Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers The USS Stark Incident (3/17/1987) - Nov. 24th, 2004
Posted on 11/23/2004 10:29:18 PM PST by SAMWolf
are acknowledged, affirmed and commemorated.
| Our Mission:
The FReeper Foxhole is dedicated to Veterans of our Nation's military forces and to others who are affected in their relationships with Veterans.
In the FReeper Foxhole, Veterans or their family members should feel free to address their specific circumstances or whatever issues concern them in an atmosphere of peace, understanding, brotherhood and support.
The FReeper Foxhole hopes to share with it's readers an open forum where we can learn about and discuss military history, military news and other topics of concern or interest to our readers be they Veteran's, Current Duty or anyone interested in what we have to offer.
If the Foxhole makes someone appreciate, even a little, what others have sacrificed for us, then it has accomplished one of it's missions.
We hope the Foxhole in some small way helps us to remember and honor those who came before us.
At 8:00 PM on 17 March 1987, a Mirage F-1 fighter jet took off from Iraq's Shaibah military airport and headed south into the Persian Gulf, flying along the Saudi Arabian coast. An Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane, in the air over Saudi Arabia and manned by a joint American-Saudi crew, detected the aircraft. Aboard the USS Stark, a Perry-class frigate on duty in the gulf, radar operators picked up the Mirage when it was some 200 miles away; it was flying at 5,000 feet and traveling at 550 mph. Captain Glenn Brindel, 43, commander of the Stark, was not particularly alarmed. He knew it was fairly common for Iraqi and Iranian warplanes to fly over the gulf. Earlier in the day, Iraqi jets had fired missiles into a Cypriot tanker, disabling the vessel. But no American vessel had been attacked.
USS Stark (FFG31)
In keeping with standard procedure, Captain Brindel ordered a radio message flashed at 10:09 PM: "Unknown aircraft, this is U.S. Navy warship on your 078 for twelve miles. Request you identify yourself." There was no reply. A second request was sent. Still no answer. Brindel noted that the aircraft's pilot had not locked his targeting radar on the Stark, so he expected it to veer away.
At 10:10 PM, the AWACS crew noticed that the Mirage had banked suddenly and then turned northward, as though heading for home. What they failed to detect was the launching by the Iraqi pilot of two Exocet AM39 air-to-surface missiles. The Exocets had a range of 40 miles and each carried a 352 lb. warhead. For some reason, the sea-skimming missiles were not detected by the Stark's sophisticated monitoring equipment. A lookout spotted the first Exocet just seconds before the missile struck, tearing a ten-by-fifteen-foot hole in the warship's steel hull on the port side before ripping through the crew's quarters. The resulting fire rushed upward into the vessel's combat information center, disabling the electrical systems. The second missile plowed into the frigate's superstructure.
A crewman sent a distress signal with a handheld radio that was picked up by the USS Waddell, a destroyer on patrol nearby. Meanwhile, the AWACS crew requested that two airborne Saudi F-15s pursue the Iraqi Mirage. But ground controllers at Dhahran airbase said they lacked the authority to embark on such a mission, and the Mirage was safely back in Iraqi airspace before approval could be obtained.
Iraqi french built Mirage F-1
As fires raged aboard the Stark, Brindel ordered the starboard side blooded to keep the gaping hole on the port side above the waterline. All through the night the fate of the stricken frigate was in doubt. Once the inferno was finally under control, the Stark limped back to port. The Navy immediately launched an investigation into an incident that had cost 37 American seamen their lives. The Stark was endowed with an impressive array of defenses -- an MK92 fire control system that could intercept incoming aircraft at a range of 90 miles; an OTO gun that could fire three-inch anti-aircraft shells at a rate of 90 per minute; electronic defenses that could produce bogus radar images to deceive attackers; and the Phalanx, a six-barreled gun that could fire 3,000 uranium rounds a minute at incoming missiles. Brindel insisted that his ship's combat system was fully operational, but Navy technicians in Bahrain said the Stark's Phalanx system had not been working properly when the frigate put out to sea. (Brindel was relieved of duty and later forced to retire.)
A C141B Starlifter carried 35 flag-draped caskets to the Stark's home base at Mayport, Florida. (Two of the crewmen were lost at sea during the attack.) President Reagan and the First Lady were on hand to extend condolences to grieving families. Reagan was under fire from Congress and the press for putting American servicemen in harm's way on a vaguely defined mission. "We need to rethink exactly what we are doing in the Persian Gulf," said Republican Senator Robert Dole. The Senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution, sponsored by Dole and Democratic Senator Robert Byrd, that demanded the president explain to Congress the strategy and goals of the Persian Gulf mission -- and the risks involved. Congress was also unhappy with Saudi Arabia for what it viewed as a lackadaisical response to the request to pursue the Iraqi Mirage -- so unhappy, in fact, that the administration thought it wise to delay submission of a proposal to sell new F-15 fighter jets to the Saudis.
The strife in the gulf had started in 1984 when Iran and Iraq, at war since 1980, began attacking each other's ships. Inevitably, the vessels of third countries became targets. Over 200 ships had been attacked in the past three years. The Iranians were particularly keen to target the ships of Iraq's ally, Kuwait. Even though only 7% of American oil supplies came from the region, the Reagan administration insisted that U.S. strategic interests required a naval presence in the gulf. Critics complained that Western Europe and Japan, which acquired 25% and 60% of their respective oil needs from the gulf, weren't doing their part in keeping the sea lanes open. In fact, certain Western European nations had become major suppliers of military hardware to both Iran and Iraq. Damage done to the Stark had been caused by French-built missiles fired from a French-built aircraft.
Exocet -french Air Launched Anti Ship Missile
The administration argued that to withdraw from the gulf would be to surrender America's role as leader of the free world, and that if oil shipments were disrupted, prices would soar, adversely affecting the U.S. economy. As one Western diplomat put it, if the U.S. backed out, it wouldn't "have enough credibility to float a teacup." Furthermore, the Soviet Union had increased its naval presence in the gulf, and the fear was that if the U.S. faltered, the Soviets would gain the upper hand in the region -- and growing Soviet influence in the region would pose a long-term threat to the West's oil supplies. "We will not be intimidated," said Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. "We will not be driven from the gulf." He described the attack on the Stark as a "horrible error," and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was quick to apologize for the "unintentional incident." Evidently, the Mirage pilot had mistaken the Stark for an Iranian tanker. Iraq promised to pay compensation to the families of the 37 slain seamen, and reparations for damages to the frigate. Officially the United States was neutral in the Iran-Iraq conflict, but the administration had decided that geopolitic considerations required that Iraq not lose the war. In the aftermath of the Stark incident, the rhetoric coming out of Washington was of a forgiving nature where Iraq was concerned, while growing increasingly hostile in reference to Iran.
The White House was resolute. "The use of the vital sea lanes of the Persian Gulf will not be dictated by the Iranians," said President Reagan during a press conference. "Those lanes will not be allowed to come under the control of the Soviet Union. The Persian Gulf will remain open to navigation by the nations of the world." The U.S. naval presence was increased from six to nine ships. Air cover would be provided by a carrier stationed outside the gulf. The American warships would escort convoys of Kuwaiti tankers every ten days or so. Iran vowed to continue attacking Kuwaiti tankers regardless of whether they flew the Stars and Stripes.
Congress objected to the open-ended nature of this commitment. Memories of Vietnam -- and of the Lebanon peacekeeping debacle in the early 1980s, during which 241 Marines were killed in their barracks by a suicide bomber -- prompted many solons to insist on knowing what rules of engagement the U.S. Navy would be operating under while escorting oil tankers in the gulf. The answer: A U.S. warship could fire on any aircraft that came within 20 miles of it, on the authority of the captain.
Unfortunately, the U.S. was so concerned about Iranian Sidewinder missiles being placed so as to control the Strait of Hormuz that it neglected to sweep the approaches for mines, one of which damaged an escorted tanker in July. The incident was egg on the face of the Navy, accused of sloppy mission preparation, and embarrassed the administration, which, while presiding over an unprecedented peacetime military buildup, had only three operational ocean-going minesweepers in service. But on 21 September 1987, the military redeemed itself by conducting a successful raid involving U.S. Navy SEALS on an Iranian vessel caught laying mines. Five Iranian seamen were killed. That same week, Iran attacked a British-flagged tanker; Britain responded by shutting down Iran's London-based arms procurement office. (By this time, British, French, Belgian, Dutch and Italian warships had joined the Americans and Soviets in patrolling the gulf.) The American raid gave some senators an excuse to push for invocation of the War Powers Act; they claimed the U.S. was clearly engaged in hostilities. The law required that the president obtain congressional approval of military action extending beyond a period of 60 days. But the Senate voted 51-40 not to invoke the law.
Following the September 21 raid, Iran amassed 60 gunboats and directed the flotilla toward Khafji, a Saudi-Kuwaiti oil facility. The USS La Salle, flagship of Rear Admiral Harold Bernsen, commander of the U.S. Navy Middle East Force, moved to intercept the gunboats, which turned back after being buzzed by Saudi warplanes. Another encounter involved an Iranian warship that locked fire control radar on a USN destroyer, the Kidd; warned off by the Kidd's skipper, the Iranian ship sailed away. Then, on October 8, Iranian gunboats fired at a U.S. Army helicopter, missing the target but attracting the attention of two U.S. AH-6 gunship choppers, which sank one of the gunboats and damaged two others. Iran responded by firing Silkworm missiles at the U.S.-owned Liberian supertanker Sungari and the reflagged Kuwaiti tanker Sea Isle City, damaging both vessels. There were no fatalities, though the American skipper of the Sea Isle City, Captain John Hunt, was blinded.
Few doubted the U.S. would retaliate. Two weeks later, four U.S. destroyers fired over one thousand rounds of 5-in. shells into Iran's Rashadat oil-loading platforms in the Persian Gulf -- after giving the platform crews twenty minutes to evacuate. Ninety minutes of continuous shelling left the platforms smoldering ruins; SEAL commando teams exploded the pilings and sent the rubble plunging into the sea. The Iranians answered by firing another Silkworm at Sea Island, Kuwait's deep-water oil-loading facility, destroying the loading dock. "We're not going to have a war with Iran," said President Reagan. "They're not that stupid." But it certainly seemed as though an undeclared war was already underway. A public opinion poll revealed that while 68% of Americans expected a "military exchange" between the U.S. and Iran, 60% were in favor of stronger retaliatory action against the Iranians.
The situation remained tense throughout the winter, but not until April 1988 did violence erupt once again in the Persian Gulf. Ten seamen were injured when the USN frigate Samuel B. Roberts struck an Iranian mine on April 14. Being careful to consult with Congress this time, President Reagan ordered a retaliatory strike against two Iranian oil platforms in the southern gulf -- platforms that served as bases for Iran's intelligence service. While one platform was shelled by the frigates Simpson and Bagley, Marines helicoptered to the second, seized it, planted explosive charges, and destroyed it. A few minutes later, the Simpson sank an Iranian patrol boat that had fired a missile at the USN guided-missile cruiser Wainwright. (The Wainwright defended itself by dispensing aluminum chaff in the air, which deflected the missile.) Meanwhile, near the Strait of Hormuz, two Iranian frigates and several gunboats were sunk by American warships and an F-14 Tomcat from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. During the day-long battle, a Cobra helicopter carrying two American crewmen was shot down by the Iranians.
This defeat at sea, coupled with grave setbacks in the land war with Iraq, persuaded Iranian leaders to seek improved relations with the West. The Ayatollah Khomeini agreed with Hashemi Rafsanjani, Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, on the need to pursue a new foreign policy that would defuse tensions in the Persian Gulf. As for the United States, its resolve in the gulf in 1987-88 improved its standing with allies, not only in the Middle East but also around the world.
In the meanwhile, I want to express my deepest sympathies to the families of the brave men killed and injured yesterday aboard the U.S.S. Stark. Their loss and suffering will not be in vain. The mission of the men of the U.S.S. Stark, safeguarding the interests of the United States and the free world in the Gulf, remains crucial to our national security and to the security of our friends throughout the world. The hazards to our men and women in uniform in the defense of freedom can never be understated. The officers and crew of the U.S.S. Stark deserve our highest admiration and appreciation. And I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain for their prompt assistance in responding to the stricken U.S.S. Stark.
Note: The President spoke to reporters at 11:38 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. The ship was mistakenly attacked by an Iraqi Air Force plane. Thirty-seven U.S. sailors were killed.
Our task today is simple and sad: to remember, to pay tribute to those we loved. For some of us here today, our love is the unquenchable, unforgetting love of a wife or child for a fallen father, of a mother or father for a fallen son. For others of us, this love, while more distant, is still anguished and grieving; ours is a love for a fallen countryman who died so that we, a free people, might live and this great nation endure.
The answers are hard. Hard because memory forces some of us to remember other faraway places which Americans had never heard of until their sons and brothers and fathers and friends fell there. Each Memorial Day, and especially with the news of the past week, my own mind has turned many times to the great war of 46 years ago. Few of us who lived through it can ever forget those opening months of conflict, when our nation and our fighting men were so sorely tested.
But while our sorrow was great in those days, I cannot help but tell you this morning that in some ways it was easier to bear then, because it was easier to understand why we were there and why we were fighting. The burden of our own time is so different. And when young Americans like those of the U.S.S. Stark die in far-off seas, we learn again how right President Kennedy was when he spoke of the sacrifices asked by a ``hard and bitter peace'' and our own ``long twilight struggle.'' Even at moments like these, then, we must address directly the reason the U.S.S. Stark and her men were there in the Persian Gulf. You're entitled to know the importance of the role that their valor played in keeping our world safe for peace and freedom.
Peace is at stake here, and so too is our own nation's security and our freedom. Were a hostile power ever to dominate this strategic region and its resources, it would become a chokepoint for freedom -- that of our allies and our own. And that's why we maintain a naval presence there. Our aim is to prevent, not to provoke, wider conflict, to save the many lives that further conflict would cost us.
So, we ask again: Were they heroes? ``Heroes are not supermen,'' Herman Wouk once reminded us, ``they're good men, and embodied by the cast of destiny, the virtue of a whole people in a great hour.'' And writing of the thousands of such heroes in our nation, men and women who wear our country's uniform in this troubled peace of ours, he asked us to never forget ``to reassure them that their hard, long training is needed, that love of country is noble, that self-sacrifice is rewarding, that to be ready to fight for freedom fills a man with a sense of worth like nothing else.'' And he said, ``If America is still the great beacon in dense gloom, the promise to hundreds of millions of the oppressed that liberty exists, that it is the shining future, that they can throw off their tyrants, and learn freedom and cease learning war, then we still'' need heroes ``to stand guard in the night.''
The men of the U.S.S. Stark have protected us; they have done their duty. Now let us do ours. Senior Chief Gary Clinefelter showed us how yesterday. He had volunteered to work at the coordinating center here for the families when he received word that his own son, Seaman Brian Clinefelter, previously listed as missing in action, was among the confirmed dead. ``I need to keep working,'' he said. He stayed at his post; he carried on. Well, so, too, we must carry on. We must stay at our post. We must keep faith with their sacrifice. In our great hour, we must answer, as did they, the call of history. It's a summons that, as a nation or a people, we did not seek, but it is a call we cannot shirk or refuse -- a call to wage war against war, to stand for freedom until freedom can stand alone, to live for liberty until liberty is the blessing and birthright of every man, woman, and child on this Earth.
May I point out again, so many of you have known long months of separation from your loved ones, from those young men. You were separated by distance, by miles of land and ocean. Now you are separated again, not just by territorial limits but because they have stepped through that door that God has promised all of us. They do live now in a world where there is no sorrow, no pain. And they await us, and we shall all be together again.
God bless you.
Note: The President spoke at 11:57 a.m. at the Mayport Naval Station. Following the memorial service, he met with the families of the crewmembers who lost their lives in the missile attack. The President then traveled to Camp David, MD.
In the Combat Information Center of the USS Vincennes -- a $1.2 billion Aegis cruiser, the most sophisticated warship in the world -- Captain Will Rogers III had just seven minutes to decide whether or not to fire at the Iranian aircraft coming straight for him. It was 3 July 1988, and just a half-hour earlier the Vincennes and the USS Elmer Montgomery had clashed with Iranian gunboats. Captain Rogers became increasingly sure that the aircraft, which had taken off from Bandar Abbas airport in Iran, a joint military-civilian field, was an Iranian F-14. The plane did not respond to seven warnings to identify itself, and the Vincennes picked up transmissions from the aircraft on the Mode 2 military frequency. As the plane came within 20 miles of the cruiser, radar showed it beginning to descend from 9,000 feet and pick up altitude. (Data from other sources subsequently contradicted this.) When the aircraft was nine miles away, Rogers ordered the firing of two SM-2 surface-to-air missiles. At least one missile hit the target -- which turned out to be Iran Air Flight 655, a civilian airliner carrying 290 people. The UN Security Council declined to issue a condemnation of the U.S. action, and President Reagan promised to pay compensation to the families of the victims. The Navy was embarrassed; one of its new Aegis cruisers, capable of tracking and destroying 200 missiles at once, had shot down an unarmed civilian aircraft in its first action. But after a year of surprise attacks and nerves on edge in the Persian Gulf, it seemed almost inevitable that a tragedy such as the shootdown of Flight 655 would happen.
1947 Un-American Activities Committee finds "Hollywood 10" in contempt because of their refusal to reveal whether they were communists
Past my bedtime
I blame society for it.
"INDECISION is the key to FLEXIBILITY."
A while back I was talking bad about politicians and said an honest politician is one that stays bought.
Every rule has it's exception. Ronald Reagan is one. George W. Bush is another.
Reagan stopped a nuclear war with the Soviet Union with the Strategic Defense Initiative.
Really do think so.
Still would have the lives of that Etendard crew, of all in the chain of command all the way to the top, and the most guilty one hundred Frenchmen.
Two hours ago I would have gone for the most guilty 37,000 Frenchmen. Don't like folks killing my Navy lads.
Thirty Marines killed in Fallujah. Bulldoze the place.
Good morning, Snippy and everyone at the Freeper Foxhole.
Thanks for these stories from our recent past. We've certainly come a long way in attitudes and engagements. I'm no armchair analyst but the lesson to me is to never do anything half-ass when it comes to the military. Despite the conflicting data (after-the-fact) on Vincennes actions, it's not far-fetched to say this was probably a 9-11-style strike that was thwarted. After the Stark incident, what was the commander to think? And enough with polls of what people think of military action and dithering in Congress. Some things never change.
Read: Hebrews 13:1-16
Do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Hebrews 13:16
Bible In One Year: Ezekiel 22-23; 1 Peter 1
One of today's most popular syndicated newspaper columns is "Dear Abby." Started in 1956 by Abigail Van Buren, the advice column is written today by her daughter Jeanne Phillips. In a recent edition, she included this Thanksgiving Prayer written many years before by her mother:
O Heavenly Father:
We thank Thee for food
and remember the hungry.
We thank Thee for health
and remember the sick.
We thank Thee for friends
and remember the friendless.
We thank Thee for freedom
and remember the enslaved.
May these remembrances
stir us to service.
That Thy gifts to us may be used
for others. Amen.
The words of this prayer echo the clear teaching of Scripture. Our thanksgiving to God should always be accompanied by thinking of those in need. "Therefore," said the writer to the Hebrews, "by [Jesus] let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name" (Hebrews 13:15).
But there is more to it than thankfulness. We are to put actions behind our gratitude. "Do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (v.16).
Be thankful for God's many blessings, but be sure to remember those who have less. David McCasland
Early Morning Bump for the Freeper Foxhole.
Have 2 to 3 inches of wet snow on the ground as of 6am this morning. Another couple of inches likely before it quits by noon. have been getting some reports of tree limbs down but no big power outages yet.
On This Day In history
Birthdates which occurred on November 24:
1632 Benedict de "Baruch" Spinoza Amsterdam, rationalist philosopher
1713 Father Junipero Serra had a mission in California
1784 Zachary Taylor (Whig) 12th President (Mar 5,1849-July 9,1850)
1826 Collodi [Carlo Lorenzini], Italian author (Pinocchio)
1829 William Passmore Carlin Bvt Major General (Union Army), died in 1903
1847 Bram Stoker Irish theater manager/author (Dracula)
1849 Frances Hodgson Burnett author of children's book (My Secret Garden)
1864 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec France, painter (At the Moulin Rouge)
1868 Scott Joplin US, entertainer/composer (The Entertainer)
1876 Walter Griffin US architect, city planner; designed Canberra, Austria
1877 Alben W Barkley Graves County KY, (35th Vice President-D-1949-53)
1888 Dale Carnegie author (How to Win Friends & Influence People)
1889 Albert J Sylvester England, ballroom dancer (Alex Moor Award-1977)
1911 Kirby Grant Butte MT, actor (Sky King)
1912 Garson Kanin American playwright/producer (Double Life)
1912 Geraldine Fitzgerald Dublin Ire, actress (Pawnbroker, Easy Money)
1917 Howard Duff Bremerton Wash, actor (Flamingo Road, Knots Landing)
1918 Tom "Stubby" Fouts Carroll County IN, actor (Polka-go-round)
1921 John V Lindsay (Mayor-R/D-NY, 1965-73)
1925 William F Buckley Jr Writer, Publisher/Editor (National Review) (Firing Line)
1932 Katalin Juhasz-Nagy Hungary, foils (Olympic-gold-1964)
1934 Martin Charnin Broadway lyricist (Annie, West Side Story)
1935 Ron (Red) Dellums Oakland CA, (Rep-D-CA)
1939 Yoshinobu Miyake Japan, featherweight (Olympic-gold-1964, 68)
1941 Donald "Duck" Dunn TN, bassist (Booker T-Mar-Keys, Walkin' the Dog)
1942 Marlin Fitzwater press secretary (George Bush)
1946 Ted Bundy Burlington VT, serial murderer
1947 Dwight Schultz Baltimore MD, actor (A-Team)
1948 Steve Yeager catcher (Los Angeles Dodger)
1950 Damon Evans Baltimore MD, actor (Lionel-The Jeffersons)
1956 Doug Davidson actor (Young & Restless)
1957 Denise Crosby Hollywood CA, actress (Tasha-Star Trek: Next Gen)
1958 Carmel (McCourt) England, rocker (Storm, More More More)
1963 Lisa Howard actress (Days of Our Life, Rolling Vengeance)
I have a book about the STARK attack called "Missile Inbound". In the chapter which discusses whether or not the Iraqis knew STARK'S identity. the author mentions the Iranians took credit at the time, claiming they had used disinformation leaks to trick the Iraqis into thinking the STARK was actually a high value Iranian target worthy of attack.
Freedom from Want
Darn that Society!!
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.