May21, 1987 – Aftermath of an Iraqi missile attack on a U.S. ship – The USS Stark incident occurred during the Iran–Iraq War on 17 May 1987, when an Iraqi jet aircraft fired missiles at the American frigate USS Stark. Thirty-seven United States Navy personnel were killed and twenty-one were injured. The USS Stark was part of the Middle East Task Force assigned to patrol off the Saudi Arabian coast near the Iran–Iraq War exclusion boundary. An Iraqi pilot attacked USS Stark in a Dassault Falcon 50 modified business jet armed with two Exocet missiles. American Intelligence was convinced the attack was made with a Dassault Mirage F1, even though the Mirage did not have the capability at the time. The Falcon took off from the airbase of Shaibah at 20:00 and headed south into the Persian Gulf also along the coast. When it came within view just before 22:00, the attacker was off Stark’s port side beam.
The first Exocet missile struck the port side of the ship near the bridge. Although it failed to detonate, rocket fuel ignited and caused a large fire that quickly spread throughout the ship’s post office, storeroom, and the critical combat operations center (where the ship’s weapons are controlled).
The second Exocet also struck the port side. This missile detonated, leaving a 10 by 15 ft (3.0 by 4.6 m) hole in the frigate’s left side. Electronics for Stark’s Standard Missile defense went out and Captain Brindel could not order his men to return fire. The AWACS plane was still in the area and just after witnessing the attack, radioed a nearby Saudi airbase to send aircraft for an interception, but the ground controllers did not have the authority to order a sortie and the Iraqi jet left unharmed. The USN rules of engagement applicable at the time allowed Stark to defend herself after sufficiently warning the hostile aircraft. A total of 37 crew were killed in the attack, 29 from the initial explosion and fire, including two lost at sea. Eight would later die from their injuries. Twenty-one others survived their wounds.
And there was other news this May 21st.
The Soviet Foreign Ministry fired a strong protest at the U.S., claiming the nuclear-powered Cruiser USS Arkansas violated Soviet territorial waters off the Kamchatka Peninsula for the second time in a week. Soviet spokesmen claimed the intrusion was pre-meditated and provocative. They warned there would be “serious consequences” if it happened again.
And The joint House investigation into the Iran-Contra affair continued the twisted road of money, weapons and secret alliances in and out of the White House. The Committee heard from both ends of the Contra funding pipeline and found out if flowed both ways. Contra leader Adolfo Calero provided records showing that Oliver North cashed some $2400 in travelers checks from Calero. Spending money at a grocery store, a dry cleaners – even buying snow tires. His records also showed he received some $32 million from Saudi Arabia. Retired General John Singlaub said he tried to solicit funds from Asian countries, but Assistant Sec. of State Elliot Abrams told him not to bother, that it would be handled by “someone at the highest level” which he assumed would mean someone in the White House. Singlaub said he never made any secret of his support for the Contras, and neither did the three wealthy Americans who were slated to testify with Singlaub when the hearings resume later on this day.
And that’s just a little of what happened on May 21, 1987 as reported by The CBS World News Roundup.