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Full-text: July 21 1992
Iran Air Flight 655 (July 3 1988, 290 victims)

CIS: 93 H201-21 SuDoc: Y 4.AR 5/2 A:991-92/77

[H.A.S.C. No. 102-77]

The July 3, 1988 Attack by the Vincennes on an Iranian Aircraft













JULY 21, 1992

GPO eagle


65-570 CC WASHINGTON : 1993


For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office,
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402

ISBN 0-16-040842-3


Nicholas Mavroules, Massachusetts, Chairman

Dennis M. Hertel, MichiganLarry J. Hopkins, Kentucky
Norman Sisisky, VirginiaBob Stump, Arizona
John M. Spratt, Jr., South CarolinaJon Kyl, Arizona
Frank Mccloskey, IndianaAndy Ireland, Florida
George (Buddy) Darden, GeorgiaJoel Hefley, Colorado
Barbara Boxer, CaliforniaGary A. Franks, Connecticut
Lane Evans, Illinois
John Tanner, Tennessee
Michael R. McNulty, New York
John Tanner, Tennessee

Archie D. Barrett, Professional Staff Member

Warren L. Nelson, Professional Staff Member

Robert S. Rangel, Subcommittee Professional Staff Member

Joyce C. Bova, Staff Assistant



Les Aspin, Wisconsin, Chairman

Ike Skelton, MissouriWilliam L. Dickinson, Alabama
Dave McCurdy, OklahomaFloyd Spence, South Carolina
Thomas M. Foglietta, PennsylvaniaBob Stump, Arizona
Norman Sisisky, VirginiaLarry J. Hopkins, Kentucky
Richard Ray, GeorgiaRobert W. Davis, Michigan
John M. Spratt, Jr., South CarolinaDuncan Hunter, California
Frank McCloskey, IndianaDavid O’B. Martin, New York
Solomon P. Ortiz, TexasJohn R. Kasich, Ohio
George (Buddy) Darden, GeorgiaHerbert H. Bateman, Virginia
H. Martin Lancaster, North CarolinaBen Blaz, Guam
Lane Evans, IllinoisAndy Ireland, Florida
Michael R. McNulty, New YorkCurt Weldon, Pennsylvania
Glen Browder, AlabamaJon Kyl, Arizona
Charles E. Bennett, FloridaArthur Ravenel, Jr., South Carolina
Ronald V. Dellums, CaliforniaRobert K. Dornan, California
Patricia Schroeder, Colorado
Beverly B. Byron, Maryland
Nicholas Mavroules, Massachusetts
Earl Hutto, Florida

Warren L. Nelson, Professional Staff Member

Mary E, Cotten, Staff Assistant







Aspin, Hon. Les, a Representative from Wisconsin, Chairman, Defense Policy Panel 1
Dickinson, Hon. William L., a Representative from Alabama, Ranking Minority Member, Defense Policy Panel 2
Hopkins, Hon. Larry J., a Representative from Kentucky, Ranking Minority Member, Investigations Subcommittee 3
Mavroules, Hon. Nicholas, a Representative from Massachusetts, Chairman, Investigations Subcommittee 3



Crowe, Adm. William J., Jr., U.S. Navy (Retired), Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 4




The July 3, 1988 Attack by the Vincennes on an Iranian Aircraft


House of Representatives,
Committee on Armed Services,
Investigations Subcommittee,
and the Defense Policy Panel,
Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, July 21, 1992.

The panel and subcommittee met in joint session, pursuant to notice, at 2:05 p.m., in room 2118, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Les Aspin (chairman of the panel) presiding.

Opening Statement of
Hon. Les Aspin, a Representative from Wisconsin, Chairman, Defense Policy Panel

Les Aspin, Chairman. The meeting will come to order.

Today we will delve into a little bit of history. ¶

Earlier this month, Newsweek magazine and “ABC News Nightline” aired several allegations about the shootdown of the Iranian airbus by the cruiser Vincennes, and generally about our Persian Gulf operations in 1987 and 1988.

The allegations can be grouped together into three charges:

first, that the Vincennes was the aggressor and not the victim of an Iranian gunboat attack before the shootdown of the airbus;

second, that we were engaging in a secret war against Iran and on behalf of Iraq under the cloak of the tanker escort operation; and

third, that the Fogarty report on the Vincennes shootdown was part of a coverup of the secret war rather than an accurate exposition of what happened.

To address these allegations, the committee has invited Adm. William Crowe, who was at the center of our Persian Gulf naval operations in 1987 and 1988 as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While Admiral Crowe can’t address every allegation, he is in a better position than anyone else to address the bulk of them. I am going to ask Admiral Crowe to speak on whatever aspect of this he wishes to address. Then we will go through the allegations one by one.

Before we do that, let me call upon the ranking member of the committee here and then the people of the Investigations Subcommittee, because this is a joint Policy Panel and Investigations hearing. ¶

First let me call upon the ranking Republican of the full committee, Mr. Bill Dickinson. {p.2}

Statement of
Hon. William L. Dickinson, a Representative from Alabama, Ranking Minority Member, Defense Policy Panel


William Louis Dickinson.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Admiral Crowe, let me welcome you to the committee. Your attendance here might be reluctant, but we’re delighted to have you anyway.

Americans love a conspiracy story, and Newsweek and Nightline have provided the American public with a little grist for the mill. ¶

If true, the allegations made by the media of a so-called ‘secret war” in the Persian Gulf are very serious and they should certainly be worthy of further study. ¶

If false, then they provide a good case study for how not to do a major international news story and add some credence to the opinion that many politicians have of the media in general.

I must admit that my immediate reaction to the Nightline story was that the allegation about a secret war had a ring of truth to it. ¶

Since then, however, I have revisited what I and others in the Congress knew about U.S. operations in the Gulf from July of 1987 to July of 1988. My conclusion is that we knew quite a bit.

Admiral Crowe, I know that you are eager to testify with regard to the specific allegations made by Newsweek and Nightline, and I would hope also you might spend some time refreshing the committee’s collective memory as to the situation in the Gulf in 1987 and 1988. If we have that context, we will be in a better position to judge whether any further action is warranted by this committee.

Let me say that I saw the Nightline program when it first aired. ¶

It bothered me a great deal because I remembered the Tonkin Gulf incident, when it was reported to the Congress and to the American people one way, and then we found out many years later, after the conflict was over, that the events leading up to our declaration in the Congress in support of military action in Vietnam was, in fact, based on erroneous information given to us. ¶

I couldn’t help but be concerned on whether we were, in fact, given erroneous information as to what happened during that period.

The allegation made by Mr. Ted Koppel, at least the facts that he related, said at the time of the shootdown of the civilian airplane we learned that it was not approaching the naval vessel but was within the corridor of commercial travel and was climbing and turning away. ¶

This is contrary to what we had been told in this committee and other hearings we have had. ¶

So I think it would be very helpful to all of us to have your testimony as to your recollection and what you know of the facts so that we can either go further into it or put the matter to rest, hopefully.

So thank you for your presence here today. It’s always a pleasure and you always make a good witness. We enjoy your presence here, as well as your contribution to the real world. ¶

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman. Thank you.

Let me next call upon the Chairman of the Investigations Subcommittee, Nick Mavroules. {p.3}

Statement of
Hon. Nicholas Mavroules, a Representative from Massachusetts, Chairman, Investigations Subcommittee

Nicholas James Mavroules.  Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and welcome, Admiral Crowe.

I would like to make just two observations before we hear from our distinguished witness.

First, I think all the talk about a tilt toward Baghdad or a secret alliance with Saddam Hussein in the mid-1980s reveals a very poor memory. ¶

We did tilt toward Baghdad when it was fighting Iran. ¶

Everyone who read the newspapers knew that. ¶

It didn’t require a security clearance to read that we were giving intelligence information to the Iraqis or to understand that the last thing we wanted was an Iranian victory. ¶

In fact, Iran-contra was a scandal because it revealed the Reagan administration as hypocritical, helping Iran when everyone thought we were helping Iraq.

Second, whether or not the Navy inquiry headed by Admiral Fogarty was a coverup, it certainly produced a poorly drafted report. ¶

I always found it startling that the Pentagon would release a report on an event of this magnitude without including a single map or time line in the written document. ¶

Position information, which would likely be a major feature of this hearing, was treated very cavalierly and very sloppily in the Fogarty report.

My point is, Mr. Chairman, even if we come out of this investigation convinced that there was no coverup, that does not amount to a passing grade for the Navy’s written report — and I’m being extremely critical in that area. ¶

The Pentagon simply has to learn how to present reports with greater clarity and responsiveness to the issues.

For example, the report on the Iowa explosion was absolutely irresponsible, and the report on the Vincennes is virtually incomprehensible. ¶

That, in my judgment, Mr. Chairman, makes two Fs in a row.

Thank you for the opportunity.

The Chairman. Let me finally call upon the ranking Republican of the Investigations Subcommittee, Larry Hopkins.

Statement of
Hon. Larry J. Hopkins, a Representative from Kentucky, Ranking Minority Member, Investigations Subcommittee

Larry Jones Hopkins.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. ¶

I want to welcome back to our committee Admiral Crowe and his volunteering to once again set in the “electric chair” in this room.

Mr. Chairman, many of us in this room, unlike the average American, participated in the debate and deliberations over the American policy in the Persian Gulf during 1987. Some of us were supportive of the reflagging effort, some were not. But I think all of us basically remember the general outlines of the U.S. policy at that time, and that was to protect from continued Iranian aggression the free flow of commerce and oil in and out of the Persian Gulf.

Now here we are some 5 years later, and two news organizations would appear to rewrite history by piecing together a fragile mosaic {p.4} of fact, perhaps rumor, perhaps conjecture and fiction, into a sensational story of Government intrigue and conspiracy.

The charges that have been made against the Pentagon are serious and troubling. But it would be equally troubling if these charges, which have been so prominently and convincingly advanced in the media, proved to be creations resulting from irresponsible news reporting. ¶

So I hope that Admiral Crowe will help us begin to sort through these questions and I look forward to his testimony today.

Thank you.

The Chairman. Thank you.

Let me just say to the members of the committee what we plan to do here. ¶

We will be looking forward to try to come to some kind of conclusion about these various issues — the issue about whether the Vincennes was the aggressor, the question about whether we did conduct an operation against Iran, a secret war against Iran, and the issue of whether there was a coverup in the Fogarty report. ¶

We expect to come to some conclusions about that and issue a report.

Our hearing today is with Admiral Crowe. ¶

We will also be having our staff go out and talk to other people, and we will perhaps be doing other hearings and have other witnesses, which will be announced later.

Our witness today is the man who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when all of this took place. ¶

We welcome him here. ¶

As we said before, Admiral Crowe, you can address any part of this story that you may want to address, and then we would like to ask you some questions, sir.

Statement of
Adm. William J. Crowe, Jr.,
U.S. Navy (Retired),
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Admiral Crowe. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. ¶

You may regret those last words. I plan to address them at some length. It has been my practice in the past to submit my statements for the record and to summarize them, but I would like not to do that today, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman. You’re the witness, sir. You can proceed any way you want.

Admiral Crowe. I would like to deliver my entire statement, and I apologize in advance for the length.

I appreciate your invitation to appear this afternoon. ¶

I have been informed that your main interests — and I think this was confirmed by your comments — are the recent ABC Nightline newscast with Ted Koppel and the Newsweek magazine article by John Barry and Roger Charles addressing our Gulf convoy operations and the downing of the airbus by the Vincennes on 3 July, 1988.

I would like to start with some prefatory remarks before proceeding to details. ¶

I have been reading military history for over 50 years. I am well aware of the temptation to refight and flesh out accounts of battles. With the passage of time, it is often possible to uncover new material, correct errors, and develop new perspectives. I have no argument with such efforts. I find good history, particularly military history, both instructional and enjoyable. {p.5}

My main criticism of the ABC-Newsweek treatment, however, is the inflated and outrageous rhetoric employed on the basis of very slim and often mistaken information. ¶

I am even more appalled by the authors’ tendency to leap from slim evidence to patently false charges of coverup, secret war and conspiracy. ¶

I consider such sensationalism inexcusable and totally inappropriate for responsible news organizations.

Unlike ABC-Newsweek, I am, on request, prepared to cite my various sources today and give you the names of people who are both authoritative on specific questions and who are prepared to publicly state their views and, if you so desire, to testify. ¶

ABC-Newsweek refer only to mysterious “Navy sources, former Pentagon officials,” et cetera.

I should also mention that the Vincennes incident is now 4 years old. Believe me, it was a huge task for me to locate many of the individuals associated with it on short notice. They are strung out from Cairo to Norway to Alaska and points in between. Memories, including my own — in fact, mainly my own — were difficult to energize. ¶

I have, however, in the last 10 days spent a great deal of time talking to people, reviewing data, in an attempt to refresh my memory. I believe that I can address most of the issues of interest and of concern to you. Where failing memory has defeated my efforts, I will say so.

Let me now move to substance. ¶

I strongly object to the fact that in an attempt to excoriate the Navy, ABC-Newsweek totally ignored the air of terrorism and peril that pervaded the Gulf at that time. Over 200 attacks were made on shipping in 1987, 1988, and 1989. Our units were working in a half war/half peace environment. This is the most stressful kind of challenge for commanding officers and crews. The Stark incident, the Bridgeton mining, the Roberts striking a mine, the inflated rhetoric coming from Teheran, all were constantly on the minds of our service personnel.

Moreover, the U.S. rules of engagement, neglected by ABC-Newsweek, strongly emphasized that each commanding officer’s first responsibility was to the safety of his ship and crew. If he was to err, it was to be on the side of protecting his people. In this day and age of supersonic missiles, our warships cannot be expected to take the first shot before reacting. It’s a heavy burden, but ships’ captains are expected to make forehanded judgments, and if they genuinely believe they are under threat, to act aggressively.

Also unmentioned were two Iraqi attacks on ships in Iranian waters on the 1st of July, 1988, and the U.S. intelligence estimate that in the runup to the 4th of July holiday we would very likely encounter a rash of Iranian activity.

On the evening of 2 July, the day before the Vincennes attack, an attack was mounted on the Danish tanker Karama Maersk just off Abu Dhabi. The U.S.S. Montgomery came to the assistance of this ship at its request and drove off the attackers. All of this background influenced the events of 3 July, 1988, as well as the subsequent investigation, and it was ignored by ABC-Newsweek.

Likewise, nothing is said or written about the Iranian role in the airbus tragedy. There was no coordination between Iranian surface raiders and civil air authorities. The tower at Bandar Abbas airport did not monitor emergency frequencies and therefore failed to {p.6} alert the pilots of the airbus. Had it done so, the tragedy would probably have been avoided.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard was portrayed in these articles as some sort of benign group, set upon by American forces bent on doing them harm. But these same Revolutionary Guards were vicious terrorists, attacking unarmed merchantmen and intentionally shooting at deckhouses so as to kill innocent civilians. That is the reason that our military forces were there.

We had the difficult task of neutralizing these seaborne terrorists, and our people did a superb job of protecting ships and lives under the most trying circumstances. In fact, the convoying effort was eminently successful. I have even heard some members of the Congress, who initially opposed reflagging, express this opinion.

Let me now turn to some specifics. ¶

I would like first to address the serious charge of a “secret war.” It graphically conveys the questionable quality of the Newsweek-Nightline research.

ABC-Newsweek contended that we were forced to covert means in order to keep our tilt toward Iraq from showing. This has already been commented on by Chairman Mavroules. This conclusion implies that Iran had not figured out the tilt. It was written about extensively in the U.S. press and a subject of considerable congressional commentary.

The administration was confronted with a difficult choice. Of course, Iran didn’t like what we were doing, and Teheran complained loudly. The alternative was to let Iranian gunboats terrorize the Gulf. The administration elected to intervene while at the same time going to great lengths not to extend U.S. involvement any further than necessary. A conscious and deliberate effort was made to keep our activities at sea and to stay off Iranian soil. I would suggest that ABC’s characterization that the reflagging operation as a tilt against Iran is neither profound nor a new thought.

Breathlessly, the article charged that “secret operations were more extensive than reported.” ¶

I certainly hope so. This is the nature of military operations, to confuse your potential enemy and to be prepared for any eventuality. ¶

A number of operations were characterized in a sinister fashion because they were not made public. Do Newsweek and Nightline suggest that we should have shared all of these details at the time with them — and with the forces that opposed us? Should we have risked American lives so that the media could have a good story? I leave it to you to judge if we were mistaken in not also revealing our properly classified plans to Newsweek and Nightline.

More importantly — and this was at the heart of the Nightline accusations — the appropriate congressional committees were consistently briefed on our various operations, including the intelligence exchanges with Iraq, which Mr. Koppel emphasized so heavily. ¶

Every exchange of fire was reported formally and in writing to the Congress. ¶

If Congress and the executive branch disagreed about the applicability of the War Powers Resolution, that argument was political. ¶

At no time was I told to conceal anything from the Congress, I never did conceal anything from the Congress, and I never ordered anyone else to do so.

Actually, a great deal ultimately did appear in the press about what was billed by ABC-Newsweek as a secret war. Newsweek it- {p.7} self, in October, 1987 issues, described in some detail an attack on the Iranian minelayer Iran AJR, the character of our night operations, and the role of small helicopters operating off ships. ¶

During this period, countless articles appeared in U.S. newspapers and magazines about our anti-mining efforts and night operations and revealing the existence of barges off Saudi Arabia and Kuwait which acted as bases for helicopters and patrol boats {1069kb.pdf}. At one point, we took American journalists and a camera crew to visit one of our barges.


Koppel, in a very sarcastic tone, commented — and I quote — ¶

“For all the American public and the U.S. Congress knew in late 1987 and early 1988, the U.S. military was playing a rather passive role in the Gulf.” ¶

Perhaps he was not reading the press accounts during those days. Even Newsweek articles by John Barry, one of the writers of the piece under present discussion, dispelled emphatically the impression of passivity. ¶

Short of releasing our detailed operation plans to Newsweek, I don’t know what more we could have done.

Let me cite some of the significant and erroneous allegations.

Ted Koppel on Nightline, in alarming tones, referred to an intelligence exchange between military intelligence services of the U.S. and Iraq, and then accused the Pentagon of not informing Congress of these discussions. ¶

Simply not true. The talks that were conducted were fully reported to the appropriate congressional committees before they commenced. Both the House and Senate oversight committees were briefed in September 1987. The operation didn’t commence then, so they were briefed again in July of 1988 before the military talks began. The project, incidentally, was terminated in September of 1988. In my judgment, these exchanges were not very profitable.

Some reference was made to an intelligence project mounted by the CIA called Eager Glacier. It was similarly briefed to the pertinent committees October 5th and 6th, 1987, and again on the 13th of October.

I quote again. “Senior administration officials” are quoted as saying that we captured “several other minelayers” after the highly publicized seizure of the Iran AJR in September, 1987, including the Rakish, but kept it quiet for fear of revealing a tilt toward Iraq. Now, this has already been referred to in the newspaper, but I will clear it up.

The reference to “other minelayers” was the cornerstone of Ted Koppel’s argument that we were waging a secret war without informing Congress. Actually, the Iran AJR’s pre-revolutionary name was Arya Rakhsh. They were one and the same ship. This fact was actually briefed to members of the press before Iran AJR was scuttled. The crew was repatriated to Iran through Oman. There were no other minelayers captured during the entire convoy operation. Certainly, we constantly attempted to track the remaining minelayers, but after the Iran AJR incident, they didn’t stray far from home. Aside from this vague reference, ABC-Newsweek did not cite one specific regarding the other minelayers they were referring to. But the reader is left with a blatantly untrue impression. {p.8}

On 8 October, 1988, a patrolling helicopter was fired upon at night off Farsi Island and, in turn, we sank three IRGC gunboats. Four Iranians — and they were IRGC, in other words, the Revolutionary Guard, not Iranian Navy — were subsequently captured in the wake of the incident and were repatriated through Oman. This encounter was reported both to the Congress and announced by DOD press spokesmen in Washington. It was neither a minelaying crew nor was it something that we were keeping secret either from the Congress or the public.

Their article charges that a Task Force 160 helicopter was downed by friendly fire. I recently spoke with the commanders of the various helicopter units in the Gulf. No helicopters were downed in the Gulf by friendly fire or, for that matter, by hostile fire. We lost several helicopters during operations due to mechanical malfunctions, to pilot error, or accidents on the pad. If you wish, I can furnish a list of those casualties.

Once again I quote Newsweek. ¶

“When he retired in 1991, Rear Adm. Dennis Brooks, the joint task force commander—” of joint task force commanders for a period “—gave Navy Secretary Lawrence Garrett a 200-page report on ‘extra legal’ operations in the Gulf.” ¶

I have researched this at some length. Actually, Admiral Brooks visited Secretary Garrett in the summer of 1990, while Brooks was changing duty stations. Secretary Garrett, who I have talked to personally, recalls Brooks leaving him a letter rather than a report. He characterized Brooks’ letter as a communication from a disgruntled officer. In a recent phone call, Admiral Brooks told me it was a private matter between him and the Secretary, and he didn’t know where the 200-page figure came from.

Newsweek further charged, ¶

“American AWACS acted as air controllers for Iraqi raids against targets in Iran.” ¶

Emphatically not true. In order to avoid another incident like the accidental attack on the U.S.S. Stark, our AWACS tracked Iraqi aircraft, whenever possible, and reported their positions to our ships. We told the Iraqis we would be doing this and, when their aircraft got close, our ships would also warn them via radio to stay clear. Our operational instructions specifically prohibited AWACS units from providing any assistance to Iraqi aircraft attacking Iran or its shipping. ¶

The former commander of the AWACS aircraft unit is now a member of this committee’s staff, retired Col. Doug Roach, and he confirmed the preceding account.

ABC-Newsweek also made vague references to U.S. contingency plans and possible strikes against Iranian installations. The most misleading statement was a reference to “former Pentagon officials — we must have a lot of former Pentagon officials — who differed on whether mainland strikes were actually carried out.” ¶

This statement defies my imagination. ¶

How could we mount such a strike without it becoming public? ¶

I can state unequivocally that no strikes were carried out on the Iranian mainland, or on Iranian islands for that matter. ¶

Any other conclusion is sheer fabrication.

We retaliated twice in response to Iranian provocations, both well documented and on the public record. ¶

The first was an attack on the ROTSAM oil platform in the central Gulf on 19 October, 1987, in reaction to a Silkworm firing from the al Fao Peninsula against the U.S.-owned tanker Sungari and the U.S.-flagged Sea {p.9} Isle City. ¶

The second was an attack against oil platforms in the central Gulf after the Samuel B. Roberts struck an Iranian mine. ¶

These were highly publicized and, of course, reported in writing to the Congress.

“ 68. The Court notes that the attacks on the Salman and Nasr platforms were not an isolated operation, aimed simply at the oil installations, as had been the case with the attacks of 19 October 1987; they formed part of a much more extensive military action, designated “Operation Praying Mantis”, conducted by the United States against what it regarded as “legitimate military targets”; armed force was used, and damage done to a number of targets, including the destruction of two Iranian frigates and other Iranian naval vessels and aircraft.

* * *

125. The Court, (1) By fourteen votes to two, Finds that the actions of the United States of America against Iranian oil platforms on 19 October 1987 and 18 April 1988 cannot be justified as measures necessary to protect the essential security interests of the United States of America under ... the 1955 Treaty ... as interpreted in the light of international law on the use of force.”

Iran v. United States (“Oil Platforms”) (U.N. International Court of Justice, The Hague, case 90) (“the world court”), judgment (merits), 2003 I.C.J. 161 {29.1mb.pdf, source, summary} (November 6 2003), announced, “Decision of the Court” (ICJ press release 2003/38, November 6 2003) {copy, source, source}CJHjr

It is true we discussed a number of imaginative schemes for heavier retaliations, and even drew up some contingency plans based on such ideas. ¶

But they were never — I repeat — never implemented and could not have been implemented except by specific approval at the highest level of the U.S. Government.

A “senior Pentagon official” was reported as authorizing the use of a decoy ship to lure out Iranian boats. ¶

This charge also has no basis in fact. ¶

I recall hearing discussed the possibility of employing some type of “Q” ships, such as were used in World War I. ¶

But the idea never got out of the brainstorming stage.

This week I polled the main operational commanders in the Gulf: Admirals Bernsen, Less, ultimately Fogarty, and also General Crist. ¶

Aside from measures to conceal our own ship movements, they know of no deception plans either being approved or employed. ¶

Certainly I did not approve or order any deception scenario. ¶

Frankly, we established control of the Gulf without resorting to such measures. ¶

More significantly, our first priority was not to lure them out but to convince the Iranian units, both large and small, to remain in port. ¶

Newsweek does not identify its “senior Pentagon official.”

I must reemphasize strongly, we were extremely careful to keep the Congress informed. Any engagement involving an exchange of fire was formally reported. In addition, a host of briefings of some type, formal or informal, both at the member and staff level, were given to the Congress over a period of 30 months. I have some lists of those that were made up informally and kept by our staffs.

In the course of the commitment to the protection of shipping, a number of legislators and their assistants visited the Gulf — I think some of you in this room did — where they received up-to-the-minute briefings from commanders. Some were taken aboard ships and some visited the barges. ¶

When Koppel says the Congress was not informed, he is clearly in error.

I would like now to turn to the Vincennes story, especially the vituperous charge of a “coverup.”

ABC and Newsweek were particularly fascinated with Vincennes’ entry into Iranian waters, suggesting that I had conceded the truth only when confronted on the Nightline program. ¶

It is accurate that I told the truth, but is the first time I had ever been asked that question by a reporter.

Incidentally, the article, in referring to my 3 July press briefing, says I talked to Captain Rogers. I never met or saw Will Rogers until several months after I retired. The information I was using came from Vincennes’ messages.

At my 3 July, 1988 press briefing, which Newsweek attended, not one question was asked about the geographic position of the ship. The ship’s position relative to the air corridor, however, was the subject of several queries. For quite some time after that, I was under the impression that Vincennes had not entered Iran’s territorial waters, but that matter was properly and appropriately left to the formal investigation to sort out. {p.10}

Interestingly, when Secretary Carlucci and I appeared at a press conference on 19 August, 1988 to present the Fogarty report, Newsweek was again present. ¶

No one asked a question about the ship’s track or position at the time of firing, or whether the ship entered into territorial waters. ¶

When Admirals Fogarty and Kelly testified to Congress shortly thereafter, before both the Senate and House committees, not one question was asked about the ship’s position. ¶

So what has become a central point of the so-called coverup didn’t seem terribly important at the time, or throughout the past 4 years, to either the media or the Congress. ¶

The reason is simple — it was never viewed as a significant issue. ¶

Which side of the line the ship was on had nothing to do with the misidentification of the aircraft or the other circumstances that bore directly on the shootdown.

The Newsweek article insists that the Vincennes’ entry into Iranian territorial waters was clearly in violation of international law. ¶

I take vigorous issue with that view. ¶

A warship acting in self-defense has the right, under international law, to enter the aggressor waters to defend itself. ¶

This was the United States legal view for as long as I was in the Navy. ¶

Moreover, the rules of engagement which governed Rogers clearly permitted entering Iran’s waters if his ship was under imminent threat or engaged.

Rear Admiral Fogarty’s final report was classified secret, delivered to the Congress, and it did conclude that the Vincennes had entered Iranian territorial waters. ¶

An exhibit attached to the report included the investigating team’s navigational calculations which illuminated the ship’s tracks and placed the Vincennes inside Iran’s territorial waters at the time of firing. ¶

Several exhibits included navigational data — that is, logs, et cetera — which were used to reconstruct the incident. ¶

When the report was redacted for public release, that information was withheld for two reasons:

It could help define our rules of engagement in ways we did not want to disclose at that time, and especially the fact that our rules under certain circumstances permitted entry into territorial waters.

We were also concerned about the possibility of Iranian retaliation and didn’t want to throw gasoline on the flames which we believed might follow the Vincennes incident. ¶

I remind you that the climate after the shootdown was a great deal different than today. ¶

It was, to say the least, tense, volatile and uncertain. ¶

The Iran-Iraq war was still in progress, and the verbal threats issuing from Teheran were loud and inflammatory.

This question of the climate being different not only applies to this incident, it’s a fact that is ignored throughout the article and the newscast.

Nevertheless, the classified report and the redacted unclassified version were transmitted to both the Senate and the House Armed Services Committees. ¶

Chairman Aspin released a statement on 19 August, 1988, saying his committee had received both. ¶

ABC and Newsweek failed to mention this fact. ¶

Incidentally, there were some 308 exhibits and appendices. ¶

I know of no instance where Congress made an issue out of the fact that the Vincennes had gone across the line into territorial waters, or any criticism of this portion of the classified report, or any suggestions that the Pentagon should release the conclusion. ¶

Again, I believe the congressional members {p.11} and staff must have believed it more beneficial not to disclose the classified material at that time.

Very shortly after the shootdown, the International Civil Aviation Organization, colloquially known as ICAO, inaugurated an investigation of the incident, conducted by five people from neutral countries. ¶

This step was taken with the U.S. Government’s support and encouragement. ¶

Secretary Carlucci and I both directed our representatives dealing with ICAO to be fully forthcoming. ¶

This policy of cooperation was reaffirmed after we had the Fogarty report in hand. ¶

All of the navigational data from the classified report was to be revealed during the deliberations. ¶

The U.S. Government did not want to repeat the KAL 007 experience, where Moscow provided ICAO with considerable misleading and false data.

ICAO completed its report in November, 1988 and distributed it to the 30-some member states of the ICAO Council. ¶

In December, the report became public. ¶

Iran also received a copy. ¶

In March 1989 the report was approved by the full ICAO organization, distributed to the 165-member nations of the ICAO, and announced in an international press conference. ¶

The report cited the correct latitude and longitude of the Vincennes at the time of firing and included an easily understood chart portraying the Vincennes position. ¶

This information was furnished by the United States, as the chart made clear. ¶

It did not specifically state that Vincennes was in territorial waters, but using the mileage scale on the chart, a simple measurement shows the Vincennes about 9-1/2 miles from Hengam Island at the time of firing, well within Iranian territorial waters.

Clearly, the ICAO investigators also believed it had no bearing on the accidental shootdown. I have read many of the analytical articles that came out of the ICAO press conference, thousands of words, and not a one cited the Vincennes’ location. ¶

In any event, the ICAO report has literally been in the public domain since December 1988, over 3-1/2 years ago. ¶

Again, ABC-Newsweek either didn’t know about or intentionally ignored the ICAO report.

The fact is the tragedy would have likely occurred whether Vincennes was within Iranian waters or not. ¶

ABC-Newsweek chose to concentrate on this peripheral subject and thereby create the leap to the dramatic assertion of coverup.

Perhaps at the time of the ICAO release — the international environment had then calmed and the terrorist activity in the Gulf had ceased — we should have declassified the ship’s position and issued a press release pointing out Vincennes’ location within Iranian waters at the time of firing. ¶

With the prescience of 20-20 hindsight, I wish we had done that. ¶

It would have had no bearing on the conclusions of the Fogarty or ICAO investigations but it might have avoided the hysteria caused by present-day reporting.

Before concluding, I would cite some lesser items, but ones which I still believe to be misleading enough to mention.

One of Newsweek’s colorful charts — page 31 of the issue — asserts in bold print that the Vincenneshelicopter was in territorial waters at the time it was fired on. ¶

I am aware of two independent groups working through the available data since the Newsweek article was published, and I personally reconstructed the incident. This is the first time I’ve done any navigating in over 20 years. We all concluded that initially both the helicopter and the offending {p.12} boghammers were in international waters, in roughly the same position as the Fogarty report.

A most comprehensive effort was made by the Naval War College, and I will be happy to furnish Congress with a copy of its work and comments. The data is not as clear cut and dried as I would prefer; it never is in battle incidents. There are one or two verbal statements in the record estimating range to the helicopter that would put it in a slightly different location, but those were eyeball judgments and not consistent with the available Aegis data.

In the process I ran across a mistake in Rear Admiral Fogarty’s report which may have contributed to the confusion. ¶

On page 23 of the unclassified version of the report, the Vincennes’ 0610 zulu — that’s Greenwich — position is in error. It places Vincennes approximately 8 miles north of its actual location, which is confirmed by Fogarty’s own investigative charts and independent navigational calculations. Incidentally, if we were covering up the fact, we would have made the error in the opposition direction.

Newsweek reaches its own conclusion through methods it doesn’t recount. Perhaps extrapolating from the incorrect position on page 23 may have contributed in some fashion to Barry and Charles erroneously concluding the helicopter was in Iranian waters when it came under fire. ¶

However, the narrative account and the report’s other conclusions were not based on this incorrect position, so it had no adverse influence on the investigation’s general findings.



Well, that’s a very simple error to correct.

By producing the secret Vincennes inertial navigation system log (INS).

And its Link-11 messages.

And, being a mistake, which establishes the prima facie case, that the Vincennes was engaged in unlawful, offensive, aggressive, warfare, and prima facie murder and arson — and not self defense — it’s a mistake, I would suppose, U.S. Military Officers would be at very great pains to correct.


  And certainly, by later in 1988.

When U.S. Military Officers gave that specific coordinate to investigators for ICAO: the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization.

  And certainly, by September 8-9 1988.

When U.S. Military Officers testified under oath, to three Congressional committees, about their report.

  And certainly, by March 4 1991.

When the U.S. Department of Justice filed it’s brief on behalf of the United States of America, in the United Nations International Court of Justice, in the Hague. Confirming that specific coordinate.

  And certainly, by July 21 1992.

In this very Congressional hearing. Convened for the express purpose of inquiring into allegations. Based in part on that specific coordinate. Amounting to a prima facie criminal conspiracy, of criminal liars. Headed by none other that the witness himself, at this very hearing: William J. Crowe Jr.

  And certainly, by 1993.

When this very Congressional Committee published this very Congressional Hearing. And could have documented, in this very document, the supposed mistake in that specific coordinate. And didn’t.

  And certainly, by later in 1993.

When the U.S. Department of Defense released a new version of the DoD Report. Confirming that specific coordinate.

While — at the same time — correcting other mistakes in the report, from the version it originally issued to the public, on August 19 1988.

Is a mistake that important?

And that easy to correct?

Which all these people did not correct?

When prompted to do so?

A mistake?

And are we to believe an assertion?

From the alleged head, of a prima facie criminal conspiracy, of criminal liars?

Who has it in his gift to document the “mistake”?

And doesn’t?  CJHjr

Contrary to the contention by Barry and Charles, not all the boghammers retreated immediately into territorial waters. At least one lingered outside even after the Vincennes crossed over the line. In fact, the article continually reaches conclusions about positions, ranges, and conduct of various boghammers and ships without citing any supporting data. Many of their observations are blatantly subjective and/or speculative and couched in very emotional terms. It’s frustrating to attempt to refute material which is long on adjectives and short on cited sources.

At one point the article says Captain Rogers was preparing to fire still lacking a clear target. A review of the communications traffic and Aegis data doesn’t support this statement at all. They say “the gunboats were just slowly milling about,” an opinion at best. Several witnesses gave statements that belie that description, as well as some of the data. I have talked with several over the last few days. I also called the commanding officer of the Montgomery and he gave me a vivid and dramatic account of boghammers moving at high speed toward both Vincennes and Montgomery. There was no doubt in Captain Kearley’s mind that the two ships and their crews were being threatened. Believe me, there are more views available than were expressed in Newsweek. Moreover, there was clear evidence that Vincennes was hit by gun fire.

One of the sidebars in the article, page 32, showed pictures of the Aegis’ large screen display which did not include Hengam Island. ¶

Newsweek, with great delight, accuses the Navy of deleting the island for sinister purposes. ¶

This shows a shallow understanding of the Aegis system. Aegis is not a navigational system and is not billed or intended as such. Operators are specifically warned not to employ it for close-in navigation. Representations of land masses are not detailed or necessarily accurate and do not come from Aegis {p.13} radar returns but from preprogrammed information stored in the data bank in homeport by engineers. These representations are only intended to give the commanding officer some sense of the land picture, not details. ¶

A replay, which was made this week, of all the Aegis tapes which were on Vincennes that day, at all the differing range scales, found Hengam Island, as well as some other land features, had never been put in the Aegis data bank. As a matter of fact, I’m told that there is no Aegis afloat today with Hengam Island in its data bank. Consequently, Hengam could not have been displayed on the large scale screen.

Incidentally, this problem may explain Captain Rogers’ belief that his ship was not in Iranian waters. The bottom line: no one deleted the island, as charged, the screens were accurately photographed. This is a technical limitation of the system, not a covert plot to mislead the American public. ¶

It would have been a relatively easy matter for the authors to have discovered this feature of Aegis. ¶

Query:Easy matter”?

Oh. You mean, they can go down to Wallops Island? Just like you can? And have the tapes replayed? Any time they want? All they have to do is just pick up the phone and ask?


In any event, I’m not an expert on Aegis and would be glad to direct you to the commanding officer of the Aegis Training Center at Dahlgren, VA and his Aegis engineers who are authorities and are more capable than I to elaborate on these matters.

In dealing with the carrier activity outside the Gulf, Barry and Charles took complicated operations and attempted to make them simple for their own purposes. ¶

I recently talked to Rear Admiral Fogarty, who states he spent considerable time on this issue. In his view, the air control, deconfliction and communication practicalities prevented a quick response. ¶

It is true that the E2C did not launch in time to assume control of the F-14s. ¶

I have with me the catapult log{;} it launched at 9:47. ¶


The allegation, in the Nightline broadcast, was not about when this particular E2C Hawkeye launched. Presumably to relieve another E2C Hawkeye already aloft, and on station. One of the two mentioned by Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci.

The allegation, in the Nightline broadcast, was that the assertion was untrue — which William M. Fogarty put in his Report — that U.S. F-14s also launched at the same time as the Hawkeye. Implying (even if true) that others were not already near the Vincennes.

Nightline claimed, those F-14s, or others, launched earlier.

And were already on station.

At Point Alpha.

About 50 n.miles from the Vincennes.

Waiting for something to do.

Before Iran Air Flight 655 ever took off.

And Ted Koppel cited, as authority, an interview with John A. Pieno Jr, Commanding Officer of that aircraft carrier, the USS Forrestal.

And, his logs.

And so, sitting there, in the Congressional Hearing.

With the Forrestal catapult log in your hand.

I suppose you would have denied the Nightline allegation.

If that catapult log proved them wrong.

And you didn’t.

And so it didn’t.

And you also concede, below, that the U.S. F-14s were indeed on station.

Though you don’t say for how long.

And so, I suppose they had been on station for a long time.

And long enough, anyway, for that to be no issue in these events.

Otherwise, you would told us what that catapult log said.

About when they launched.

And you didn’t.

And so, I take it, that Ted Koppel told us the truth.

And that William M. Fogarty told us the untruth.


If Vincennes was to call in the F-14s, it would have had to control them itself.

I also discussed the air picture with the Aegis expert at Dahlgren who handled the analysis of the Vincennes tapes. ¶

He described in some detail the arrival of the F-14s on station. ¶

The threat became apparent to Vincennes around 0950 — that the threat was urgent — 0950 local time, less than 5 minutes before the shootdown. ¶

At that time the F-14s were 58 miles away, orbiting at 390 knots. ¶

Query:58 miles”? “390 knots”?

Let’s see now.

How long would it take the F-14s to dart over, and have a look at the radar track, and see what it was?

At 390 knots.

But, whoops, the F-14 doesn’t dart at it’s idling, orbiting, speed.

It darts at its top speed: 1375 knots.

At that speed it could travel 69 n.miles in 3.0 minutes.

Plenty of time to look at the aircraft.

Long before the Vincennes commander turned his firing key (0654:05).


In this analyst’s view, to close and identify the airbus in 5 minutes would have been virtually impossible, even if the communication and deconfliction problems could have been resolved. I don’t know that that statement is true, but that’s his view

Also, I have consulted with the group commander who was aboard Forrestal. He had some concerns about the F-14s responding without good communications with Vincennes. He did not know if Vincennes was fully aware of the F-14s location or availability. But that problem was out of his control. Vincennes could have brought them in if it could have established communications and, in turn, established air control.

The article points out that the commanding officer of Forrestal was not called by the investigation. The group commander, however, his immediate superior, did file a full account of events from his vantage point for the investigation. Again, here is an example where the authors, using a little information, have drawn a firm conclusion with no willingness to admit any room for another view or interpretation. {p.14}

For Vincennes to bring in the aircraft after 0950 would require everything to go exactly right. It would have been a near thing at best. ¶

Once they had been vectored in, Rogers would have had to give up the option of using his own weapons to protect himself. ¶

I personally suspect, from my reading of the events, that the press of both a surface engagement and a rapidly closing “unidentified hostile” precluded Captain Rogers from adequately turning his attention to the problem of ordering in friendly aircraft until the last moment.

Quick judgments have to be made in crisis. ¶

Subsequent analysis may lead critics to disagree with some of those decisions. That’s the nature of combat. ¶

But that two analyses disagree on the wisdom of a decision does not necessarily connote coverup. ¶

I can assure you the subject of possible air support was not ignored by the investigators, or covered up. ¶

If you choose to pursue this subject, you need to call the individuals involved rather than rely solely on the simple statements in Newsweek and the Monday morning quarterback-ing of the writers.

The Chairman. Admiral Crowe, could you hold up for just a minute? We have to run over and vote, and we’ll be right back.

Admiral Crowe. But I’m on a roll, Mr. Chairman.


The Chairman. I know that, but we’ve got to vote. Sorry. We’ll be right back.

[Whereupon, the hearing was in recess.]

The Chairman. The hearing will come back to order.

Admiral Crowe, please continue.

Admiral Crowe. I have just a few more points, Mr. Chairman.

The authors stated that an F-14 could do little damage to the Vincennes. We had been receiving reports for over a year that Iran was considering kamikaze-style attacks on our ships and actually configuring some aircraft for this mission. We were particularly sensitive to that possibility. Barry and Charles apparently did not know that a suicide attack, if carried out, could do great harm to our ships.

The article makes a great deal of what they call the mysterious ship Stoval. ¶

Like Newsweek, I am unable to find the Stoval in the Liberian registry. Unlike Newsweek, I could not find two sources who could confirm a deception scheme. As mentioned earlier, I could find no evidence of any type of decoy operations. ¶

But, frankly, the Stoval incident as described by Newsweek makes no sense whatsoever. First, we didn’t want to lure out the attack boats — we wanted them to stay in port. The implication of the article is that once they were out, we would destroy them.

That is totally wrong. On the day in question, Montgomery and Vincennes were off and on in the presence of Iranian small craft. As long as these boats behaved themselves, they were left alone. That practice was a matter of policy.

As Vincennes was closing the boghammers that fired on its helicopter, it passed another boghammer close aboard which did not threaten Vincennes and was ignored. Moreover, there were Iranian boats out in the vicinity the day before and all night. Some time before the name Stoval appears in the communication logs, the IRGC small craft were out and on the prowl. ¶

Fogarty’s report spe- {p.15} cifically concluded that no merchant ships had requested assistance that morning. ¶

It was the querying of various merchantmen by the Iranians and the suspicious explosions that were worrisome and provoked the helicopter reconnaissance, not Stoval.

In any event, I don’t understand what purpose a fictitious ship would have served. The Iranians hear the transmission, come out and find no ship. What do they do then? Perhaps, for lack of anything else to do, they would attack an American warship and fall right into our trap? Not likely. I find the whole scenario silly.

Also, there were other merchant ships being harassed by boghammers in the Straits that morning and the authors have not questioned their existence. Incidentally, merchant skippers did, on occasion, use false names in their radio transmissions to disguise their identity. I cannot determine whether Stoval was such a case.

I repeat, there was no decoy operation ordered or mounted during the entire convoy operation. Also, that morning, the skippers of the Vincennes and the Montgomery knew nothing about a decoy operation, and I don’t see what good it would have been if our people didn’t know about it.

Before closing, I believe a word about the Fogarty investigation is in order. ¶

Contrary to the Newsweek assertion, I did not appoint Admiral Fogarty as the investigating officer. General Crist did. It was a Central Command investigation. Admiral Fogarty arrived in Bahrain on 5 July, 1988, and commenced his investigation. He made the wise decision to do it in Bahrain instead of in the United States. He completed taking testimony on the 17th and turned to drafting the report. He returned to Tampa in late July and signed the report on 28 July. By any standards, as investigations go, it was remarkable to complete such a monumental effort so quickly. You may not be satisfied with the quality of it but, believe me, there was considerable pressure to get answers on these questions.

Newsweek said darkly that I had sent my legal advisor, Capt. Richard Debobes, to sit at Fogarty’s side as he prepared his report in Tampa. Nothing could be further from the truth. Captain Debobes arrived in Tampa on the 31st of July, 3 days after Admiral Fogarty had signed and submitted his investigation to General Crist. This is another example of shoddy research leading to accusatory and false conclusions.

I had actually sent Captain Debobes to Tampa to become familiar with the report so, when it arrived in Washington, we could expedite our own review process. Admiral Fogarty has confirmed to me that Captain Debobes offered no comments or advice or suggested changes at any time. Of course not. The report had already been completed. ¶

Captain Debobes did, at General Crist’s request, talk with the general about some aspects of the completed report.

The article, by implication, suggests that I was manipulating the investigation. ¶

Horsefeathers. I did not see or talk to Fogarty throughout the entire process — he was in the Persian Gulf — nor did I send him any cables or messages through third parties. The first time I saw Admiral Fogarty was in Washington, the day before Secretary Carlucci endorsed the investigation and held a press conference addressing the subject. I saw him on 18 August, 1988. The conversation was brief. I recall it lasting about 15 minutes. {p.16}

I had been involved with service legal matters many years — incidentally, on both sides of the table — and fully understood my role and the necessity not to interfere while the judicial process was grinding. Any suggestion that I influenced or manipulated Admiral Fogarty’s efforts is false and personally malicious.

Mr. Chairman, I think it is obvious why I am offended by the newscast and magazine article and believe both were liberally laced with inaccuracies, half truths, unjustified conclusions and accusations. ¶

More importantly, contrary to Koppel’s very serious charge of some type of conspiracy, the appropriate committees of Congress were kept informed throughout. Similarly, the accusations of cover-up are preposterous and unfounded.

There is no question that we kept many of our operations in the Persian Gulf secret. We would have risked American lives had we not, and our mission would have been a great deal more difficult. We put American lives first.

No one suggests — and certainly I do not — that there were no mistakes made on the morning of July 3rd, 1988, and in the time that followed. ¶

But making mistakes is a long step from a deliberate coverup. ¶

We notified Congress accurately and speedily of all our engagements, whether the news was good or bad. ¶

We did not, I emphasize, did not at any time cover up, conspire or conduct a secret war, beyond the knowledge of our leaders, and you who are charged as the safekeepers for all the American people.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement. ¶

I will be happy to address your questions.

Les Aspin, Chairman. Admiral Crowe, thank you very much. That is, indeed, a very complete and thorough statement. I think you have covered a lot of the issues that we might want to ask about and might want to follow up on.

Let me pick up on one point and then proceed to let my other colleagues also ask questions. I would like to pick up on the question of the position and whether, in fact, the Vincennes — and the helicopter, for that matter — were in Iranian territorial waters.

Admiral Crowe. Do you mean initially, prior to —

The Chairman. Yes, initially, before the attack on the Iranian gunboats.

I concur with your assessment because I don’t remember that ever being particularly an issue. ¶

You say it was not asked at the press conference, and I don’t think we ever asked the question in any of the —

Admiral Crowe. I don’t believe you did, sir.

The Chairman. Because we had the staff go back and look at whether we, in fact, raised the issue.

The whole focus at the time was on the shooting down of the airbus, not the gunfight with the patrol boats.

Admiral Crowe. That is correct.

The Chairman. The shooting down of the aircraft was admitted at that point, and all around, to be a horrible mistake. As you have said many times since, the information that you were operating on originally about the shooting down of that plane turned out, in a lot of the cases, to be incorrect, and why was that. The whole focus was on the shooting down of the plane. {p.17}


The incident of the gunboats is only important to the extent that it really distracted General Rogers — that was the focus of General Rogers —

Admiral Crowe. Captain Rogers.

The Chairman. Of Captain Rogers until right before he had to give the order as to whether to go ahead and fire at the airbus, because he was involved with the fighting of the gunboats up until the last minute. As you point out in your statement, there was no time then to bring in the F-14s to have a look. So the question then, only in retrospect, has come down to the question about how did this firefight get started.

Clearly, one of the charges in the Newsweek and Nightline stories is that, in fact, Captain Rogers was the aggressor in this case, the implication here, that he was known as sort of a feisty, trigger-happy kind of guy, a very aggressive guy. They had some reference to previous assignments.

Are you in a position to talk about your knowledge of what kind of a commander Captain Rogers was?

Admiral Crowe. I had no personal knowledge. ¶

I did not know Captain Rogers when I was Chairman. ¶

I read the story in Newsweek with some care. ¶

I’ve been in the Navy a long time and I’ve watched these kinds of things. ¶

Not all commanding officers are alike, Mr. Chairman. In fact, since I’ve been a senior officer in the Navy, one of the things that has been the bane of my existence is I am constantly told that we are producing managers and administrators instead of warriors, and then, when we see a warrior come up on the scene, we’re told that we should produce a manager and administrator and not a warrior. ¶

Some of our commanding officers are aggressive and some are not. ¶

Some are cautious and some are not.

I think it’s much more important, in looking at this incident, and to answer the kind of question that you’re talking about, not to concern yourself with personality so much and the reputation. I’ve seen lots of jealousies between ships, particularly when you have a new ship on the scene, one that’s high tech and sort of elite, and I’ve seen skippers arguing — Admiral Sampson and Admiral Schley went to their deaths not speaking to each other, still arguing over who won the Battle of Santiago Bay. So we have a long tradition of this kind of argument in the Navy.

But the question that I think you have to address is the facts that day. I did that when I endorsed it, but I have done it again in the last few days. I went back over it. Irrespective of what kind of personality you might attribute to Captain Rogers, he exercised considerable restraint. He didn’t go after every boghammer. ¶

As a matter of fact, when the helicopter was shot at — and this sort of surprised me — when the helicopter was linking back the radar picture to the ship, they were able to identify a specific group of boats that had shot at the helicopter and the Aegis was able to pretty well keep track of those boats through the entire transit, despite all the other activity going on and so forth. They ultimately engaged the boats that they had identified as having shot at the helicopter after some other events happened as well.

I would be the last to dispute that you can look at these events in different ways, but certainly, given the rules of engagement he {p.18} was acting under, and the context of the times — we wanted, first of all, the ships to stay in port. ¶

Second, we wanted the Iranians when they were out to behave themselves. ¶

Third, if they attacked shipping, or if they attacked us, we wanted to prevail and to punish them. ¶

We had essentially established control in the Gulf, and it was partly because of our psychological edge. ¶

We were not conducting passive operations in the Gulf; we were following this activity constantly in any way that we could, particularly intelligence. ¶

If they aggregated, if they started communicating in a fashion we thought preceded attacks, we attempted to arrive on the scene, and we had discovered from experience that generally our presence, our arrival, prevented any kind of violence, and they either dispersed or went home. ¶

When it didn’t, when they took issue with us and they attacked a ship, or we were asked to come in, or it was an American ship, or they attacked us directly, we acted aggressively. ¶

That was part of the rules and that was what we wanted our commanding officers to do. ¶

Otherwise, we would have given up the psychological edge. ¶

You don’t achieve your mission that way.

I tracked that from the very beginning. ¶

The gunboat fight that the Vincennes engaged in was quite confusing. ¶

Incidentally, the Aegis now over a period of months, the analysis of the Aegis tapes is very helpful in this process, which was not available at the time to the investigator. ¶

But we actually have tracks of the patrol boats, the ones that were in the group that fired originally. ¶

We know where they went, from international waters, and we actually know that they turned around toward Vincennes at time 0942 {sic: 0642 Zulu}. ¶

I won’t confuse you with these times and so forth, but the idea that they were all running away all the time, we not only have eyeball reports but we can actually confirm some of this with the Aegis.

Query: “They turned around toward Vincennes at time 0942”? {sic: 0642 Zulu}  CJHjr

“ Admiral William M. Fogarty:

q. At 0639Z USS Vincennes requested permission by “GS” and “GB” to engage the small boats (TN 4667) with 5″/54 guns {127mm, range 13 n.miles, 22 kb jpg}.

r. At 0639ZGB” requested USS Vincennes to verify the small boats were not departing. USS Vincennes reported the boats were closing the USS Vincennes and the USS Montgomery.

s. At 0641Z “GS” gave permission to engage the small boats with gunfire.”

DoD Report, ¶¶ q-s, p.38/25 (July 28 1988).

The Chairman. What were the ground rules as far as being in the exclusion zone or in Iranian waters? ¶

I mean, those are two different things. ¶

You said at one point in your testimony that it was clearly under the rules of engagement that a U.S. warship, or a helicopter or any flying vessel as well, could pursue Iranian assets, military assets, into Iranian waters.

Admiral Crowe. If he was under imminent threat or he was engaged, yes.

The Chairman. So that clearly implies that the imminent threat —

Admiral Crowe. That was the Fogarty conclusion, yes.

The Chairman. What happens if it developed while you were in Iranian waters or in the exclusion zone? ¶

In other words —

Admiral Crowe. First of all, may I say something about the exclusion zone? We never recognized the exclusion zone. We gave guidance to our people to try and stay out of the exclusion zone. But if anything came up — we actually considered at one point routing a convoy through the exclusion zone, because we didn’t think it would be mined — we could use it if we saw fit to do so. If our ships wandered in there for an unusual reason, there was nothing wrong with that.

Actually, the exclusion zone which Iran defined stopped at Abu Musa. There is a line that has been drawn from Abu Musa clear into the Straits that says exclusion zone, but that was drawn by {p.19} us, not by the Iranians. We often wandered across it, particularly in the Strait, and put no significance one way or another on it.

The Chairman. So we, meaning the U.S. Government, at that point did not recognize the exclusion zone?

Admiral Crowe. No. We honored it as much as we could because we didn’t want to get —

The Chairman. If a boat was in the Iranian territorial waters, had not previously fired on American vessels or other things, what were the ground rules that covered that?

Admiral Crowe. I’m going to get a little out of my ground here because I’m not an attorney, not a legal expert, but first of all, you have the right to go into territorial waters, no matter who they belong to, if you’re conducting innocent passage, going from A to B. ¶

The warship enjoys that right as well as anyone else, as does a helicopter, if you’re not shooting at anybody and if you’re not doing something else harmful. ¶

You also have in the Straits of Hormuz a thing called a transit passage regime, which I don’t think is necessarily germane to what we’re talking about, but it’s another set of rules. ¶

Because the Strait, at its narrowest point, was 20 miles, you’re bound to be in Oman’s waters or Iran’s waters, one or the other.

But to just go into Iranian territorial waters, there is nothing really illegal about that. If you go in there shooting at them and you have not been provoked, or you go in there to make trouble, or you do not do innocent passage, yes, that is illegal.

The Chairman. How would that be applied? ¶

I mean, suppose we had the situation where — ¶

I mean, the thing that set the thing off in the morning was the shooting at this helicopter. ¶

The question, of course, was the helicopter in Iranian waters, or wasn’t it, at the time that the gunboat fired at it?

Admiral Crowe. Incidentally, even if it had of been, if it wasn’t firing at anybody, I don’t see what’s wrong with it being there. ¶

But it was not there.

The Chairman. So it was your conclusion that, even had it been in Iranian waters, there was no justification for the Iranian boat to fire at the helicopter?

Admiral Crowe. I do not see any. ¶

I mean, we tracked those boats all the time. Every time we came through that Strait, our ships, convoys, were preceded by helicopters. It extended the range of the ships’ ability to identify threats, to see, to defend itself. ¶

That was our common pattern.

The Chairman. Where was the Montgomery at this point? ¶

Because one of the peculiar things —

Admiral Crowe. At what point? ¶

At the firing at the helicopter?

The Chairman. At the point that the helicopter was fired upon.

Admiral Crowe. It was near the Vincennes, about 8 or 10 miles south.

The Chairman. Was it in the territorial waters?

Admiral Crowe. No, it was not.

The Chairman. That’s another issue that is highly —

Admiral Crowe. It clearly was not. ¶

There was no argument, I don’t think, about the Montgomery at the time of the firing at the helicopter. ¶

It was down south of the Vincennes. {p.20}

{Chart, widths: 620px, 780px, 1000px, 1263px, 1580px}


“ 0610  USS Vincennes in position 26 26 N, 056 02 E.

USS Montgomery approximately 5 NM to the north-west.

USS Sides approximately 18 NM to the north-east.

0615 USS Vincenneshelicopter in a position 8 to 10 NM north of USS Montgomery is fired upon by small boats.”

ICAO Report, p. A-1, (Nov. 7 1988)


“ All U.S. naval vessels prior to the engagement with Iranian small boats were in international waters. The ICAO investigation determined that at 6:10 a.m. the position of the three U.S. ships was as follows:

USS Vincennes26 26 N, 056 02 E.

USS Elmer Montgomery— 5 nautical miles northwest of the USS Vincennes

USS Sides— 18 nautical miles northeast of the USS Vincennes

See ICAO Report, Appendix A, p. A-1. These positions are all outside of Iranian territorial waters.”

“Preliminary Objections by the United States of America” {7.25mb.pdf, source}, pages 24 n.1, 27, 27 n.1 (March 4 1991), Iran v. United States (“Aerial Incident of 3 July 1988”) (U.N. I.C.J.: International Court of Justice, The Hague, filed, May 17 1989) {70kb.pdf, source, 437kb.pdf, source}, discontinued on settlement, February 22 1996) {115.1kb.pdf, source, 248.7kb.pdf, source}.


This bearing, of the Montgomery, from the Vincennes, northwest, was concealed, by William M. Fogarty, from his report. DoD Report, ¶ b(2), p.35/24 (July 28 1988).

Both the public version.

And the classified version.

Acting in a prima facie criminal conspiracy, with other U.S. Officers.

To deceive the public.

To deceive Congress.

To conceal their unlawful, and prima facie criminal, aggression.

Against the small boats.

This bearing — which William M. Fogarty, and his co-conspirators, concealed — puts the Vincennes helicopter 2.5 n.miles offshore Iran (if 10 miles north of the Montgomery) or 3.2 n.miles offshore Iran (if 8 miles north).

When the small boats fired their warning shots.

Lawfully enforcing their nation’s territorial boundaries.

Against an armed, military, helicopter.

Of a hostile, foreign, power.

Senior U.S. Military Officers — all the while — conceal the automatically recorded SINS logs (Ship’s Inertial Navigation System), and Link 11 messages, which document all the positions of all the warships. Both in the tape recordings onboard each ship and, in real time, via satellite broadcasts. Tape recorded at the Pentagon. And the aircraft carrier. And the AWACS. And the E2C Hawkeye. And the NSA listening station on the Musandam Peninsula.

“ Ship’s movements are automatically recorded by computer programs for applications such as gun laying calculations and Link 11 position reporting.”

Electronics Technician, Volume 5–Navigation Systems, Chapter 1, Surface Navigation Systems, p.1-1 {1373kb.pdf} (Naval Education and Training Professional Development and Technology Center, Pensacola Florida, NETPDTC 1550/41 (Rev 4-00), April 1994).


The Chairman. It must have eventually got north of the Vincennes because they eventually got in the position where they saw the airbus —

Admiral Crowe. Yes, it was along side about 8,000 yards abeam of the Vincennes as it went into action. ¶

That’s later.

The Chairman. Later in the day.

Admiral Crowe. Yes. ¶

The boghammers that fired on the helicopter, I emphasize, were also in international waters.

The Chairman. The boghammers that fired at the time —

Admiral Crowe. That is my conclusion. ¶

Now, that is not Newsweek’s conclusion, I do not believe. ¶

It depends on the reconstruction. ¶

But the one that I cited at the Naval War College, we did this independently from the Fogarty report. ¶

We just took the data and attempted to do these things, and they independently came up with the same conclusion, and the Aegis replay shows them in international waters.

The Chairman. Then let me ask the story, of course, about the question of whether, in fact, this was somehow being hidden. ¶

As you point out, it was in the classified document —

Admiral Crowe. Yes, it was.

The Chairman. Which was presented to Congress, which was clearly written in the report. ¶

In the ICAO report, the coordinates were given, is that correct?

Admiral Crowe. That is correct, yes, at the time of firing.

The Chairman. What?

Admiral Crowe. The Vincennes coordinates at the time of firing the missiles at the airbus.

The Chairman. Which were in the Iranian waters, but was not identified as such in the —

Admiral Crowe. The narrative language did not say that.

The Chairman. It never covered that point.

So then the question is, when you came and presented them to Congress, when the chart that Admiral Fogarty used when he was making his presentation to Congress did not specifically identify a point on the report —

Admiral Crowe. It did not.

The Chairman. Where did they have the Montgomery on that? ¶

I guess they did have the Montgomery south of that.

Do you really think the Montgomery was south of the Vincennes when this happened?

Admiral Crowe. It was just sort of a pictorial representation right there together.

The Chairman. It was. That was where the report was.

Admiral Crowe. That’s a tough thing. The Vincennes was 3 miles long on that chart, and the Montgomery was a couple of miles.

The Chairman. But usually, when you have a symbol on there, you also have a dot which would indicate where it was meant to

Admiral Crowe. I would not defend that chart, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman. All right. OK. ¶

That’s all I wanted to say.

At that point, what you’re contending is that the reason that the fact that the Vincennes was in Iranian territorial waters was not put in the declassified version and was not put on the chart which was made public at hearings to Congress was essentially because {p.21} at that point we did not want to tell the Iranians what was happening; is that the point?

Admiral Crowe. We felt it defined our rules of engagement and we felt it was maybe provocative. ¶

Knowing what I know today, it shouldn’t have been redacted. ¶

It should have been released right then and there. ¶

I’m not that far-sighted, and as I said, the climate was completely different then.

Actually, when you look back and see that in the investigations it was never a significant issue —

The Chairman. Let’s start out by stipulating you’re absolutely right, that the focus of the hearings and the focus of the report was not on the position of the ships or on the gunfight with the gunboats —

Admiral Crowe. Well, there was some on the gunfight. The Fogarty report dealt at some length on the gunfight.

The Chairman. But the focus of the hearings that I remember and the focus at the press conferences was mainly on the airbus.

Admiral Crowe. Oh, everybody at the press conference, it was on Aegis, it was on IFF, it was on communications, modes, ranges, the attitude of the aircraft, coming up, going down, turning right, left, air corridor. It all had to do with the shootdown of the airbus.

The Chairman. Bill Dickinson.

William Louis Dickinson.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Admiral, I just have a couple of questions. ¶

One of the things from the Nightline program that was most disturbing — and I’m speaking from memory now; I haven’t read it here — was the statement that a subsequent investigation showed that at the time of the shootdown the airbus, instead of approaching the Vincennes, was, in fact, climbing. ¶

It was within the commercial corridor that had already been established and that it was climbing and turning away from the Vincennes instead of going directly at it.

Is that what the Aegis record shows? ¶

Is that a fact?

Admiral Crowe. Yes, it is, and the Fogarty report showed that as well. ¶

I think that was in the unclassified version as well.

Mr. Dickinson. Well, the first information that we got here in the report was —

Admiral Crowe. That is correct. The first information you received was contrary to that. You actually put your finger on the most critical issue in the investigation.

Mr. Dickinson. I do that all the time.


Admiral Crowe. One that was never satisfactorily answered. But at least the report had the good sense to not force an answer. They brought in psychiatrists, doctors, stress experts, et cetera, Congressmen and —


Mr. Dickinson. That’s not hard to do.

Admiral Crowe. There were three people in the command center, as I recall, that testified they were of the impression that it was coming down, and the Aegis data was to the contrary.

Now, in all fairness, that happened in the last 30 seconds before firing. ¶

It was a very serious question on whether that really would have bore on the decision to fire. ¶

But it was a very serious question {p.22} and it was never satisfactorily resolved. It was openly reported and was the subject of considerable debate.

Mr. Dickinson. So that was a mistake, but in the heat of the moment, and as you say, within 30 seconds, it was just a mistake.

Admiral Crowe. When Secretary Carlucci and I were doing our endorsements on the report, we both went to Wallops Island where there’s a mockup of the Aegis. We sat through three plays of the tapes in the command center, an exact replica of the Vincennes, with people playing the parts of the fire team that were recorded that day. It was sobering. No matter how many times we sat through it, that 7 minutes passed very, very fast.

We heard the reports to the commanding officer. Of course, we knew the answer and we could watch on the gear that the airplane was climbing, but we heard the communications and the men report to the commanding officer that it was descending. As I say, it was a very sobering experience, but it gave you a gut feel for the kind of pressure that he was under.

Mr. Dickinson. Admiral, I don’t remember now how many Kuwaiti ships we reflagged. Are they still traveling under U.S. flag, the large tankers?

Admiral Crowe. I must confess I do not know, Congressman.

Mr. Dickinson. We’re not still escorting them —

Admiral Crowe. No.

Mr. Dickinson. Even though they might still be under U.S. flag.

Admiral Crowe. I suspect they are not, because we put some requirements on them that were very strenuous.

Mr. Dickinson. This is a question that has bothered me, puzzled me, that really doesn’t directly relate to our hearing today, but I wonder if you could shed some light on it for my own edification.

There was a report that we got in one of our briefings that the bodies that were photographed afloat, presumably from the shot-down airbus, were very unusual to have come from a crashed aircraft because they were all nude and all in one piece. ¶

The suspicion was that they had been placed there by someone and that they didn’t come from the plane. ¶

Can you comment on that?

Admiral Crowe. I’m not familiar with that, Congressman. I don’t feel confident to talk about that.

Mr. Dickinson. OK. Had you even heard that?

Admiral Crowe. I heard at the time that it was unusual for the bodies to be floating so quickly, but I’m not a good judge of that.

Mr. Dickinson. One other thing that really doesn’t directly relate to this, but we have been told that we later agreed to pay damages to the families involved but had difficulty subsequently in identifying to whom the damages should be paid because, under either religious law or civil law, the head of the family would be entitled to all the damages, regardless of his particular relationship to — a female, for instance, the mother of a child or whatever.

Did we ever find out who the right people were and did we pay any damages there?

Admiral Crowe. I’m not familiar with the details. I do know that we made the offer and it was rejected by the Iranian Government.

Mr. Dickinson. I see. {p.23}

Admiral Crowe. They have now taken it to the International Court of Justice and they are asking for a great deal more than the United States offered.

Iran v. United States (“Aerial Incident of 3 July 1988”) (U.N. I.C.J.: International Court of Justice, The Hague, filed May 17 1989, discontinued on settlement Feb. 22 1996) (case summary).  CJHjr

Mr. Dickinson. What we offered is usually accepted under international law, isn’t that correct?

Admiral Crowe. I think it was our estimate — I believe it was $250,000 for adults and $100,000 for — ¶

But I wouldn’t stand by that, Congressman.

Mr. Dickinson. Thank you. I will let the others develop any additional questions. Thank you for your appearance here. It’s been very helpful.

The Chairman. Nick Mavroules.


Nicholas James Mavroules.  Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Admiral, thank you very much for your expert presentation here this afternoon, and also I’m delighted that you have had an opportunity to clarify some of the areas that were brought out during the last couple of weeks.

I am looking here on page 10 — and all of this was out in the open when we did attack —

Admiral Crowe. Page 10 of my statement, sir?

Mr. Mavroules. Yes. You just referred to that. I just want to make a point and ask two questions.

You retaliated twice in response to Iranian provocations, both well documented and on the public record. ¶

For the record, I want to make it very clear that you retaliated after an action was taken against our ship; am I correct, sir?

Admiral Crowe. Yes. If I understand your question, this was in response to actions they had taken. The Silkworm missiles had been fired and the Roberts had run across a mine laid by the Iranians and we almost lost the ship.

Mr. Mavroules. It’s true that you discussed a number of imaginative schemes for heavier retaliation and even drew up some contingency plans based on such ideas, but they were never implemented and could not have been implemented except by specific approval at the highest level of the Government.

Are you referring to the President, Admiral?

Admiral Crowe. Yes.

Mr. Mavroules. Would he make that final judgment?

Admiral Crowe. Yes.

Mr. Mavroules. OK, good. ¶

Now, I have just a couple of questions here and maybe you can clear it up for me.

I have been told that Admiral Fogarty sought but was denied additional time to submit his report. Additional time might have permitted a higher quality report, I am told. ¶

Do you know if Admiral Fogarty sought more time to complete his report?

Admiral Crowe. I must confess I don’t know, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Mavroules. You don’t know.

Admiral Crowe. But I would like to make a comment on it, if I could.

Mr. Mavroules. Please do.

Admiral Crowe. I think, in light of what you said at the outset, that we should discuss it a little bit. This is a big problem. This is not the first time I’ve been associated with this problem. When an event of public significance occurs — for example, I was very {p.24} closely involved, as a staff officer, associated with the Pueblo incident. The pressure is terrific on the Pentagon, on the Secretary of Defense, on the Chairman, and much of it coming from this body, to get information immediately. I can understand the desire to want that information.

On the other hand, the minute an investigation is convened, we are required, in carrying out your statute, by rules that we have established in the Defense Department, to keep the investigator completely separate and distinct and not subject to those kinds of pressures. They’re not necessarily compatible, if you understand what I’m saying. ¶

If you really want quality reports, in some fashion you’ve got to stand between these pressures and those investigators.

There was pressure to get answers back on the Vincennes.

Mr. Mavroules. Where was the pressure coming from, however? ¶

That’s the point I’m trying to make.

Admiral Crowe. I think it was coming from a lot of places. It was coming from the press. Our man in the Pentagon stood up in front of the press, and gosh, they want to know all these questions. They have come to the conclusion, interestingly enough, that Washington must know everything. I have discovered that Washington doesn’t know everything, and some things we should know and don’t know and some things we shouldn’t be expected to know. They come from the people who have to represent us in the U.N. and in the ICAO, overseas, the State Department is interested, Congress is interested. It’s not a matter of some individual or something, it’s a matter of a general ambience, a general milieu you get into.

I was stunned when I read that Fogarty could sign that report off on the 28th of July. Granted, there are things I don’t like about the Fogarty report, but it’s amazing what he achieved. When you’re dealing with a system like the Aegis system, where all the tapes have to not only give you a lot of dope, they can’t be read on board ship, they can’t be read easily, and they have to go to a particular installation; it has to be done by a particular set of experts, the more time you can give them, the better quality of the data. If they had had time to reduce all this information at Wallops Island, and Fogarty had it all, this report would have been a lot better.

Incidentally, the article says the tapes were in the Pentagon on the 5th of July and they had the answers. That’s totally wrong. The tapes never got to the Pentagon. The Pentagon can’t read those tapes. They don’t have the machinery; they don’t have the expertise. ¶

The tapes went down to the training installation, they did some analysis, took it back to Bahrain to Fogarty, and they locked up the original tapes. Nobody in the Pentagon saw them, which was proper and appropriate. It was quite some time before we had those answers, not like the article implies, on the 5th of July.

Mr. Mavroules. Just one other area, Mr. Chairman. I can assure you, Admiral, we’re going to follow up and find out exactly if Mr. Fogarty had requested more time. I agree with you, that —

Admiral Crowe. I do not know the answer to that.

Mr. Mavroules. That given more time, I think perhaps we would have had a much better report. {p.25}

In my judgment, all of Washington is a sieve, including the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department. Leaks are all over the place.

Let me just play a scenario with you, if I could, and I would hope that you could respond. Could you tell us a little more about the contingency plans that weren’t carried out? Let me just ask a couple of questions, and I would hope that you could get into it. ¶

Did you have plans to assault Farsi Island, question No. 1. ¶

Did you have plans to bomb the Silkworm sites — and I’m going to try to get to a point by stating this to you. ¶

What other plans did you work on? ¶

Is it possible — I want to be fair — is it possible that the volume of planning induced many officers to believe some had been carried out? ¶

Is that a scenario, a probable scenario?

Admiral Crowe. I have learned from experience to never say never. ¶

Possibly it did. ¶

I’m not so sure the volume of planning was that great. When I would visit the Gulf, or ships or unit, I would say, “If you’ve got any ideas, let us know. I’m interested in your ideas.” I would sit at wardroom tables and listen to young officers talk about ways we could do our business better out there.

For example, on Farsi, I wanted to take Farsi. It was a danger to our convoys. ¶

I also knew that it would not be approved by my Government. ¶

I knew what we were trying to achieve there, to limit our operations and so forth, that while it was a nice military idea, it was not a practical idea in the political/military environment. ¶

I don’t believe we ever drew up a plan to take Farsi. ¶

But I would have drawn one up in a heartbeat if I had thought it had any prospect. Because the biggest weakness in our convoy routes, all the way from Hormuz, once we were by the Silkworms, the biggest problem we had between there and Kuwait was Farsi Island. ¶

But I was well aware of the realities. We had some really interesting ideas that were fun, but we never translated them into contingency plans.

The Silkworm is another problem, though, Mr. Chairman. The Silkworm was the biggest, most dangerous potential threat in the Gulf to our ships. We had contingency plans. I wasn’t sure we could stop a Silkworm firing. They’re just fired in a fashion or manner that I don’t think we could have stopped them. ¶

But we could have done something after it had been fired. ¶

But that would have required some pretty high-level approval and so forth.

But yes, we had some contingency plans. I think the American people expect that. They would believe we’re imprudent if we didn’t nave plans for certain contingencies that might come up that would damage our ships with large losses of life.

Mr. Mavroules. I thank you.

The Chairman. Let me just follow up on something that Nick Mavroules asked, or a line of questioning that he was following. It goes back to the question that I was concerned about earlier.

In this kind of operation that the Navy was called upon to do here is a strange — I think you said it in your —

Admiral Crowe. Very strange.

The Chairman. In your statement there, a hybrid, a “not peace/not war” kind of situation. ¶

You can do that in a way that is pretty forward-leaning, or you can do it in a way that is maybe a little bit more laid back. Quite apart from the question about what kind {p.26} of impression we were giving — and I think you addressed that in your statement very clearly — that your view is that we were pretty up front with all that we were doing at the time. ¶

I wondered, in reading the Newsweek article and your statement, about how forward-leaning Captain Rogers was, for example in this thing, and your comment about how you would have drawn up some other plans if you thought maybe you could have gotten the approval of the administration.

Was the Navy more forward-leaning, more aggressive, in pursing this policy than, say, the White House was at this point?

Admiral Crowe. That’s a serious question, I take it.

The Chairman. Yes, sir.

Admiral Crowe. Of course. ¶

The implication of what you’re saying is that you’ve got a bunch of warriors out there that are just doing things for the purpose of doing them. ¶

The reason I wanted to be forward-leaning was I was seriously concerned about mining. I was really concerned about mining. Iran was sitting on a big inventory of mines. Mines are not too hard to lay. Mines can do terrible things to you. The biggest vulnerability in our operation was those mines. ¶

If you want to keep people out of the Central Gulf from laying mines and trying that, you don’t do that laid back. You don’t do that in a timid fashion. That’s how we got the Iran AJR. That was an aggressive operation. That one operation was a turning point in the Gulf. ¶

After that, I think, to be frank about it, we had control and they did not attempt an aggressive mining operation again. They attempted some peripheral — this is the dilemma. ¶

If you’re going to use force to support your policy, force has some untidy aspects, as we have talked about before, and it’s pretty hard to let that tiger loose and have it all nice and tidy and nobody ever gets hurt.

The Chairman. Larry Hopkins.

Larry Jones Hopkins.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Admiral, let me thank you again for appearing here today. Perhaps while this broad subject is best left to a symposium on journalistic ethics, I would think that this experience, combined with your many years in the Pentagon, may have left you with some strong impressions on how defense matters are covered in our country, in our media relations in general.

Those of us in public life, when we read a story that might be complimentary to us, sometimes might say that the author ought to be considered for a Pulitzer prize, and on the other hand, when they are not complimentary of us, or we disagree, we sometimes want to think that there is something a little strange about that individual.

Do you think Mr. Koppel deserves a Pulitzer prize for the reporting of this incident, Admiral?

Admiral Crowe. No, sir, I do not.

Mr. Hopkins. Do you think that any damage might have been done to the relationship between the public — because the general public, obviously, relies very heavily on the news media to give them information. They don’t sit in hearing rooms —

Admiral Crowe. I find that scary.

Mr. Hopkins. Let me ask you this. ¶

I did not see the story as it was reported, but I have read the transcript of the Nightline pro- {p.27} gram, which was aired on July 1, 1992. ¶

In the very beginning of the show — I suppose it’s not unusual for those people in that business to hype a show as much as they can — Mr. Koppel brings in then even Vice President George Bush, into the very second paragraph of the opening of the show. ¶

He goes on, and in about the third or fourth paragraph, he talks about ¶

governments lie; they do it all the time.” ¶

He states that our Government is no exception, and he brings in Vietnam and Watergate.


What do you think the motive was for this show, Admiral?

Admiral Crowe. I do not know, Congressman. ¶

Of course, he’s in a business, and he needs an audience, he needs ratings, and I assume he also has some ethical foundation for what he’s doing. ¶

I don’t know what it is, but I imagine it’s a complicated equation.

I think that talk is highly exaggerated, but it’s not unusual for Nightline.

Mr. Hopkins. Do you think there is anything that the Government, or those of us in public life, can do to work closer perhaps with the news media to improve this type of reporting?

Admiral Crowe. I must tell you, sir, that my general experience with the press, when I was in Italy, and later in CINCPAC, and then as Chairman, was, on balance, fairly good. ¶

I had some disasters and I took a lot of lumps on a few things, but, in general, my thumb rule has been to be as frank as I can and to be as sincere as I can and normally it will be appreciated and you will not be too unfairly treated.

Actually, on the Nightline program, I was interviewed for about 45 minutes, and the only sentence that got on the program was the one about “was the ship in Iranian waters?” I thought that was sort of odd.

But that has not been my general experience. My general experience with the press has been encouraging. But I have found the last 2 weeks, with these two organizations, rather embittering. I must be frank.

Mr. Hopkins. How do you explain, Admiral, the discrepancy between

testimony given to this committee following the shootdown, that everything started in response to distress calls, and yet

the Fogarty report later {sic: earlier: July 28 1988} confirmed that it turned out that there were no distress calls?

Admiral Crowe. I don’t think I can explain it, Congressman. ¶

I think he misspoke.

Mr. Hopkins. Mr. Fogarty.

Admiral Crowe. Yes. ¶

I talked to him about it. ¶

He doesn’t remember it. ¶

I cannot reconcile it.


“ Admiral William M. Fogarty: During the early morning of 3 July, a Pakistani merchant was also harassed.

She also issued a distress call.”

Senate Hearing, September 8 1988, p.9.

“ Admiral Robert J. Kelly: During the early morning of 3 July, a Pakistani merchant was also harassed.

She also issued a distress call.”

House Hearing, September 9 1988, p.87.


People sometimes “misspeak”.

During a colloquy.

But this was not a colloquy.

This identical statement — delivered at two different hearings, on two different days, by two different people, each in the company of the other, at both hearings — was a single, formal, written, statement.

Prepared in advance.

Carefully crafted.

Over many days.

By a team.

Of senior U.S. Military Officers.

And their staffs and assistants.

Illustrated by viewgraph slides.

Prepared in advance.

Hence, these two sworn testimonies were a single, deliberate, considered, intentional, statement.

A written statement.

Accurately read.

Neither of these two senior U.S. Military Officers — each testifying under oath — “misspoke”.

They each said exactly what they intended to say.

In full view of the TV cameras.

For the evening news.

And the microphones.

For the radio news.

And the journalists.

And the transcribers.

For the print news.

This false testimony was very welcome news.

To George H.W. Bush.

Candidate for U.S. President. In the election. 2 months thence. On November 6 1988.

Among the audience, for the TV news, and the radio news, and the print news, were many editors, and members of the public, who well remember what George H.W. Bush assured the United Nations Security Council, two months previously (below).

And who might be wondering.

About the wisdom.

Of electing a liar for President.

A liar about dramatic, important, events.

Bearing on the willingness of U.S. Military Officers to obey unlawful and prima facie criminal orders of the President.

Violate their oath.

And violate their duty.

And bearing on the national security, safety, responsibility, and honor, of the United States of America.

And among that audience may have been some passengers and crew, of another aircraft, scheduled to take off, after the election, from Heathrow Airport, in London: Pan Am 103 (December 21 1988, 270 victims).

Whose fate was likely sealed by those lies.



Wayne Curtis Weldon.  Will the gentleman yield on that point?

Mr. Hopkins. I would be delighted to yield.

Mr. Weldon. I think that’s a crucial point, Admiral, because the testimony that then Vice President Bush took to the U.N. was, in fact, that —

Admiral Crowe. This was a different timeframe, sir.

Mr. Weldon. Are you talking about the Stoval?

Mr. Hopkins. Yes.

Mr. Weldon. That’s what I’m talking about.

Admiral Crowe. No, but Bush went to the U.N. right after the— {p.28}

Mr. Weldon. Right.

Admiral Crowe. The Fogarty thing was the 19th of August.

Mr. Weldon. Right. ¶

But the statement the President was giving and what he said was that the Vincennes had rushed to defend a merchantman under attack by Iran. {U.N. Security Council, July 14 1988}.

Admiral Crowe. It was what we really thought originally.



That’s not what you originally said.

You really thought.

Originally.  CJHjr:

“ Admiral William J. Crowe Jr.: We got no requests from the merchant ships.”

DoD Press Briefing, July 3 1988.

“ Admiral William M. Fogarty: No merchant vessels requested assistance.”

DoD Report, ¶ 2(e), p.37/25 (July 28 1988).


The speaker, Mr. Weldon, referred to what the “President” said, at the U.N.

At the date of this hearing (July 21 1992), George H.W. Bush was U.S. President (Jan. 20 1989-1993 Jan. 20).

Previously, he was U.S. Vice President (Jan. 20 1981-1989 Jan. 20).

The speaker is using Bush’s then current title (President), but referring to what Bush did previously (as Vice President).

George H.W. Bush (as U.S. Vice President, and in the middle of a political campaign for U.S. President) went to the United Nations Security Council. On July 14 1988. And asserted that the Vincennes was acting in self-defense, because its Commanding Officer was entitled to pursue the small boats, because they were “harassing” a cargo ship, and the cargo ship had requested assistance.

This is not the only untruth George H.W. Bush asserted in his formal, prepared, written, statement. To the U.N. Security Council.

And if the small boats had been harassing the cargo ship.

That was their prima facie lawful right to do so.

Under the international law of blockade.

As law enforcement officers.

Enforcing a blockade.

Against their opponent (Iraq).

In a war (1981-1988).

Legally entitled to stop and search passing cargo ships.

For contraband.

And legally entitled to attack, with force, any cargo ship which refused to stop.

And submit to a search.

Or refused to obey orders, to divert to an Iranian port, to offload any contraband discovered.

Any interference by force, by the U.S. Navy, with the lawful stop and search activities, by Iran’s small boats, would be an act of war.

By the United States of America.

Against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

An offensive war.

Attacking a blockade.

Not authorized by the U.S. Congress.

A violation of the U.S. Constitution.

By the U.S. President (if he authorized it, or Rules of Engagement which authorized it).

And by each U.S. Military Officer responsible for the decision to attack.

An action incompatible with the office of an Officer of the United States of America.

(Not to mention prima facie crimes and torts).  CJHjr

Mr. Weldon. But what you’re saying is, it never existed; is that right?

Admiral Crowe. No. I don’t know which one you’re talking about.

Did he say Stoval that day? I don’t remember. Did Fogarty say Stoval?

Mr. Weldon. Yes, that’s my understanding of —

Admiral Crowe. His investigation concluded there were no distress calls.

Mr. Hopkins. Let me, if I may, Admiral, get your reaction —

Admiral Crowe. I think that is accurate, sir.

Mr. Hopkins. Let me, if I may, get your reaction to the following excerpt from the July 6 Newsweek article. ¶

This is a quote now from Newsweek.

“But the Pentagon’s official investigation into the incident, the Fogarty report, is a pastiche of omissions, half-truths and outright deceptions. ¶

It was a coverup approved at the top by Adm. William Crowe, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

Admiral Crowe. I find it malicious, untrue, and false.

Mr. Hopkins. Finally, if I may, Admiral, let me refer to General Crist’s first endorsement on Rear Admiral Fogarty’s letter of July 28, 1988. ¶

Let me read this one paragraph, if I may, because I want you then to go back through it briefly, if you will.

It says,

“During the 3 minutes remaining before the decision was made to fire, Captain Rogers was preoccupied with the ongoing small boat engagement and a foul bore in mount 51. He believed the most immediate threat to the ship was the difficulty of the U.S.S. Vincennes to deal with dense, aggressive, high-speed small craft attempting to press home an attack. His primary focus, large screen display and hook, were on and remained on the small craft engagement. Thus, he continued to rely upon the verbal assessments, not sight, but his verbal imagination, if you will, of what he was receiving from the AAWS to the extent and nature of the air threat.”

I believe you said earlier, in answer to someone’s question here, that you went through, three times, into a mockup of the same scenario. ¶

Do you find any fault at all with what Captain Rogers did under the circumstances?

Admiral Crowe. Certainly I believe he would do it differently if he had it to do over again.

Mr. Hopkins. Sure.

Admiral Crowe. There were mistakes made in that CIC, as I said in my endorsement. ¶

But to find a mistake that was malperformance, of a criminal nature and so forth, I did not find that. I just plain did not, and that was covered well in my endorsement. ¶

I expected, when I did that, I expected to receive a lot of comment, if nothing else, on it. Curiously enough, I didn’t, but it {p.29} was published verbatim in the New York Times, my entire endorsement. I think I expressed how I felt about it then very fully.

Mr. Hopkins. Do you have anything that you feel, Admiral, needs to be said that has not been said in relationship to this incident?

Admiral Crowe. To this incident?

Mr. Hopkins. Yes.

Admiral Crowe. I must tell you, I’m more familiar with it now than I was at any time in my life. ¶

I may be the No. 1 authority in the country on Vincennes, I don’t know, because I have worked so hard in the last few days to study the incident.

Of course, I think there are some enduring aspects of it, one of which Chairman Aspin just referred to, and that is the “half peace/half war” environment, this is not the last time we’re going to see this. It is, by far, the most stressful and challenging scenario. To prepare your people to live and fight in that kind of environment is a very, very heavy challenge.

Frankly, I think we’re doing it pretty good, I don’t mean that we do everything right, but given the nature of it — and we’re going to be doing that for a long time — I think we’re doing pretty well at it. But it requires constant attention and so forth.

Second, living with the technology that Aegis represents, that’s really “Buck Rogers.” That machine can inundate you with information so quickly. As I remember, Chairman Aspin put out a statement at the time talking about technology. We never go into combat any more with people with combat experience. We fight so infrequently, that every time you go into combat it’s always with a bunch of new people. Maybe the captain has seen some past combat or something like that, but on the Tripoli raid which took place while I was Chairman, we only had two pilots on the Tripoli raid that had fired in anger. Every time you’re with inexperienced people, you’re with people without combat experience, and now they’re sitting on very, very high tech machinery and equipment that is extremely difficult to operate. Incidentally, young people do it very well, but you don’t learn the limitations of it until you actually get in combat, and we don’t get in combat enough.

We work very, very hard to replicate combat. The Army has Fort Irwin, the Air Force has Red Flag, and the Marines have 29 Palms, and Desert Storm showed that we do pretty good at replicating combat. We were much more highly trained than our opponents. But we can’t do it completely. We never can reproduce all the pressures. Those pressures are even greater now when you’re dealing with Aegis, supersonic missiles, high-speed aircraft and electronics. As Desert Storm illustrated, it has just begun to impact our lives in military affairs. The electronics is just running away, but you have to use it because that’s the name of the game today.

It’s not on the exact subject, but I really worry about the state of our military now in a protracted period of peace, given these kinds of challenges, what is going to happen to it, given the fiscal demands and other things. The history of our country, of course, is that if you have a protracted period of peace, with no prominent enemy on the horizon, you’re probably going to go to hollow forces. I hope that doesn’t happen. I hope and pray it doesn’t happen. But that’s a genuine fear I have, and I don’t envy you your task. {p.30}

Mr. Hopkins. I think, Admiral, for the record, when you implied that we do not have enough combat, you were talking about combat experience, not certainly implying you’re —

Admiral Crowe. I’m not advertising for war.

Mr. Hopkins. I wanted to make sure that our good friends over here in the media —

Admiral Crowe. I appreciate your correcting me. I’m just saying this experience is hard to come by — and that’s fine. The less, the fewer wars we have, that’s great. But we have got to appreciate what that does to a professional military.

Mr. Hopkins. Thank you very much.

Les Aspin, Chairman. Another comment. The other thing that’s going to be different, Admiral Crowe, with all this high technology — you referred to the fact that you’re a history buff. Writing history is going to be very different now, because you can re-create the battle. I mean, one of the things we’re going to do now is go back and look at those tapes and figure out where those gunboats were, those Iranian gunboats —

Admiral Crowe. I hope you’ve got the whole summer, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman. Right. No, no. We’ve got a lot of time. We’re interested. ¶

I mean, the two issues that are still alive, I think, are the question about were the Iranian gunboats, as Newsweek said, 4-1/2 miles away, milling around, or were they, as the Vincennes reported and as the skipper of the Montgomery reported, coming directly at the Montgomery and the Vincennes. The thing is, we can now go back and look.

You and I were under the question of where was the Montgomery. The report at the time was that it was 8 miles back. Newsweek thinks it was over near Hengam Island.

Admiral Crowe. That’s wrong.

The Chairman. Well, we’ll know.

Admiral Crowe. It was at the time of firing.

The Chairman. What?

Admiral Crowe. It was at time of firing. It was right up there with Vincennes.

The Chairman. I hear you. But what I’m saying is, what you have now, which is incredible, is an ability to re-create the whole battle. If we had this, all naval battles that you ever read about and that I ever read about are wrong, you now, because they were based upon the views of the people there and the recollections. I’ll tell you, if we were —

Admiral Crowe. They probably are wrong.

The Chairman. Yeah. I know they’re wrong. I’ll tell you what would have happened. If we would have been writing the story of the shootdown of the airbus, we would have written that story, a historian, without the tapes, that showed that the damned thing was climbing when everybody else said it was diving. What we would have done, the historian, is go out and interview all the people and they would have said it was diving. So we would have been scratching our heads and saying well, what the heck was a commercial airliner doing diving at the Vincennes? Of course, that would have been written. We would have written that it was diving {p.31} because most everybody in the circumstance thought it was diving. Well, we have got a machine that says the thing was climbing.

If these machines had been available at all of those famous battles, Admiral, I hate to tell you, but all of that history you’ve been reading is bunk. It’s based upon recollections of everybody. This incident, as the latest in a series now, because of modern technology —

Admiral Crowe. I still wouldn’t change my mind.

The Chairman. Anyway, the point is that it changes everything, this technology changes everything about the way history will be written now. We will be able to go back and re-create what happened electronically, regardless of what people remember.

Admiral Crowe. I think Admiral Nelson participated in over 300 ship actions in his life. The technology was the same when he died as it was when he started. It hadn’t changed a bit.

The Chairman. Pat Schroeder.

Patricia Scott Schroeder.  Thank you very much, and thank you, Admiral, for your thoughtfulness and your candor.

I want to build a little bit on this. I remember going to the ceremony when you stepped down as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and one of the people there was Ted Koppel, who said he was one of your big fans.

When you did this long interview with him, did you feel that the questions were slanted? Did you feel there was anything going on? Could you have predicted how Nightline was going to come out?

Admiral Crowe. Perhaps a little. Of course, I also was interviewed by Newsweek. It was represented to me as an effort to flesh out the history of the Vincennes affair. It was not represented to me as an effort to prove that the U.S. Government was conspiratorial or they were lying to the public or covering up. It was an effort to flesh out history, which I can’t quarrel with very much. I think it was misrepresented to me.

Now, as the questioning with Ted Koppel went on, of course, it became more and more obvious to me that he was interested in some sensationalism. I don’t guess I’m too surprised by that. But I was surprised by the general character of the final program. The only thing that appeared out of my interview with him was that one statement.

Mrs. Schroeder. I think one of the things that troubles me the most, as we look at the future and see us probably operating more and more in mixed environments, is why we weren’t better able to figure out this was an airbus, the whole question about where were the F-14s, were they told to stay out, why weren’t the F-14 commanders interviewed and so forth, and why didn’t we have better eyes, why didn’t we have something that shows a print of an airbus, which is very large, that would show that this was something different. Those things all trouble me, because we all know the Aegis is very efficient, very great, great “Buck Rogers” —

Admiral Crowe. There are some things it won’t do, Mrs. Schroeder. It will do some things for you, and some things it won’t do. Some day we may have a system that can do that.

Mrs. Schroeder. But wouldn’t the F-14s have done it?

Admiral Crowe. Well, I quoted some figures there, and it’s a close question. ¶

Incidentally, operations are very complicated. ¶

I {p.32} mean, you have the Vincennes, which can obviously shoot down an aircraft; it has to be done in a fashion and controlled so that — this is what we call a “blue on blue” engagement, when your own friendly fire — you’ve heard a great deal about friendly fire in the last few months. ¶

That’s what we call deconfliction, to really have control of the situation, perfect communications, so everybody knows what everybody else is doing and you don’t make another mistake.

That is difficult. That was not set up at this time. It would have been very difficult within 5 minutes to establish air control, freeze the weapons on the Vincennes, ignore the surface engagement and get those F-14s in there. ¶

Now, maybe it could have been done. It’s an arguable question. ¶

Honest men can differ on whether it was possible or not.

Mrs. Schroeder. Probably even honest women, too.

But if you look at —

Admiral Crowe. I can see that.


Mrs. Schroeder. I know you would.

One of the things that strikes me is, when you look at the friendly fire issues that are now coming to the fore from the Gulf war, I think you’re drawing an important analogy. Probably one of the reasons there was so much more pressure in this case, and much more pressure for an instant answer, or as quick an answer as possible, was because it hit civilians.

Admiral Crowe. Yes.

Mrs. Schroeder. We seem to be more tolerant of friendly fire —

Admiral Crowe. I agree with that.

Mrs. Schroeder. Maybe we shouldn’t. But when it hits civilians, and it really wasn’t even called a war, that makes it a lot more difficult.

But then, with the incredible high tech machines out there, I suppose it’s just a concern about why we had to respond that rapidly if we couldn’t be that accurate in what it was we were hitting, if you see what I’m saying.

Admiral Crowe. Well, the Stark did not respond, if you recall.

Mrs. Schroeder. That’s right.

Admiral Crowe. We lost 37 men in that attack. ¶

As I attempted to make the point in the beginning of my statement, I feel strongly that if skippers err, they should err on the side of protecting their ship and their crew. ¶

I wish I could be assured they would be in an error-free environment, but war is not that way. That’s not the nature of combat.

Mrs. Schroeder. I also remember a great political debate in 1984, in Atlanta, on the stage, when they were asking our presidential candidates what they would have done in the Korean Airlines situation, to make sure the United States never did anything as silly as the Soviets had done. ¶

I think that is part of the context that we’re working in.

Were there any restraints put on us, that you know of, by the Kuwaitis during this escort mission? Were we at all nervous? ¶

I reflect back and I remember the Emir making some statements that I did not like at all, and I’m sure you knew that because I spoke {p.33} out, during the escort missions about his saying that they were our problem but we couldn’t do this and we couldn’t do that. ¶

He never was one of my favorite people.

Was Kuwait putting any kind of restraints upon the U.S. military or the Navy, or asking any very tough questions during this period?

Admiral Crowe. In the early days we had some conflicts with — not the Kuwait Government but with the people in Kuwait who ran the oil business. ¶

This always comes up when you start convoying. They were used to one pattern of running their ships, very regular, very formalized, so that there was no wasted time and so forth. ¶

Along comes convoying, where all the ships have got to be there at a certain time, and if you don’t keep up with a schedule — and also, for safety, we couldn’t fill the ships completely up, so we could use more shallow channels. ¶

The oil people didn’t like that and we had a lot of controversy over procedures.

In America, when we went to convoy in World War II, we had a lot of problems with the U.S. Merchant Marine, because they didn’t like it.

The Kuwaitis, incidentally, were very forthcoming in some respects on the barges, which we previously mentioned {1069kb.pdf}. ¶

They paid for those. ¶

They paid for some of our oil and so forth. ¶

Basing our forces ashore in Kuwait, they were very non-forthcoming. We were not allowed to base aircraft, helicopters, troops, anything during Ernest Will, during the convoy operation.

From my perspective, that would have been very desirable. They did not cooperate in that regard. So it was a mixed picture.

Mrs. Schroeder. So we were to protect them, but they weren’t going to go out of their way to help us if —

Admiral Crowe. Well, they went out of their way in some respects.

Mrs. Schroeder. Did they put any restrictions on us that we know, or did they make any inquiries into this airbus incident?

Admiral Crowe. The Kuwaitis?

Mrs. Schroeder. Yes.

Admiral Crowe. Not that I recall.

Mrs. Schroeder. They did not come forward and say, “What’s the story here? This could be really difficult in the area.”

Admiral Crowe. Not that I’m aware of. I’d better be careful. If they did, I’m not aware of it.

Mrs. Schroeder. I always had a feeling that there was a certain tension during that whole convoy period, where the Kuwaitis wanted —

Admiral Crowe. That is not too inaccurate.

Mrs. Schroeder. They kind of wanted us over the horizon.

Admiral Crowe. The Kuwaitis are not unique in that regard.

Mrs. Schroeder. But as far as you know, there was no pressure or interference or anything going on in the Navy’s mind, or in the military’s mind, about how we had to respond very rapidly to this because the Kuwaitis were very nervous about the airbus and civilians being harmed?

Admiral Crowe. I don’t think there was any connection there. ¶

Of course, I felt that our relationship with Kuwait was really a good reason to be in good will. From my own experience there, I wanted {p.34} to see us improve our relationship with Kuwait. ¶

I felt it was a good opportunity. But that was just my personal view.

Mrs. Schroeder. My understanding is you had to do a lot of things put of Bahrain because you couldn’t —

Admiral Crowe. Bahrain was very cooperative.

Mrs. Schroeder. Do you know why we didn’t interview the commander in Bahrain?

Admiral Crowe. I assume they’re talking about Captain McKenna.

Mrs. Schroeder. McKenna, yes.

Admiral Crowe. No, I do not know. ¶

Incidentally, that doesn’t strike me as terribly unusual. Most of the things Newsweek said about that little segment I felt were sort of exaggerated. McKenna was the boss and he could take care of himself, and he had ways of enforcing his authority. If he didn’t choose to do so, that was not somebody else’s problem.

The boss, of course, was Admiral Less, who was also on the circuit, in on the entire loop, and he was interviewed at great length in the investigation. If he thought McKenna should be, it could have been done. I just don’t know quite what the limitations in Bahrain were, but Less was the chain of command and there is where the responsibility was.

Incidentally, if I could just make a personal comment, to find differing views among people over what went on is not very unusual. In fact, I told my wife when this started that I’ve never been on a ship, when we did something significant, that the entire wardroom agreed with what the captain did. We’re all authorities and we’ve all got personal views. Naval officers are sort of forward about these matters.

One of the great burdens the captain bears — I heard a commanding officer say once — we were discussing a question and we were disagreeing with him. One of the officers thought we had gone a little too far and he said, “Captain, you understand that, when you make this decision, we’ll support you.” The captain sort of laughingly said, “I not only want you to support me; I want you to agree with me.” That’s a luxury he can’t have. That’s one of the things that makes it so hard to be a commanding officer. You have to do these things, whether everybody agrees or not. I suspect there’s a lot of that in being a politician.

Mrs. Schroeder. There’s a bit of that. You could say that. I also think it’s only going to get tougher in these next environments.

Admiral Crowe. I agree, absolutely and completely.

Mrs. Schroeder. Thank you very much, Admiral.

Les Aspin, Chairman. Admiral Crowe, tell us a little bit of history. ¶

Was the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a group, or you in particular, consulted on the establishment of this reflagging and escort operation?

Admiral Crowe. Yes, we were in the dialog.

The Chairman. Were you officially asked —

Admiral Crowe. I came up here many times with Secretary Weinberger.

The Chairman. Yeah. But this is after it started, though, where we saw you —

Admiral Crowe. No, no, no. I came up here before it started.

The Chairman. To talk to us about reflagging and —{p.35}

Admiral Crowe. I sat right at this table and got beat up pretty bad.

The Chairman. Probably rightly so.


Admiral Crowe. Probably.

The Chairman. This one strikes me as really a questionable case, about whether we ought to be doing things like this.

Admiral Crowe. You mean Ernest Will?

The Chairman. Yeah. ¶

Your successor, Colin Powell, likes to tell everybody that we should not use the U.S. military except where you’ve got clear military objectives, and boy, does he balk and scream at the notion of using the military for vague political purposes. ¶

Of course, example No. 1 is the Beirut deployment, which turned out to be a disaster. ¶

But it seems to me that example No. 2 is this thing, which turned out, in fact, to be quite successful. ¶

But it was fraught with dangers, as we see by —

Admiral Crowe. We followed some thumb rules, which I think, for historical purposes, are pretty good to think about. ¶

At least the way I viewed the operation militarily was that it was important, if at all possible, to limit ourselves to the sea and air. We were predominant there, we were skilled there, and they were not good at it. They felt uncomfortable at it and we could achieve a lot with a modest investment. I think we did. ¶

Once you start to escalate and once you start expanding, that’s a problem. ¶

I thought it was one of those operations where we could achieve our goal with a modest investment. ¶

If you think those political foreign objectives were important, that’s another question.

The Chairman. I think the objectives is not what’s wrong, but I wondered about the means. ¶

You’re putting guys like Captain Rogers and all these people in tough position, as to how aggressively you follow this policy.

Admiral Crowe. I used to worry about that, Mr. Chairman. That was a big burden on my mind, those young men and women out there that were under, in many respects, ambiguous circumstances. When I visited the Gulf, it always amazed me that here we were in a dangerous environment, but there were dhows fishing, there were dhows going back and forth from Bandar Abbas to Dubai, there was commercial traffic, commercial airlines, and there were all kinds of people trying very hard to act like there wasn’t anything wrong going on out there. That’s a terrible environment.

The Chairman. Who else would like to ask questions? We should probably let Admiral Crowe go. ¶

Beverly, do you have a question?

Mrs. Byron. Yes.

The Chairman. Beverly has a question, and then John Kasich.

Beverly Barton Butcher Byron.  Let me go back to the stage that you were just talking about, and that was the reflagging. I think Congress was brought into reflagging, but nobody listened or remembered it, until the tragedy of the Stark came along and then everybody remembered it but had forgotten.

After the May, 1987 Stark incident, where we lost 37 individuals, were there changes in the rules of engagement? Were there changes to our commanders —

Admiral Crowe. I keep hearing of the new rules of engagement —{p.36}

Mrs. Byron. That was an issue that we went over and over again in Lebanon.

Admiral Crowe. I don’t think that was an accurate phrase.

Mrs. Byron. Were there rules of engagement, were they changed —

Admiral Crowe. No, they were not.

Mrs. Byron. In the Gulf they were not changed.

Admiral Crowe. What we were doing, if I could expand a little bit, is we had changed the rules of engagement previously in the Mediterranean for other reasons, but you were changing a culture that had been in place for 30 years. The organization doesn’t move with the speed of light and people were having trouble accommodating to that. I thought the Stark was an excellent example of that. They had the new rules, they knew what they were supposed to do, but it wasn’t what they had been brought up to do.

One of the reasons I went to the Gulf was not to introduce new rules; it was to —

Mrs. Byron. To reinforce the ones that were in place?

Admiral Crowe. Try to, in some way, nudge along this change in culture.

Mrs. Byron. Were there other incidents that, for one reason or another, avoided tragedy, that were very close to coming to—

Admiral Crowe. In the Gulf?

Mrs. Byron. In the Gulf, during that period of time.

Admiral Crowe. I’m confident that the answer is yes, but I don’t have any right at my fingertips. We had lots of reports that something almost happened and so forth.

Mrs. Byron. I remember having a very difficult time with the Secretary during that period, when those individuals serving on the ships were not receiving hazardous duty pay, and yet there was no question in many of our minds that they were in a hazardous environment. I want to say that I was pleased to finally realize that that kicked in —

Admiral Crowe. You understand what the problem was.

Mrs. Byron. I understood it fully. But there’s no question that those individuals —

Admiral Crowe. They should have had combat pay from the very outset.

Mrs. Byron. Absolutely, not only Navy but also Air Force, and Army.

Admiral Crowe. That was frustrating for me and the military. That was a political problem I just couldn’t overcome.

Mrs. Byron. Mr. Chairman, I have other questions, but I will defer to my colleague on the end.

John Richard Kasich.  I don’t have a question, just a comment. ¶

I wanted to say that I think the Admiral did an outstanding job as the Chairman of the JCS.

Really, Mr. Chairman, some of the lessons that we can learn from reflagging tankers, or even from the war against Iraq, you did a good job in holding hearings so that Congress, at every step of the way, understood what was going on. It isn’t fair for the Congress to operate in such a way as to go along and then turn around, once things are over, and point a finger and say one thing or another. {p.37}


I voted against United States involvement in Lebanon, and I wanted people to come home. It was the best vote I ever cast But for people now to look back on U.S. forces in Lebanon, once they voted for it, and then turn around and say “We didn’t know what we were doing,” that’s not a very effective way to operate.

I guess I would say that the way the Chairman held the hearings on Iraq, which set the stage for what we ultimately did for our vote up here, for our knowledge, our involvement, was positive, and that is the lesson we ought to learn and we ought to continue to move forward. I think we did err a lot on reflagging of the tankers. We spent a lot of time on that issue up here. But it underscores the importance of this committee, from the standpoint of understanding what is going on with U.S. policy and not letting policy makers over in that building off the hook in terms of any decisions that they make.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman. Mr. Weldon.

Wayne Curtis Weldon.  Mr. Chairman, one quick suggestion for you as Chairman, and for staff. ¶

Ted Koppel, in his closing comments on the program, alleges that the logs for the U.S.S. Montgomery at least — and I believe also of the Vincennes — have been sequestered for that 1 day in question, which would give us some additional insights into what our real motive was. ¶

Perhaps we should request to see those logs.

Admiral Crowe. You have those logs.

Mr. Weldon. OK. But I don’t know — ¶

Has staff seen them yet?

Admiral Crowe. Everything in that report was transmitted over here.

Mr. Weldon. I haven’t seen them, and staff is saying they haven’t seen them yet.

Admiral Crowe. It’s part of the 308 exhibits. ¶

In any event, the Defense Department now is trying to declassify the whole.

Incidentally, you will be disappointed in those pages on the Montgomery. It doesn’t tell you very much.

Mr. Kasich. Would the gentleman yield on one point?

Mr. Weldon. Yes.

John Richard Kasich.  Let me just make one point to the Chairman, and that is — and I remember, Admiral, during the reflagging discussion and debate up here on the Hill — you know that the Congress deliberately avoided any vote on reflagging.

Admiral Crowe. I remember it very clearly.

Mr. Kasich. We didn’t want the War Powers Act to be brought up. ¶

People walked around the halls, winking at one another, trying to figure out if we could avoid anything on the War Powers Act.

Admiral Crowe. You did.

Mr. Kasich. That’s something that ought to be put into the record. ¶

I remember that very distinctly, and people breathed a sigh of relief when the whole thing ended and we never had to vote on it. ¶

I’m not sure that was the right thing to do, but that was where the Congress was headed at the time.

Admiral Crowe. That is true.

The Chairman. Thank you, Admiral.

Admiral Crowe. Mr. Chairman, thank you.

[Whereupon, at 4:37 p.m., the hearing adjourned.]




Source: The printed hearing (cited below).

By CJHjr: Photocopied from microfiche at about 141%, scanned, converted to text (OCR: FineReader 6.0), formatted (xhtml/css), links, bullets ( ), text {in braces}, text beside a green bar |, text in yellow boxes, bold-face, bold-italics, highlighting, expanded Senators’ names, where linked (in lieu of surnames only), added paragraphing (for ease of reading) marked with this trailing paragraph symbol: ¶ .

This document: The July 3, 1988 Attack by the Vincennes on an Iranian Aircraft (U.S. Congress 102-2, House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Investigations and Defense Policy Panel, Hearing, July 21 1992, Committee Serial H.A.S.C. No. 102-77) {SuDoc: Y 4.AR 5/2 A:991-92/77, CIS: 93 H201-21, LCCN: 93231140, OCLC: 28295879, GPOcat, paper, microfiche, DL, WorldCat}, C-Span video {2:11:00, July 22/25, 145315456, 27276-1}, witness: William J. Crowe Jr.

Related documents:

IR655: DoD Press Briefings: “Defense Department Briefing on Current Developments in the Persian Gulf” (Pentagon, Sunday, July 3 1988), speaker: William J. Crowe Jr. (Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff). “Defense Department Briefing Concerning the Report on the Shootdown of the Iranian Airbus by the USS Vincennes Aegis Cruiser” (Pentagon, Friday, August 19 1988, 11:00 a.m.), speakers: Frank C. Carlucci (Secretary of Defense), William J. Crowe Jr. (Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff), William M. Fogarty (Rear Admiral, Director of Policy and Plans, U.S. Central Command), C-Span video 4065-1 {44:55, 50mb.rm}, broadcast 1988 August 19 8:04-8:49pm, August 20 7:10-7:55am (144327685).

IR655: Other Public Statements. Ronald W. Reagan (U.S. President, Jan. 20 1981-1989 Jan. 20).

William M. Fogarty (Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy, Director of Policy and Plans, U.S. Central Command), Formal Investigation into the Circumstances Surrounding the Downing of Iran Air Flight 655 on 3 July 1988 {750kb} (July 28 1988), together with Endorsement (August 5 1988) by George B. Crist (General, U.S. Marine Corps, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Central Command), Endorsement (August 18 1988) by William J. Crowe Jr. (Admiral, U.S. Navy, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff), Approvals (August 19 1988) by Frank C. Carlucci (Secretary of Defense) (U.S. Department of Defense, News Release No. 419-88, August 19 1988) {SuDoc: D 1.2/2:IR 1, OCLC: 18396562, 187357306, WorldCat, WorldCat}, and as partially declassified in 1993.

Investigation into the Downing of an Iranian Airliner by the U.S.S. “Vincennes” (U.S. Congress 100-2, Senate Armed Services Committee, Hearing, September 8 1988, S. Hrg. 100-1035) {SuDoc: Y 4.AR 5/3:S.HRG.100-1035, CIS: 89 S201-17, LCCN: 89601978, OCLC: 19707230, GPOcat, paper, microfiche, DL, WorldCat}, witnesses: William M. Fogarty, George N. Gee, Richard D. DeBobes, Robert J. Kelly.

Iran v. United States (“Aerial Incident of 3 July 1988”) (U.N. I.C.J.: International Court of Justice, The Hague, filed, May 17 1989) {437kb.pdf, source}, announced, “Iran brings a case against the United States” {70kb.pdf, source} (I.C.J., Communiqué, No. 89/6, May 17 1989), discontinued on settlement, “Order of 22 February 1996” {248.7kb.pdf, source}, 1996 I.C.J. 9 (February 22 1996), announced, “Case concerning the Aerial Incident of 3 July 1988 (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America), Discontinuance{source, copy, source} (I.C.J., Communiqué, No. 1996/6, February 23 1996), “Settlement Agreement” {115.1kb.pdf, source}, signed February 9 1996 (U.N. I.C.J.).

Nejad v. United States, 724 F.Supp. 753 (C.D. Cal., No. 89-cv-3991, Nov. 7 1989) (refused to adjudicate complaint of IR655 victims, their relatives).

Ted Koppel (Editor and Anchor), “The USS Vincennes: Public War, Secret War” (ABC News, Nightline, July 1 1992, transcript).

Koohi v. United States, 976 F.2d 1328 (9th Cir., No. 90-16107, Oct. 8 1992), cert. denied 508 U.S. 960 (June 7 1993) (refused to adjudicate complaint of IR655 victims, their relatives).

Commentary: An eye for an eye?

This document is not copyrighted and may be freely copied.


Charles Judson Harwood Jr.

Posted July 25 2004. Updated May 12 2009.


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