down: August 24, 1979
Launched: May 30, 1980
Commissioned: October 23, 1982
Decommissioned: May 7, 1999
Fate: stricken May 7, 1999
for scrap to Metro Machine Corp. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 7,
completed on June 28, 2006
Stark was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on 12 November 1880. He was
appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1899 and graduated with the Class of
1903. In 1907-09, he served in the battleship Minnesota before and during the
Atlantic Fleet's epic cruise around the World. Subsequently, Stark had
extensive duty in torpedo boats and destroyers, including command of the
Asiatic Fleet's Torpedo Flotilla in 1917, when these old and small destroyers
steamed from the Philippines to the Mediterranean to join in World War I operations.
Commander Stark served on the staff of Commander, U.S. Naval Forces operating
in European Waters from November 1917 to January 1919.
Following the First World War, Stark was Executive Officer of the battleships
North Dakota and West Virginia, attended the Naval War College, commanded the
ammunition ship Nitro and served in Naval Ordance positions. During the later
1920s and into the mid-1930s, in the rank of Captain, he was successively
Chief of Staff to Commander, Destroyer Squadrons Battle Fleet, Aide to the
Secretary of the Navy, and Commanding Officer of USS West Virginia. From 1934
to 1937, Rear Admiral Stark was Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance. He then
served at sea as Commander Cruiser Division THREE and Commander, Cruisers,
In August 1939, Stark became Chief of Naval Operations, with the rank of
Admiral. In that position, he oversaw the great expansion of the Navy during
1940-41, its involvement in an undeclared war against German submarines in
the Atlantic during the latter part of 1941 and the combat operations against
Japan and the European Axis Powers that began in December 1941. In March
1942, Stark was relieved as CNO by Admiral Ernest J. King. He went to England
the next month to become Commander, U.S. Forces in Europe.
From his London Headquarters, Admiral Stark directed the Naval part of the
great buildup in England and U.S. Naval operations and training activities on
the European side of the Atlantic. He received the additional title of
Commander, TWELFTH Fleet, in October 1943 and supervised U.S. Navy
participation in the invasion of Normandy in June 1944. Admiral Stark's
diplomatic talents were much in evidence as he built and maintained close
relations with British civilian and Naval leaders, and with the leaders of other
Allied powers. From August 1945 until he left active duty in April 1946, he
served in Washington, D.C., and made his home there after retirement. Admiral
Harold R. Stark died on 21 August 1972.
May 17, 1987:
While on routine patrol in the central Persian Gulf, Stark was hit by two
Exocet anti-ship cruise missiles. The missiles were fired by a single Iraqi
F-1 Mirage fighter aircraft, apparently mistaking the frigate for an oil
tanker enroute to a port of call in Iran. The attack was unprovoked and
indiscriminate. Stark was in international waters, well outside the Iraqi and
Iranian declared war zones. The frigate never fired a weapon nor employed any
countermeasures, either in self-defense or in retaliation.
Stark had received operations rules of engagement (ROE) and intelligence
threat briefs from Commander, Middle East Force (COMIDEASTFOR) in Djibouti on
February 28, prior to arrival in the theatre of operations. The ROE brief
counseled conservative action and the potential threat to U.S. Navy ships in
the Persian Gulf. The brief stated that the probability of a deliberate
attack on a U.S. warship was low, but that an indiscriminate attack in the
Persian Gulf was a significant danger. Stark entered the Gulf in early March,
conducting patrol operations in both the northern and central Gulf for a
period of approximately eight weeks. During this time, there were several
visible missile attacks on foreign flag vessels, but Stark was never threatened.
Stark was also preparing for an upcoming operational propulsion plant
examination (OPPE) and had started to conduct drills and speed trials during
periods of time the CO deemed safe to do so. The ship was a capable platform
that had been extremely successful during its workups and eight months
earlier had completed refresher training (REFTRA) with satisfactory grades in
all areas. The crew was professional, well trained and confident.
At 2109 on the night of May 17, the port bridge wing lookout sighted a glow
that appeared inbound from the horizon. The seaman called, "Missile
inbound, missile inbound," on the sound powered circuit. This
information was passed into the bridge and the JL phone talker in CIC, but
not to the tactical action officer (TAO) in CIC. The junior officer of the
deck (JOOD) also sighted the missile just before it struck the portside of
Stark below the bridge at frame 110. General quarters was sounded almost
simultaneously with the first hit. The JOOD then observed a second missile inbound,
grabbed the 1MC and announced, "Inbound missile, port side." At
2110, the second Exocet missile hit Stark in the same location as the first.
The first missile which did not detonate, instead disintegrated, parts of
which passed through the starboard side of the ship at frame 172. The warhead
was found later on the second deck at frame 171. The second missile exploded
about three feet inside the skin of the ship. Smoke quickly filled the spaces
from the bow aft to frame 212 and flames reached the port bridge wing. The
ammunition topside at the bridge was jettisoned to prevent cook-off in the
intense heat. All communications were lost; radios from aircrew survival
vests were used to establish communications with USS Waddell (DDG 24), the
onstation airborne warning and control system (AWACS) and the AWACS
controller on military air distress (MAD). The CO positioned on the bridge,
made the decision to treat the missile hit as a major conflagration.
The explosion, blast and fragmentation of the second warhead caused severe
structural damage to the ship's hull, bulkheads and superstructure on the
port side at frame 110. The shrapnel and blast also caused catastrophic
damage inside Stark between frames 100 and 140, destroying watertight
integrity, cracking arresting stakes, compromising fire boundaries and
severing the port firemain which immediately started to flood the ship and
create a list to port as shown in Figure 3-5. Each missile injected
approximately 300 pounds of propellant into the berthing complex. The
combustion of the burning propellant resulted in a near instantaneous heat
release of 12 million BTUs, which caused a rapid thermal pulse seldom seen in
normal fires. The fire reached "flashover" in less than one minute.
(Flashover is a condition whereby overhead temperatures reach 1400-1500º F.
When heat is this intense, all combustible materials burst into flames and
fire engulfs the space.) The majority of the casualties (25) occurred in
ship's control berthing. As the surviving crewmembers scrambled to escape the
berthing spaces, several donned EEBDs and all proceeded to their practiced
egress routes. Five men went through the hole in the skin of the ship on the
port side and were later picked up. All had used EEBDs before going into the
water. All other survivors used designated egress routes. Later inspection
revealed five men were killed in combat systems berthing and three in chief
Meanwhile, the fire started to spread vertically to the riser compartment,
then CIC and the CO's cabin. Stark was struggling to maintain firemain
pressure. At 2200 hours, pressure was restored to the ship aft of frame 180,
enabling firefighters on the fantail to start pressing the fight forward.
However, because of the ruptured firemain, there was no capability to fight
fires forward or to flood the missile magazine. A 1.5-inch hose run forward
from the starboard side of the 02 level eventually flooded the magazine. At
2300, the CO ordered all engines stopped so P-250 pumps on the forecastle
could maintain suction and provide firefighting water to the forward bulkhead
fire boundaries. Once this was achieved, crewmembers made a determined effort
to set and advance fire boundaries and get the fire under control.
Casualties suffered as a result of the explosion significantly depleted the
fire teams. In fact, both repair party leaders, number 1 hose operators and
investigators for Repair 2 and 3 had been killed in the first moments of the
conflagration. Strong leadership at the department head level and the solid
professionalism of the crew drove the remaining crewmembers to continue
battling the fires. At 0134, May 18, USS Waddell arrived on scene to provide
medical and damage control supplies.
Shortly after this point, the CO became concerned when the angle of list
reached 16 degrees. The executive officer (XO) organized a dewatering party,
directing one group to enter the berthing area and secure the firemain
piping. A second group was sent to cut holes in the bulkhead above the main
deck to dewater spaces and recover the angle of list.
As morning dawned, it became very clear that Stark's exhausted crew, having
mounted a determined and persistent fight, was now too worn out and depleted
to continue without assistance. Teams from Waddell and Conyngham moved
aboard. Firefighting and dewatering efforts were continued until late
morning, when the fire was considered out and reflash watches set.
Survivability Principles Applied: Stark was a well-qualified and trained
ship. All officers and chief petty officers were general damage control
qualified. All personnel in each repair locker were qualified for their
assigned positions. Repair party training was conducted on a regular basis
and all hands understood the ship's main drainage and electrical systems. These
factors contributed significantly to saving the ship after the initial
damage, loss of 18 percent of the crew and a significant portion of its
damage control leadership.
No serious injuries or loss of life occurred during Stark's damage control
effort. Six additional skilled backups were assigned to each repair locker.
This significantly helped minimize losses. Stark carried twice the OBA
allowance and three times the canisters specified; these were all used in the
12-hour battle to save the ship.
Stark was part of the Standing Naval Forces Atlantic Fleet in 1990 before
returning to the Middle East Force in 1991. She was attached to UNITAS in
1993 and took part in Operation Support Democracy and Operation Able Vigil in
1994. In 1995 she again returned to the Middle East Force before serving in
the Atlantic again in 1997 and in 1998.