In May 1987 the US guided missile frigate Stark, sailing the waters of the Persian Gulf, was suddenly blown apart by an Exocet missile fired by a MiG of Iraq's Saddam Hussein. A fifth of the ship's crew were killed and many others wounded. This event jump-started one of the most mysterious conflicts in American history, the Tanker War, which was waged for control of the Middle East's oil supply, and was carried out in the shadow of the Iran-Iraq Wa Losing on the battlefield, Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran had decided to close the Persian Gulf against shipments from Iraq, and especially from their oil-rich backers, the emirate of Kuwait. The Kuwaitis appealed for international help to protect their tankers, and the Soviet Union was first to respond. This prompted America to react and send their own fleet to the Gulf, raising the Stars and Stripes over Kuwait's commercial tankers. The result was a free-for-all, as the Iranians laid mines throughout the passage and launched their torpedo attacks. The Tanker War was the US Navy's largest surface battle since World War II.

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