The USS Vincennes "Accident" That Took 290 Innocent Lives
On July 3, 1988, an Iranian passenger plane on a routine flight was blown out of the sky by a U.S. Navy warship
in Iranian territorial waters. All 290 people on board Iran Air Flight 655 were killed, 66 of whom were children below the age of 12.
President Ronald Reagan expressed regret for the tragedy, which the U.S. military claimed was an "accident", yet the crew of the USS Vincennes warship was subsequently awarded combat-action ribbons, and its Commander was specially commended by the Navy with a medal for "heroic achievement".
The Iranian government, who called it a "massacre", and a blatant "cold-blooded, pre-meditated murder", memorialized the atrocity on a postage stamp, and held large public rallies denouncing the crime.
The U.S. Navy claimed that they mistook the Iranian airbus for an F-14 fighter plane when they fired two missiles at it [See diagram at right for a comparison between the two aircraft]. Asked by reporters outside the White House about Iran's allegation that the USS Vincennes was too technically advanced to make such a huge mistake, Reagan fumed, "Well, I don't go by what the Iranians say, ever".
In response to pressure over the incident, Reagan's Vice President George H.W. Bush famously vowed, "I will never apologize for the United States of America, ever. I don't care what the facts are."
Reagan's former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, Senator Jim Webb, himself a decorated veteran of the Navy and Marines, has called the incident an example of the United States' "overly aggressive" relationship with Iran.
For more info, see the thorough joint investigation of the Pentagon's cover-up of the crime by Newsweek magazine and ABC News Nightline-
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