Sunday July 3, 1988
The USS Vincennes fires an anti-aircraft missile at what would later be claimed to have thought to be an attacking Iranian F-14 fighter jet. A devastating mistake would occur as the aircraft was Iran Air Flight 655, a Dubai-bound civilian flight with 290 people on board.
All 290 passengers were killed.
Monday July 4, 1988
The SanFrancisco Chronicle publishes an article a day after the Iran Air 655 incident, detailing the accident and President Reagon’s statement.
If you were to walk into any classroom in America and ask how you would describe this incident, you would most likely be met with silence. Try the same thing in an Iranian classroom, you can bet the house that at least a few of the students would instantly know what you were talking about. If you’ve never heard of Iran Air Flight 655, you’re far from alone.
Whenever I look back at history, I try my best to look at it with an open mind, especially with regards to international wars, disputes and disagreements. Even though I was born in the US and am an American Citizen, my family background is mostly from out of the country. However, as an American, I have the freedom of many luxuries that some countries do not have and it’s important to utilize that ability to critique. I believe it paves the way to have a more fair and intellectual reflection/discussion on most political matters, so that we can learn even more than we do now and hopefully process the issues we see today with better results.
When I saw this news for first time, I felt nothing. Not out of distraught or sadness, but rather confusion. I didn’t know how to feel but I wanted to know more. I felt I needed to be more engaged and it led me to learn more about it. Especially with how tensions have risen up again in Iran, it’s important to explore our past.
The story of Iran Air 655 begins with the 1979 Islamic revolution. When Iraq invaded Iran the following year, the United States supported the Iraqi leader at the time, Saddam Hussein. The war lasted eight years in which millions upon millions of lives were claimed. Towards the conclusion of the war, the U.S. Navy ship called The Vincennes was exchanging fire with small Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. Navy kept ships there to protect oil trade routes during the “Tanker Wars”. As an Iranian ship shot warning fires at a US helicopter the Vincennes moved into in Iranian territory in an act of self-defense. Soon after, the Navy ship mistook the Iran Air aircraft for a F-14 fighter jet.
The incident of Iran Air Flight 655 has been a primary reason why many in Iran are convinced that the United States can’t be trusted. The country’s media rebroadcasts footage of the plane’s wreckage as well as the passenger’s bodies floating in the Persian Gulf in order to fuel even more dissent, labeling the U.S. as a cold-blooded enemy power. To this day, significant portions of the country’s authorities do not believe the event was an accident, but a deliberate message sent to Iran at the time for its persistence in the Tanker war.
The event is free propaganda for the Iranian regime and continues to be used in efforts to foul America’s image in the country.