It has been 31 years since the US Navy shot down an Iranian passenger plane on 3 July 1988 but the incident still remains a deep wound that often has been used by the Iranian mullah regime to instigate the Iranians against the United States and its policies.

The tragic IR655 found a reference coincidently mere four days before an Iranian anti-aircraft missile shot down Ukrainian Airlines flight 752 near Tehran, killing all 176 passengers.[Ukraine Flight 752 crash video: CCTV footage shows chilling final moments]

While on January 4, after US President Donald Trump posted on Twitter a threat to target "52 Iranian sites" if Iran attacked United States citizens or assets in retaliation for the assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had reminded the world that the United States once accidentally shot down an Iranian passenger jet.

Passengers of Iran plane
Passengers of the Iranian plane shot down by US Navy on July 3 1988

What happened on July 3, 1988?

Here is a breakup of the timeline of events that finally led to the shooting down of the Iranian passenger plane by USS Vincennes by orders of its captain Will C. Rogers III.

  • The Iran Air flight IR655 left Bandar Abbas for the second leg of its Tehran-Bandar Abbas-Dubai journey at 10.15 am local time on July 3.
  • With Iran-Iraq war still raging, the USS Vincennes, a 9,600-tonne US Navy cruiser, and the USS Montgomery, a 4,200-tonne frigate were in the Strait of Hormuz to escort Kuwaiti tankers, and to keep a watch on Iran's activities. It has been later established that the US vessels were in the Iranian waters when the missile was fired on IR655.
  • Five minutes before IR655 left Bandar Abbas at around 10.10 am local time, an Iranian gunboat fired at a helicopter from the Vincennes.
  • USS Vincennes and the USS Montgomery then turned towards the advancing Iranian gunboats and opened fire with five-inch guns, sinking two Iranian boats and damaging a third at 10.42 am.
  • At 10.47 am, even as the US vessels were engaged with the Iranian boats, USS Vincennes detected an approaching aircraft, which the crew by mistook to be a F-14.
  • The USS Vincennes personnel claimed in the report to Pentagon that a warning was sent on both military and civilian distress signals beginning at 10.49 am.
  • But since aircraft did not reply nor change course, it was declared hostile at 10.51 am after it was warned three times on the civilian distress channel and four times on the military channel.
  • At 10.54 am, Vincennes fired two surface-to-air missiles, at least of which hit the aircraft, which crashed into Iranian waters.

Even though US President Reagen has offered his regret, he defended the actions of the US Navy and later even awarded the crew of USS Vincennes Combat Action Ribbons. Captain Rogers in 1990 was awarded the Legion of Merit "for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service as commanding officer."

Iran till now has maintained the downing of the plane as criminal negligence and recklessness.