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Importance of Sea Power -Continued
interests in the countries and waters of the Middle East. U.S. forces have been visible in this vital, oil- rich  region  since  1949.  They  frequently  operate in the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Red  Sea,  Arabian  Sea,  and  western  Indian  Ocean. However,  events  in  the  Persian  Gulf  in  the mid-1980s  brought  the  United  States  into  new roles  in  defending  sea  power. Iran and Iraq had been at war for 5 years when Iraq  began  attacking  Iranian  oil  facilities  and tankers in the Persian Gulf. Iran countered with attacks against ships flying flags sympathetic to Iraq. U.S. Navy ships quickly started protecting U.S.  flagged  tankers  from  attacks  by  either country in what came to be known as the “tanker war.” In 1987 the United States took action to keep oil flowing freely through the Straits of Hormuz. As a result, the number of Middle East ships more than doubled over the summer of 1987 from 5 to 12.  USS  Ranger  (CV-61)  and  USS  Missouri (BB-63)  battle  groups,  mine  countermeasure teams,  and  special  warfare  units  joined  other forces already in the area. These combined forces became  America’s  largest  deployed  naval  presence since  the  Vietnam  era.  The  British,  French, Italians,  Belgians,  and  Dutch  eventually  joined their American counterparts in the Persian Gulf. Working independently, each navy displayed its own  colors,  protected  its  own  shipping,  and helped  sweep  mines  from  shipping  lanes. Even though the protective forces grew, ships traveling  in  the  Persian  Gulf  were  under  the constant  threat  of  attack.  Danger  existed  from fighter  aircraft  of  both  sides;  Iranian  Silkworm antiship   missiles;   Iran’s   Revolutionary   Guard suicide  boats;  and,  of  course,  mines. The missile threat proved costly to the United States  when  the  USS   Stark  (FFG-31)   was mistakenly identified by an Iraq attack aircraft. Two missiles fired from the jet struck the  Stark on  17  May  1987,  killing  37  sailors  and  injuring many  more. Mines had not been a serious threat to naval operations  for  several  years,  but  the  Iranians’  use of mines brought a new awareness of their danger. On  14  April  1988  USS  Samuel   B.   Roberts (FFG-58)  hit  a  mine  in  the  Persian  Gulf  and suffered  severe  damage.  Since  several  tankers  had also hit mines, the Navy had already intensified its  mine-sweeping  efforts. In  the  process  of  defending  the  sea  lanes  in the Persian Gulf, the presence of the United States was  largely  a  defensive  measure.  When  forced to   take   offensive   action,   the   United   States bombarded an Iranian oil platform being used as an  Iranian  Revolutionary  Guard  command  post (fig.   1-2).   American   fire   power   also   sunk   an Iranian  mine-laying  vessel  caught  in  the  act  of laying mines. The American policy of freedom of the  high  seas  was  once  again  preserved  in  the Persian Gulf. As the war ended between Iran and Iraq  in  1989  and  tensions  subsided,  the  naval presence  of  the  United  States  decreased  but  never disappeared. IMPORTANCE  OF  SEA  POWER To  fully  understand  the  importance  of  sea power, you must consider the geographic makeup of the earth. Ocean areas are so extensive that all landmasses on earth are open to attack or pressure from the sea. This attests to the broad impact of sea  power. Today  the  globe  can  be  spanned  by  nuclear- armed missiles in a mere 15 minutes. However, in war or peace the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans remain wide barriers to international and domestic commerce. Any significant amount of manpower, strategic  supplies,  raw  materials,  or  manufactured goods  must  still  cross  these  barriers  in  20-knot ships. Although  the  United  States  faces  both  the Atlantic  and  Pacific  Oceans,  the  Atlantic  has  been of  primary  interest  to  this  nation  since  its independence.  Encompassing  32  million  square miles, the Atlantic is the second largest ocean in the world; but its size is not its most important feature.  More  vital  is  the  community  of  nations that border the Atlantic. Bordering the north are the industrial centers of our Western civilization. Bordering the south are the resource-rich, emerg- ing  nations  of  Africa  and  Latin  America.  The Atlantic  is  the  main  highway  of  commerce  binding together  the  old  and  new  nations  that  conduct more  than  two-thirds  of  the  world’s  merchant shipping.  This  makes  the  North  Atlantic  the  most heavily  traveled  stretch  of  water  in  the  world. More than 2,000 merchant vessels are steaming North  Atlantic  trade  routes  every  day  of  the  year. In size, however, the Atlantic Ocean is small when compared to the Pacific Ocean. Unequaled in  vastness  by  any  other  landmass  or  sea,  the Pacific Ocean covers 67 million square miles. It covers  a  third  of  the  surface  of  the  world, equaling  the  combined  areas  of  the  Atlantic, Indian,  and  Arctic  Oceans.  The  Pacific  Ocean  also exceeds in area the total of all the landmasses of 1-10

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