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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Former POWs Meet With Marines Who Rescued Them

Aired June 11, 2003 - 20:14   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Exclusive news tonight of a heartwarming reunion between two former POWs of the war with Iraq and the brave men who came to their rescue. Today's reunion was the perfect ending to a simply amazing story. Started last March, of course, in a firefight in the skies southwest of Baghdad. CNN's Jamie Colby has this story.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE COLBY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Marine Captain Gordon Miller is briefing former POWs David Williams and Ronald Young on the brave mission that saved seven lives. A tip and hastily drawn map indicated Americans were being held in Samarra, leading Delta Company Light Armor Reconnaissance Battalion to house #13.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's where this translator, the informant was talking with the translator and was telling us, building 13. Which narrowed it. (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The only problem is that he was -- he transposed the numbers. You guys were actually in house 31.

COLBY: A potential ambush awaited the Marines outside; a repeat, they feared, of Somalia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't a sniper, it was a guy with an RPG right behind the building.

COLBY: But they found their bounty and were going to get it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As soon as we saw you and realized that you're not an Iraqi waving at us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the yellow pajamas with a beard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.

COLBY: The Americans have survived seven prisons and constant allied forces bombardment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I still have nightmares from that. The bombs were hitting so close, the debris and stuff from the blasts would actually come into our cell blocks. I mean, it literally rocked your world.

COLBY: Wednesday, the Apache pilots welcomed back into their world the Marines who rescued them. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm speechless here. I'm trying to hold back my tears. You know, if you all hadn't have come and taken that chance, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we wouldn't be here.

COLBY: What do you remember about hearing the tanks roll in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a whine to the vehicles, like -- I knew it was an armored vehicle. In the city, they'd been quiet for a couple of days. And immediately, without regard, I ran up the stairs to the top of the building. I'd had enough. I had enough. And if I was going to die trying to get to freedom, so be it. I was going to get these guys attention and we were going to get the hell out of there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard him screaming.

COLBY: The building secured and Williams in sight, Lance Corporal Kernie Russell (ph) led the Marines inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I kicked the door in, ran in the room, and saw their faces. We got out, got back in the vehicles and we took off.

COLBY: Corporal Castro (ph) has now been awarded this coin, signifying service to the 1st Cavalry, Williams and Young's grateful unit. And the pilots have one more thank you to give, to their last set of captors.

(on camera): What was different about the last set of captors?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They could have done a lot of the things with us. And thankfully, they chose to go about it a better way than what they could have done.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLBY: Young and Williams tell me that they plan to have several visits with these Marines. They plan to stay in touch for the rest of their lives. After all, the Apache pilots tell me, without the Marines, they might not have the rest of their lives -- Anderson.

COOPER: It certainly is true there. Are they back on active duty? What are they doing now?

COLBY: They are, although Young is off to Washington to celebrate the Army's birthday tomorrow. They have a few more engagements to make. But they're both already flying and very happy to be up in the air -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Jamie Colby, great report. Thanks very much. CNN exclusive.

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