USMC Short Film: The 11th Order

A short film created by Marine veteran Joshua DeFour details the last moments of two Marines in Ramadi, Al-Anbar province on April 22, 2008. They didn’t waver. They didn’t run when a suicide bomber’s truck loaded with 2,000 pounds of explosives came into view. When others ran and survived,  Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter and Cpl. Jonathan Yale refused to run, shooting at the truck until it blew up. (The Marine Corps Times) They followed the 11th order of the United States Military:

To be especially watchful at night, and during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post, and to allow no one to pass without proper authority.

11th order of the US military

Joshua DeFour chronicled the last hours of the two Infantry Marines in his film “The 11th order.” DeFour was a graduate student who attended UT Austin when he made the film. He applied for a job as a Marine Corps combat videographer as a way to make money for his schooling. When he read the speech John Kelly made entitled “Six Seconds to Live,” he decided the story was a perfect one to produce. DeFour had deployed to Afghanistan, which gave him ideas for how he wanted the set to look.

He was granted permission to film at Camp Pendleton and used active-duty Marines as actors in the film, which was supported by the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation and the Marine Corps Museum. He raised about half of the $100,000 it took to create it. The 2019 film was chosen as a semi-finalist out of 1,600 other films. He has released it for free. The 25 minute film is included at the end of this article for you to watch. DeFour now lives and works in Atlanta as a videographer for ComCast.

General John Kelly’s speech Six Seconds to Live was given in 2014, just four days after his own son was killed by an IED. It’s literally about The 11th Order.

11th order
Six Seconds from original footage

When I was the commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, on April 22, 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 “The Walking Dead,” and 2/8, were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion was in the closing days of its deployment, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour.Two Marines, Cpl. Jonathan Yale and Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines. The same ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, our allies in the fight against terrorists in Ramadi – known at the time as the most dangerous city on earth, and owned by al-Qaeda.

Yale was a dirt-poor mixed-race kid from Virginia, with a wife, a mother and a sister, who all lived with him and he supported. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle-class white kid from Long Island. They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines, they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple Americas exist simultaneously, depending on one’s race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, education level, economic status, or where you might have been born.

But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible, and because of this bond they were brothers as close – or closer – than if they were born of the same woman.The mission orders they received from their sergeant squad leader, I’m sure, went something like this: “OK, take charge of this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass. You clear?”

I’m also sure Yale and Haerter rolled their eyes and said, in unison, something like, “Yes, sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point, without saying the words, “No kidding, sweetheart. We know what we’re doing.” They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry-control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, al Anbar, Iraq.A few minutes later, a large blue truck turned down the alleyway – perhaps 60 to 70 yards in length – and sped its way through the serpentine concrete Jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed.

A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest 200 yards away, knocking down most of a house down before it stopped. Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was caused by 2,000 pounds of explosive. Because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers in arms.

When I read the situation report a few hours after it happened, I called the regimental commander for details. Something about this struck me as different. We expect Marines, regardless of rank or MOS, to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different. The regimental commander had just returned from the site, and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event – just Iraqi police. If there was any chance of finding out what actually happened, and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it, because a combat award requires two eyewitnesses, and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police, all of whom told the same story.

They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.” The Iraqi police related that some of them also fired, and then, to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion. All survived. Many were injured, some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated, and with tears welling up, said, “They’d run like any normal man would to save his life.”

What he didn’t know until then, and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal. Choking past the emotion, he said, “Sir, in the name of God, no sane man would have stood there and done what they did. They saved us all.”What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned after I submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras recorded some of the attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated. You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. I suppose it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. No time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: “Let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.”

It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time, the truck was halfway through the barriers and gaining speed. Here the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were, some running right past the Marines, who had three seconds left to live. For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines firing their weapons nonstop.  The truck’s windshield explodes into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tear into the body of the son of a bitch trying to get past them to kill their brothers – American and Iraqi – bedded down in the barracks, totally unaware that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground.Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder-width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could. They had only one second left to live, and I think they knew. The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God. Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty. Those are the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight for you, and as amazing as this selfless act of sacrifice may seem, it is the norm.” General John Kelly.

The 11th Order by Joshua DeFour, USMC veteran:

*****

Featured photo: screenshot from The 11th Order

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