Apr 18

Operation Praying Mantis, 18 April 1988

Thursday, April 18, 2013 6:40 AM

By

On 14 April 1988, watchstanders aboard USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) sighted three mines floating approximately half of a mile from the ship. Twenty minutes after the first sighting, as Samuel B. Roberts was backing clear of the minefield, she struck a submerged mine. The explosive device tore a 21-foot hole in the hull, causing extensive fires and flooding. Ten Sailors were injured in the attack. Only the heroic efforts of the ship’s crew, working feverishly for seven straight hours, saved the vessel from sinking. Four days later, forces of the Joint Task Force Middle East (JTFME) executed the American response to the attack: Operation Praying Mantis. The operation called for the destruction of two oil platforms being used by Iran to coordinate attacks on merchant shipping. On 18 April, the coalition air and surface units not only destroyed the oil rigs but also various Iranian units attempting to counter-attack U.S. forces. By the end of the battle, U.S. air and surface units had sunk or severely damaged half of Iran’s operational fleet. Navy aircraft and the destroyer Joseph Strauss (DDG 16) sank the frigate Sahand (F 74) with harpoon missiles and laser-guided bombs.

 

The main building of the Iranian Sassan oil platform burns after being hit by a BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically-guided, Wire-guided (TOW) missile fired from a Marine AH-1 Cobra helicopter

The main building of the Iranian Sassan oil platform burns after being hit by a BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically-guided, Wire-guided (TOW) missile fired from a Marine AH-1 Cobra helicopter

A laser-guided bomb dropped from a Navy A-6 Intruder disabled frigate Sabalan (F 73), and Standard missiles launched from the cruiser Wainwright (CG 28) and frigates Bagley (FF 1069) and Simpson (FFG 56) destroyed the 147-foot missile patrol boat Joshan (P 225). In further combat A-6s sank one Boghammer high-speed patrol boat and neutralized four more of these Swedish-made speedboats. One Marine AH-1T Sea Cobra crashed from undetermined causes, resulting in the loss of two air crew. Operation Praying Mantis proved a milestone in naval history. For the first time since World War II, U.S. naval forces and supporting aircraft fought a major surface action against a determined enemy. The operation also demonstrated America’s unwavering commitment to protecting oil tankers in the Arabian Gulf and the principle of freedom of navigation.

The Iranian frigate Is Sahand (74) burns after being attacked by aircraft of Carrier Air Wing 11 from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65).

The Iranian frigate Is Sahand (74) burns after being attacked by aircraft of Carrier Air Wing 11 from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65).

An aerial view of the Iranian frigate Is Alvand (71) burning after being attacked by aircraft of Carrier Air Wing 11 from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65).

An aerial view of the Iranian frigate Is Alvand (71) burning after being attacked by aircraft of Carrier Air Wing 11 from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65).

Sources: Edward J. Marolda and Robert J. Schneller Jr., Sword and Shield: The United States Navy and the Persian Gulf War (Washington, DC: GPO, 1998), 37-8; Michael A. Palmer, On Course to Desert Storm: The United States Navy and the Persian Gulf (Washington, DC: GPO, 1992), 141-46; unpublished draft material from Mark Evans’ forthcoming naval aviation chronology.

For more information on Operation Praying Mantis,
visit the NHHC website:
http://www.history.navy.mil/Special%20Highlights/OperationPrayingMantis/index.html

 

 
 
 
  • Glen Meek

    I’m a reporter in Las Vegas who recently interviewed a veteran of Operation Praying Mantis. Among his recollections: That Iranian sailors in the water after the sinking of an Iranian frigate were not rescued by any American vessels. The former American sailor says he was told at the beginning of the operation that picking up survivors “was not an option.” I was wondering if any other veterans are aware of any “take no prisoners” policy with regard to this battle. I have read several accounts of the incident and have found mention of only one survivor being captured — and he was on an oil platform. If any veterans of the battle would like to weigh in on this please contact me via email. Thanks.

  • Bryan Cash

    What is your email

  • Richard Chappell

    Glen pretty much I am sure your reporting would be to the detriment to the US Navy and our battle there. The Iranians got all they deserved and I regret the one destroyer that got away.

  • Derek L. Farthing

    You may want to check the ABC News broadcast with Peter Jennings for 18APR1988

  • Haardcase

    I know that it’s been a while, but I was on the bridge of the USS Simpson and heard the discussion regarding what to do with potential prisoners.

    The CO was making plans to take aboard survivors of the Joshan, but was overruled for the simple reason that we were ill-equipped to house and guard prisoners, as were the other ships in SAG CHARLIE. Instead, several life rafts with provisions and medical supplies were loaded aboard our helicopters and dropped to the men in the water so that they could save themselves.

    It was not a matter “take no prisoners”, but one of “there is no place to keep them”.

    I also observed USS Simpson, USS Bagley and USS Wainwright stand clear of Joshan (and the Sirri oil platform) to allow rescue craft access to the crews. The only activity not allowed was firefighting at Sirri.

  • jimmyt

    Whose straits? Our straits