Operation Earnest Will: USS Bridgeton

The Kuwaiti tanker Al Rekkah was renamed the USS Bridgeton and reflagged as a U.S. ship. (U.S. Navy photo)
The Kuwaiti tanker al-Rekkah before it was renamed the USS Bridgeton and reflagged as a U.S. ship in 1987. (U.S. Navy photo)

For a decade, the Kuwaiti supertanker had gone by the name al-Rekkah, and had reigned as the largest vessel in Kuwait’s fleet — indeed, the biggest under any Middle Eastern flag. In the summer of 1987, the 413,000-ton ship was reflagged under U.S. authority and renamed Bridgeton.

Crew members stand watch on the bow of the guided missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 993) as reflagged Kuwaiti tanker Bridgeton moves through the Persian Gulf.
Crew members stand watch on the bow of the guided missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 993) as reflagged Kuwaiti tanker Bridgeton moves through the Persian Gulf in 1987. (U.S. Navy photo by PH2 Thomas Tolliver)

On 24 July, the supertanker hit a mine on the first convoy undertaken as part of Operation Earnest Will. The doublehulled vessel remained afloat, and the convoy continued to Kuwait—with three thin-skinned U.S. Navy warships following in the behemoth’s wake for safety.

The Bridgeton was soon patched up and returned to service.

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