Naval Combat in the Gulf

My first deployment to the Persian Gulf was in 1987 during the Iran Iraq war. My ship, the guided missile destroyer Cochrane (DDG-21), was stationed in Yokosuka, Japan. At the time American naval vessels were escorting reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers out of the gulf region. The USS Stark, a guided missile frigate, was operating in the gulf when it was attacked by an Iraqi aircraft with a pair of Exocet missiles. Our forward deployed ship had to hightail it from Japan into the gulf upon receiving this news.

The damage to the Stark was extensive and 37 sailors were killed. At the time Iraq was considered an American ally. America was still angry at Iran for the kidnapping of 50 American hostages. The USA has an odd history of foreign diplomacy that says our enemy’s enemy is our friend. So even though Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, because he was fighting against the enemy Iran, he was our friend.

Our true friend in Desert Shield/Desert Storm was Kuwait. It is the most oil-rich country in the world. At the time, some were saying that Desert Storm was a war over oil and others argued that it was a matter of keeping international peace. In any case, Saddam Hussein crossed a line that demanded action when he invaded Kuwait.

Death and Destruction at Sea

The US naval personnel that I am aware of who have died in the region include the 37 sailors of the Stark, that ship that was bombed army hit a struck of mine, the sailors of the Samuel B. Roberts and the sailors of the USS Cole which was also hit by a terrorist attack after desert storm. I only recently learned of an accident aboard the USS Iwo Jima that killed ten engineering sailors in the boiler room. (

There may have been some US Navy SEALs who died in Desert Storm as well. I’m not sure. Are Navy SEALs counted as sailors? We’re all in the same service together, but they are elite fighting men. Also there were some naval aviators shot down and killed in action. They would’ve been assigned to aircraft carriers in the gulf. Are they airmen or seamen or both I’ll need to look into this and see exactly how many US Navy personnel died in the gulf during Desert Storm.

I wonder also how many purple hearts were awarded to US Navy personnel in Desert Storm? Although my ship the USS Missouri was fired upon both by anti-ship missiles from ground based forces and by friendly fire we had no casualties as a direct result of fighting the war.

I know there were a number of injuries on the two ships that were struck by mines in the gulf. I would presume those injuries would’ve been Purple Heart recipients. I wonder if there is a way to know who those people are?

Don’t forget to tell them about the unburned powder pellets from the 16 inch guns. Long little sticks of green gunpowder lying around on the deck after a firing mission. I never personally burned any, but I was told by another sailor that he had once made a small pile of the stuff and lit it on fire.

Tell them about the moratorium on shooting the sixteens, MAA duty and “rescuing” that one sailor who freaked out about returning to the turret.