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Navy Awards Medals To Vincennes Officers

April 24, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Navy has granted commendation medals to the commander and the anti-air warfare officer who were serving aboard the USS Vincennes in 1988 when the Aegis cruiser shot down an Iranian airliner over the Persian Gulf, a spokesman said on Monday.

A Navy spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Craig Quigley, said a Legion of Merit was given to Capt. Will C. Rogers III for ″exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service″ during his command of the ship from April 1987 to May 1989.

The ship’s weapons and combat systems officer, Lt. Cmdr. Scott E. Lustig, was granted two Navy Commendation Medals, Quigley said.

One award was for his ″meritorious service″ during his May 1984 to December 1988 tour aboard the cruiser. The second was in recognition of his role during an engagement with seven Iranian gunboats in the Persian Gulf on July 3, 1988.

″His ability to maintain his poise and confidence under fire contributed directly to the calm and professional atmosphere throughout the combat information center,″ the citation said of Lustig.

Although the skirmish with the Iranian vessels occurred shortly before the Aegis shot the airliner down - killing 290 people aboard - the tragedy isn’t mentioned in the texts of the citations, which were made available by the Navy.

The accident was blamed on a series of human errors that resulted in Rogers’ decision to shoot down the airliner.

A Navy investigation found that the tactical information coordinator had reported that the airliner was descending, when it actually was ascending, a mistake that led Rogers to believe his ship was under attack.

″During the investigation, both men’s conduct was looked at very closely,″ Quigley said.

The spokesman said that both men are still in the Navy. Rogers is an instructor at a tactical training center in San Diego while Lustig is the executive officer on another Navy cruiser.

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