Tanker War

America’s First Conflict with Iran, 1987–88

Lee Allen Zatarain

 
Date Published :
January 2009
Publisher :
Casemate
Language:
English
Illustration :
16 pages b/w
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Paperback
ISBN : 9781935149361
Pages : 432
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
-
+
Available
$28.95

Overview
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In May 1987 the US frigate Stark, calmly sailing the waters of the Persian Gulf, was suddenly blown apart by an Exocet missile fired from a jet fighter of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. A fifth of the ship’s crew were killed and many others horribly burned or wounded. This event jumpstarted one of the most mysterious conflicts in American history: “The Tanker War,” waged against Iran for control of the Persian Gulf.

This quasi-war took place at the climax of the mammoth Iran-Iraq War, during the last years of the Reagan administration. Losing on the battlefield, Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran had decided to close the Persian Gulf against shipping from Iraq’s oil-rich backers, the emirate of Kuwait. The Kuwaitis appealed for help and America sent a fleet to the Gulf, raising the Stars and Stripes over Kuwait’s commercial tankers.

The result was a free-for-all, as the Iranians laid mines throughout the narrow passage and launched attack boats against both tankers and US warships. The sixth largest ship in the world, the tanker
Bridgeton, hit an Iranian mine and flooded. The US Navy fought its largest surface battle since World War II against the Ayatollah’s assault boats.

Meanwhile, US Navy Seals had arrived in the Gulf, setting up shop aboard a mobile platform from which they would sally out in fast craft to combat the Iranians. As Saddam Hussein, who had instigated the conflict, looked on, Iranian gunners fired shore-based Silkworm missiles against US ships, actions which, if made known at the time, would have required the US Congress to declare war against Iran.

In July 1988, nervous sailors aboard the cruiser
USS Vincennes shot an Iranian airliner out of the sky, killing 300 civilians. This event came one month before the end of the war, and may have been the final straw to influence the Ayatollah to finally drink from his “poisoned chalice.”
In
Tanker War, Lee Allen Zatarain, employing recently released Pentagon documents, firsthand interviews, and a determination to get to the truth, has revealed a conflict that few recognized at the time, but which may have presaged further battles to come.

About The Author
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Lee Zatarain was born in New Orleans, and earned his BA and JD degrees from Louisiana State Univrsity. He is currently an attorney who works in the energy industry, making frequent visits to Washington DC. He resides in Spring Hill Texas with his wife and two daughters.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
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INTRODUCTION

1: THE STARK DISASTER
2: TARGET: KUWAIT
3: RAISING QUESTIONS
4: OPERATION EARNEST WILL
5: AMBUSH
6: RETHINKING
7: THE INVISIBLE HAND STRIKES AGAIN
8: IN FLAGRANTE
9: FORT APACHE—THE GULF
10: "TURN AND ENGAGE”
11: "WE WILL COMMENCE FIRING”
12: "WE ARE THE BIG WINNERS IN THE GULF NOW”
13: "NO HIGHER HONOR”
14: "A ONE-DAY WAR”
15: "STOP, ABANDON SHIP, I INTEND TO SINK YOU”
16: "NONE OF THESE LADIES HAS A SCRATCH ON HER”
17: "MULTIPLE SILKWORMS INBOUND”
18: POLICEMAN OF THE GULF?
19: "UNKNOWN, ASSUMED HOSTILE”
20: "I DEEPLY REGRET THE RESULT, IF NOT THE DECISION
21: SEA OF LIES?
22: "GIVE ME THE KEY. GIVE ME THE KEY.”
23: "THEY DON'T FIGHT LIKE IRANIANS ANYMORE”

END NOTES
INDEX

REVIEWS
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"…an excellent book on a very little known conflict in US Naval History".

- Internet Modeler, May 2010

"…well researched… a compelling read for the armchair enthusiast and military veteran alike."

- IPMS, June 2009

"…a very well documented book on a subject we saw flash on the nightly news back in the 1980's…an excellent book on a very little known conflict in US Naval History.

- KITMAKER, July 2010

...does an excellent job of describing the tension aboard US ships and helicopter/ air crews... a good read and a fast one, especially for those of us unfamiliar with the war" in the first place."

- Magweb.com / Russ Lockwood, May 2008

"…a very well documented book on a subject we saw flash on the nightly news…an excellent book on a very little known conflict in US Naval history.”

- Model Shipwrights,, August 2010

"…one of the best reads of the year…the best and most accurate account of the events of that fateful time peiod…answers a lot of questions and brings up a few as all, It is one that you simply must read."

- ModelMadness.com / S. Van Aken, April 2009

"…a compelling and immensely readable account of one of the least-known chapters of the U.S. Navy's maritime combat operations… a must read for those who have a desire or a duty to understand how recent history may shape perceptions of these protagonists in the future.”

- Naval War College Review, May 2010

"…a fine job of recounting a 20 year old fight that was no doubt just another round in a continuing struggle.”

- US Naval Institute Proceedings, August 2008

"Anyone thirsting for the maximum detail of the period under the spotlight will not be disappointed…packed with information…a very readable account, which sheds considerable light and insight on what the public were fed at the time.”

- Royal Navy and Maritime Book Reviews, March 2011

"an excitingly written and very clear description of two oft forgotten but vitally important years in the relationship between Iran and the West."

- Ships and Shipping (Australia), April 2010

"Well paced and factual… clearly understands the details of war at sea. As the United States discusses a possible conflict with Iran in the global press, the important lessons outlined…become particularly valuable.”"

- The Northern Mariner, April 2008

"…full of such head shaking revelations and is a good source of information on America's naval readiness, its Middle East policies and its heroes and scapegoats in the not too distant past.”

- The Journal of America’s Military Past, February 2012

"…full of such head shaking revelations and is a good source of information on America's naval readiness, its Middle East policies and its heroes and scapegoats in the not too distant past.”

- The Journal of America’s Military Past, February 2012

".presents a case study of the complex relations based on oil, politics, and power. During the Reagan administration, and undeclared war was launched between America and Iran after the latter threatened shipping through the Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz. The ensuing conflict is known as the Tanker War, and Zatarain's account is both thorough and balanced…The author's thoroughness creates an almost first person narration of the conflict beginning with Iran's ambush of the American frigate Stark to the errant shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655. His chronicale adopts and American perspective yet bias remains absent from his work….For readers interested in Persian Gulf affairs, America's First Clash With Iran offers an exhaustive and impartial history of largely forgotten and overlooked situation…a well rounded discussion of the metaphorical chess match between America and Iran. Though the Tanker War ceased in 1988, these events continue to be relevant today, as America's relationship with Middle Eastern nations remains tenuous…"

- Nautical Research Journal, December 2012

"Lee Zatarain leaves no stone unturned in his analysis of this little remembered naval conflict between the United States and Iran. From his riveting prose and suspense building hooks to his powerful blow by blow take downs of the conflicts biggest questions. Zatarain delivers a sure winner. Military and civilian readers with any interest in naval or recent military history should most definitely add Tanker War to their reading queues."

- Army Lawyer, February 2015

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