Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Operation Earnest Will Remembered

In 1986 I was part of the team that set up a reconfigured derrick barge as a support platform for the US Navy as part of Operation Earnest Will.

Most people don't remember that one. The Iraqis and Iranians were engaged in a brutal bloodletting in the Fao Peninsula that was started by Saddam Hussein invading a weakened Iran. The Shah was gone, Reagan was in office and the Iranians were on their heels. Saddam thought he could waltz in and grab some land, sea access, and maybe crush the home of Shiites. How wrong he was.

He forgot one thing. No one likes an occupier. We are learning that lesson now. No matter how bad Saddam was, at least he was a home boy. The Iranians felt that way too. They may have had no love for the Mullahs but they fought like Tigers for Iran.

I was responsible for navigation to the set up area and then we had to leave the barge to a US Navy crew. They were afraid we might be in harms way if the Iranians let fly with an Exocet. Funny how times change. Everyone is a target now!

I snuck this shot of the radar screen as we steamed up the gulf from Bahrain. This Furuno was state of the art in 1986 as it had an effective 60 mile range! Every blip you see is either a platform or a moving target. We did not have motion acquisition software or computers of any kind so we had to manually track each moving target by assigning an alphanumeric to it and watching it. This took constant monitoring and attention. The modern day stuff does it all for you, you just sit back and relax.

We re-flagged 7 tankers, put American crews on them and then we split. I didn't think about this one until the other day when I was talking with some Naval officers and one mentioned he was being assigned to an Amphibious Assault Ship. Every time I hear the term "Amphibious Assault Ship" I think about the USS Coronado and the USS LaSalle. These were AAS that were the flagships for US Navy ops in the Persian/Arabian gulf back in the 1980s. They were painted white. The official nickname of the Coronado was "The Great White Ghost of the Arabian Coast". Of course the Navy has wags just like the Army and the crew quickly renamed her "The Great White Whore of the Arabian Shore." God, I love soldier/sailor/marine humor.

The Navy brought PBRs (Patrol Boat River) to the barge to escort the tankers as well as provide screens for the Frigates who stayed a little further out. These were 1950s technology vessels that did about 35 knots on a good day in flat water. They were armed with a twin .50 caliber Ma Deuce up front and a 20mm on a stand in the stern. The crew carried the old style M-16s.

They bravely called themselves "Boghammer Hunters". Boghammers were Swedish built patrol boats that were modern versions of the old PT Boats from WWII. They were three times the size of the PBRs, made 70 knots in choppy seas, were armed with a litany of large and medium caliber weapons and , oh yeah, had Exocets! In other words, the PBRs would have been toast if the Boghammers had ever engaged them. The PBRs were bait so that the Frigates could rush in and blow the Boghammers out of the water. They should have been "Boghammer Bait".

Most of us have forgotten about this little chapter in Us/Kuwaiti relations. I had for a long time but now I remember.


Anonymous Fritz said...

Well, get use to it. It comes with age, you start to remember a lot of stuff as you get older. Yeah, your getting there!

2:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For a book about Earnest Will and the associated operations, see

8:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I took part in Earnest Will. I was aboard the USS Raleigh LPD-1. We took the PBRs and the MSBs and even the SeaBats over there. We also transported some Iranian detainees to Oman. That was my last time at sea. Got out of the Navy shortly after getting back.

10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was on the Raleigh with anonymous. Joined up with the ship in Barcelona Spain. My first and last sea duty tour. Birthed in the front hull. No A/C. Only person I remember was BM3 Meade. Had arms bigger then my legs. I enjoyed standing on deck at night with some night vision goggles looking for mines, and coming back through the Suez canal with the corpses in our fridge. Funny how the newspapers said the detainees were on the LaSalle. Also I can't forget the Captain ordering a full scale search for those missing batteries.

3:03 AM  
Anonymous rumage (sk3) said...

I was on the Raleigh then. Hell of a time. Forgot all about the battery search. LOL I still have visions of the burnt bodies in the fridge though. I also worked the flight deck at the time. Really miss those guys.

8:30 PM  
Blogger tonyend2001 said...

I was on the USS Missouri during Earnest Will. It's funny how no one remembers that operation. Whenever I go to a VFW post and mention it they say "never heard of it".

11:06 AM  
Anonymous flashpan37atyahoo said...

Heey tonyend2001, I was on the USS Kansas City (AOR-3) and was deployed with the Missouri battle group Echo/Sierra during Operation Earnest Will from July,1987-January, 1988. I'm very proud of my service!

3:05 PM  
Blogger bryant said...

I was also on board the USS Missouri during Operation Ernest Will. I was a member of the MARDET. Operation Ernest Will has since been classified along with the other modern day conflicts such as, WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, etc...

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

served as supply officer for hercules and wimbrown 1988-89, glad to see more info about this operation.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Cross decked to the USS Missouri for this op (it was better then being stuck on a "new" NRF Frigate), I was in CIC when the MEF Commander called off the strike.

EW2 Steve Phariss

8:22 AM  

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