The fight against ISIS has everyone’s attention, but this time two years ago, a deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was at the forefront. It quickly turned into a political football in a partisan blame game, but there was only a vague account provided of what actually happened that night. That is until MitchellZuckoff's new book, "13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi," provided a minute-by-minute narrative of the events of Sept. 11, 2012 as remembered by six people who lived through it.
"Mortars!," an excerpt from 13 HOURS
The most dramatic minutes of 13 HOURS came after the attack on the Diplomatic Compound in Benghazi. Stationed on the rooftop of the nearby CIA station called the Annex, GRS operators Tyrone Woods (Rone), Mark Geist (Oz) and Jack Silva, along with State Department security agent David Ubben, fought through the night to repel mounting enemy forces and firepower. Then the mortars started to fall…
A rocket-propelled grenade or a mortar slammed out- side the Annex’s north wall, exploding in almost a direct line from where Rone and Oz stood. Immediately shots flew at the men on Building C from unseen gunmen hiding in Zombieland. Rone never hesitated. He opened up full bore with the machine gun, swiveling his powerful upper body left and right, flooding bullets and tracers into the attack- ers’ positions. He lay down a withering base of fire, in repeated bursts of five to seven rounds, methodically and lethally shooting across the open area beyond the north wall. If the attackers had thought they’d catch the Ameri- cans sleeping at dawn, Rone let them know he was wide awake and ready to fight.
The relentless automatic fire of Rone’s gun echoed in Oz’s gauze-filled ears, da‑da‑da‑da‑da, da‑da‑da‑da‑da. Oz had responded as quickly as Rone, blasting their enemies with steady fire from his assault rifle. He couldn’t see the attackers, so he aimed wherever he saw muzzle flashes. Pinpoints of light soon shone from bullet holes in a metal Quonset hut in their line of fire. Rone and Oz kept firing.
Then came a second explosion. A mortar landed almost directly atop the north wall, perhaps thirty feet in front of Dave Ubben’s post.
“I’m hit!” Ubben yelled. “I’m hit!”
Between shots, Oz glanced to the right and saw the wounded DS agent sitting on the wooden box they used asa step from the roof over the parapet to the ladder. Ubben had his back to Zombieland, his hands pressed to his head. He didn’t look critically wounded, so Oz resolved to help him as soon as the shooting stopped.
The second explosion came less than thirty seconds after the first, different and more powerful. Jack recognized that this was unlike the previous two firefights at the Annex. After two thwarted assaults on the Annex from the east with gelatina bombs and AK-47s, the attackers had changed tactics, improved their planning, and increased their firepower. The second bomb’s detonation, so close to the first explosion and accompanied by waves of rifle fire from the north part of Zombieland, also suggested a spike in military sophistication and an unsettling level of preci- sion and coordination.
Jack saw and heard the second explosion when it hit atop the Annex wall, followed by a shock wave and black smoke. He saw Rone and Oz still firing into Zombieland. But Jack wanted a better view before he resumed shooting, so he held his fire. The cause of the second explosion didn’t immediately register with Jack.
Then his radio crackled and an explanation became clear. One of his fellow operators yelled: “Mortars!”
On Building C, after the second explosion Oz dropped down below the lip of the parapet, to replace the spent magazine on his assault rifle. As they’d planned, Rone never hesitated. He remained upright and fully engaged, increasing his rate of fire to mask the temporary loss of Oz’s gun.
Rone gripped the black machine gun with his meaty hands, holding the butt hard against his shoulder. With a deafening growl, the weapon ingested belt-fed rounds and spewed them with deadly intent into Zombieland. Rone’s thick biceps flexed as he moved left and right. Bullets and white smoke poured from the barrel. Rone kept shooting as Oz reloaded, defending the men on the buildings and towers to his left, right, and rear, protecting the men and women below his feet inside Building C. Exposing himself to fire, Rone delivered on his promise to “unleash hate” on the enemy attackers who were trying to kill them.
Then another mortar exploded. Rone stopped firing. After two near misses, the attackers had adjusted their aim with devastating results. The third explosion was a direct mortar hit on the roof of Building C, halfway between Rone and Oz in the northwest corner, and Dave Ubben in the northeast corner.
From 13 HOURS: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff with the Annex Security Team. Reprinted by permission of Twelve Books. Copyright 2014.