Minemen Around the World

Kuwait and the Persian Gulf

Don Jones, a Mineman with 50 years of navy service, seems to have served everywhere around the globe. Here are a couple more duty places he has served.


In June 1987, Kuwait requested help with clearing a minefield planted in International waters in the Persian Gulf by unknown persons. A Navy team of mine experts was sent from the DC-area to Bahrain, then a few days later to Kuwait. I arrived in Bahrain June 19, on the same day a fourth ship was damaged in the minefield. We visited the SS Primrose, an earlier victim of the minefield, at the Arab Ship Repair Yard in Bahrain. Primrose was a very large crude carrier of 119,000 GRT. There was a surprisingly small rectangular hole in the ship's port side 325 ft aft of the bow. However, the Marshal Chuikov, an inbound Soviet tanker, reported a much larger hole resulting from a mine strike. Underwater detonation damage is greater with an air-backed, i.e., empty ship, as opposed to Primrose outbound at 14-knots and fully loaded. A few days later we got to Kuwait in time to board a Kuwaiti Air Force helicopter and search for other mines near one located the day before by EOD. Dust storms at the AF-base in the desert had prevented earlier flights.

When we arrived in Kuwait City, we visited an Army base where we saw their EOD brag-book with pictures of items they had destroyed. A Polaroid picture of a shiny, black spherical mine that had washed ashore in March 1987, caught our eye. And we saw for the first time the unique numbering system* stenciled in 3-inch high white numerals. I wrote down the numbers and also noted that the mine had 5-chemical horns. They destroyed the mine where it sat on the beach. It was our first glimpse of Iran's SADAF-02 mine, but we didn't know it at the time.

On 23/24 June 1987, we traveled southeast by car to Kuwait's new navy base, built by the Japanese, at Ras al Qualiyah. Within an hour, the AF-helicopter arrived for the first flight over the minefield. Our EOD guys had marked a mine they had spotted visually while towing a side-scan sonar the day before near Buoy # 1. By then the mines had been in the water well over a month, so a buildup of green algae and barnacle growth had made them more difficult to spot. Luckily, it was at low tide and the mines were within 10-ft or less of the surface. After locating 5-positives and a few possible mines, we returned to the base.

* Sample number 02-5627-013-09;
02 = mine type. 56 = last two digits of Islamic year in reverse order, 27(unk), 013 = batch #. 09 = mine # in that batch.

The SADAF-02 had a squashed look after EOD had removed the hydrostatic arming switch (HAS) and cuts its wiring. Close examination the next day of the HAS revealed that a spring over the rubber diaphragm, vice under it, kept the mine armed on the surface. This was a violation of International Law and cost the lives of at least two Bahraini children, three UAE officials, and possibly others while examining beached mines. Later during the International Court of Justice case Iran vs United States, the State Department used my detailed TDY Trip Report as evidence supporting the fact that Iran had laid SADAF-02 and smaller SADAF-01 mines in International waters in the Persian/Arabian Gulf and even outside the Gulf off Fujairah (for additional details see PDF-documents below). The unique serial number system painted on every mine case in every minefield proved to be the Iranian calling card, since it was identical to that on the 9-mines captured on the IRAN AJR minelayer.


This is what proved to be an Iranian SADAF-02 moored contact mine spotted from the helicopter 30 miles offshore, near Buoy # 1. It, along with 4-others were found that day at the entrance to the deepwater channel to the Mina Al Ahmadi oil terminal. Green algae on the mines made it difficult to ID them among all the sea turtles. It was mating season for the turtles and they caused some false sightings. The next day a mine was recovered in 90-ft of water and towed to Kubbar Island for rendering safe and examination. I watched through binoculars from a Kuwaiti ship about 900 ft away as the gutsy EOD officer expertly did his job. Then we went ashore to examine and photograph the mine.


The helo (French Super Frelon) flight was timed to occur at low tide and a high sun. The minefield consisted of 14 mines in a narrow "V" shape with the point aimed at Buoy # 1. Since its a lighted buoy we suspected the mining was done at night, possibly from dhows. The channel there is about a 1,000 meters wide. Most of the mines spotted appeared to be at a depth of 10-ft or less. We had 7-observers (myself, several EOD and EODTECHCEN personnel), plus the crew of three, figured the more eyes you have looking the greater the chance of finding what you're looking for. Large jellyfish and sea turtles were bothersome distractions.

The SADAF-02 was copied after the Soviet-designed M-08, but a little smaller in diameter. SADAF (means oyster). The 115 kg warhead packed a wallop, one almost did in the USS Samuel B. Roberts. In retaliation, we destroyed three of their oil platforms. Iran took us to the ICJ over that. Everybody knew Iran damaged the Roberts and everybody knew we hit the oil platforms. So no judgment was made, I guess you would call it a draw.

(Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) .... Mr. David A. Kaye, Deputy Legal Counsellor, United States Embassy, The Hague, ...... When United States forces boarded Iran Ajr, they discovered nine Iranian SADAF-02 ... detail in the statement of Donald Jones, a United States Navy Mine Warfare Analyst ...-

Statement of Donald Jones, para, 14, Exhibit 37. U.S. and allied mine analysīs were able to Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America). (I.C.J. ...... widely-accepted Conventions, including the 1907 Hague Convention Relative to ..... Comparison photographs of Russian M-08 and Iranian SADAF-02 mines. ...


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Derick S. Hartshorn - 2009-present
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