Captain Mohsen Rezaian was piloting his fully loaded Iran Air Airbus airliner through 13,000 feet on a routine Sunday morning flight across the Persian Gulf to Dubai, when a burst of shrapnel ripped off the left wing and tore through the aft fuselage.
We shall never know Captain Rezaian's last moment, but in that instant before oblivion he may have looked in horror out his left window and thought that the stub of flapping aluminum and severed hydraulic lines where the wing had been was the result of some sort of structural defect.
It is doubtful that he ever saw the two fiercely burning points of light streaking up at his airplane, the Standard missiles launched by the cruiser USS Vincennes (CG-49).
1. “Failure to Communicate,” Time, p. 30, 30 December 1988.
2. “Formal Investigation Into the Circumstances Surrounding the Downing of a Commercial Airliner by the USS Vincennes,” by Rear Admiral William M. Fogarty, USN, 28 July 1988, pp. 28, 32, and 47. Hereinafter referred to as the Fogarty Report.
3. Personal interview with Captain David Carlson of 23 June 1992 and confirmed by telephone interview with Captain Hattan 29 June 1992.
4. Storm Center, by Captain Will Rogers and Sharon Rogers, Naval Institute Press, 1992, p. 88.
5. In his July 1988 sworn statement to Admiral Fogarty’s investigation, Lieutenant Collier conceded he was in violation of the Rules of Engagement (ROE) prohibiting a closest point of approach of less than four miles and that he was in fact one-to-two miles closer. In a subsequent letter to the editor of Newsweek magazine, published 3 August 1992, Lieutenant Collier denied ever being closer than four miles to the gunboats. The conflicting statements by Lieutenant Collier and Captain Rogers, most recently on NBC’s “Unsolved Mysteries” (air date 17 February 1993), where he said he was directed to come to the aid of the Elmer Montgomery (contrary to all evidence in the Fogarty Report), are further reason for declassifying the geographic track files of the aircraft and vessels involved that day.
6. “Vincennes: New Allegations, New Denials,” by David Steigman, Navy Times, 3 August 1992.
7. Fogarty Report, p. 25.
8. Carlson interview, as confirmed by a separate telephone interview on 29 June 1992 with Commander Gary Erickson.
9 Telephone interview with Captain Will Rogers, USN (Ret.), of 29 June 1992.
10. Transcript, ABC News Nightline, “The USS Vincennes: Public War, Secret War,” air date 1 July 1992.
11. “Sea of Lies,” Newsweek, 13 July 1992, p. 31.
12. Fogarty Report, p. 25.
13. Transcript, Admiral William Crowe, USN (Ret.), testimony to House Armed Services Committee (HASC), 21 July 1992.
14. Fogarty Report, p. 25.
15. U.S. Navy videotape, as reviewed by author.
16. Fogarty Report, p. 6.
17. Carlson interview. See also Fogarty Report, pp. 30, 31, and 34. See also Storm Center, pp. 12 and 117.
18. Carlson interview.
19. Fogarty Report, pp. 35, 40, 43.
20. Storm Center, p. 16.
21. Fogarty Report, p. 8.
22. “Bush: Iran Must Share Blame in Jet Downing,” Chicago Tribune, by Timothy McNulty, 15 July 1988, pg. 1.
23. Storm Center, p. 13. According to the Fogarty Report, the range was 110 nm. In his book, Captain Rogers claims this contact was 180 miles distant.
24. Rogers interview.
25. Fogarty Report, p. 34.
26. Fogarty Report, p. 45.
27. Transcribed testimony of witnesses to Fogarty investigation.
28. Storm Center, p. 117.
29. Author assessment.
30. Fogarty Report, p. 26, “CO, USS Vincennes stated that…shrapnel and/or spent bullets impacted to starboard bow,” but the investigating team did not personally confirm Captain Rogers’ assessment, although as he indicated in his book the cruiser was anchored at Bahrain throughout the investigation.
31. Rogers interview.
32. Transcript, CNN, “Larry King Live,” air date 2 July 1992.
33. The ICAO report of December 1988 was based on navigation data provided by a team of U.S. naval officers.
34 Personal letter to then-Commander Carlson dated 10 September 1989.
35 Admiral Crowe endorsement to Fogarty Report dated 18 August 1988, p. 3.
36 Transcript, Admiral Crowe testimony to HASC, 21 July 1992.
37 Annotated Supplement to the Commander’s Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations, NWP 9 (Revision A), FMFM 1-10, 5 October 1989, Washington, D.C., Chapter 3, Section 3.9.1.
38 Fogarty Report, p. 25.
39 Transcript, Admiral Crowe testimony to HASC, 21 July 1992.
40 Colonel Carl Bernard, U.S. Army (Ret.), personal note to author dated 22 July 1992.
41 Seminar, “The Clinton Administration and the Future of U.S.-Iran Relations,” 14 January 1993, Washington Vista Hotel, sponsored by the department of Middle Eastern Studies, Rutgers University, Richard Cottam, James Bill, et. al., speakers.