America's First Clash with Iranby Lee Allen Zatarain
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In May 1987 the US guided missile frigate Stark, sailing the waters of the Persian Gulf, was suddenly blown apart by the air force of Iraq. A fifth of the crew were killed and many others horribly burned or wounded. This started one of the most mysterious and underwritten conflicts in American history: "The Tanker War," for control of the Mideast's oil supply.
This quasi-war took place in the shadows of the mammoth Iran-Iraq War, coinciding with the last years of the Reagan administration. Losing on the battlefield, Iran had decided to close the Persian Gulf against shipments from Iraq, and their oil-rich backers, Kuwait. The Kuwaitis appealed for international help to protect their tankers, the Soviet Union was first to respond. Prompting the United States to react more energetically, and America sent its own fleet.
The result was a free-for-all, as the Iranians laid mines and launched attack boats. The US Navy fought its largest surface battle since World War II, against the Iranian assault boats.
In the meantime, US Navy Seals arrived in the Gulf, at an abandoned hulk from which they would sally out to combat the Iranians. These actions have become well known in Special Forces literature, but until now the public has not realized the magnitude of this secret war.
In July 1988, nervous triggermen aboard the USS Vincennes shot an Iranian airliner out of the sky, killing 300 civilians, one month before the end of the war. It may have been the final straw to influence the Ayatollah to finally drink from his "poisoned chalice," closing it down.
Lee Zatarain, a Washington-based attorney combined recently released Pentagon documents, firsthand interviews, and a determination to find the truth resulting in the fantastic book. The Tanker War reveals a conflict that few of us recognized at the time. Now that the war drums are sounding again, it's fortunate that we can finally read the full story of America's first war against Iran in the Gulf.
- Casemate Publishers
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As a Navy veteran that was served aboard the USS Raleigh (LPD-1), and was deployed to the Persian Gulf in August 1987 on 48 hours notice, to transport the MSB'S (small mine sweepers), PG's (patrol gunboats), and other priority cargo, that was needed. Once on station, we were tasked with helping establish Barge Hurculese as a mobile sea base. We the ran weekly supply runs to Barge Hurculese, routine escort assignments for convoys, and any other assignment that came our way earning us the nickname "Gopher Gator". We returned home in November, bringing back the MSB's. To correct one point concerning the crew of the Iran Ajar, it was the Raleigh that transported them for most of the time they were in American custody. We were also the ship that transported them to Masirah, for return to Iran. We also received the Iranians from the shootout at Barge Hurculese. These Iranians were forwarded on to the Guadelcanal. It was because of Raleigh's involment in both these incidents, the Ayatohlla swore that the Raleigh would not be allowed to leave to leave the Gulf. When it came time to go home, we were hid in the middle of a midnight convoy run thd had the strongest escort of any Ernest Will convoy. Raleigh next deployed to the Persian Gulf in September 1988. When we left the states, we ha a Marine MAGTF on board consisting of a reenforced rifle company, two AH-1Ts, two CH-46s, and a UH-1N Huey. After having to spend time in Augusta Bay and Naples for repairs, and loosing most of our embarked Marines due to peace between Iraq and Iran, we continued on, arriving late in November. Raleigh operated as mother ship for the American MSOs operating with the international mine clearing effort. We would anchor each evening, and the MSOs would anchor around us, and take turns coming alongside to take on fuel, water, supplies, and to use the ship's services. Once a week we would go south and hook up with a supply ship, then pick up mail, and return to distribute the supplies and mail using our embarked LCM-8 and LCM-6. Each evenning, we always had a guest anchor nearby, a Soviet minesweeper always seemed to like the the security of being near other ships. One afternoon, the Soviet contacted us by flashing light requesting fresh water. We instructed her to come along side. While she was alongside, we transferred water as well as some fresh baked goodies and soda to the Soviet. In March, when it was time to go home, we loaded the PBs, and other cargo from mobile sea bases that were being deactivated, and returned to Norfolk. All the incidents mentioned in the book did happen. However, in more then a few instances, the author has gven credit to the wrong unit.