The Vincennes had been engaged in fighting Iranian gunboats at the time, having pursued them into Iranian territorial waters despite having been ordered to remain in international waters. Iran Air Flight 655, taking off on a routine 140-mile flight from its coastal city of Bandar Abbas southwest to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, was mistaken for an Iranian F-14 jet fighter. Ten warnings were transmitted over two frequencies, and after failing to receive a response, and after Flight 655 made a turn into a what could have been an attack flight path to the ship, the Vincennes launched two surface-to-air missiles. No visual contact was made with the aircraft until it was struck and blew up about six miles from the Vincennes; the plane's wreckage fell in Iranian territorial waters.
After an official enquiry Captain Rodgers was awarded (by George H. W. Bush in 1990) the Legion of Merit award for "exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of an outstanding service." He completed remainder of scheduled deployment. The other officers involved in the decision to shoot down the Iranian plane, including the radar officer who misidentified the aircraft, were all ultimately promoted. Officially, it was recognized that they reacted appropriately in light of the USS Stark incident the previous year, but unofficially many questions remain regarding the decision-making process employed by the Vincennes' commander and crew.