Iran is marking the 28th anniversary of the downing of its commercial airliner by a US Navy guided-missile cruiser back in 1988 as the aircraft was flying in Iranian airspace, and over Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf.
Iran Air Flight 655 was Iran Air passenger flight from Tehran to Dubai. On 3 July 1988, the aircraft operating on this route was shot down by the United States Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes under the command of William C. Rogers III.
The incident took place in Iranian airspace, over Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, and on the flight’s usual flight path. The aircraft, an Airbus A300 B2-203, was destroyed by SM-2MR surface-to-air missiles fired from Vincennes. All 290 people on board died.
US officials claimed their warship had mistaken the airliner for a supersonic and variable-sweep wing Grumman F-14 Tomcat fighter jet.
The allegation was made even as the warship was equipped with highly sophisticated radar systems and electronic battle gear, and the passenger plane was transmitting Mode III 6760 squawk code, typical of a civilian aircraft, and maintained radio contact in English with appropriate air traffic control facilities.
The USS Vincennes had entered Iranian territorial waters after one of its helicopters drew warning fire from Iranian speedboats operating within Iranian territorial limits.
Washington later paid some 95 million dollars in compensation for the Iranian victims and the aircraft.
The money, however, failed to placate the anti-US sentiments in Iran, where people expected the USS Vincennes’ captain, William Rogers, to be held responsible for his criminal act.
Rogers was instead awarded the prestigious medal of Legion of Merit for his so-called outstanding service.
Every year, Iranians throw stalks of flowers in the Persian Gulf to mark the anniversary and pay tribute to the victims of the terrible human tragedy, which retains the record for highest death toll of any aviation incident in the body of water.