20 July 2016


Roman matrons used to say to their sons: “Come back with your shield, or on it.” Later on this custom declined. So did Rome.  Lazarus Long (The Notebooks of Lazarus Long, Robert A. Heinlein)

What Should Have Happened

12 January 2016
Persian Gulf, off Farsi Island

            It had been frustrating voyage for the two-boat detachment making a routine transit from Kuwait to Bahrain.  The departure had been delayed by engineering problems with one of the boats.  When they finally got underway shortly after local noon, the detachment commander conducted only a cursory briefing for the crews of his two boats.

            Several hours into the transit, one of the boats suffered another engineering casualty and the other came alongside to render assistance.  Each boat had a crew of 5 sailors and each was armed with both .50 calibre heavy and 7.62 mm medium machineguns, a total of 3 weapons per craft.

            Shortly thereafter, two small Iranian boats approached and the crews began displaying small arms of the AK-47 variety. The Commanding Officer warned them away and sounded general quarters.  Two more boats, also armed with riflemen, then approached and indicated their intention to board the American ships.

            The American commander announced that his craft were exercising the right of free transit and were experiencing minor and temporary engine problems, but would get underway as soon as possible.  According to the after action report, “There was a verbal exchange between the American commander and the Iranians but no exchange of gun fire. However, armed Iranian military personnel then attempted to board the RCBs.”

The American commander ordered “Stay clear of my ship or we will sink you.”  When the Iranians ignored him, he ordered “All hands repel boarders”, at which time his gunners opened fire.  One American sailor, Seaman First Class Jane Doe, dashed from a covered position to activate the emergency beacon and was then killed in action as she attempted to retrieve a weapon from a dead Iranian soldier in order to defend her boat.  She is the first American woman to be nominated to receive the Medal of Honor since the Civil War.

            Having been alerted of the Iranian attack, aircraft were launched from USS Harry Truman and were overhead within 10 minutes.  By this time, all four Iranian vessels were on fire and sinking or had been sunk.  One Navy boat was also taking on water, but damage control parties from USS Anzio, which had responded upon receipt of the initial reports from the Detachment Commander, were able to get the boat alongside Anzio and secure it.  Anzio then took up station to “discourage” any other Iranian vessels from entering the battle.

The senior surviving member of the Detachment, Petty Officer Second Class John Roe, assumed command of the remaining boat and followed Anzio from the scene.  He declined any other assistance, reporting that “Before he died, Lieutenant Smith (Lieutenant Joseph Smith, USN) told me, ‘Get my ship and my people home.’  No power on heaven or earth will make me break that promise.” 

            The Iranian Government has protested the action, but to their surprise, the President responded “Learn your lesson well. Where goes the flag, goes the Nation. An American ship is American soil. That was our position in 1812 and it has not changed in the ensuing 200 years.”

Tomorrow:  What Really Happened

No comments: