***Navy begins pullback from Persian Gulf; see A9.
A Navy board considered and rejected recommending action against officers as high as Rear Adm. Anthony A. Less, commander of the Persian Gulf naval task force of which the Vincennes was part. In a 1,000-page report that will be presented to Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci this week, military officials said Saturday, the board places most of the blame on the operations officer for his role in misinterpreting information which resulted in the cruiser mistakenly shooting down the jetliner on July 3, killing all 290 people aboard.A report now being reviewed by Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recommends a letter of reprimand to the operations officer, which would not become part of his official personnel file, officials said. The name of the officer has not been disclosed.
The report was compiled by an investigative team headed by Rear Adm. William N. Fogarty and given to Marine Gen. George B. Crist, head of the Central Command, which controls the Persian Gulf region for his review. It was then forwarded to Crowe, who has been reading it this weekend and could recommend lesser or greater disciplinary measures, officials said.
By the time an unclassified version of the report is made public, it may have been changed during this complicated review process, Pentagon officials said. But they added that there is little inclination among senior U.S. officials to take a hard line against anybody from Less, who was in the gulf on his flagship, the USS Coronado, at the time of the shootdown, to the sailors who misinterpreted data displayed on their consoles on the high-tech cruiser.
The general conclusion of the report is that a series of human errors led to the misidentification of the Iranian jetliner and that there was no significant malfunction in the performance of the Vincennes' high-technology Aegis radar tracking and identification systems, according to officials.
Pentagon sources said Forgarty and members of his investigatory team felt undercut by Crowe's apparent exoneration of Capt. Will C. Rogers III, the Vincennes skipper, immediately after the incident. At a news conference in Washington, Crowe said the Vincennes skipper had "acted with good judgment."
Crowe's pronouncement was based on early information from the gulf which the Fogarty team found to be highly inaccurate in almost every major respect, officials said. This put the Fogarty board in the position of having to contradict the nation's highest-ranking military officer.
The Fogarty report, according to officials, documents a number of errors, many of them human. In one example, a sailor in charge of executing the firing sequence for the missiles fumbled several times, military officials said, resulting in a delay. If he had fumbled the sequence one more time, they added, the airliner probably would have become visible to the Vincennes crew, possibly averting the mistake.