On 17 May 1987, while on patrol in the Persian Gulf, the USS Stark (FFG-31) was struck by two Exocet missiles fired from an Iraqi fighter. One exploded on impact below the port bridge wing. The other broke up as it passed through the ship, spreading rocket fuel that fed extremely high-temperature fires. Many of us remember the pictures on Cable News Network of the ship listing severely to port with smoke billowing from amidships. Although the damage resistance of the ship design, the damage-control equipment on board, and the damage-control training of the crew eventually saved the ship, the damage was severe. A small increase in list would have resulted in free communication with the sea and the ship likely would have capsized. The Stark was nearly lost. Thirty-seven sailors died and the repair bill exceeded $150 million.
Could a Small Crew Have Saved the Stark—or the Samuel B. Roberts?
By Rear Admiral John T. Lyons III, U.S. Navy