Harold Raynsford Stark -- born in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on 12 November 1880, to Benjamin F. and Mary F. (Warner) Stark -- attended Wilkes-Barre public schools and Harry Hillman Academy in that city, before entering the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., from the Twelfth District of his native state in 1899. As a midshipman, he served as a member of the Crew. He graduated on 2 February 1903, and went to sea for the two years of service then required by law before commissioning. Stark served in converted yacht Gloucester (17 February–21 April 1903), Newark (Cruiser No. 1) in the West Indies and off the South American coast (21 April 1903–29 February 1904), and served briefly in Minneapolis (Cruiser No. 13), station ship Hartford at Charleston Navy Yard, S.C., and Newport (Gunboat No. 12), before he was commissioned ensign on 3 February 1905. He married Katherine A. Rhodes of Wilkes-Barre, and their union produced two daughters, Mary and Katherine.
Following his graduation he served in Minnesota (Battleship No. 22) from her commissioning through the first two years of the ship’s service (9 March 1907–15 April 1909). After Minnesota’s shakedown off the New England coast, she then participated in portions of the Jamestown Exposition, commemorating the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Jamestown Colony, held at Sewell’s Point, Hampton Roads, Va. (22 April–3 September 1907). Her participation included a Presidential Naval Review off Hampton Roads (7–19 June) — President Theodore Roosevelt reviewed the ships from his vantage point at Fort Monroe on 10 June. The ship also engaged in evolutions with battleships of the Atlantic Fleet.
Minnesota sailed as one of the 16 battleships of the “Great White Fleet”. President Roosevelt dispatched the fleet on a global circumnavigation to serve as a deterrent to possible war in the Pacific; to raise American prestige as a global naval power; and, most importantly, to impress upon Congress the need for a strong navy and a thriving merchant fleet to keep pace with the United States’ expanding international interests and far flung possessions. In addition, the President wanted to discover what condition the fleet would be in after such a transit, noting before the fleet sailed: “I want all failures, blunders and shortcomings to be made apparent in time of peace and not in time of war.” Rear Adm. Robley D. Evans stated earlier that his ships put to sea “ready at the drop of a hat for a feast, a frolic or a fight”.
President Roosevelt reviewed the fleet as Minnesota and 15 battleships steamed past presidential yacht Mayflower off Hampton Roads on 16 December 1907. Minnesota joined many of the other ships during visits to: Port of Spain, Trinidad; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Punta Arenas, Chile; Callao, Peru; Magdalena Bay, Baja California, Mexico; Californian ports including Coronado, San Pedro, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco; Bellingham, Seattle, and Bremerton in Washington State; Pearl Harbor, Hawaiian Islands; Auckland, New Zealand; three Australian ports: Sydney, Melbourne, and Albany; Yokohama, Japan; Olongapo, Cavite, and Manila Bay in the Philippines; Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka); Suez and Port Said, Egypt; Villefranche, France; and Gibraltar. The Great White Fleet crossed the Atlantic from Gibraltar and returned to the United States (6–22 February 1909), where President Roosevelt reviewed the ships at Hampton Roads (22–26 February).
Stark experienced a number of unique incidents during the voyage, including crossing the equator, and battling heavy wind and navigating through dense fog while passing through the Strait of Magellan. A cholera epidemic prevented crewmen from going ashore when Minnesota and her consorts reached Manila, but the sailors and marines received some consolation when their mail caught up with them. While the fleet made for Japanese waters a typhoon slammed into the ships as they crossed the South China Sea. “The typhoon happened right off Formosa [Taiwan],” a sailor from one of the ships afterward recalled. “All you could see, when a ship was in the trough, was the trunk of its mast above the wave tops. That was all you could see of an entire battleship. Then our turn would come to go into a trough, and we couldn't see anything for a while.”
Stark completed instruction with the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla at Charleston in the spring of 1909, and successively commanded Porter (Destroyer No. 59) (14 May–14 September 1909), and Stringham (Destroyer No. 83) (14 September–20 December 1909), before serving as an assistant to the engineer officer of the Norfolk Navy Yard, Va., for three years (20 December 1909–24 June 1912). The young officer shipped out again when he took command of Lamson (Destroyer No. 18) (24 June–10 October), Patterson (Destroyer No. 36) (27 October 1912–9 January 1915), and as engineering officer on board Brooklyn (Cruiser No. 3) (9 January–19 May). While the great powers plunged into World War I, Stark went ashore for duty at Naval Torpedo Station Newport, R.I. (23 June 1915–27 February 1917).
He took passage from San Francisco and on 7 June 1917, shortly after the United States entered the war, assumed command of Torpedo Flotilla, Asiatic Fleet, in Monterey (Monitor No. 6). He was detached and temporarily commanded Nahma (S.P. No. 771) over Halloween, and on 19 November of that year joined the staff of Adm. William S. Sims, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, at times on board Melville (Tender No. 2). Continuing in that assignment during the remainder of the war until 3 January 1919, he had additional duties during a part of this time as Recruiting Officer, London, England, and commanded the Detachment, Naval Headquarters, London.
Stark received the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for his “exceptionally meritorious service during the World War, in a duty of great responsibility as commander of a Squadron of small and old destroyers hurriedly fitted out in the Philippines and despatched to the Mediterranean at a season when the southwest monsoon was at its height. The trip was successfully made under Commander Stark’s efficient leadership in spite of many difficulties, in a time much shorter than had been considered possible, and the Squadron arrived in the Mediterranean in excellent condition in time to take an active and efficient part in the antisubmarine campaign there, and in the Atlantic…”
Following the war, Stark served successively as the executive officer of North Dakota (Battleship No. 29 — later BB-29) (29 May 1919–24 June 1920), and as the executive officer of Naval Training Station Hampton Roads, Va. (10 July 1920–13 May 1922). He completed the senior course at the Naval War College at Newport on 26 May 1923, after which he served briefly as the executive officer of West Virginia (BB-48) (1–9 December 1923), and then assumed command of ammunition ship Nitro (AE-2). He next served as Naval Inspector of Ordnance in Charge of Naval Proving Ground Indian Head, Md. As a captain, he served as on the staff of Commander Destroyer Squadrons, Battle Fleet, first as an aide and later as chief of staff (October 1928–October 1930).
Stark then served as aide to Secretaries of the Navy Charles F. Adams and Claude A. Swanson (November 1930–December 1933). After returning to West Virginia and commanding her for a year, he returned to Washington as Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance, with the accompanying rank of rear admiral (2 November 1934–27 August 1937). Returning to sea the following month, he led Cruiser Division 3, Battle Force, and then Cruisers, Battle Force, breaking his flag in light cruiser Honolulu (CL-48) in May 1938. While so serving he was chosen to succeed Adm. William D. Leahy as the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) (1 August 1939–26 March 1942). In this capacity he also served as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (9 February–26 March 1942).
The admiral helped prepare the Navy to fight a two-ocean war, worked on developing the Allies’ “Europe First” strategy, and laid the naval basis for strategic coordination with the British. He implemented a neutrality patrol on 4 September 1939. Stark directed Rear Adm. Alfred W. Johnson, Commander Atlantic Squadron, to maintain an offshore patrol to report “in confidential system” the movements of all foreign men-of-war approaching or leaving the east coast of the United States and approaching and entering or leaving the Caribbean. United States Navy ships initially avoided reporting foreign men-of-war or suspicious craft, however, on making contact or when in their vicinity they largely avoided the performance of unneutral service “or creating the impression that an unneutral service is being performed.” Planes and ships subsequently patrolled off the eastern coastline of the United States, and along the eastern boundary of the Caribbean. Furthermore, U.S. naval vessels reported the presence of foreign warships sighted at sea to the district commandant concerned.
Stark sent a memorandum to President Franklin D. Roosevelt on 2 June 1940, that addressed options concerning the situation in South America; of those proposed, the President believed that the only solution lay in dispatching one additional 8-inch gun cruiser to South America, continuing destroyer shakedown cruises to South American waters, and utilizing ships already in the Atlantic Squadron, thus not weakening the fleet in the Pacific. Stark meanwhile on 17 June asked for $4 billion to construct the “Two-Ocean Navy.” Roosevelt signed the Naval Expansion (“Two Ocean Navy”) Act providing, among other things, for 1,325,000 tons of combatant shipping, 100,000 tons of auxiliary shipping, and 15,000 aircraft, on 19 July. This legislation eventually expanded the fleet 70 percent.
Roosevelt conferred with Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, and Secretary of State Cordell Hull on 27 August concerning a compromise to resolve the impasse that rose over the proposed destroyers-for-bases agreement with the British. Subsequently, Roosevelt met with Stark, Knox, Hull, and British Ambassador Lord Lothian (Philip H. Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian); and they reviewed the proposal arrived at earlier that day. Stark certified that the destroyers involved were no longer essential to the defense of the United States, thus clearing the way for their transfer. This “Destroyers for Bases” agreement aided the British against German U-boats, and provided the U.S. with a chain of bases in the Atlantic.
Allied intelligence analysts continued to accumulate evidence of likely Japanese moves and Stark sent a “war warning” message to commanders of the Pacific and Asiatic Fleets on 27 November 1941, a day after Dai-ichi Kidō Butai (the Japanese 1st Mobile Striking Force) sailed from Japanese waters to attack Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands. Gen. George C. Marshall, USA, Army Chief of Staff, sent a similar message to his Hawaiian and Philippine Department commanders. Despite these warnings and other preparations, the Japanese struck multiple Allied bastions across the Pacific on 7 and 8 December 1941. Stark led the Navy through the beginning of the Axis onslaught against the United States, until Adm. Ernest J. King relieved him on 26 March 1942.
Following his tour as CNO, Stark assumed command of U.S. Naval Forces, Europe, on 30 April 1942. On 1 October 1943, the naval forces under his command became the Twelfth Fleet, which he led until 15 August 1945. The admiral proved instrumental in forging the convoys and antisubmarine measures that defeated German U-boats and bridged the Atlantic, and in overseeing U.S. naval participation in the D-Day invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower personally presented the Army Distinguished Service Medal to Stark for “rendering brilliant and distinguished service,” not only as a naval administrator, but as a skilled diplomatic emissary during the often tense relations between the Allied leaders. Stark retired with the rank of admiral on 1 April 1946.
Stark was a member of the Army and Navy Club of Washington; the Army and Navy Club of Arlington, Va.; Chevy Chase [Md.] Club; and the New York Yacht Club. His wife predeceased him on 9 July 1970. Adm. Stark died of a heart attack on 20 August 1972, and following a funeral service at Fort Myer Old Post Chapel three days later, was interred alongside his wife at Arlington National Cemetery, Va.
Stark received the Gold Star in lieu of a second Distinguished Service Medal (for his tenure as CNO); the Army Distinguished Service Medal (for his command of naval forces in European waters); Mexican Campaign Medal; Navy Expeditionary Medal; Victory Medal; Destroyer Clasp (World War I); American Defense Service Medal; American Campaign Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal. His international awards include Officer of the Order of the Crown of Italy; British Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Military Division of the Order of the British Empire; French Legion of Honor, rank of Commodore; French Croix de Guerre with Palm; Brazilian Grand Master of the National Order of the Southern Cross; Norwegian Order of St. Olaf; Polish Chevalier of the Order of Polonia Restitute, First Class; Dutch Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Orange-Nassau with Swords; Belgian Grand Officer of the Order of Leopold; and Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palm.
(FFG-31: displacement 3,897; length 445'; beam 47'; draft 25'; speed 30 knots; complement 215; armament RIM-156 SM-1MR Standard surface-to-air missiles, RGM-84 Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles, 1 76 millimeter rapid fire gun, 1 Mk 15 Close In Weapon System (CIWS), 6 Mk 32 torpedo tubes; aircraft 2 Kaman SH-2 Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) II Seasprites; class Oliver Hazard Perry)
Stark (FFG-31) was laid down on 24 August 1979 at Seattle, Wash., by Todd Pacific Shipyards Corp.; launched on 30 May 1980; sponsored by Mrs. Mary S. Semans, daughter of the late Adm. Stark; and commissioned on 23 October 1982, Cmdr. Terrence W. Costello III, in command.
Gold and blue are the colors associated with the Navy. The globe refers to Adm. Stark’s global outlook of the Navy which began early in his naval career when, after graduating from the Naval Academy, he sailed around the world with the Great White Fleet. The globe further alludes to his World War I experience as commander of a torpedo flotilla, which he led from the Philippines to the Mediterranean and Atlantic.
The chain encircling the globe symbolizes the U.S. two ocean concept that Stark foresaw while CNO. The chain also alludes to his command of naval forces in Europe, where his diplomatic and tactical abilities proved the Navy became a vital link which ensured support for the Allied forces ashore by convoying troops and supplies across the Atlantic.
The anchor and the four blue stripes on the pentagon reflect the admiral’s forty-year naval career culminating as CNO and leading the naval forces deployed to European waters during World War II. The four stars reflect both his rank and the three Navy and one Army Distinguished Service Medals he received during his career.
Following the ship’s commissioning, Stark carried out a variety of sensors and weapons certifications and training evolutions designed to make her battle ready. The frigate was certified to carry RGM-84 Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles on 29 October 1982. SR Keith E. Galloway became the first sailor to report on board following commissioning when he arrived from Recruit Training Command San Diego, Calif., on 2 November. Cmdr. Costello spoke to the crew during a Captain’s Call in the port hangar on the morning of 6 November, primarily to instruct them in their forthcoming navigation procedures. The ship anchored for the first time and then moored at 1400 on 12 November at the Coast Guard Piers at Seattle. Tugs eased Stark to her berth, but the ship also used her auxiliary propulsion units. She began crew certification on 19 November, a process that tested the sailors in their ability to operate the ship at sea and included fire, flooding, low visibility, loss of pitch and steering, and man overboard drills for each underway watch section. Stark onloaded ordnance for the first time while pierside at Naval Ammunition Depot, Indian Island, Wash. (22–23 November).
Stark stood down that channel at 1400 on 23 November 1982 for her maiden voyage, a journey that would take her from the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans. The ship rendezvoused with patrol hydrofoil Aries (PHM-5) at 1400 the following day, and the ships steamed in company toward the east coast. Stark celebrated Thanksgiving on 25 November while at sea by holding a turkey shoot, boxing matches, and arm-wrestling events, topping off the holiday with an old fashioned turkey dinner with all the trimmings. The frigate visited San Francisco and refueled and provisioned at San Diego, Calif. (27–29 November and 1–3 December, respectively). GSE2 Douglas W. Fox became the first sailor of the ships company to reenlist during a ceremony on 2 December. Stark carried out the ship’s initial underway replenishment when she refueled Aries during the afternoon watch on 3 December. At 0930 the following day she fired her Mk 75 76 millimeter gun for the first time, and that afternoon refueled Aries again. The ships continued their voyage and Military Sealift Command (MSC)-manned oiler Kawishiwi (T-AO-146) refueled Stark during the afternoon watch on 5 December, after which the frigate refueled the hydrofoil. Stark set Condition III as she sailed along the coasts of conflict-torn El Salvador and Nicaragua at 1800 on 8 December, and test fired her CIWS for the first time, shooting 93 preaction air calibration rounds, as well as firing her 76 millimeter gun again. Stark also changed operational control to the Atlantic Fleet, and refueled Aries on the busy day.
The ship took part in a Harpoon missile exercise with guided missile frigate Samuel Eliot Morison (FFG-13) during the morning watch the next day, transferred a man to the other frigate and received CTI2 Aimon from her, and later test fired her 76 millimeter gun and refueled the doughty hydrofoil later that day and again the following afternoon. Stark set her Special Sea and Anchor Detail at 1015 on 11 December and arrived at Naval Station (NS) Rodman at the Panama Canal Zone at noon. Aimon disembarked, and the frigate and her hydrofoil consort passed through the canal (1800 on 11 December–0200 on 12 December). Upon emerging from the canal Stark set a holiday routine and her men took part in a Skeet shoot, gas-operated P-250 portable pump rigging contest, fire hose rigging competition, wrestling match, and talent show. The frigate refueled Aries on the morning of 13 December, and when she secured from Condition III at 1000, held a “quickdraw gunshot.” She refueled the hydrofoil the following day, and moored at Key West, Fla., at noon on 15 December. Aries remained at her new home port of Key West, and Stark continued her cruise singly, her crewmen consoling themselves about their continuing venture with a steak and lobster dinner the next night, followed by pizza and soda during the nightly movie. Stark reached her new home port when she moored at Pier A at NS Mayport, Fla., at 1000 on 17 December, after completing a voyage of more than 5,600 nautical miles. BMCS Carl W. Roberts became the first plankowner to leave the ship when he transferred to another station on 29 December 1982.
The following year, the ship accomplished her shakedown cruise off NS Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (26 March–14 April 1983). Stark then turned her prow northward and sailed along the east coast into New England waters. She steamed to Naval Weapons Station (NWS) Earle, N.J., and offloaded weapons (27–29 June). Stark then visited Bar Harbor, Maine (30 June–4 July), and Newport, R.I. (5–7 July), before completing a post shakedown availability at Bath Iron Works at Bath, Maine (8 July–10 October). Following the yard work, she onloaded ordnance at NWS Earle (11–12 October), visited New York City (13–16 October), carried out her deperming -- a procedure that decreases a ship’s remnant magnetic field to protect it from magnetic mines -- at Lambert’s Point Deperming Station near Norfolk, Va. (17–29 October), and then trained while returning to Mayport (30 October–13 November). The frigate next trained in the Caribbean (18 November–2 December), refueling briefly at NS Roosevelt Roads, P.R., and set out from that port on 23 November for a series of independent steaming exercises. Stark’s foray into the tropical waters also afforded the crew the opportunity to visit St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands (26–28 November 1983).
Stark’s history in 1983 illustrates a microcosm of the Navy as a whole that year. The ship steamed 14,870 nautical miles during the year, and burned 850,257 gallons of F-76 fuel for an average of 57.18 gallons per miles fuel consumption rate. The ship advanced 135 crewmen, gained 55 new men, transferred 33 to other duty, and separated six from the service. Naval crewmembers comprise people from all walks of life and a variety of backgrounds, and their service includes disciplinary issues. While attempting to identify possible narcotics problems 729 urine samples were taken and tested. Stark held 47 Captain’s Mast Cases that ran the gamut of infractions: three disrespect of their officers or watch supervisors; four failures to obey orders; 13 unauthorized absences; 13 drug abuse cases; and 14 alcohol-related masts. Their punishments and occurrences comprised: five cases dismissed; one oral reprimand; 35 Captain’s punishments; four correctional custodies; and two court martials. The punishments resulted in: restricting the men a total of 990 days; sentencing them to work an additional 1,542 hours of extra duty; and fining, deducting, or reducing (in their rates) a total of $16,556.00.
After enjoying the Christmas and New Year holidays in Mayport, the frigate completed her fleet certification testing at Guantánamo Bay (6 January–4 February 1984). She passed the tests a day early, which enabled the ship to make a quick stop at Miami, Fla., en route her return to Mayport. Some of the crew’s wives made the trip from Mayport to spend the day with their husbands. Following the visit to Miami, the ship continued training at the Acoustic Underwater Testing and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) Range at Andros Island in the Bahamas. The evaluators assessed the ship’s effectiveness by using basic noise level analysis and progressed into advanced submarine hunting using the embarked Kaman SH-2F Seasprite LAMPS I of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (Light) (HSL) 32 Detachment 2. The final stages of the training involved firing three exercise torpedoes against mini-mobile targets from the ship and her helo, achieving three kills. One day prior to completing the training, Stark was detached for a special operations mission that lasted eight days, and then returned to wrap-up the training.
Stark, with an SH-2F Seasprite of HSL-32 Detachment 2 embarked, set out for a composite unit training exercise (CompTuEx) and Ocean Venture (4 April–2 May 1984). The ship carried out weapons firing exercises in Puerto Rican waters, launching two SM-1 Standards against target drones and firing the CIWS against simulated cruise missiles, all of which observers evaluated as kills. Stark also shot her 76 millimeter gun in the naval gunfire support role, and then visited Paradise Island in the Bahamas (21–22 April). The frigate accomplished the next phase of the exercise in a simulated war against members of the opposing forces across the Gulf of Mexico, and claimed “several undetected strikes against numerically superior forces.” She came about and took part in Ocean Venture on the way home.
Stark made her maiden overseas deployment during a voyage to the Middle East Force (MEF) in the Arabian Gulf (4 June–3 December 1984). At dawn on 22 September 1980, Iraqi guns unleashed a thunderous barrage upon the Iranians and nine divisions advanced into Khuzestan, beginning a war between the Iranians and Iraqis that escalated and threatened ships steaming in those waters. On 12 August 1982, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein declared a maritime exclusion zone that permitted attacks against ships sailing within the specified boundaries, and journalists dubbed the fighting at sea as “The Tanker War.”
The frigate refueled at Bermuda two days out, crossed the Atlantic Ocean and took on fuel in the Azores on 12 June 1984, and again at NS Rota, Spain, on 16 June, and then passed through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea. The ship visited Palma de Mallorca, Spain (18–20 June), to allow the crew to rest before continuing her journey into the volatile Middle East. Stark then steamed across the Mediterranean, passed southbound through the Suez Canal on 26 June, crossed the Red Sea, and briefly stopped to refuel at Djibouti at the strategic Horn of Africa on the last day of the month. She resumed her voyage around the Arabian Peninsula, sailed through the Strait of Hormuz and entered the Arabian Gulf, refueling and repairing damage sustained during her cruise while at Mina Salman at Bahrain on 7 July. The merchant port based some Bahraini patrol boats but did not host a USN station, and the Navy’s Administrative Support Unit lay approximately five miles from the pier and comprised the nearest U.S. base. Some of the ships company on liberty utilized the limited recreational facilities available at the unit, or shopped in the local market for perfume essence and 18 karat gold jewelry. Despite being moored to the pier, the limited logistic support compelled the ship to take on fuel and water by barge, and food and stores by a combination of the pier and barge.
Stark then began patrolling the sea lanes, the ship’s historian reporting that she operated “in one designated station or another,” monitoring aircraft and vessels and their radio communications. In addition, the frigate at times escorted the MEF’s command ship -- former amphibious transport dock -- La Salle (AGF-3), or various MSC-manned oilers. On 27 March 1984, the Iraqis had unleashed AM.39 Exocet air-to-ground missile-equipped Dassault-Breguet Super Étendards against Kharg Island, which handled almost two thirds of the Iranian oil exports. During one such attack on 24 June, the Iraqis struck oil facilities at Sea Island on the western side of Kharg, and one of their missiles hit Alexander the Great, a 152,000 ton tanker registered with Greek company P.M. Nomikos and carrying Iranian oil, in one of her oil storage tanks — but failed to explode. Alexander the Great came about under her own propulsion and reached a salvage anchorage, where the owners permitted a team from Stark to board and investigate the damage, the sailors recovering missile fragments and taking photographs of the impact area.
Stark visited Bahrain (28–31 July 1984), and concurrently with Julius A. Furer (FFG-6) at Mina Qaboos at Muscat, Oman (11–13 August). Muscat offered few amenities for liberty parties, but some of the Americans who lived in the city opened their homes to sailors. The frigate then trained with Omani forces, and visited Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia (28–29 August). Stark patrolled the northern Arabian Sea for ten days and then put in to Karachi, Pakistan (10–13 September). Many crewmen considered Karachi their favorite port in the region as they observed mongoose and cobra battles, took camel rides, and shopped for leather and snake skin goods, brass inlaid rosewood, and onyx. The ship summarized the visit by noting that the crew left the port “monetarily poorer…but richer in its memories.” Following that visit the ship alternatively operated in the Arabian Gulf and visited Bahrain (25–28 September and 12–15 October).
Lookouts on board Stark heard four loud explosions at 0915 on 19 October 1984, as Iranian missiles plunged into Pacific Protector, a 1,538 ton diving support ship. Stark dispatched her embarked Seasprite to investigate, and a short time later the aircrew sighted the ship ablaze, about 20 miles from the frigate. The helo hovered near the scene while Stark came about and made for the area at maximum speed. The Seasprite meanwhile spotted survivors gathered on the ship’s fantail and returned to the frigate for a lift stretcher and to refuel. The helo then returned to Pacific Protector and in a two trip lift brought back two badly injured men. The first man succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead on arrival. The ship’s medical team treated the second victim but he too died a short while later. Stark meanwhile reached the area of the attack, lowered her motor whaleboat, and the boat’s sailors rescued all of the remaining 16 survivors and returned them to the ship in two trips. The frigate’s hospital corpsman and his assistants treated the survivors and later that day the MEF’s Sea King transported all of them to Bahrain for further medical treatment (and also flew the two dead mariners ashore).
Following that sobering day, a marching band and a pipe band welcomed Stark when she eased in to Mina Saqr in the United Arab Emirates (UAE — 29–31 October). The ship’s return home proved uneventful, and she came about from the Arabian Gulf on 7 November, refueled at Djibouti on 10 November, and again at Rota (20–21 November) and the Azores (25 November 1984), before her crewmen saw the welcome sight of Mayport.
Stark returned home for an expected post-deployment standdown, but early in the New Year of 1985, growing U.S. concerns over the threat posed by the expansionism of the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua led Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger to authorize an increase in operations off Central America, in order to deter the Sandinistas and to demonstrate U.S. support for El Salvadoran elections. The Navy therefore interrupted Stark’s usual cycle of post-deployment training and upkeep and tasked her for Central American surveillance operations (14 January–16 March). The ship embarked a detachment of Cryptologic Technicians, passed through the Panama Canal into the Pacific Ocean, and patrolled along the west coast of the Central American isthmus. Following Stark’s return to Mayport, the ship completed an intermediate maintenance activity availability there through 23 April, and then stood down the channel and tested her machinery and equipment off Florida. She then (3–16 May) took part in Solid Shield 1-85, an exercise that emphasized joint command and control of the forces involved, screening the amphibious ready group from submarines.
While Vreeland (FF-1068) shifted berths on 12 June 1985, at Mayport, she hit Stark’s port quarter. Both frigates sustained minor damage and the Ship’s Intermediate Maintenance Activity at Mayport helped the crew repair the damage quickly, so that she could make her next assignment just a few hours behind schedule — a special cruise for the Navy Recruiting Command across the Great Lakes (13 June–26 August). The voyage imposed special navigation challenges because of the region’s many restricted rivers, canals, and locks. Stark steamed up the Saint Lawrence River, anchored (19–20 June), and visited Montréal, Canada (20–21 June), following which she passed through the Saint Lawrence Seaway and called at Ogdensburg, N.Y., on the shore of Lake Ontario (22–24 June). The warship bypassed Niagara Falls as she transited the Welland Canal from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie on 24 June and visited Buffalo, N.Y. (25–27 June). She stood out from that port, crossed the lake, and took part in the annual Windsor-Detroit International Freedom Festival, celebrating Canada Day -- the enactment of the Constitution Act of 1867 that united the colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and (the province of) Canada into the Dominion of Canada -- while moored at downtown Windsor, Ontario (26 June–2 July). The ship crossed Lake Huron around Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and celebrated Independence Day at Chicago, Ill. (3–8 July).
After Stark visited Chicago, she made a same day passage to Milwaukee, Wisc., for a four day visit (8–12 July 1985). From there the frigate passed through the Sault Sainte Marie locks, crossed Lake Superior and visited Duluth, Minn., where members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars greeted her with a 21-gun salute (14–18 July). Duluth marked the ship’s westernmost point reached during her Great Lakes sojourn. Stark stood down that channel and made a same day transit to Thunder Bay, Ontario, her visit (18–21 July) to that port marking her northernmost point during the cruise. After Thunder Bay the ship returned through the Sault Sainte Marie locks, anchored (22–23 July), and visited St. Ignace, Mich., a small summer resort town on the shore of Lake Michigan (23–25 July). Stark then crossed Lake Huron, transited the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers, and crossed Lake Erie to call at Port Colborne, at the southern terminus of the Welland Canal in Ontario (27–29 July). Upon leaving Port Colborne, Stark made a same day sail and eased into Cleveland, Ohio, later that afternoon, Navy recruiters arranging a festive welcome with balloons, bands, and clowns (29 July–2 August). After an activity-packed four day visit to Cleveland, the ship put in to Erie, Pa., for three days (2–5 August). The frigate stood out of that port, returned up the Welland Canal on the night of 5 August, anchored (6–8 August), and visited Toronto (8–12 August). The warship then trained for two days while anchored on Lake Ontario before stopping at Oswego, N.Y., for a four day visit (14–18 August). At that point she came about for home, and navigated the Saint Lawrence Seaway for the second time, anchoring (19–20 August), and stopping at Québec overnight (20–21 August) for a final port visit and to load supplies, before resuming her voyage to Mayport. Stark welcomed more than 105,000 visitors during her Great Lakes cruise.
The crew hoped for an extended period to spend with their loved ones but Hurricane Elena compelled the ship to emergency sortie to evade the tempest (31 August–2 September). Stark then screened amphibious ships during ALARG 1-85, returned to Mayport and completed ALANG 1-85, but then fled Hurricane Isabel (12–17 September). The ship had scarcely escaped Isabel and began carrying out upkeep when Hurricane Kate marked the third time during the fierce hurricane season that she emergency sortied (8–11 October). Stark trained at the AUTEC Range in the Bahamas (6–10 November), and finished the year completing SRA I, a selected restricted availability, at Atlantic Marine Industries, Mayport Division (23 November 1985–11 February 1986).
The warship accomplished a series of training exercises and maintenance through the winter, and then (17–24 March 1986) visited Nassau for a couple of days and trained at AUTEC. Following a series of readiness inspections, Stark joined Antrim (FFG-20) and Samuel Eliot Morison for mutual operations off Jacksonville (17–19 April). The frigate spent crucial weeks into the spring preparing for her refresher training, which the ship then accomplished with the Fleet Training Group at Guantánamo Bay (27 June–5 August). While en route toward those waters the ship’s lookouts sighted motor vessel Marie Meudonne in distress. Stark took the vessel in tow and began to dewater the sinking ship using portable dewatering equipment. The frigate rescued all 22 people from Marie Meudonne and transferred them to Coast Guard cutter Unimak (WHEC-379), but their vessel eventually sank. Stark reached Guantánamo Bay on 30 June and continued training until she completed a comprehensive battle problem on 23 July, breaking her rigorous schedule by spending Independence Day at Ocho Rios, Jamaica (4–5 July). The ship completed a short rest at Roosevelt Roads (27–28 July), the following day took part in a missile firing exercise, and wrapped-up the cruise with a visit to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands (30 July–1 August). Stark represented the Atlantic Fleet at Wilmington Riverfest while moored near battleship North Carolina (BB-55) at Wilmington, N.C. (30 September–6 October). The frigate took part in CastEx 1-87, a coordinated at-sea training exercise, in Puerto Rican waters (15–30 October), and completed three days of helicopter certification work-ups with HSL-32 Detachment 3 (17–19 November 1986).
Stark, with a Seasprite from HSL-32 Detachment 3 embarked, and in company with Stephen W. Groves (FFG-29), deployed for MEF 2-87 (5 February–5 August 1987). The ships refueled briefly at Bermuda two days out, where they rendezvoused with the rest of their task group, Conyngham (DDG-17) and Coontz (DDG-40), Cmdr. David P. Yonkers, Commander Destroyer Squadron (DesRon) 14, as the officer in tactical command. The group crossed the Atlantic, and Stark refueled at Punta Delgada in the Azores on 14 February and Rota on 17 February, and then steamed through the Strait of Gibraltar and across the Mediterranean, replenishing from MSC-manned Mississinewa (T-AO-144) and replenishment oiler Kalamazoo (AO-6) on 20 and 22 February, respectively. The four ships passed southbound through the Suez Canal on 24 February, and crossed the Red Sea, refueling briefly at Djibouti on 28 February. Stark rounded the Arabian Peninsula, steamed through the Strait of Hormuz, and relieved O’Bannon (DD-987) on 5 March.
The Tanker War escalated, however, and the U.S. Navy and its allies consequently became increasingly involved in short but fierce battles in the region as the coalition attempted to restore the balance of power, escorting reflagged oil tankers and monitoring the fighting. Stark briefly patrolled the Arabian Gulf and then anchored at Sitra Anchorage at Bahrain, where the USO entertainment troupe Debbie Cox and Borderline treated the crew to a show (11–12 March). The ship stood out of the anchorage and departed the Arabian Gulf to patrol the northern Arabian Sea, on 17 March participating in an antisubmarine exercise with a Pakistani submarine and Pakistani destroyers Babur (D.182) and Shah Jahan (D.164) — ex-Harold J. Ellison (DD-864). She visited Karachi (18–21 March) and following that port call, came about and returned to the Arabian Gulf, observing Iranian and Iraqi aircraft and ships during her passage and taking on provisions and fuel while anchored at Sitra on 28 March. The frigate resumed patrolling the explosive region (29 March–6 April), received the remaining JP-5 aviation fuel from Hepburn (FF-1055) while at sea the next day, and moored at Mina Salman for maintenance (7–19 April). The ship monitored the fighting between the Iranians and Iraqis (19–27 April), stopped briefly at Sitra to refuel, and continued her patrols. Stark anchored outside the Arabian Gulf at Fujairah in the UAE for fuel (3–4 May), and then completed routine upkeep at Mina Salman for eight days (9–16 May).
Stark stood out of Mina Salman at 0510 on 17 May 1987, in preparation for receiving the Gas Turbine Mobile Training Team on 19 May. She cleared restricted navigational waters by 0930 and proceeded to patrol an area west of the Iranian-declared exclusion zone. Stark steamed with bright navigational lighting, as required by international rules of the road. The frigate participated in what the Navy later announced as a “two-way computer data exchange” with La Salle, Coontz, and a USAF Boeing E-3A Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS). These crewmen relayed to each other relevant information concerning airborne contacts such as geographical position, course, speed, altitude, and assumed or confirmed identity. The AWACs reported an unknown aircraft flying south over the Arabian Gulf at about 1700. At 1743, Coontz reported this aircraft bearing 285º at a range of 120 nautical miles from Stark. The frigate detected the contact on radar fifteen minutes later, bearing 260º and closing at a range of 70 nautical miles. A dusty haze hung heavily in the air as the sun began to set.
The Iraqis had launched a Dassault F.1EQ-5-200 Mirage equipped with two AM.39 Exocet air-to-ground missiles, however, and the pilot maneuvered aggressively, apparently intent on attacking what he believed to be a tanker servicing the Iranian oil trade. Coontz noted that the Mirage turned to an easterly heading at 1800, flying at a speed of 290 knots at an altitude of 3,000 feet. Stark came about to a course of 300º at ten knots, near 26º47’N, 51º55’E. Coontz then reported on the net: “Iraqi aircraft bearing 043º, range 45 nautical miles, course 066º, speed 335 knots, altitude 3,000 feet, heading toward Stark.” La Salle queried Stark as to whether she monitored the intruder, to which the frigate replied, “Affirmative.” Stark’s AN/SLQ-32(V) electronic support measures system then detected a radar signal, which her sailors evaluated as a search mode airborne fire control radar, and correlated the signal to the Iraqi jet, bearing 269º but closing at 27 nautical miles. Stark issued a warning by voice radio over the military distress net (243 MHz), identifying herself as a U.S. Navy warship -- and when the jet closed to only 12 miles -- repeating the warning within a minute.
The Iraqi disregarded the warnings, and from 1808–1810 the Sentry observed the Mirage bank sharply to the right and increase speed as the jet launched a pair of Exocets. Almost simultaneously, Stark detected the Iraqi’s fire control radar lock on to the ship, and her port lookout spotted a missile inbound. The frigate sounded General Quarters and locked her fire control onto the jet (1809–1810), but mere seconds later the first missile slammed into the port side nearly 13 feet above the waterline, under the port bridge wing and at about Frame 100, on the second deck. The Exocet did not detonate but tore into the ship, severing the firefighting water lines to the forward part of the ship, and breaking apart and spilling volatile fuel. About 25 seconds later the second missile hit a few feet aft of but nearly in the same location and exploded in Crew Compartment 2-100-0-L, the fuel from the first missile feeding its fiery detonation. The shock of the hits tore fixtures from bulkheads and wrecked equipment. The heat from the fires and the acrid and blinding smoke impeded damage control efforts, and flames melted aluminum superstructure and decks. Men off watch asleep in their racks awoke to an inferno and screamed as they died.
Lt. William A. Conklin, the ship’s 27-year-old Damage Control Assistant, had just completed a long day of watches and at sea routine and settled into his rack for some eagerly awaited sleep when the first missile struck with a crashing roar. Conklin leapt to his feet and rapidly donned coveralls and shoes as the bridge passed a chilling order over the 1MC: “Inbound missile, port side, all hands brace for shock.” The second Exocet struck the ship, and the lieutenant raced for his battle station in Damage Control Central, where he learned to his horror that the attacks all but severed the fire-fighting system. The blaze reached super-heated temperatures and threatened the ship, so Conklin and HT1 Michael J. O’Keefe crawled through the fire despite the agonizing pain from the heat and closed the critical firemain valves, isolating the torn pipes. “It was a fight for survival,” O’Keefe later summarized. “I was fighting to stay alive.” The blaze also engulfed the chiefs berthing/lounge, ships store, post office, and barber shop, and damaged other areas. Crewmen used a P-250 pump to supply water to battle the flames in the forward section of the ship, and supplemented their efforts at multiple points by using electric submersible pumps. Sailors felt heat rising from the deck into their feet but bravely directed water onto the flames, only to discover with dismay that the heat turned the water into scalding steam. The men poured so much water onto the frigate that she listed dangerously up to 17 degrees to port from the weight.
The attack severed some of the ship’s communications, so sailors creatively rigged a “salt and pepper” line with sound powered phones between the bridge, aft steering, and the flight deck in order to direct their battle against the conflagration. The fire-fighters realized with horror, however, that they often could not communicate with each other directly, and afterward recommended that the Navy equip ships with hand-held radios or walkie-talkies. Crewmen threw FIM-92 Stinger man portable air defense missiles and .50 cal. rounds overboard to prevent them from exploding. Lt. Carl S. Barbour rescued 28-year-old petty officer James Wheeler moments before the flames reached him. The men used 40 Oxygen Breathing Apparatus canisters (18 above their normal allowance of 22) that provided oxygen for a limited time, but used all of them by 0115 during the mid watch, effectively halting their efforts to fight the blaze until a boat from Waddell (DDG-24) and another from La Salle brought them additional canisters within the hour. Firefighting teams from other ships also rotated through, relieving Stark’s exhausted crewmen. The thick black smoke blocked emergency lighting and reduced compartments below deck to total darkness, but men used flood lanterns to illuminate some of the darkened compartments and passageways, though battle lanterns and helmet lanterns failed to pierce the Stygian gloom. In addition, live electrical wires torn from their housings burned men. The attack destroyed the ladder ascending to the next deck and as some men ran out of air they chose between the raging fires and the sea and jumped out the hole torn by the impact of the second missile. A lookout tossed them a life ring while Stark continued on and they survived until morning despite recollections of spotting sharks.
Gunner’s Mate Gary Mahone also showed men how to use escape gear but fell through the hole in the confusion. The last time anyone saw OSSN Terrance D. Weldon he appeared to be wounded and in shock. Both men went into the water. Gunner’s Mate Mark Samples courageously stayed in the missile magazine for nearly 13 hours before relief. Despite consistently losing power that reduced the flow of water to a trickle, Samples poured water onto the missiles to prevent the heat from cooking-off their fuel. The GM probably prevented a catastrophic explosion, but the combination of water from all the firefighting efforts resulted in the ship’s settling. The attack killed 36 sailors -- plus one missing (Weldon) -- many of them burned in their racks while sleeping or suffocating from a lack of oxygen:
QMCS Vernon Foster
FTCS Robert L. Shippee
EMCS Stephen G. Kiser
BM1 Bradley O. Brown
OS1 Steven E. Kendall
SM1 Ronnie G. Lockett
GM1 Thomas J. MacMullen
DS1 Randy E. Pierce
FT1 Gregory L. Tweady
ET2 Christopher W. DeAngelis
RM2 Jerry B. Farr
TM2 James R. Stevens
FC3 Jeffrey L. Calkins
OS3 Antonio A. Daniels
IC3 James S. Dunlap
FT3 William R. Hansen
GM3 Daniel Homicki
EW3 Charles T. Moller
GM3 James Plonsky
OS3 Lee Stephens
ET3 Kelly R. Quick
ET3 Martin Supple
EW3 Joseph P. Watson
ET3 Wayne R. Weaver
STSN Steven T. Erwin
RMSN Dexter D. Grissett
OSSN Kenneth D. Janusik Jr.
SMSN Earl P. Ryals
SN Doran H. Bolduc
SN Mark M. Caouette
SN John A. Ciletta Jr.
SN Vincent L. Ulmer
SMSA Jeffrey C. Sibley
FA Lloyd A. Wilson
SR Brian M. Clinefelter
SR Jeffrey L. Phelps
In addition, the battle wounded 21 more men, two of whom suffered serious burns. Stark’s crewmen valorously saved their ship, and demonstrated their intensive damage control training — Cmdr. Brindel had once ordered them to move about blindfolded to simulate the fear and sensory deprivation of battle. Vessels that aided Stark included La Salle, Coontz, Conyngham, Waddell, and Reid (FFG-30). Coontz, in particular, provided two firefighting teams to Stark, which also, more grimly, proved instrumental in identifying and removing the dead. Rear Adm. Harold J. Bernsen, Commander MEF, lauded the sacrificial efforts of all involved during the tragedy, but added that “of equal merit,” all hands that rendered assistance “performed valiantly and with spirit.” An SH-3G Sea King of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 2 Detachment 2 flew flight surgeon Lt. Cmdr. Terry A. Miller and supplies from Bahrain to the wounded ship, and then searched unsuccessfully for survivors in the water. A commercial salvage tug used her water cannons to cool Stark’s starboard side. Calm seas providentially enveloped Stark during her nearly 18 hour battle for survival and at 2000 on 18 May, Conyngham took the stricken ship in tow to Bahrain. Despite occasional reflashes of the fires the men had extinguished, Stark moored outboard of La Salle at 2330 on 19 May, and within two days returned to an even keel, her men also laboriously offloading ammunition. On 28 May the ship’s Seasprite flew to Stephen W. Groves to complete its deployment on board that frigate. Acadia (AD-42) arrived on 1 June, and Stark shifted her berth to outboard the destroyer tender and began voyage and battle repairs by Bahrain Ship Repair & Engineering Co., and Acadia and Stark’s ships companies.
The Iraqis claimed that the attack resulted from mistaken identity. The Mirage’s inertial navigation system normally proved reliable and they claimed that it indicated that Stark steamed off course and further easterly than she reported, placing her within the zone when the attack occurred. The Americans, however, claimed that the tracks that Stark, Coontz, and the AWACs provided all agreed that she operated to the west of the zone. “I know and I share,” President Ronald W. Reagan said resolutely the next day, “the sense of concern and anger that Americans feel over yesterday’s tragedy in the Persian Gulf…The officers and crew of the U.S.S. Stark deserve our highest admiration and appreciation.” The attack incensed many Americans, and the Sixth Fleet alerted Kitty Hawk (CV-63) -- already deployed to the Mediterranean -- to operate in the eastern part of that sea for possible retaliatory strikes against the Iraqis, but the carrier subsequently came about.
Cmdr. John B. Noll relieved Cmdr. Brindel on 22 June, and then Noll held a Captain’s Call for the entire crew. Stark tentatively completed her repairs sufficiently to enable her to return home on 24 June, carried out sea trials the following day to verify the efficacy of the work, and returned to Bahrain to reprovision and refuel. One hundred eleven sailors continued to man the ship, but the other survivors flew home to an early reunion with their loved ones, primarily because of a lack of berthing resulting from the ship’s damage. Stark anchored at Sitra on the first of the month, and on 2 July defiantly turned her prow homeward, sailed from the Arabian Gulf, and refueled at Fujairah on (4–5 July) and Mina Raysut, Oman, on 9 July. The ship steamed through the Bab-el-Mandeb and up the Red Sea, passed through the Suez Canal northbound (15–16 July), crossed the Mediterranean, replenished from Mississinewa on 17 July and MSC-manned combat store ship Sirius (T-AFS-8) and Mississinewa on 20 July, and two days later refueled at Rota (22–23 July). Stark then set out across the Atlantic, refueling in the Azores on 27 July and replenishing from MSC-manned Neosho (T-AO-143) on the last day of the month. The crewmen of Guadalcanal (LPH-7) lined the rails to pay tribute when Stark passed the amphibious assault ship on the frigate’s voyage home. Stark returned to a hero’s welcome, and Vice Adm. William F. McCauley Jr., Commander Atlantic Fleet, greeted the ship as she returned to Mayport.
President Reagan met some of the grieving family members during the memorial service on 5 August at Mayport. “They were ordinary men who did extraordinary things,” he movingly paid tribute to the ships company. Five days later, Capt. Thomas O. Gabriel, Commander DesRon 8, presented awards to men of the ships company, as well as a check to Navy Relief for the Stark Memorial Scholarship Fund. The ship accomplished limited repairs during an intermediate maintenance availability at Mayport, and then (1 November 1987–30 August 1988) complete repairs at Ingalls Shipbuilding, East Bank, Pascagoula, Miss. The veteran warship offloaded supplies and the crew’s personal gear immediately upon arrival, and entered drydock on 16 November, where the damaged area from Frames 97 to 156, 0-2 Level down to the 2nd Deck, was removed on 23 November.
Vice President George H.W. Bush arrived at Ingalls Shipbuilding on 2 March 1988, and spoke with Cmdr. Noll under Stark’s bow while she underwent the work in drydock. Stark completed a significant overhaul milestone on 20 March when she undocked in the Singing River on a 40,000 ton floating drydock, and proceeded to a berth at the company’s East Bank facility. Due to incorrect material -- soft steel vice HY-80 grade steel -- used for doubler plates on the hull, however, the ship returned to drydock at the West Bank facility so that the shipyard could replace the doubler plates (18–24 April). Stark then resumed her work on the East Bank. Some additional delays occurred, and insufficient progress of the main space turnover and a lack of ships company hand-on training time led the Navy to postpone the Mayport Gas Turbine Mobile Training Team’s Type III (their third visit during the overhaul) from the beginning of August to mid-month (15–19 August).
Following her repairs the ship, with a Coast Guard law enforcement detachment embarked, stood down the channel from Pascagoula and returned to Mayport (31 August–1 September 1988). Stark made a brief cruise in northern waters (13–22 September), and carried out her first underway replenishment since the yardwork when she rendezvoused with Merrimack (AO-179) while en route on 14 September. The ship onloaded missiles, 76 millimeter rounds, and various other ammunition and “pyrotechnics” at NWS Yorktown, Va. (15–16 September), and then (17–19 September) visited New York City. Stark accomplished a series of combat systems ship qualifications testing off Jacksonville (11–13, 18–20, and 24–25 October), and embarked HSL-32 Detachment 6 as the testing continued, primarily in Puerto Rican waters (28 October–19 November), breaking her training by briefly calling at Roosevelt Roads (on Halloween and 2, 3, and 5 November) and St. Thomas (6–8 November). The ship put in to Port Everglades, Fla., for antisubmarine warfare testing on her return voyage (12–15 November), and rounded off the evaluations by testing the accuracy of her weapons systems on the AUTEC Range (15–17 November) before returning to Mayport two days later.
Stark carried out rigorous refresher training off Guantánamo Bay early in the New Year (6 January–10 February 1989). An unforeseen equipment problem delayed the ship’s propulsion examination board from inspecting the ship from early the following month until later in March. The frigate meanwhile stood by for contingency duties when space shuttle STS-29 Discovery launched from John F. Kennedy Space Center, Fla., and returned to earth at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (13–18 March). Stark trained again at AUTEC (27–30 March), and then (3–6 April) trained with helos from HSL-32 and HSL-34 as they performed deck qualifications off the Virginia capes. The warship visited Port Everglades (7–9 April), carried out additional training, and then stood by (27 April and 3 and 3–5 May) in preparation for space shuttle STS-30 Atlantis — the ship briefly refueled and then monitored Atlantis when she launched the following day. Stark took part in Type Commander’s Core Training 3-89 in company with Sampson (DDG-10), Tattnall (DDG-19), and Elmer Montgomery (FF-1082) (19–30 June), visiting Port Everglades (24–25 June) and Miami (1–4 July). Many of the ship’s wives flew to Miami to spend the holiday weekend with their husbands, and some of the ships company marched in the Key Biscayne Fourth of July Parade. The ship wrapped-up the summer by taking part in a midshipmen cruise off the east coast (13–30 July). She completed repairs at Norfolk (14–16 July), and embarked the midshipmen for a series of divisional tactics and gunnery exercises, as well as high speed maneuvering with a couple of patrol hydrofoils, off the Virginia capes (17–19 July). Stark finished the cruise by supporting surface warfare officer qualifications while at Newport (21–27 July).
Stark, with HSL-36 Detachment 6 embarked, and in company with William V. Pratt (DDG-44), Aubrey Fitch (FFG-34), Elmer Montgomery, and MSC-manned Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO-187), took part in Sharp Spear ‘89, a major NATO exercise involving more than 250 American, Belgian, British, Canadian, Danish, Dutch, French, Norwegian, Spanish, and West German ships and submarines and 350 aircraft in north Atlantic waters (28 August–6 October 1989). “Main objectives,” a British Royal Navy spokesperson stated as the exercise began, “are to establish and maintain control of the shallow seas in accordance with NATO contingency and defence plans to ensure the safe passage of reinforcement, resupply and merchant shipping.” Stark crossed the Atlantic and on 6 September began her part in the exercise by simulating a Soviet guided missile destroyer stalking the NATO ships. The central part of the exercise consisted of protecting a merchant convoy as the ships sailed from Loch Ewe, Scotland, for Stavanger, Norway, on 14 September. Off the north coast of Scotland the convoy and its screen linked up with a strike force including British aircraft carrier Ark Royal (R.07), and, for the first time, Spanish carrier Príncipe de Asturias (R.11), with VA-2 Matadors (EAV-8B Harrier IIs) embarked. Large-scale air defense operations between the Norwegian and Danish coastlines capped Sharp Spear ’89 (19–21 September). Following the exercise, Stark visited Cherbourg, France (22–25 September), where some men took USO tours of Paris or paid their respects to the men who stormed the Normandy beaches on D-Day. After Stark returned from European waters, the ship repaired her clean ballast tank and overhauled the No. 1 diesel generator during a restricted availability. British aircraft carrier Invincible (R.05) and frigate Cornwall (F.99) arrived at Mayport on 8 December to spend the holidays in the United States. Stark hosted Cornwall, since the two ships were scheduled to operate extensively together in the New Year.
The ship, with a Seasprite LAMPS I of HSL-36 Detachment 6 embarked, and in company with Cornwall, deployed from Mayport with NATO Standing Naval Force Atlantic (12 January–11 July 1990). Stark refueled from Canadian replenishment oiler Protecteur (AOR.509) three days later, and carried out some additional pre-deployment work at NS Roosevelt Roads, where she held a force reception breakfast on the fantail (19–22 January). She fired two practice RIM-156 Standard surface-to-air missiles, one of which splashed a target drone, and completed work ups during FleetEx 1-90 in Puerto Rican waters (23–27 January), refueling midway through the exercise from MSC-manned Neosho (T-AO-143), refueled again at Roosevelt Roads on 28 January, and completed the exercise before returning to Roosevelt Roads the following day. Stark joined Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) and John F. Kennedy (CV-67) for joint antisubmarine operations off Puerto Rico (30 January–5 February), and then detached with West German frigate Bremen (F.207) and the two ships visited Philipsburg at St. Maarten (6–8 February). Stark then returned to the United States, refueling from Canadian replenishment oiler Preserver (AOR.510) on 12 February and reaching Port Everglades the next day. The frigate then took part in Mardi Gras at New Orleans, La. (19–27 February), refueling from Preserver en route on 19 February. The ship’s historian noted that off duty crewmen “rushed out” to partake in the bacchanal festivities. Following Stark’s sojourn in the balmy southern waters she turned her prow eastward and then northward, practicing escorting convoys and hunting submarines during Safe Pass 90 off the North Carolina coast. She refueled en route from Preserver on 1, 4, 9, 11, 13, and 17 March, and from British fleet support tanker Oakleaf (A.111) on 7 March, and reached Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 20 March. Stark’s historian noted that the crew endured “some unaccustomed cold weather” during their time there.
Following Stark’s brief Canadian visit she set out across the Atlantic (24 March–5 April 1990, refueling from Preserver on 23 and 26 March and at Punta Delgada three days later, and then completing maintenance at Wilhelmshaven, West Germany. The ship stood out of that port for antisubmarine and gunnery exercises Dragon Hammer and Open Gate in the Atlantic and Mediterranean (23 April–11 May), refueling from West German replenishment oiler Rhön (A.1443) on 25 and 27 April and British Brambleleaf (A.81) on 3, 8, and 10 May. The ship marked the highlight of Open Gate by a long high speed chase of a French nuclear-powered submarine. Stark put in to Lisbon, Portugal (12–15 May), Santander, Spain (18–22 May), and Lorient, France (25–28 May), in between these operations. An exercise with French submarines was cancelled, and Stark and Cornwall visited Portland, England (1–3 June). The British crewmen enjoyed their first visit home in six months, and some of them invited their American allies home to meet their families.
Stark stood out of that harbor, refueled from Brambleleaf, and reported that she steamed “slowly and cautiously through the foggy English Channel.” The ship crossed the North Sea and briefly visited Stavanger on 5 June, before taking part in NATO exercise Bright Horizon 1-90 (6–14 June). Intense antisubmarine operations marked Phase I of the exercise as Stark traversed Norwegian fjords. During the next phase she entered the Baltic Sea and battled West German and Swedish “aggressors.” Phase III finished with a 50 ship simulated amphibious landing. After winding back through the Kattegat and Skagerrak into the North Sea, the ship hunted submarines along the Norwegian coast. Bright Horizon 1-90 culminated with an air-sea battle off the Danish coast as British and West German aircraft attacked the NATO force, the surface squadron augmented by Norwegian warships. Stark refueled from Brambleleaf on 8 June and West German Glücksburg (A.1414) on 13 June. The ship renewed her Norwegian relations with a visit to Kristiansand (15–19 June), and then through the end of the month took part in Dutch Fleet Week at Den Helder in the Netherlands. Guided missile destroyer King (DDG-41) relieved Stark at Portland on 30 June, and the frigate refueled and headed home, refueling at Punta Delgada on 3 June and five days later from Kalamazoo. Following her return, the ship supported part of the launch of Space Shuttle STS-41D Discovery from John F. Kennedy Space Center, Fla., to Edwards (5–6 September). The ship rounded out the year by taking part in work ups with Forrestal (CV-59) off Jacksonville (3–10 and 14–22 December 1990).
The Iraqis had meanwhile invaded Kuwait on 2 August 1990, and the coalition established Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Desert Sabre to protect the region, contain Iraqi aggression, and liberate the Kuwaitis. Stark’s crewmen therefore carried out the usual assortment of training exercises and maintenance with the pall of the fighting in the Middle East looming over them. The war disrupted deployment cycles and rumors circulated among her men that they would deploy early, but they nonetheless began the New Year by observing Super Bowl XXV when the ship visited Tampa Bay, Fla. (25–28 January 1991). The Boatswain Mate’s set up a flight deck canopy and the Mess Management Specialist’s prepared the food and refreshments for a formal reception that included a number of NFL owners and movie stars. Some of the crewmen received complimentary tickets to the game, though security precautions resulting from the war prevented the ship from hosting additional visitors.
The frigate also broke the routine by celebrating Independence Day while moored at Penn’s Landing, Philadelphia, Pa. (3–8 July). Cmdr. Ulrich, the commanding officer, had grown up near the city and his family and several of the other officer’s wives temporarily embarked as the ship steamed up the Delaware River. In addition to setting up the well-used flight deck canopy and feeding guests, the crew also rigged “up and over” red, white, and blue lights. Guests enjoyed the fireworks from the 02 level following the reception. Local sailor SK3 Thomas Bambara reenlisted in front of the Liberty Bell, more than 10,000 people toured the ship, her color guard participated in the honors at a baseball game between the Phillies and Cardinals (St. Louis defeated Philadelphia’s team 9 to 2) at Veterans Stadium, and some of the ships company marched in the Fourth of July Parade. When the warship returned to Mayport she accomplished a variety of work, including installing a Mk 75 25 millimeter gun mount and changing out the 1A gas turbine generator (10 July–8 August).
Stark, with a Seasprite of HSL-36 Detachment 6 again embarked, and in company with Aubrey Fitch deployed for MEF 3-91 (14 August 1991–14 February 1992). The ship briefly stopped for fuel and stores at Rota, and then passed through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean. She visited Palma de Mallorca (28 August–2 September), and anchored at Port Said, Egypt, before transiting southbound through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea (5–6 September). Stark refueled at Djibouti (6–10 September), where her historian elatedly noted that “free mail, hazardous duty pay, and tax-free pay” began on 8 September. Stark passed through the Strait of Hormuz into the trouble-torn Arabian Gulf on 15 September, and then took part in briefings with Boone (FFG-28) and Kauffman (FFG-59) at Mina Salman at Bahrain (17–19 September). While there the ship also onloaded two USA Bell OH-58D Kiowas and a USN Stinger detachment. The Army Helicopter Improvement Program Kiowas included mast mounted sights, AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, and .50 caliber machine guns, and their soldiers normally wore night vision goggles, the aircraft greatly increasing the ship’s capabilities. The Stingers augmented the frigate’s defensive options, especially in the busy Arabian Gulf, where aircraft and vessels can close the range quickly.
The ship got underway and steamed for the North Frigate Patrol Station in the northern Arabian Gulf (19 September–9 October 1991). The engine of one of the embarked Kiowas failed while the helo patrolled low over the Arabian Gulf the first night out, at 2136 on 20 September. The pilot, an experienced senior warrant officer, brought the Kiowa’s nose up at the last moment but the helo crashed tail first into the water. Stark increased to flank speed and raced to the scene of the crash, while the second Kiowa searched for the two men floating within the swells. The soldiers discovered their comrades, lowered rope ladders, and pulled the injured men out of the water and returned them to the ship. The pilot suffered back injuries, and the co-pilot endured a broken cheek and jaw bone. The ship’s medical team stabilized the men, and they were then evacuated to an Army hospital in Saudi Arabia for further treatment. The ship stopped briefly at Bahrain and offloaded the remaining Kiowa and the soldiers on 24 September, and then returned to sea. She utilized her Kingfisher mine detection sonar to help MSC-manned fleet ocean tug Sioux (T-ATF-171) and merchantman Celina search for the wrecked Kiowa, and then came about.
In addition, ongoing concerns over Iraqi smuggling compelled the UN to begin multinational Maritime Interception Operations (MIOs) to enforce UN Security Council Resolutions that had been imposed against the Iraqis following their invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. Resolution 661 prohibited the export of cargo that originated in Iraq, while Resolution 665 called upon the coalition to verify compliance. The food-for-oil agreement permitted the Iraqis to sell limited amounts of oil to pay for food and medicine. The coalition consistently refined MIOs to contain brazen efforts by Iraqi criminals and on occasion, terrorists (who used lucrative drug trafficking that specialized in heroin and methamphetamines to finance terrorism). Allied ships and aircraft began to track and intercept ships that entered or left Iraqi and Iraqi-occupied Kuwaiti ports, and Stark participated in these MIOs.
Following the frigate’s patrol she accomplished voyage repairs alongside submarine tender L.Y. Spear (AS-39) at Bahrain (9–23 October). The ship briefly patrolled the Arabian Gulf and then visited Mina Rashid at Dubai (24–27 October) before resuming her patrols in the North Frigate Patrol Station, and in company with mine countermeasures ship Guardian (MCM-5) in Mine Danger Area 10 (27 October–18 November). At one point at sea GSMC Daniel J. Langlais commissioned his son, Ens. Daniel J. Langlais. Stark offloaded her Stinger detachment when she returned to Bahrain (18–19 November). The ship continued her patrols and MIOs and then sailed from the Arabian Gulf (19–25 November). As Stark came about she plotted a course that carried her over the position where the Exocets had struck the ship in 1987, and Cmdr. Ulrich mustered the crew on the fantail and dedicated a wreath to the memory of the men who lost their lives during that ordeal.
The ship briefly refueled at Djibouti on 25 November and then (25–29 November) patrolled the Red Sea, where many crewmen watched football on the “on site” television on Thanksgiving. Stark exchanged some sailors with guided missile frigate Sydney (FFG.03) on 7 December, and their Australian hosts treated their guests to a beer. The ship anchored out at Hurghada, Egypt (12–16 December), and then (16–28 December) patrolled the Red Sea. Klakring (FFG-42) relieved Stark on 28 December, by which time the latter had intercepted and boarded 77 ships during 26 days of carrying out MIOs. Stark passed through the Suez Canal northbound (29–30 December), and spent New Year’s Eve completing repairs at Haifa, Israel (31 December 1991–1992). Stark fired two practice SM-1 MR Standards and steamed 36,220 nautical miles during the tumultuous year. She operated with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, and completed the deployment by visits to: Izmir, Turkey (9–13 January 1992); Athens, Greece (14–17 January); Naples, Italy (20–25 January); and Barcelona, Spain (28 January–1 February). Following her return, the ship participated in a counter narcotics patrol in the Caribbean (27 April–28 May). The frigate intercepted numerous vessels suspected of smuggling drugs, and her crewmen boarded and inspected a number of them. The ship’s radar also acquired and tracked aircraft that led to several drug interceptions. In addition, Stark assisted Recovery when the merchantman lost power and began taking on water in the northern Caribbean. The ship completed a $2.9 million selected restricted availability at Mayport (30 July–20 November 1992).
Stark began the New Year by seizing more than 5,400 pounds of marijuana while patrolling for drug traffickers in the Caribbean (11 January–20 February 1993). The warship trained off the east coast following her return, and the 76 millimeter gun and CIWS successfully engaged drones. Stark worked with Latin American navies in Unitas XXXIV-93 (17 July–26 November). The Navy began participating in the multinational Unitas at sea and in port training exercises in 1959, and the cruises enabled those taking part to familiarize themselves with their particular operations. Stark also embarked a detachment from Fleet Composite Squadron (VC) 6, which operated several BQM-74C remote controlled drones during some of the exercises. The ship’s visits to ports illustrates her progress during the voyage: Roosevelt Roads (21–26 July, 31 July–2 August, and 22–23 November); Puerto La Cruz and La Guaira in Venezuela (4–6 and 11–13 August, respectively); and Cartagena, Colombia (16–19 August). She then passed through the Panama Canal into the Pacific (21–23 August), and making her way down South America’s west coast and around the treacherous waters at the tip she visited Bahía Málaga, Colombia (25–26 August); Guayaquil, Ecuador (30 August–1 September); Callao at Lima, Peru (4–8 and 11–14 September); Coquimbo, Valparaíso, Talcahuano, Puerto Montt, and Punta Arenas, Chile (18–22 and 24–29 September, and 1–5, 8–10, and 13 October, respectively); Golfo Neuvo and Buenos Aires, Argentina (15–16 and 21–24 October, respectively); Montevideo, Uruguay (24–27 October); and Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza, Brazil (4–8 and 15–16 November 1993, respectively).
The ship again turned her prow northward when she cooperated with the Canadians (26 January–11 February 1994), punctuating her sojourn into those colder waters by briefly stopping at Staten Island, N.Y. Trouble brewing to the south, however, soon turned her toward warmer waters. Following the Haitian Army’s overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in September 1991, a succession of governments led to sectarian violence, and in May 1994 the Haitian Army imposed Supreme Court Justice Emile Jonassaint as the provisional president. Tens of thousands of people fled the country to escape the turmoil, and the U.S. initiated Operations Able Manner to interdict migrants attempting to cross the Windward Passage to the United States, and Able Vigil to stop those crossing the Florida Straits (15 January 1993–26 November 1994). Law and order continued to collapse in Haiti and the UN authorized force to restore order. The U.S. initiated Operations Support Democracy and Uphold/Restore Democracy—Uphold Democracy for a peaceful entry into Haiti, and Restore Democracy in the event of resistance.
Stark took part in Support Democracy on three occasions (5 March–15 April, 25 May–8 July, and 1–22 August 1994). The Haitians agreed to allow the Americans to land peacefully, and on 31 March 1995 the U.S. transferred peacekeeping functions to international forces. During the first patrol the ship also took part in Mayfly 94 (9–10 March), an exercise that evoked strong feelings amongst some of her crewmen because a German ship fired a practice Exocet at Stark, but the frigate shot it down with a Standard. The ship visited Veracruz, Mexico, in between these patrols (20–24 April), and marked the starting line for the final leg of the Whitbread Round the World Race, a competitive yacht circumnavigation, during a visit to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (19–24 May). Stark intercepted and the sailors of her Compliance Team boarded and inspected more than 40 vessels for UN designated contraband during Support Democracy. She escorted three uncooperative vessels to Guantánamo Bay, where the authorities arrested the mariners and confiscated their illicit cargoes. The ship also controlled Sikorsky SH-3 Sea Kings and Army Kiowas during these operations. Stark rescued 265 people from 23 boats, and at one point counted 706 refugees from her own and other rescues packed on board, during an Able Vigil patrol (23 August–9 September). Additionally, she took 12 Coast Guard vessels alongside and received and processed 1,503 Cuban asylum seekers.
The ship completed a cycle of training exercises and maintenance work, alternating her times at sea with a visit to Key West, Fla. (18–20 February 1995). In addition, she embarked members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sons and Daughters of the War of 1812, and some dependents and special guests and steamed up the St. John’s River to Jacksonville Landing, Fla. (11–12 March), to commemorate the 50th anniversary of World War II. The World War II Commemorative Committee presented Stark with a commemorative flag while at Jacksonville, and the ship became an official member of that community during the ceremony. While taking part in a CompTuEx off the east coast, the ship conducted 101 flight hours with USA Kiowas (24 April–19 May).
She then deployed in company with guided missile cruiser Vela Gulf (CG-72) for MEF 3-95 to the Arabian Gulf (13 June–21 November 1995). The ship embarked 28 Bahraini sailors and trained them for the impending sale of Jack Williams (FFG-24) to that country. Stark refueled at Bermuda on 15 June and three days later at the Azores, and visited Palma de Mallorca (24–26 June) and Kos, Greece (1–5 July). She then steamed through the Suez Canal and Strait of Hormuz and operated in the Arabian Gulf, patrolling for Iraqi smugglers and human traffickers, and passed back through the strait into the North Arabian Sea to take part in exercise Inspired Siren 95-4 with the Pakistanis (26–31 August). At one point, a boiler exploded on board a Kuwaiti flagged tanker, seriously burning an Egyptian crewman. Stark came about and raced through the night and heavy seas, and at first light launched a Seasprite that flew the mariner to a hospital in Muscat, Oman. Following the exercise she returned to the Arabian Gulf, and while steaming in those waters during the deployment put in to Bahrain (17–21 July, 8–20 August, 26–29 September, and 11–16 October) and Jebel Ali in the UAE (19–24 September). Stark aided a Russian seaman on board a Liberian flagged merchantman who suffered a massive heart attack, and a deck seaman from a U.S. flagged ship suffering from a serious medical disorder, flying both sailors to a hospital in Bahrain. Stark also shifted from the administrative command of Destroyer Squadron 8 to Western Hemisphere Group on 1 September. The warship came about and returned to the Indian Ocean, stopping briefly at Massawa, Eritrea (23–26 October) and Jidda, Saudi Arabia (28–29 October), then passed through the Suez Canal northbound on the 1st of the month and returned to the Mediterranean. She crossed that sea and visited Rota (7–10 November) before resuming her westerly voyage to home, refueling again at the Azores on 13 November and Bermuda on 17 November.
Stark had her sonar dome reworked and two diesel generators, fuel and storage tanks, and ventilation ducting overhauled during a drydock selected restricted availability at Detyens Shipyards, Inc., Wando, S.C. (23 January–26 April 1996). Following the ship’s return to Mayport, she emergency sortied to escape Hurricane Fran, heading south toward the lee of the Bahamas and Florida Straits (3–6 September). The frigate returned to the Caribbean for CompTuEx 97-2 (13 November–14 December), and the training varied from scripted familiarization runs with submarines to search and detection scenarios involving several coordinated simulated torpedo attacks against the submarines. In addition, Stark performed plane guard for John F. Kennedy, and controlled a Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk from HSL-46 that simulated a torpedo attack against a submarine. The ship visited St. Thomas (23–25 November) -- fast combat support ship Arctic (AOE-8) and Dutch frigate Willem Van Der Zaan (F.829) also visited the port -- and Port-au-Prince, Haiti (11–12 December 1996). The man-of-war deployed to the Caribbean, Canada, and Western Europe while serving with NATO Standing Naval Force Atlantic (January–July 1997).
The frigate celebrated New Year’s 1998 at nearby Jacksonville, and trained during the winter and spring. She took part in IndEx 98-2, an independent steaming and weapons exercise in the Caribbean, during which she visited San Juan, P.R. (25–26 April) and St. Maarten (30 April–2 May). Stark then deployed again to NATO Standing Naval Force Atlantic (22 June–19 December 1998). The ship joined the force at Boston, Mass (27–28 June), and then began her operations in earnest with a series of training exercises punctuated with occasional port visits. Stark celebrated Independence Day at New York City (2–4 July), and following some additional training, turned her prow southward and visited Nassau in the Bahamas (10–12 July), Cartagena, Columbia (18–19 July), Roosevelt Roads (22–23 July), and then back to Mayport to perform voyage upkeep and repairs (8–21 August). The ship emergency sortied two days earlier than originally scheduled in order to avoid Hurricane Bonnie. She then crossed the Atlantic to work with her European allies as part of that force, relieved Robert G. Bradley (FFG-49) and at one point participated with 46 other allied ships and submarines in Joint Maritime Course 1998, a British-sponsored multinational combined battle group exercise. During the ship’s voyage she also visited: Punta Delgada (3–4 September); Lisbon (8–10 September); Bremerhaven and Kiel, Germany (16–19 September and 24 September–4 October, respectively); St. Petersburg, Russia (9–11 October); Leith and Faslane, Scotland (22–26 October -- anchoring out the first night -- and 7–9 November, respectively); Copenhagen, Denmark (14–15 November); Plymouth, England (27–29 November); and Santander (5–7 December).
Stark offloaded her ordnance for the final time at Yorktown on 28 January 1999, and was stricken and decommissioned on the day on 7 May 1999 at Mayport. At 0928 on 13 October 2005, the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility at Philadelphia transferred the veteran warship to nearby Metro Marine Corp., for disposal. The Naval Vessel Register reported her scrapped on 21 June 2006.
||Date Assumed Command
|Cmdr. Terrence W. Costello III
||23 October 1982
|Cmdr. Glenn R. Brindel
||29 January 1985
|Cmdr. John B. Noll
||22 June 1987
|Cmdr. Henry G. Ulrich III
||19 May 1990
|Cmdr. Peter Wynkoop Jr.
||20 March 1992
|Cmdr. Richard C. Rush
||25 February 1994
|Cmdr. Michael R. Johnston
||19 January 1996
|Cmdr. Orrin W. Young
||10 August 1997
Mark L. Evans
5 October 2016