7th Cav Regiment Gives Tribute to Hero of Vietnam, 9/11

  • Lt. Col. Andrew Watson speaks June 11 at Fort Hood, Texas, about why they are dedicating their conference room to Cyril Richard ‘Rick’ Rescorla, a Soldier who served in the battalion during Vietnam. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf)
    Lt. Col. Andrew Watson speaks June 11 at Fort Hood, Texas, about why they are dedicating their conference room to Cyril Richard ‘Rick’ Rescorla, a Soldier who served in the battalion during Vietnam. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf)
  • Susan Rescorla, wife of Col. (Ret.) Cyril Richard “Rick” Rescorla and 1st Lt. Ross Reid , a Cardiff, Wales, native, walk toward the ceremony dedicated to Rescorla June 11 at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf)
    Susan Rescorla, wife of Col. (Ret.) Cyril Richard “Rick” Rescorla and 1st Lt. Ross Reid , a Cardiff, Wales, native, walk toward the ceremony dedicated to Rescorla June 11 at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf)
  • Susan Rescorla, wife of Cyril Richard ‘Rick’ Rescorla, taks about about how her husband led Soldiers into war during Vietnam June 11 at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf)
    Susan Rescorla, wife of Cyril Richard ‘Rick’ Rescorla, taks about about how her husband led Soldiers into war during Vietnam June 11 at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf)

In the worst of it in the Ia Drang, and decades later in the worst of it as the towers burned on 9/11, Cyril Richard "Rick" Rescorla sang.

They were the tunes of his youth in Cornwall. He sang the Cornish and Welsh songs while serving in the British army in Cyprus and Rhodesia.

After coming to America to join another Army, he sang them as a lieutenant in Vietnam, where he served as leader of 1st Platoon, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team,1st Cavalry Division.

The unit honored him on June 11 by dedicating a conference room at Fort Hood, Texas, in his name.

Then-retired Army Col. Rick Rescorla sang his battle songs for the last time as head of security for Morgan Stanley /Dean Witter in the south tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

They could hear him singing in the background in the frantic phone calls workers in the building placed to loved ones. They could also hear him barking orders to go down the stairs two-by-two as he had drilled them.

Rescorla had been there when the towers were first attacked in 1993 with a truck bomb, killing six. He believed the World Trade Center remained a top target for terrorists, and he relentlessly planned to evacuate Morgan Stanley's 22 floors. He was credited with getting 2,700 people out of the building.

In the chaos of the stairwells, few could later recall exactly what the tune was, just that there was this calm and determined man with a British burr to his voice going about his dangerous work with a song.

Dan Hill remembered. One of Rescorla's last phone calls was to his friend, Hill, who had served with him in Vietnam. Hill had worked previously for Rescorla as a security consultant. Rescorla was now telling him to get his butt up to New York to help deal with the aftermath.

Rescorla broke off to sing again. It was the rousing "Men of Harlech," Hill later told the New Yorker magazine: "Men of Cornwall stand ye steady, It cannot be ever said ye, For the battle were not ready, Stand and never yield!"

Others were telling him to get out. That was not his way. "Everybody said, 'Rick your folks are out. You've done what you need to do.' He pointed up the stairwell and said, 'You hear those screams? There's more people up there. I have to help get them out,'" said Lt. Col. Andrew Watson, commander of the 2nd Battalion of the 7th Cav.

Rescorla would make a final sweep of the Morgan Stanley floors. Then the tower fell. His wife, Susan Rescorla, would later go to Pier 94 with his hair brush to give the forensics teams a DNA match as they searched for remains.

At the Fort Hood ceremony earlier this month, Susan Rescorla took the arm of 1st Lt. Ross Reid, himself a native of Wales and now the leader of Rescorla's old platoon.

"How better can you epitomize selfless service to a nation than to first embark on the conflict in Vietnam, and then to continue to serve your community at every level you find yourself," Watson said.

"And to give that last full measure of dedication of service and support in an unexpected terrorist attack that in lesser countries would bring the country down to their knees, but served as a galvanizing force."

The Army report on the event by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf quoted members of Rescorla's platoon who were with him in the 1965 battle in Vietnam's Ia Drang valley near the Cambodian border. The battle was vividly recounted in the Joe Galloway book with Lt. Gen. Harold Moore: "We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young."

Rescorla cooperated with Moore on the book and his photo is on the book jacket, but he refused to see the movie made of the book starring Mel Gibson. "All the heroes are dead," he would say. For his service in Vietnam, Rescorla received the Silver and Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart.

In the Ia Drang, Rescorla sang his songs and led cheers in wave after wave of enemy assaults to keep up morale.

Sam Fantino, Rescorla's radio operator in the battle, recalled that "We were all sitting in our holes with our knees knocking, we have dead guys all around us, and here comes Rick singing Cornish songs."

"And pretty soon you are saying to yourself, 'If this guy can walk from hole to hole checking to see if you have your grenades in the right place, checking to see if you have your magazines, and standing up like he is going on a Sunday afternoon's walk -- what do you have to worry about?' "

At the World Trade Center, Rescorla was a 20-something lieutenant again. "He followed the same instincts he followed in Vietnam and led over 2,700 people to safety," Watson said.

Before heading up the stairs again for the final time, Rescorla phoned his wife. "He said to me, 'You have to stop crying. I'm getting my people out, but if something happens to me I want you to know you made my life.' Then I said it back and it was all over," Susan Rescorla said.

Rescorla "then charged one more time into battle singing his Welsh war songs. There will never be another Rick Rescorla," Watson said.

Susan Rescorla told the 7th Cav troops at the ceremony, "I was so proud. He had a choice. He could have walked out of there anytime he wanted to. If he was here today, he would be proud. This is the 7th Cav, this is our home -- our history."

Like the "Men of Harlech," Rick Rescorla would never yield.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com.

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