Beginning of Operation
The storm subsided and conditions were clear on the day of the raid. A convoy of three Humvees set out just after 06:00, following a yellow armored Mercedes Benz to a perimeter location approximately one half mile from the entrance to the road leading to the compound. The convoy stopped there, and the Humvees pulled into the jungle.
Of the four civilian code-talkers, Gordon Doe rode in the first Humvee, and Ed Fluegel rode in the Mercedes Benz. Hope Hearst remained with the director of the operation, Gus Fortan, at the SBA complex. She was assigned to monitor the operation and decode radio communications.
Bruce Springsteen and the soldier assigned to him then departed on foot. The hike was a difficult one: 6 kilometers mostly uphill through dense jungle, using machetes to carve a path. The soldier carried a recording device which recorded no conversation, only heavy breathing and an the dense chatter of insects and birds. According to a report later offered by Springsteen, they had to stop only once, when the soldier experienced a debilitating attack of arachnophobia after a tarantula fell on his shoulder. Springsteen brushed the tarantula off the soldier and crushed it with his boot, but it took a minute for the soldier to fully regain his composure such that he could continue the trek through the jungle.
At 07:45, Springsteen and the soldier dug in beneath a cluster of vines at the edge of the compound, where they could see in through the chainlink fence. Springsteen gave the signal, in Akkadian, for the operation to begin.
The Mercedes Benz proceeded toward the compound carrying the undercover team: U.S. Army Specialist 334-678 (the driver), Jesus Tamayo, CIA Agents Tilde and Dash, Humbaba's captured employee, and the civilian code-talker Ed Fluegel, all dressed as drug dealers. Fluegel had a frequency-hopping one-way Kel transmitter on his person. This device was turned on. For further communication, Fluegel was also provided with a two-way radio, which was kept in the Mercedes Benz.
A single observation helicopter was assigned to monitor the area, which would also have complete satellite coverage provided by NRO for the duration of the operation.
The ten soldiers in the Humvees, under the command of Lt. Col. Charles Ancilla, were to raid the compound once the undercover team had entered it, taking as their cue a signal, transmitted in Akkadian by Ed Fluegel, and received and translated back into English by Gordon Doe. Most of the guards of the compound would have surrendered or been subdued by this time, and two snipers would eliminate the others.
At 08:19 the Mercedes Benz proceeded toward the compound, which was less than a mile away. Camouflage netting was drawn over the Humvees and the soldiers and operatives awaited the first signal.
Deceased DEA Agent Leonard Gibbs had determined there were no hidden cameras along the road leading to the compound. This was verified by optics-detecting devices in the Mercedes Benz as the convoy proceeded up the road. It was believed that Humbaba relied exclusively on human observation, and on his advanced ability to monitor and decode radio traffic, to detect approaches to his camp.
An observation helicopter radioed to Fortan that a convoy of seven trucks was approaching the Humvees along the road. Fortan debated whether to break radio silence in order to pass this information along to Lt. Col. Ancilla. It was not known whether the trucks posed a threat, or whether they would arrive at the Humvees' location before the signal came for the Humvees to proceed. To risk exposing their presence to Humbaba before the gate had been breached might jeopardize the raid. He decided to report the approaching convoy to Lt. Col. Ancilla, who ordered his men back into the Humvees in preparation for departure.
Gus Fortan via Hope Hearst: Qitrubu pânû svakânu? Can the onslaught proceed?
Lt. Col. Charles Ancilla via Gordon Doe: Parâsvu et.lu, res.u et.lu ul sidru svalû harrânu! I am taking my men out, we cannot support your men if we plunge into the fight on this road.
GF via HH: Ul querêbu ana êkallu? You cannot assault the palace?
CA via GD: Bubûtu s.umbu, querêbu ana êkallu! Lâ asvaredu. Et.lu. Parâsvu. Rês.ûtu. Arh.isv! If those are the makings of hot drinks [coffee beans] in the wagons [trucks], we can assault the palace. That is unlikely. They are probably warriors so we need to withdraw and you call for support now.
GF via HH: S.umbu ikkibu, lâ et.lu. The wagons [trucks] are likely carrying illegal things [drugs, contraband] and not warriors.
CA via GD: S.umbu ikkibu rakabu et.lu. Parâsvu! Rês.ûtu, arh.isv! Narkabtu, parâsvu! The taboo things [drugs, contraband] will have warriors riding with them. We need to withdraw now and you call to get us support quick. The chariot [car] should get out.
Ancilla ordered his command to remove the camouflage netting and enter the Humvees. They began to do so.
At this point the Mercedes Benz had arrived at the gate of the compound, and a guard was approaching the driver's side of the car, an automatic rifle slung over his shoulder.
Excerpt from The Journal of Pharmacological Botany
Interrogation of one of Humbaba's aquaintences