Operation Praying Mantis was an April 18, 1988 attack by U.S. naval forces in retaliation for the Iranian mining of the Persian Gulf and the subsequent damage to an American warship.
(It was later hypothesized that this operation was the result of a clever ploy engineered by Saddam Hussein to draw the Americans into the war, and help Iraq negotiate a truce with Iran to end the 8 year war, which Iraq seemed likely to lose.
Saddam had in desperation already resorted to deadly WMD chemical weapons including mustard and nerve gas against Iranian troops, and Saddam was very close to losing the war against stronger Iranian forces. Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini publicly demanded "Saddam's head on a platter". "Praying Mantis" appeared to have achieved the effect Saddam wanted, as a peace treaty was signed between Iraq and Iran in 1988.)
The battle, the largest for American naval forces since World War II, sank two Iranian warships and three armed speedboats. It also marked the first surface-to-surface missile engagement in U.S. Navy history.
On April 18, 1988, the Americans attacked with several groups of surface warships, plus aircraft from the carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65). The action began with coordinated strikes by two surface groups. One group, consisting of the destroyers USS Merrill (DD 976) and USS Lynde McCormick (DDG 8), plus the amphibious transport dock USS Trenton (LPD-14), neutralized the Sassan oil platform. The Iranian personnel on the platform were given the opportunity to abandon it for a tugboat waiting alongside, but instead chose to open fire on Merrill, whose 5 inch, 54 caliber guns quickly dispatched the smaller, platform-mounted Iranian gun. Immediately afterward, U.S. Marines from Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) 2-88 fast-roped onto the Sassan platform, gathered intelligence, and set explosives to render it unusable.
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