Military Wiki
USS Stark Attack
Part of the Iran–Iraq War, Tanker War
USS Stark.jpg
USS Stark listing after being struck by two Iraqi Exocet missiles.
Date17 May 1987
Locationoff Saudi Arabia, Persian Gulf
Result Iraq heavily damages United States frigate.
United States  Iraq
Commanders and leaders
US Naval Jack.svg Glenn R. Brindel unknown
1 frigate
1 aircraft
1 aircraft
Casualties and losses
37 killed
21 wounded
1 frigate damaged

The USS Stark incident occurred during the Iran–Iraq War on 17 May 1987, when an Iraqi jet disquised to look like a civilian jet aircraft fired 2 missiles at the American frigate USS Stark (FFG-31). Thirty-seven United States Navy personnel were killed and twenty-one others were wounded.


Damage to USS Stark's hull and superstructure.

The USS Stark, a Perry class guided missile frigate, was under the command of Captain Glenn R. Brindel and was part of the Middle East Task Force. She was sailing off the Saudi Arabian coast near the Iran–Iraq War exclusion boundary, the area of sea off Iran and Iraq. The Iraqi pilot attacked with a Dassault Mirage F1 armed with 2 1,500 pound Exocet missiles. It took off from the airbase of Shaibah at 20:00 and headed south into the Persian Gulf also along the coast. The aircraft was flying 5,000 feet above the water at 550 miles per hour.[citation needed] An AWACS plane on patrol nearby, unable to identify the aircraft as being hostile, informed the Stark which detected the inbound aircraft on radar 200 miles out.

When it came within view just before 2200 hours, it was off the Stark's port beam. Operating in international waters according to maritime law, Captain Brindel was not alarmed and ordered his radioman to send a message at 2209 hours, "Unknown aircraft, this is U.S. Navy warship on your 078 for twelve miles. Request you identify yourself." When the message was not responded to, a second message was sent but still there was no reply. At 2210 hours Captain Brindel was informed by his C.I.C. that an Iraqi aircraft had locked it's Cyrano-IV fire-control radar onto the ship. The F-1 fired a missile from twenty-two miles out and a second at fifteen miles, banking left to withdraw. The Stark's search radar and ESM systems failed to detect the incoming missiles and it was not until seconds[citation needed] before the first hit that the crew realized that they were under fire.[citation needed] The first Exocet came in at just over ten feet above the waterline[citation needed] and struck the port side hull near the bridge. It failed to detonate, but rocket fuel ignited and caused a large fire that spread throughout the main and second decks from the port side forward of S-1 berthing at radio via the midships store to the Chief's overflow berthing; the damage, resulting fire, and flooding, trapped the men inside the S-2 and the Engineering berthing on the 3rd deck. The Combat Information Center, the Radio room, the 5 inch magazine store room, and the Sensitive Information Traffic Center; as far as equipment and combat readiness are concerned, were compromised.The second exocet struck the port side as well and exploded, leaving a massive ten by fifteen foot hole in the frigate's side. The blast and subsequent shockwave sealed the fate of the men trapped in their berthings; the blast had removed any functional integrity to bulkheads, or hatches, crushing or warping the metal, making them inoperable. The men had no way out. (One man of the S-3 berthing was found by the At Sea Fire Party of the Reid with his hand inside the coaming of the excape hatch. A large brass check valve was crushed flat.) The electronics for the Stark's Standard missile defense system being disabled, Captain Brindel was not enabled to order his men to return fire. The AWACS plane was still in the area and just after witnessing the attack, it radioed a nearby Saudi airbase to send aircraft for an interception. The ground controllers did not have the authority to order a sortie so the Iraqi jet escaped unharmed. The USN rules of engagement under maritime law applicable at the time allowed the Stark to defend herself only after sufficiently warning the hostile aircraft.[1] Twenty-nine men were killed in the explosion and fire, and eight sailors died later of wounds. Twenty-one others were wounded. Of the thirty-seven men dead, two Americans were lost at sea.

Throughout the remainder of the night and the following day, the Americans fought the fire, which burned for almost twenty-four hours. Captain Brindel ordered the starboard side to be flooded so as to keep the hole on the port side above water, this action helped to keep the magazines cool and preserve some feeble ship stability.

A distress call was sent out after the first missile hit, having been received by the USS Waddell (DDG-24), which was in the area. The USS Reid (FFG-30) having also received the distress signal arrived on the morning of 18 May at approximately 0900 hours to assist in fire fighting and rescue operations after wnich teams of GSM's and GSE's helped to repair some auxiliary diesels enabling the Stark to be towed by The USS La Salle (AFG-3) back to Manama, Bahrain under escort.

The incident became the first and thus far only successful anti-ship missile attack on a United States Navy warship.

The tremendous loss of life; how the 37 crewmen of the USS Stark (FFG-31) died, is so deep a hurt: a wound to the heart of not only American servicemen, but to their families. The ship was repaired, but the memory of those fateful hours will never be forgotten.


Thee USS Stark (FFG-31) arrived at Bahrain the following day on 18 May 1987. There she was temporarily repaired by the destroyer tender USS Acadia before setting a course for Mayport Naval Station, in Florida, the ship's home port. A court of inquiry under Rear Admiral Grant Sharp was formed to investigate the incident and later Captain Brindel was recommended for court-martial. It was found that the Stark was two miles outside the exclusion zone and had not violated neutrality as the Iraqis claimed. Saddam Hussein said that the pilot mistook the USS Stark for an Iranian tanker. American officials claimed that the Iraqi jet's pilot was not acting under orders from his government, and that he was later executed. This has been disputed, as an Iraqi Air Force officer later stated that the pilot was not punished and that he was still alive.[2]

Captain Brindel was relieved of duty and retired for not defending his ship and Tactical Action Officer Lieutenant Basil E. Moncrief resigned. Back in the United States, President Ronald Reagan was criticized for putting American service men in harm's way.


On 21 June 2011, agreement was reached between the governments of the United States and Iraq regarding claims of United States citizens against the regime of Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi government established a fund of $400 million to compensate prisoners of war and hostages in the first Gulf War, and those killed or injured in the 1987 attack on the USS Stark. The US State Department is establishing a mechanism to process applications for compensation.[3][4]


The memorial plaque for the killed American sailors at Mayport, Florida.

USS Stark deaths
SN Doran H. Bolduc,
Lacey, WA
RMSA Dexter D. Grissett,
Macon, GA
FCCS Robert L. Shippee,
Adams Center, NY
BM1 Braddi O. Brown,
Calera, AL
FC3 William R. Hansen,
Reading, MA
SMSA Jeffrey C. Sibley,
Metairie, LA
FC3 Jeffrey L. Calkins,
Richfield Springs, NY
GMG3 Daniel Homicki,
Elizabeth, NJ
OS3 Lee Stephens,
Pemberton, OH
SN Mark R. Caouette,
Fitchburg, MA
OSSN Kenneth D. Janusik, Jr.,
Clearwater, FL
BM2 James R. Stevens,
Visalia, CA
SN John A. Ciletta, Jr., †
Brigantine, NJ
OS1 Steven E. Kendall,
Honolulu, HI
ET3 Martin J. Supple,
Jacksonville, FL
SR Brian M. Clinefelter,
San Bernardino, CA
EMCS Stephen Kiser,
Elkhart, IN
FC1 Gregory L. Tweady,
Champaign, IL
OS3 Antonio A. Daniels,
Greeleyville, SC
SM1 Ronnie G. Lockett,
Bessemer, AL
ET3 Kelly R. Quick,
Linden, MI
ET3 Christopher DeAngelis, †
Dumont, NJ
GMM1 Thomas J. MacMullen,
Darby, PA
SN Vincent L. Ulmer,
Bay Minette, AL
IC3 James S. Dunlap,
Osceola Mills, PA
EW3 Charles T. Moller,
Columbus, GA
EW3 Joseph P. Watson,
Ferndale, MI
STGSN Steven T. Erwin, †
Troy, MI
DS1 Randy E. Pierce,
Choctaw, OK
ET3 Wayne R. Weaver, II,
New Bethlehem, PA
RM2 Jerry Boyd Farr,
Charleston, SC
SA Jeffrei L. Phelps,
Locust Grove, VA
OSSN Terrance Weldon,
Coram, NY
QMCS Vernon T. Foster,
Jacksonville, FL
GM3 James Plonsky,
Van Nuys, CA
IC2 Lloyd A. Wilson,
Summerville, SC
SMSN Earl P. Ryals, †
Boca Raton, FL
† Buried in Arlington National Cemetery

On 22 May 1987, a eulogy was given by president Ronald Reagan at Mayport Naval Station, Jacksonville, Florida.[5]

Annual memorial

A ceremony is held at Mayport Naval Station on 17 May each year to remember the 37 men who died in the incident. The ceremony in 2012 was the 25th anniversary of the tragedy.[6]



Further reading

See also


  1. Reed, Lt Col Robert M (2000). "Chapter 14—Chariots of fire: Rules of engagement in Operation Deliberate Force". In Owen, Col. Robert C. Deliberate force a case study in effective air campaigning. p. 391. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  2. Fisk, Robert (2005). The Great War For Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East. Knopf Publishing. 
  3. "Iraq Claims". 21 June 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  4. "Claims Settlement Agreement Between the Government of The United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Iraq". September 2, 2010. American Society of International Law. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  6. Browning, William (17 May 2012). "Mayport marks 25th anniversary of Iraqi attack on USS Stark that killed 37 sailors". Retrieved 18 May 2012. 

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