and wondered why i would have a wanted poster up on his wall.
the international here at -- harold tribune front page. the photo was taken about half a block from the of the sea with the marine security guard and all the sandbags around him. i had visited the embassy a couple of times this day. and then i came out and chatted with the marine. i always wondered if anyone looked at it very carefully. because i am there and i am leaning on what is called a gentleman's valet. it is this wooden structure where men can put the suit coat on. here in the middle of the dirt this., leaning on kind of the image of the effete diplomat. i did not think of myself as one at all. the reason i had it was when i went back to the office i
usually try to salvage a few things to my office including , the glass shards we saw a earlier. i ended up thinking this was the only time in my career i had one of these my office here at i better say that. i still have it. in the last case we talk about the worldwide reaction, which was quite something. i believe the president called you on the day of the bombing. president clinton called me on the day of the bombing. certainly secretary of state albright visited 10 days after the bombing. there was a memorial service that was held in national cathedral. and it i both were at was with the president and vice president, secretaries of state and defense. reverend jesse jackson gave the sermon. it's kind of spooky to me, but
the data that was september 11, 1998. >> i remember that vividly. >> three years before 9/11. >> whenever there is a crisis around the world, the 24/7 operations center sets up a crisis task force. the first question the task force is asked is where are the americans? what is the status of americans? pads has theeno number of americans has the number kept shifting as time went on and we discovered more. this is typical of the kind of data you will find among people in a crisis task force. quite typical after a tragedy is the diplomatic community writ large is that embassies will open up condolence letters to encourage
members of the public to write letters of support messages of , hope. these are some of the condolence folks from our embassies around the world. at the time of the bombing we had two members of our marine detachment, one killed, one injured. the rest came out to provide perimeter security. the british had a training group who came to help overnight, because the plane on which our rescuers were coming had malfunctioned. the canadian ambassador had opened up their premises to the fbi. i had british colleagues immediately providing a sat radio. satellite radio with the only
way we had to communicate. all this to say people around the world are communities and care about us care about us as , people, care about what happens. this is the proof. >> i remember one of the first people i saw after evacuated was the french ambassador. his embassy was across the street and was damaged also. justook hands and it was that he said come in if you want. we can help you. i needed to get to work. if i can read this, it's a condolence message from the u.s. ambassador in turkey. it is really quite something. "it is with a mixture of sorrow and resolved that i opened this book dedicated to our colleagues. we would comfort to the families of those who perished in the speedy recovery to the wounded.
we are determined that the perpetrators of this cowardly act not achieve their aims. we'll it to the victims, americans and non-americans to carry on the vital work of representing the united states of america throughout a dangerous world. that is the spirit we have afterward, when people united every single employee. it was important. they had to grieve for the dead and help the injured. we also had to move forward and not let the terrorists win. we really ended up putting a major effort into resurrecting those embassy operations to a point where we made a major show of raising the american flag over our new temporary office building. we had marines gathered because
they could give us support an additional security. it is so important that the united states would not back down in the face of terrorism. >> absolutely. we formed groups of people who went through morgues and hospitals seeking our colleagues who died. african-americans who died were mixed up with kenyan bodies and wounded. we had members of our kenyan staff on telephones overnight to provide information to the family members who had no idea where their loved ones were. they have been told don't tell anyone if their kinfolk is dead. tell them to come in. these are people who were trained professionals things completely other than response and 911, who were given the task
of dealing with the impossible tragedy at the devastation. wounded physically, some of us were wounded psychologically. we did it anyway. colleagues from around the world came. we had a foreign service national from london who came and did nothing for six weeks but right -- write. we cannot replace the 35, 34 colleagues who are so critical to us because our job discussions had been blown up. you cannot put the position description in the newspaper. we had to start from scratch. people were willing to come into utter scut work for us in order to keep this going. here we are today to talk about it. >> at one point with 350 people on temporary duty.
we were filling up almost every hotel in town. it was just important. over half of them were from the fbi doing the investigation. i'm just so impressed how they did that. i saw it in the first trial for you and i both testified. you can see how the fbi -- the testimony was so critical to connect the bombing to the perpetrators. >> you mentioned john that president clinton called you. he called me too. as i was waiting on the phone i was thinking of what to say. i was in a state of shock. when he came on the phone and said, how are you? i said, mr. president, my heart is bursting with sorrow at what happened. and with pride at the way we are responding.
20 years later, i open the drawer and it is filled with sorrow and pride and the leadership lesson is that the leaders of this country and the white house and congress and the state department have a responsibility to maintain and -- an even flow of influences for the people around the world representing the united states who conduct our defense and peace andest in without guns. >> i think people often underestimate the risks that we go through. and these were two horrific bombings. there have been other instances. especially since 9/11 and the difficulties in iraq and afghanistan.