In Gracia Burnham’s website, the first letter in the mailbox is from a crewmember on the American helicopter that flew her out of the battle zone.
Did US forces help in her rescue? All the accounts I know of agree: They helped in everything but the actual fighting.
For instance, a CNN dispatch, dated June 7, 2002, detailed the limits of American participation:
WASHINGTON (CNN) — U.S. advisers helped plan a Philippine military operation that found an American couple being held hostage by Muslim guerrillas, but Friday’s rescue attempt came after a “chance encounter,” Pentagon officials said Friday …. Pentagon officials described “Operation Daybreak” as a Philippine effort, underway for about a week, to hunt down a group of Abu Sayyaf rebels believed to be hiding in the jungles of the Zamboanga peninsula. An official told CNN the U.S. military help planned “Operation Daybreak” and provided “technical assistance,” but that no U.S. troops were involved in the overall operation — or Friday’s rescue effort.
A follow-up story on CNN the following day put the matter even more succinctly.
During a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, U.S. Gen. Richard Myers confirmed the rescue operation had taken place. He said United States troops were not involved in the rescue attempt, but did provide a military helicopter to fly Gracia Burnham to safety.
A man riding that very same military helicopter wrote Gracia to ask a simple, straight-from-the-heart question (please click on the image above). It is a haunting one: “I have often wondered if you and your husband Martin ever heard us as we searched for your location in the months leading up to your rescue?”