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William C. Rogers III

William C. Rogers III

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William C. Rogers III, (born December 1938) is a former officer in the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

, most notable as the captain of USS Vincennes
USS Vincennes (CG-49)
The fourth USS Vincennes is a U.S. Navy Ticonderoga class Aegis guided missile cruiser. On July 3, 1988, the ship shot down Iran Air Flight 655 over the Persian Gulf, killing all 290 civilian passengers on board, including 38 non-Iranians and 66 children.The ship was launched 14 April 1984 and...

, a Ticonderoga class
Ticonderoga class cruiser
The Ticonderoga class of missile cruisers is a class of warships in the United States Navy, first ordered and authorized in FY 1978. The class uses phased-array radar and was originally planned as a class of destroyers...

 Aegis
Aegis combat system
The Aegis Combat System is an integrated naval weapons system developed by the Missile and Surface Radar Division of RCA, and now produced by Lockheed Martin...

 cruiser
Cruiser
A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...

. While under his command, the ship shot down Iran Air Flight 655
Iran Air Flight 655
Iran Air Flight 655 was a civilian jet airliner shot down by U.S. missiles on 3 July 1988, over the Strait of Hormuz, toward the end of the Iran–Iraq War...

 in the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

, killing 290 civilians and creating an international incident for the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

.

Early life and career prior to 1988


Rogers was born in Fort Worth, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas
Fort Worth is the 16th-largest city in the United States of America and the fifth-largest city in the state of Texas. Located in North Central Texas, just southeast of the Texas Panhandle, the city is a cultural gateway into the American West and covers nearly in Tarrant, Parker, Denton, and...

, and grew up in San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is the seventh-largest city in the United States of America and the second-largest city within the state of Texas, with a population of 1.33 million. Located in the American Southwest and the south–central part of Texas, the city serves as the seat of Bexar County. In 2011,...

. His father, Will C. Rogers II, was a United States Navy psychologist
Psychologist
Psychologist is a professional or academic title used by individuals who are either:* Clinical professionals who work with patients in a variety of therapeutic contexts .* Scientists conducting psychological research or teaching psychology in a college...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. He has a younger brother named Dick, who was paralyzed in an automobile accident leaving him in a wheelchair. Rogers majored in psychology
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

 at Baylor University
Baylor University
Baylor University is a private, Christian university located in Waco, Texas. Founded in 1845, Baylor is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.-History:...

 and earned a master's degree in history from Trinity University
Trinity University (Texas)
Trinity University is a private, independent, primarily undergraduate, university in San Antonio, Texas. Its campus is located in the Monte Vista Historic District and adjacent to Brackenridge Park....

 in San Antonio. He taught high school
High school
High school is a term used in parts of the English speaking world to describe institutions which provide all or part of secondary education. The term is often incorporated into the name of such institutions....

 science for two years before entering Officer Candidate School
Officer Candidate School (U.S. Navy)
The United States Navy's Officer Candidate School, currently located at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island, provides training to become a commissioned officer. Attendance is one possible way for civilian college graduates with no military experience to earn a commission as a U.S. Navy officer...

.


Rogers was commissioned December 1965 and his first tour of duty was in the engineering department aboard the aircraft carrier, USS Independence (CV-62)
USS Independence (CV-62)
The fifth USS Independence is a of the United States Navy. It was the fourth and final member of the Forrestal-class conventional-powered Supercarrier...

. His next duty station was USS George K. MacKenzie
USS George K. MacKenzie (DD-836)
USS George K. MacKenzie was a of the United States Navy, named for Lieutenant Commander George K. MacKenzie .George K. MacKenzie was launched on 13 May 1945 by the Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine; sponsored by Miss Donna MacKenzie, daughter; and commissioned on 13 July 1945, Commander Alvin W...

, a Gearing class destroyer
Gearing class destroyer
The Gearing class was a group of 98 destroyers built for the US Navy during and shortly after World War II. The Gearing design was a minor modification of the immediately preceding Allen M. Sumner class...

, stationed at Long Beach
Long Beach Naval Shipyard
thumb|right|300px|Long Beach Naval Shipyard in 1993The Long Beach Naval Shipyard, which closed in 1997, was located at Terminal Island between the city of Long Beach and the San Pedro district of Los Angeles and approximately 23 miles south of the Los Angeles International Airport.The Long Beach...

 then later at Yokosuka, Japan
United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka
U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka, or Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka is a United States Navy base, in Yokosuka, Japan. Its mission is to maintain and operate base facilities for the logistic, recreational, administrative support and service of the U.S. Naval Forces Japan, U.S. 7th Fleet and...

. In December 1969, Rogers reported to USS Vreeland
USS Vreeland (FF-1068)
USS Vreeland was a of the United States Navy. The ship was named for Rear Admiral Charles E. Vreeland .Vreeland was laid down on 20 March 1968 by the Avondale Shipyard at Westwego, La.; launched on 16 June 1969; sponsored by Mrs. Jamie L...

, a Knox class frigate
Knox class frigate
Knox class frigates were United States Navy warships, originally laid down as ocean escorts , but were all redesignated as frigates on 30 June 1975 in the USN 1975 ship reclassification and their hull designation changed from DE to FF.A sub-class of the Knox class was built, commonly referred to as...

 to be the commissioning operations officer homeported in Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is the second largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. It was made the county seat of Charleston County in 1901 when Charleston County was founded. The city's original name was Charles Towne in 1670, and it moved to its present location from a location on the west bank of the...

. Rogers first command was USS Exploit, an Aggressive class minesweeper
Aggressive class minesweeper
The Aggressive class minesweepers are a class of US-built minesweepers. They are designated as MSO , distinguishing them from the smaller coastal MSCs and inshore MSIs...

 also homeported in Charleston. After attending Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia
Norfolk, Virginia
Norfolk is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. With a population of 242,803 as of the 2010 Census, it is Virginia's second-largest city behind neighboring Virginia Beach....

 Rogers worked with three Admirals in Washington D.C. and was assigned to the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group
Weapons Systems Evaluation Group
The Weapons Systems Evaluation Group was formed in 1949 to carry out Operational Research work for the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Army and the United States Secretary of Defense. The group oversaw the appraisal of weapons used during the Korean War...

 under the Secretary of Defense. This duty involved a series of trips to Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur War
Yom Kippur War
The Yom Kippur War, Ramadan War or October War , also known as the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the Fourth Arab-Israeli War, was fought from October 6 to 25, 1973, between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria...

. In 1978, Rogers reported to the USS David R. Ray
USS David R. Ray (DD-971)
USS David R. Ray , named for Hospital Corpsman Second Class David Robert Ray, a sailor killed in 1969 and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, was a Spruance-class destroyer built by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of Litton Industries at Pascagoula, Mississippi.-Ship's history:USS David R....

 a Spruance class destroyer
Spruance class destroyer
The Spruance-class destroyer was developed by the United States to replace a large number of World War II-built Allen M. Sumner- and Gearing-class destroyers, and was the primary destroyer built for the U.S. Navy during the 1970s....

 to be the commissioning executive officer
Executive officer
An executive officer is generally a person responsible for running an organization, although the exact nature of the role varies depending on the organization.-Administrative law:...

, second in command. He would later command USS Cushing
USS Cushing (DD-985)
USS Cushing , named for Commander William Barker Cushing USN and was the fifth ship of the United States Navy to carry the name. Cushing was a built by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of Litton Industries at Pascagoula, Mississippi...

, another Spruance class destroyer
Spruance class destroyer
The Spruance-class destroyer was developed by the United States to replace a large number of World War II-built Allen M. Sumner- and Gearing-class destroyers, and was the primary destroyer built for the U.S. Navy during the 1970s....

, from September 1981 to August 1984. Prior to his command of Vincennes he served in the Pentagon as the head of a section in the Planning Division of Chief of Naval Operations
Chief of Naval Operations
The Chief of Naval Operations is a statutory office held by a four-star admiral in the United States Navy, and is the most senior uniformed officer assigned to serve in the Department of the Navy. The office is a military adviser and deputy to the Secretary of the Navy...

.

Captain Rogers married Sharon (Loomis) Rogers, in Fort Worth, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas
Fort Worth is the 16th-largest city in the United States of America and the fifth-largest city in the state of Texas. Located in North Central Texas, just southeast of the Texas Panhandle, the city is a cultural gateway into the American West and covers nearly in Tarrant, Parker, Denton, and...

 on July 12, 1964. They had one son born February 1969 named Will C. Rogers IV but known as Bill.

Commanding the USS Vincennes


Rogers was the second commanding officer
Commanding officer
The commanding officer is the officer in command of a military unit. Typically, the commanding officer has ultimate authority over the unit, and is usually given wide latitude to run the unit as he sees fit, within the bounds of military law...

 of Vincennes and assumed command April 11, 1987. At the time, Vincennes was one of only five cruisers commissioned that carried the new Aegis combat system
Aegis combat system
The Aegis Combat System is an integrated naval weapons system developed by the Missile and Surface Radar Division of RCA, and now produced by Lockheed Martin...

, a billion dollar computerized integrated battle management system and the first such cruiser to join the Pacific fleet
United States Pacific Fleet
The United States Pacific Fleet is a Pacific Ocean theater-level component command of the United States Navy that provides naval resources under the operational control of the United States Pacific Command. Its home port is at Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hawaii. It is commanded by Admiral Patrick M...

. The heart of Aegis is an advanced, automatic detect-and-track, multi-function three-dimensional phased array
Phased array
In wave theory, a phased array is an array of antennas in which the relative phases of the respective signals feeding the antennas are varied in such a way that the effective radiation pattern of the array is reinforced in a desired direction and suppressed in undesired directions.An antenna array...

 radar
Radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

, the AN/SPY-1
AN/SPY-1
The AN/SPY-1 is a US naval radar system manufactured by Lockheed Martin. The array is a passive electronically scanned system and is a key component of the Aegis Combat System. The system is computer controlled, using four complementary antennas to provide 360 degree coverage...

. Known as "the Shield of the Fleet", the high-powered radar is able to perform search, tracking, and missile guidance functions simultaneously with a track capacity of over 100 targets at more than 100 nautical miles (185.2 km). Command of an Aegis cruiser was considered to be very prestigious at the time. On April 25, 1988, Vincennes was deployed on a six month cruise in support of Operation Earnest Will
Operation Earnest Will
Operation Earnest Will was the U.S. military protection of Kuwaiti owned tankers from Iranian attacks in 1987 and 1988, three years into the Tanker War phase of the Iran–Iraq War. It was the largest naval convoy operation since World War II.The U.S. Navy warships that escorted the tankers, part of...

, the reflagging and escort of oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.

Iran Air 655


On July 3, 1988, the Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655
Iran Air Flight 655
Iran Air Flight 655 was a civilian jet airliner shot down by U.S. missiles on 3 July 1988, over the Strait of Hormuz, toward the end of the Iran–Iraq War...

 with a two-missile salvo of SM-2MR missiles
RIM-66 Standard
The RIM-66 Standard MR is a medium range surface-to-air missile originally developed for the United States Navy . The SM-1 was developed as a replacement for the RIM-2 Terrier and RIM-24 Tartar that were deployed in the 1950s on a variety of USN ships...

. Iran Air 655, carrying 290 passengers, had been airborne for seven minutes when the missiles hit approximately 8 miles (13 km) from the Vincennes. The airliner crashed into the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 6.5 miles (10.5 km) east of Hengham Island
Hengam Island
Hengam Island , is an Iranian island located at south of Qeshm Island, Iran and in the Persian Gulf. Hengam Island is 36.6 km wide with the truncated cone shape. The island is generally Calcareous and generally low lying. The highest point on the island is Nakas Mountain that is about 106 meters...

 (26°37.75′N 56°1′E). At the time of the incident, the Vincennes was inside Iranian territorial waters and engaged in small arms combat with several Iranian surface craft, and one of its LAMPS III Seahawk helicopters had been fired upon during flight operations.

A subsequent US report by Rear Admiral
Rear Admiral
Rear admiral is a naval commissioned officer rank above that of a commodore and captain, and below that of a vice admiral. It is generally regarded as the lowest of the "admiral" ranks, which are also sometimes referred to as "flag officers" or "flag ranks"...

 William Fogarty, titled Formal Investigation into the Circumstances Surrounding the Downing of Iran Air Flight 655 on 3 July 1988, noted that Captain Rogers received some faulty information that he used to make the decision to fire. Specifically, he was told the aircraft was identified as an Iranian Air Force F-14
F-14 Tomcat
The Grumman F-14 Tomcat is a supersonic, twin-engine, two-seat, variable-sweep wing fighter aircraft. The Tomcat was developed for the United States Navy's Naval Fighter Experimental program following the collapse of the F-111B project...

A Tomcat descending in an attack profile, and that it was identifying itself with secondary surveillance radar
Secondary surveillance radar
Secondary surveillance radar is a radar system used in air traffic control , that not only detects and measures the position of aircraft i.e. range and bearing, but also requests additional information from the aircraft itself such as its identity and altitude...

 / IFF
Identification friend or foe
In telecommunications, identification, friend or foe is an identification system designed for command and control. It is a system that enables military and national interrogation systems to identify aircraft, vehicles, or forces as friendly and to determine their bearing and range from the...

 mode-II codes exclusively used by military aircraft. The investigation noted that Rogers was focused on the ongoing surface engagement and was only aware of the inbound aircraft for less than four minutes. It also pointed out that Rogers thought that he had increased burden to act since he was also assigned to protect the frigate USS Elmer Montgomery
USS Elmer Montgomery (FF-1082)
USS Elmer Montgomery was a Knox class frigate built for the United States Navy by Avondale Shipyard, Westwego, Louisiana. She was laid down January 23, 1970, launched November 21, 1970 and purchased October 14, 1971. She was commissioned October 30, 1971, decommissioned June 30, 1993 and struck...

 (FF-1082). The investigation also concluded that Rogers acted in a prudent manner based on the information available to him, and the short time frame involved. He also acted within the prescribed rules of engagement
Rules of engagement
Rules of Engagement refers to those responses that are permitted in the employment of military personnel during operations or in the course of their duties. These rules of engagement are determined by the legal framework within which these duties are being carried out...

 for USN warship captains in that situation.


Other independent investigations into the incident have presented a different picture. John Barry and Roger Charles of Newsweek
Newsweek
Newsweek is an American weekly news magazine published in New York City. It is distributed throughout the United States and internationally. It is the second-largest news weekly magazine in the U.S., having trailed Time in circulation and advertising revenue for most of its existence...

magazine claimed that Rogers was overeager for combat, that he started the fight with Iranian gunboats, and then followed them into Iranian territorial waters. Barry and Charles also accused the U.S. government of a cover-up.

Some other sources lay some of the blame on the complexity of the technology and the great expense of the warship. An analysis of the events by the International Strategic Studies Association
International Strategic Studies Association
The International Strategic Studies Association describes itself as Washington DC based non-governmental organization with a worldwide membership of professionals involved in national management, particularly in national and international security and strategic policy.-Recipients of ISSA...

 described the deployment of an AEGIS cruiser into that zone as irresponsible, and the Association thought that the great expense of his warship had played major parts in the setting of a low threshold for opening fire.

In 2004, Marita Turpin and Niek du Plooy of the Centre for Logistics and Decision Support partially attributed the accident to an expectancy bias introduced by the Aegis Combat System
Aegis combat system
The Aegis Combat System is an integrated naval weapons system developed by the Missile and Surface Radar Division of RCA, and now produced by Lockheed Martin...

 and faulted the design and "unhelpful user interface" as contributing to the errors of judgment."


Rogers was personally criticized for being overly aggressive by Commander
Commander
Commander is a naval rank which is also sometimes used as a military title depending on the individual customs of a given military service. Commander is also used as a rank or title in some organizations outside of the armed forces, particularly in police and law enforcement.-Commander as a naval...

 David Carlson, commanding officer of the USS Sides
USS Sides (FFG-14)
USS Sides is an Oliver Hazard Perry class guided-missile frigate of the US Navy.The eighth ship in the class, it was named for Admiral John H. Sides . Ordered from Todd Shipyards, San Pedro, California, on 27 February 1976 as part of the FY76 program, Sides was laid down on 7 August 1978,...

, a second ship that was under the tactical control of Rogers at the time of the incident. Carlson claimed that the downing of Iran Air 655 marked the "horrifying climax to Capt. Rogers's aggressiveness, first seen four weeks ago." He was referring to incidents on the June 2, 1988, when he claimed that Rogers brought the Vincennes too close to an Iranian frigate that was searching a bulk carrier, that he launched a helicopter too close to Iranian small boats, and that he fired upon a number of small Iranian military boats instead of directing another, smaller warship to do so. In disagreeing with Rogers's decision – citing the high cost of the cruiser relative to that of the frigates attached to the group – Carlson posited, "Why do you want an AEGIS cruiser out there shooting up boats? It wasn't a smart thing to do."

The USS Vincennes, with Rogers remaining in command, completed the remainder of her scheduled deployment to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and she returned to Naval Station San Diego
Naval Station San Diego
Naval Base San Diego is the largest base of the United States Navy on the west coast of the United States, in San Diego, California. Naval Base San Diego is the principal homeport of the Pacific Fleet, consisting of 54 ships and over 120 tenant commands. The base is composed of 13 piers stretched...

 on October 25, 1988. During the voyage home on September 22, 1988, the Vincennes rescued 26 Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

ese boat people
Boat people
Boat people is a term that usually refers to refugees, illegal immigrants or asylum seekers who emigrate in numbers in boats that are sometimes old and crudely made...

 adrift in the South China Sea
South China Sea
The South China Sea is a marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean, encompassing an area from the Singapore and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan of around...

.

Rogers remained in command of the USS Vincennes until May 27, 1989. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

 awarded Capt. Rogers the Legion of Merit
Legion of Merit
The Legion of Merit is a military decoration of the United States armed forces that is awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements...

 decoration "for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service as commanding officer ... from April 1987 to May 1989." The award was given for his service as the Commanding Officer of the Vincennes, and the citation made no mention of the downing of Iran Air 655.

Bombing of Rogers' family minivan



Nine months after the downing of Iran Air Flight 655, on March 10, 1989, Rogers' wife Sharon escaped with her life when a pipe bomb
Pipe bomb
A pipe bomb is an improvised explosive device, a tightly sealed section of pipe filled with an explosive material. The containment provided by the pipe means that simple low explosives can be used to produce a relatively large explosion, and the fragmentation of the pipe itself creates potentially...

 attached to her minivan
Minivan
Minivan is a type of van designed for personal use. Minivans are typically either two-box or one box designs for maximum interior volume – and are taller than a sedan, hatchback, or a station wagon....

 exploded, while she was driving. The van was recorded in the name of Will Rogers III, and many people jumped to a conclusion and suspected that terrorism was involved. Five months later, the Associated Press
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

 reported that the most likely suspect had a personal vendetta against Capt. Rogers and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

 had ruled out terrorist activity. At that time pipe bombs were a common occurrence (over 200 each year) in San Diego County and a largely homegrown threat according to the local sheriff's department. As of 2007, the bombing of Rogers' van remains an unsolved case, despite a major investigation involving at some time up to 300 police men and FBI agents. On February 17, 1993, the case was featured on the TV show Unsolved Mysteries
Unsolved Mysteries
Unsolved Mysteries is an American television program, hosted by Robert Stack, from 1987 until 2002, and later by Dennis Farina, starting in 2008...

, but no additional information was uncovered.

Naval career following Vincennes


Rogers' next assignment was as commanding officer of the United States Navy Tactical Training Group at Point Loma, a group responsible for training officers in handling combat situations. He retired from the United States Navy in August 1991. In 1992, Rogers and his wife Sharon co-wrote a book, Storm Center: A Personal Account of Tragedy & Terrorism which describe the events surrounding the downing of Iran Air 655 and the minivan bombing from their personal perspectives.

External links