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Summary

On October 12, 2000, at 11:18 a.m., an 8,400-ton destroyer, the USS Cole, was rocked by an enormous explosion. The ship’s commander, Kirk Lippold, watched as tiles tumbled from the ceiling, mugs of coffee tumbled to the floor, and everything not bolted down seemed to float in midair. Lippold knew in a matter of moments that the Cole had been attacked. What he didn’t know was how much the world was changing around him.

Eleven months later, he was debriefed by the CIA and told about Osama bin Laden. By some unbelievable coincidence, that meeting occurred on the morning of September 11, 2001. In a scene that seems almost tailor-made for movie treatment, at the end of this early morning meeting about the looming threat of al-Qaeda, Kirk remarked, “I don’t think America understands. I believe it is going to take a seminal event, probably in this country, where hundreds, if not thousands, are going to have to die before Americans realize that we’re at war with this guy.” Mere moments later, the first plane struck the World Trade Center. The CIA agent who had debriefed him said, “Kirk, I can’t believe you said what you did this morning.”

The truth is that it wasn’t so unbelievable: Lippold had known for 11 months longer than the rest of the nation that al-Qaeda was at war with America. His story has remained untold—until now.

In this thrilling first-person narrative, Lippold reveals the details of his harrowing experience leading a crew of valiant sailors through the deadliest attack on an American vessel since 1987. He also explains how this event was overshadowed by 9/11, swept under the rug by bureaucrats and political operatives, who eventually attempted to lay blame for the attack on Lippold himself, denying him promotion and halting his career.

An essential volume that belongs side by side with The Looming Tower, Ghost Wars, and The 9/11 Commission Report, this book restores a crucial story that has until now been lost in the fog of the war on terror.

Commander Kirk S. Lippold, USN (Ret.), was the commanding officer of the USS Cole when it was attacked by al Qaeda in the port of Aden, Yemen, in October 2000. He and his crew distinguished themselves in the aftermath of that attack by saving the ship, which remains in service today. He received numerous military awards and retired from the Navy in 2007.

©2012 Kirk S. Lippold (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic reviews

“This book and the story of the men and women that it recounts is an inspiration.” (William J. Perry, former US Secretary of Defense)
“Lippold delivers a personal, opinionated account of the last outrage before 9/11, which should have galvanized our leaders but didn’t.” ( Kirkus Reviews)

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Profile Image for Jeffery P Brown
  • Jeffery P Brown
  • 18-07-16

Great Book!

Outstanding Book! As a former Cole sailor, it brought back alot of memories for me.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Skip Galt
  • 15-04-12

Thank you CDR Lippold!

What made the experience of listening to Front Burner the most enjoyable?

The fact that CDR Lippold spoke the book. That was a bonus that allowed me to hear in his voice exactly what the words were saying.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The Crew of USS Cole

Which scene was your favorite?

Teaching innovation to the whoops.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

That moment when CDR Lippold was on his way back to the Pentagon. The enormity of the events and emotion from the last 11 months bubbled over. It takes a real Leader to deal with that the way he did.

Any additional comments?

I recommend this book to Audible listeners and people who have read the book. The words describe the best of Integrity, Responsibility, and Leadership, as it is practiced today by our US Military members. But hearing CDR Lippold's voice, you can feel the command presence, and know the integrity is for real as expressed in the written words.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Luke
  • 04-09-15

Simply outstanding!

Thank you Commander Lippold for a wonderful look into the amazing actions of your crew and self. I can only hope that the Navy learned from this cowardice act.

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  • Glenn A. Michaels
  • 29-07-13

A Story That Should be Read and Never Forgotten

I had two special reasions to read this book which I highly recommend. I have a friend who was on the USS Cole at the time of the attack and only had a small percentage of the total picture of the event and its impact on the crew, captain and the U.S. Navy. This book is a very detailed, extremely honest and graphic, step-by-step explanation of the event from the ship's captain. I also live only a few miles away from where these ships are proudly built at Bath Iron Works.

My friend went though a very difficult time several years after the experience. He was stationed in the area that was hit and lost several friends and shipmates. By chance, he was assigned to a different duty that day and survived. He was overcome by guilt that he survived and his friends didn't. That is not uncommon and now he is dedicated to ensure that the USS Cole, the crew and, especially the 17 sailors who made the ultimate sacrifice, are never forgotten. He recommended this book to me.

I felt as if I were on the ship as events unfolded and Captain Kirk S. Lippold told his story and that of the crew's. I did not want to put it down but needed to at times. It is an emotional rollercoaster ride from beginning to end. My friend told me that the ship never came close to sinking. I now understand the proud yet corrective tone in his voice when he said that. This is a story about heroes who gave their lives and heroes who saved their ship in unthinkable circumstances. It is deeply personal and the captain tells the names of the different crew members as the story unfolds. One might state that the level of detail can be overwhelming at times, I believe it makes the story that much more realistic and that much more valuable.

We often hear about 911, yet the details of the USS Cole are seldon heard. I hope this book will help change that. This story should be read and never forgotten.

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  • Rodger
  • 10-05-12

Superb account of an American tragedy

Would you consider the audio edition of Front Burner to be better than the print version?

Having the author narrate his own story personalized a story of heros and American values.

Any additional comments?

The author's account brought both pride and tears as I listened to a heart wreaching story of the men and women of the USS Cole and their heroic service to our country.

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  • Erik Brandenburg
  • 08-04-21

Cop-out

Where the story is well told about the attack, I fail to understand the complete Cop-out of the Captain and his actions to disregard his superior officers. On many occasions he would back talk and disrespect there authority and office of power. Where yes there is blame to go around everywhere, It is still the Captain's responsibility for everything that happens to a ship under his command. You should have made every boat, ship, barge, tug boat, etc. comply to inspection before allowing to come along side. As a former Sailor myself I hold you responsible for the death of my fellow Sailors. Side note: You should have allowed a professional to narrate this book, just another example of your "I am better than you " attitude.

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  • Just_Shoppin
  • 22-12-20

Awesome story! But it came off as an excuse.

I enjoyed the beginning of the book very much. What a sad story this was for our lost Sailors. The details of destroyer life was enlightening . And even more sad story for the politics of it all with the Brass. However all the good ”felt” covered up as Commander Lippoid laid out a case that it wasn't his fault. I came away feeling like the entire book was pointing at others.

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  • Utilisateur anonyme
  • 13-11-20

Eyeopener

It was interesting. I salute all soldiers protecting their country. A tradegy for young lives lost. Yet a celebration for leadership and courage.

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  • Jon Hill
  • 24-10-20

An Important Contribution to Naval History

Commander Lippold’s contribution to the U.S. Navy’s 245-year historical narrative provides additional and needed perspectives on the lessons still being learned about how America needs to prepare itself and respond to the threats of terrorism — both onshore and offshore. In particular, the book provides important, even crucial, insights into how the U.S. government did, didn’t, could have, and should have handled the entire USS Cole affair, from before the attack happened and for years afterward. CDR Lippold’s insights are extremely enlightening because he — more than any other survivor of the attack — stood at dead center of its aftermath and stood to lose more than any other survivor involved.

I have but a single criticism of the book: the narration is difficult to listen to. This of course is a highly subjective judgment, so I should explain myself. I realize my opinion of the narration involves some amount of personal bias and prejudice. These most certainly arise out of my 24 years of service as an officer in the Navy (also retired as a Commander), and from my own personal predilections.

That said, I do think it was a mistake by Blackstone Audio to allow CDR Lippold to do his own narration. CDR Lippold’s own voice adds unmistakable power and authenticity to the narration. However, the tones and inflections of CDR Lippold’s voice are also very distracting. Because the voice tones rarely change in intensity, to me they come across as far too emotional. Because — generally speaking — this tale is in many respects an emotional one, I suspect that CDR Lippold was coached to sound the way he does narrating his audio book and personal story.

I have been an avid, extensive and widely-ranging reader, listener, and viewer of history for nearly four decades. I very highly value the feelings of confidence in me produced from a narrative that conveys knowledge of the record with certain detachment and balance. Unfortunately for this narrative, those feelings of evenhandedness are mostly absent, even in spite of the clearly copious and excellent source material.

Instead, the recorded audio narrative seems overhyped. The narrator’s voice sounds unrelentingly intense. It feels overly emotional. Lippold’s tone of voice feels overcharged. I can and do deeply understand Lippold’s likely lasting and rightful feelings of betrayal and anger, especially since the USS Cole affair has played itself out on the world stage. However, this tone regrettably comes across in the narration as an unforgiving anger — mistakenly implying possible clues that this book might contain a slightly unbalanced rendering of history. And that is why I have these regrettable feelings — Lippold’s book details an important slice of history, and I have no doubt that every detail of it is true.

The terrorist attack on the USS Cole is an important episode in military history because of what it represents and because of what it teaches. After listening to CDR Lippold’s intense and gripping account, it’s my opinion that one will likely gain more from reading the book than by listening to it. I very strongly recommend this book!

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  • JustBill
  • 11-10-20

Change Has Never Came To Navy

Condolences to the families and surviving crew of the USS Cole.
If your a Navy Veteran of the sixties or seventies, I think the first thought you will have is the inadequacy of the hull thickness on a warship, and also interior bulkheads, where the explosion took place. I hope this is not the case on other Destroyers of this type. It's an interesting book because the Captain wrote and was the commentator. You begin this book not being a big fan of the Captain, and before the end, you surely are in lockstep with him. No one person on the Cole was responsible for the incident and you get solace that most victims died instantly. I can tell you one thing about the Captain that I especially liked about him. He knew he would have been the sacrificial lamb, did he not speak up for his crew and himself. I disagree strongly with the Annapolis Crowd on medals awarded to men and women that day. It was shameful that Captain Lippold was not awarded a medal. If you are on a repair crew and fire, smoke, water are your companion while trying to save your ship, do not tell me thats not combat.