On this day July 3, 1988

United States Navy warship USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 over the Strait of Hormuz, toward the end of the Iran-Iraq War, killing all 290 people aboard.

Will C. Rogers III in 1988

Will C. Rogers III in 1988

The aircraft, an Airbus A300B2 operated by Iran Air, was flying from Bandar Abbas, Iran, to Dubai, UAE, when it was destroyed by the U.S. Navy’s guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes.

It was the highest death toll of any aviation incident in the Indian Ocean and the highest death toll of any incident involving an Airbus A300 anywhere in the world. Vincennes was traversing the Straits of Hormuz, inside Iranian territorial waters, at the time of the attack IR655 was within Iranian airspace.

According to the US government, the crew mistakenly identified the Iranian Airbus A300 as an attacking F-14 Tomcat fighter.

The Iranian government maintained that the Vincennes knowingly shot down the civilian aircraft. The event generated a great deal of controversy and criticism of the US. Some analysts have blamed US military commanders and the captain of the Vincennes for reckless and aggressive behavior in a tense and dangerous environment.

After completing their tour, the Vincennes crew was awarded Combat Action Ribbons for having actively participated in ground or surface combat, and the captain received the Legion of Merit. (The Combat Action Ribbon was also given to crews from other U.S. naval vessels who served in Persian Gulf Operations from 1987–88.)

In 1996, the United States and Iran reached “an agreement in full and final settlement of all disputes, differences, claims, counterclaims” relating to the incident at the International Court of Justice. As part of the settlement, the United States agreed to pay US$ 61.8 million in compensation for the Iranians killed. The United States did not admit responsibility or apologize to the Iranian government.

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