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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Air Strikes Being Stepped Up

Aired March 31, 2003 - 03:28   ET

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

CY
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Airstrikes are being stepped up from the carrier USS Harry S. Truman.

As John Draper reports, the forces on the Truman are living up to the former president's image.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN DRAPER, ITV NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the USS Truman, they're stepping up the bombing missions. Around the clock they load up with some of the most destructive ordnance on the planet. An hour-and-a-half later, they drop it on Baghdad.

This carrier is named after President Harry S. Truman. They've adopted his slogan, "Give 'em Hell." Hell is exactly what these F-14s and F-18s bombers are unleashing over targets in Iraq.

I spoke to two pilots who had just come back targeting Kirkuk and Mosul about the difference between training flights and the real thing.

MAJ. BRETT SAUNDERS, U.S. MARINE CORPS: You have potential people firing back up at you and sand threats. That's a little different. But that's the real difference is that you have to put on your game face when you're ready to put ordnance on and take someone's life, which is you don't take lightly.

DRAPER (on camera): After days and days of bombing missions over northern Iraq, often around the clock, the U.S. says the Harry S. Truman is now being restocked with more bombs, more munitions. Since the war started, this ship and its sister ship, the Roosevelt, have flown more than 300 sorties over northern Iraq, but the message from the Pentagon is: step it up.

(voice-over): The top brass came on board to ram home that message. Vice Admiral Scott A. Fry rallied the troops and told them to drop more bombs.

VICE ADMIRAL SCOTT FRY, U.S. NAVY: You people aren't even -- you're not even walking fast on Harry S. Truman. There's a lot more strike power we could get out of these two aircraft carriers, and as soon as I get more gas in the air, we're going to do just that.

DRAPER: Getting more gas in the air is a reference to mid-air refueling of bombers over Iraq and the refusal of Turkey to allow U.S. bases there to send up their tankers. When the planes aren't being flown, they're being serviced and checked and sent up from the hangar below the flight deck. Twice a day the crew walks the deck, looking for pieces of debris that could be sucked up into a jet engine.

There are brief periods off to visit the barber, phone the folks back home, or use the ship's own supermarket.

At one of the many restaurants I caught up with an English-born helicopter crew member. Les Hatfield was brought up in Kidderminster. His dad was American, and now he is.

LES HATFIELD, U.S. NAVY: And my heart is kind of split in two places, you know, being raised in England and obviously spending the last 20 years over here in the U.S.

DRAPER (on camera): What do you think of the joint coalition effort?

HATFIELD: I think it's great. I think it's something that we need to do, and I'm just glad that the British and the Americans are just getting on so good. They're doing it.

DRAPER (voice-over): Oddly for people waging a war, many are getting their news of it from television. Like those at home, their spirits rise with the successes, fall on news of losses.

But nothing gets in the way of the ship's objective: relentless, unrelenting bombing missions over Iraq. In a few hours' time, these bombs will have been dropped. They'll no longer exist; neither will any Iraqi troops they may fall on.

John Draper, ITV News, on the USS Harry S. Truman.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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