Operação "Eagle Claw"

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Operação "Eagle Claw"
« em: Junho 02, 2004, 07:04:38 pm »
Para quem acha interessante a ( tentativa ) operação de resgaste dos reféns norte-americanos apresionados no Irão em 1979, aqui fica.

By thelizman

The realities of war dictate that the face of war changes. Once upon a time, armies faced each other on battlefields, formed lines, and charged each other. As technology and tactics have advanced, so has the face of warfare. In the first of two parts of this installment of what I hope will become a series of articles examining aspects of modern warfare, we will examine the Special Operations failure of Operation Eagle Claw.

Part I examines the events surrounding the organization of the mission to rescue American hostages held at the US Embassy in Tehran, Iran. Part I will contain no analysis, but is still quite long (7 typed pages). It will also provide information behind the planning, and an overview of the equipment and units chosen.

Wolves in Sheep's Clothing

November 4th, 1979
The American Embassy, Tehran Iran

The march was supposed to have continued to the west side of Tehran where a rally was to be held at the University, but students marching past the embassy stopped to stage a protest. The US had recently allowed entry into America by the recently deposed Shah of Iran for medical treatment, and this was seen as a rebuke of Iran's revolution.

Warrant Officer Joe Hall and other embassy staff were gathered around a radio. They used it to listen in on the traffic between Marine Corp security forces at the embassy. "Bulldog, the chain on the gate has been cut, three Iranians are inside". Al "Bulldog" Golancinski was head of security. The Marine guards were calm, but focused. The call went over the radio more like a statement of fact than an alert. The defense of the embassy was the duty of the Marines, but at the same time they were sensitive to the political aspects of what was now occurring. Firing on a crowd of student protestors simply wouldn't look good, and the crowd didn't appear to present an immediate danger.

But now they were flooding in. The leading body of the crowd coming through the gates was all women, and they were carrying signs that read, "Don't be afraid, we just want to set in." Sit, set, it didn't matter. They were coming in anyway. In the defense attaché office of the building, Bulldog and other embassy staff were busily destroying documents. Embassies aren't just diplomatic offices; they also act as intelligence processing stations for both political and military intelligence bodies. The only thing more important than having intelligence is keeping what you do and don't know secret.

The closed circuit monitors were now filled with scenes of the mob. They had already entered the building through the basement. Others stood on the embassy walls, and some even appeared to stand at key points throughout the compound. Then the guns came out. Suddenly, it was quite clear what had happened. Still, Rules of Engagement (ROE) prevented the Marines from using force to defend the embassy. Given that forces had already penetrated the compound, their situation was no longer defensible. The best final strategy was to continue to fall back into protected areas within the embassy.

After three hours, the decision was made to surrender peaceably. Without firing a shot, Islamic militants had taken over the compound, and had 90 hostages. 52 of them would stay the entire 444 days of the Iran Hostage Crisis. Using the cover of a student march, they had successfully approached the compound without raising an alarm, and using women as human shields they had infiltrated the embassy. Most importantly, they had maintained the appearance of disconnection with the revolutionary government of Iran. Ayatollah Khomeini could claim plausible deniability. To the world watching events on TV, militant Islamic fundamentalists, students, and common citizens were holding the Americans as hostages.

To trained observers, other factors came into play such as "students" being armed with AK-47 assault rifles. AK-47's were a commodity in those days. The Russian and Chinese governments handed them out to "progressive elements" (what the West called "Marxist-Communist Rebels") as if they were candy. For your average person in any country to even get their hands on them was difficult. Moreover, although the Kalishnakov rifles (AK's) were extremely simple to operate by design, they still required a minimum amount of training to be handled effectively. The armed `students' displayed considerable familiarity with weapons handling. Simple behaviors like keeping the muzzle pointed upward or at the ground - never at a person you didn't intend to kill - were a sign that they had been trained on using assault rifles. The tactics used to take over the embassy were smart and well coordinated. They took advantage of knowledge of the guards' ROE, and western sensibilities about shooting civilians, especially women.

America had been bloodied again. It was the latest in a decade long series of slaps and political defeats on the world stage. Economically battered, and with deep wounds from the Viet Nam war, the hostage crisis enraged Americans who felt impotent in the face of communist aggression. It also further weakened President Carter's severely tarnished public image.

Mr Kyle Goes To Washington

Colonel James H. Kyle was returning home after a late dinner out. As he was pulling into the driveway, there was a note on his garage door. "Urgent. Contact Lee Hess". Kyle didn't recognize the phone number, but Hess was an AC-130 gunship pilot he had met when flying missions out of Thailand during the Viet Nam war.

A few hours, and a few phone calls later, Kyle was saying goodbye to his wife. Peacetime life had been quiet, but she knew what the words meant. She was a good wife, and she had made many sacrifices in supporting his military career. So when Kyle told her he was going away to work on something he couldn't talk about, and couldn't tell her when he'd be back, she hid her disappointment. Kyle hung up the payphone and boarded his flight to Washington DC.

The next morning, Kyle found himself in a whirlwind of uniforms. Every service was represented in the planning room, and the lowest rank he had yet seen was a First Lieutenant. This mission was important, and everyone was determined to pull it off. For the next 172 days the rest of their world would be on hold.

Carter's Hand

Before the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the United States military had absolutely no contingency plan in place for rescuing hostages. The now legendary albeit officially disavowed "Delta Force" had just recently been formed from the cream of the crop of Special Forces units. Since Viet Nam, the country's priorities had changed, and the military was in what was most charitably describes as a "sad state of affairs". Popular public support for the military had been blown away by the tumultuous events of the late 60's and early 70's. President Carter faced historic public opinion lows. The already sour economy, gas crisis, and the public distrust of the government in the wake of Viet Nam and Watergate placed him at a disadvantage before he was even elected. That election had been by a narrow 2% margin, and Carter had failed to generate a mandate in the wake of the election. His domestic and foreign policies were unpopular, even when they accomplished their goals. Then scandals erupted. Allegations of corruption painted his cabinet, from payoffs and bribes to alleged cocaine uses by his appointees. His sister's intimate public connection to a known pornographer and his brother's marketing of a beer bearing his name tainted Carter's "born again Christian" image. Then it was discovered that the same brother had received a gift of $250,000 from Libya - a nation known to support terrorists.

The general perception of Carter in public and world opinion was that he was weak, incompetent, and impotent. It was vital that he handle the hostage situation strongly, so on November 5th Carter ordered his military commanders be able to exercise a military option to rescue the hostages in the event that diplomatic solutions failed. At the same time, Carter applied a series of trade embargoes and asset seizures against the regime of Ayatollah Khomeini. The diplomatic options were doomed to failure, and it is probable that Carter sought to exercise the military option over the diplomatic one in what is known as "wagging the dog". The resignation of his Secretary of State following the raid signaled a rift in the administration over how the diplomatic negotiations were handled. Likewise, the rescue option enjoyed tremendous support from up the chain of command. Support was given by everyone from the CIA to the manufacturers of the equipment to be used in the raid, and all four military branches participated in the operation. There was less than 172 days to develop the capability to go into a major city in a country on the other side of the planet and rescue dozens of American hostages held by a crowd of hundreds of armed militia, without loss of life to Americans or Iranians.

In Part II of this article, we will focus on the tactics, weaponry, and units used to carry out this raid.

In part two of this special report in the Modern Warfare:Special Operations series, I will cover the mission plan, the aircraft to be used, and the two primary units involved in the planned raid of the US Embassy in Tehran. As we will discuss in part IV, the mission structure itself is largely a result of the limitations of equipment than any other factor.

Reference: Modern Warfare: Special Operations, Operation Eagle Claw Part I

Planning For The Unexpected, Expecting the Unplanned

When planning a "Special Operation", no one course of action can exist independently. The infamous "plan b" must always exist for any given situation, and there should also be a plan c for every plan b.

Operation Eagle Claw called for using trucks pre-positioned in Tehran by the CIA to deliver Delta Force operators to the embassy. The D-boys would be inserted into Iran on the first night of the operation by helicopter, and they would hide overnight. On the night of the Delta force raid, MH-53 Pave Low helicopters (a refitted version of the behemoth Sikorsky Stallion helicopter, the Pave Low is used by Special Operations units) flown by Air Force and Marine Corps crews would fly in and rendezvous with a flight of MC-130 Combat Talons (again a special Air Force Special Operations version of the venerable C-130 Hercules cargo plane). The MC-130's were designated as `bladder birds' because they contained giant rubber fuel tanks that collapsed as they were emptied, and their job was to refuel the helicopters for the long flight into Tehran. Across from the Embassy was a large stadium where the helicopters could land. The stadium was a natural fortress, and could easily be defended by the heavily armed Delta Forces if need be. Landing inside the embassy walls was ruled out because the hostage takers had installed steel columns anywhere large enough to take a helicopter, and landing on the roof would have made the helicopters into very large green targets, even at night.

Ideally speaking, the rendezvous point for the helicopters and bladder birds would be at an airfield known as "Manzariyeh". Manzariyeh had been built by the Shah as a kind of viewing stand for air shows and military displays. Other than a grandstand and a few hangers, the base was largely unguarded, and of no military importance to the revolutionary guard (the Pasdaran). Since the fall of the Shah, intelligence indicated that it was abandoned. On the night of the raid, MC-130's would land on the strip, and Ranger teams would rapidly deploy on dirt bikes and dune buggy like vehicles. The Rapid Assault Team (aka "RAT Patrols") would canvass the airfield and detain or neutralize (a nice way of saying "kill") any personnel found there, and also protect the airfield from assault while the aircraft were being staged. Only after the airfield was secured would the bladder birds and helicopters land. The bladder birds would then exit the scene as the helicopters flew onto Tehran to pickup the Delta Forces and rescued hostages. They would be accompanied by AC-130 Specter Gun ships. This was yet another version of the C-130 cargo plane that was designed to be able to deliver massive gunfire in support of ground forces. Specter gun ships earned a reputation in Viet Nam for their ability to deliver devastating and highly accurate fire from high altitudes where the Specter itself was fairly safe.

After the rescue was complete, the helicopters and gun ships would return to Manzariyeh and transfer the Delta Forces, Hostages, and any detainees to an Air Force C-141 Starlifter cargo jets for flight out. The 141's were selected not only for their ability to carry large numbers of people in airliner style seating, but because they also had better medical facilities to treat injuries, and could escape much more quickly than the turbo-prop C-130s.

The Manzariyeh option was preferable, but reality dictated that the airfield might not be securable. The backup to this was the Desert I option. Taking Manzariyeh would attract a lot of attention, and a quick radio call to Tehran would spoil the raid. Ideally, the airfield assault would we completed prior to the Delta operation starting so that if something went wrong the raid could be called off and Delta would not be stranded. Colonel Kyle argued strongly for finding an obscure patch of desert to operate from. This idea was uniformly agreed to, but before Kyle could take such an option seriously, he wanted to have someone go there in person and survey the area. The desert floor must be hard enough to support a fully loaded C-130. If the planes sunk in, or were bogged down, the pilots and crew would be stranded without rescue. This operation would use nearly every MC-130 the Air Force had flying, and every operational MH-53 in the Middle East. They could not afford to lose any equipment and still pull off the mission. So, nearly a month prior to the raid a small plane slipped under Iranian radar coverage and landed at the scene. Desert I was a patch of land along a rural road that was lightly traveled. The road took a sharp 45 degree turn in the desert, and satellite photographs showed deep ruts in the desert where drivers made an off-road shortcut across the sands. Any civilians who did wander into the area would have to be detained and for security purposes they would need to be flown out and later returned by commercial airliner. Desert I was remote, and would be easier for the RAT patrols to secure. Most importantly, the site met all of the criteria for becoming a staging area for the operation.

Getting to the staging area was another matter. For political reasons, we could not use airbases in Turkey to launch the raid. The only other two bases we had access to in the region were Wadi Kena in Egypt, and Masirah in Oman. Oman was right around the corner from Iran, but was ruled out for diplomatic reasons. Wadi Kena was doable, and in the days leading up to the raid, United States Central Command (CENTCOM, the organizational structure of the military responsible for Africa, the Middle East, and parts of West Asia) started shuttling aircraft similar to those to be used in the raid through Wadi Kena. The idea was to increase the "operational footprint", so that people would be used to seeing these new aircraft types. This would keep "casual observers" from raising the red flag about a possible raid. Operational Security (OpSec) was taken very seriously for this raid. At many points, even high-level Generals and Admirals were clueless about the operations being conducted on their ships and bases. More than one base or ship commander had their ears pulled for attempting to meddle in the operation or prevent its participants from working at their facilities.

The Stage, Actors, and Props

The selection of hardware and personnel for the rescue mission had a variety of factors. At that time, the US Military had less than a handful of helicopters that could refuel in the air, and they were too high profile to move to this mission. Even if they could be moved discretely, they could only be refueled in a practical manner by other helicopters as they flew to slowly to take on fuel from conventional jet tankers. They could be refueled by KC-130 Hercules tankers (yet another variant of the C-130 Hercules), but the planes would have to fly just below stall speed as the helicopters flew at their fastest to keep up. This option was tricky; hot desert air and high altitudes drastically affect engine performance. There was even some concern that the helicopters could not make it over the higher mountains in Iran if the temperatures got too hot.

The buddy system of refueling was decided to be the best bet. Early in the mission planning, the idea was to drop the fuel bladders in by parachute, then land and have ground forces assemble them for refueling the helicopters. The first attempts at this were explosively disastrous. However, continued practice made it a viable option. Then during refinement and training in this stage, the Air Force managed to dig up an old fueling system that could allow the tankers to land and offload fuel to the helicopters. Valuable time was lost in assembling the air-dropped bladders. By offloading fuel directly from the MC-130's, the planes could taxi into formation, park, and then have the helicopters taxi up behind them. This also eliminated the risk of a bad drop spewing fuel all over the staging area, and costing them the mission.

Most of the operations would be performed under the cover of darkness, and would take advantage of the poor radar coverage of Iran's defense forces. In a tactic referred to as "weaving", the aircraft would fly between nodes of radar coverage. The aircraft would be completely blacked out, from running lights to cockpit lights so visual spotters could not track the aircraft. The pilots, RAT Patrols, and Delta Forces would all take advantage of the latest in Night Observation Goggles (NOGs). In allowing them to see in the pitch dark as if it were daylight, the NOGs give a tremendous advantage to our Special Operations Forces. Unfortunately, NOGs have a limitation. One Delta Force Operator commenting in the Mark Bowden book "Blackhawk Down" compared it to "looking at the world through green soda straws". Peripheral vision was highly restricted, and everything was in green tinted monochrome. Additionally, early NOGs were monocular, and lacked the depth perception needed by pilots to safely fly their aircraft. For 172 days, the aircrews had practiced using the NOGs. The first set of MH-53 pilots from the Navy were relieved because their slow adaptation to using the NOGs and lackluster flying tactics. Marine Corp pilots were selected to fly the insertion parts of the mission because of their more aggressive (and at times somewhat suicidal) flying techniques. Backup aircrews of Air Force pilots did the navigation and en-route flying. All of the pilots were now quite skilled in landing in pitch-black darkness using the NOGs. As an added benefit, CIA advisors brought some old technology off the shelf from the days of the Office of Strategic Service's (OSS, the predecessor to the CIA) operations with the Army Air Corps over Allied Europe: A special "black" paper would cover the landing lights and black them out. Although the lights could be switched off, the black paper allowed infrared emissions through, and that lit up the night in a way only the NOGs could see. Without the NOGs, not a sliver of light could be seen from the landing lights. In developing tactics for this mission, a whole new era of nighttime operations was born for the US Special Forces.

The particular variants of the C-130's used for this mission were of special capability as well. The standard C-130 Hercules entered service at the start of the Viet Nam war, and was considered a high performance workhorse. Today, 30-year-old airframes are still in use by all branches of the US Military, with no practical replacement in sight. Older C-130's are used in the civilian world for everything from shuttling supplies into the Antarctic to fighting fires in the desert southwest.

The MC-130 Combat Talon is equipped with a variety of special electronic guidance equipment. These include Forward Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR) and Terrain Following / Terrain Avoidance Radar Systems. Using the Electronics Warfare capability of the Combat Talon, Special Operations units can be quickly inserted behind enemy lines, or even extracted using the "Fulton Recovery System". Additionally, the large cargo area of this aircraft can be fitted to either carry special listening equipment, or to drop humanitarian supplies and propaganda. During Operation Desert Storm and in Afghanistan, MC-130's also helped locate downed flyers for rescue operations and dropped the now infamous BLU-82 "Daisy Cutter" on or near Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard and the Taliban.

The AC-130 Specter gun ship is the first mass produced gun ship. Borne out of Special Operations experience in WWII with refitted C-47 cargo planes (later designated the AC-47 Spooky), the ability to deliver massive amounts of firepower from the air in support of ground forces proved invaluable. After WWII, this capability was forgotten as defense policy slowly shifted focus away from air support of conventional large-scale warfare to multi-mach high performance jet fighters equipped with guided missiles and the nuclear standoff capability provided by ICBMs and long range bombers. The war in Viet Nam revived the need for this capability, and AC-47's were quickly taken out of storage. Captain Warren Terry of the United States Air Force helped to redevelop this capability and in spite of opposition from the Pentagon. At one point, when his funding was cut off for the gunship project, he used his personal credit cards to purchase surplus machine guns and parts. His project team pooled talent from all around the Air Force, and most of his aircrews were made up of scientists and technicians instead of combat aviators. The plane given to the program (code named Pave Aegis) was nicknamed the "Specter". The ominous name had more to do with the fact that the plane had already been in three accidents before they even got it than it did with the intended purpose. Concurrently, C-119s were being modified as gun ships, but the old slow lumbering birds (aptly nicknamed "Flying Boxcars") were only marginally effective. It was effective enough to prove the usefulness of gun ships as opposed to light attack aircraft, but not to overcome the need for a more powerful aircraft.

In 1967 the first AC-130 Specter gun ships were delivered to US forces in Viet Nam. It carried four 7.62 mm miniguns, and four rapid-fire 20 mm cannons capable of a firing rate of 2500 rounds per minute of high explosive incendiary rounds. What made the Specter more deadly than the AC-119K Stingers and AC-47's currently being used was the advanced targeting electronics, which could help home in on the heat signatures from tanks and trucks, and special night vision scopes. All of the guns were mounted on the left side of the aircraft so that it could orbit over a target and rain down a deadly shower of lead. When targets were found, twin 20,000-watt xenon lamps that could produce visible light, or invisible infrared or UV light spotlighted them. Later, a 40 mm bofor gun was added. This was originally a naval artillery gun used for smaller ships. Capable of a rate of fire of some 120 rounds of artillery shells per minute, these guns added an incredible amount of firepower to an already impressive arsenal. In six months of operation, a single gunship was responsible for destroying 822 trucks on the Ho Chi Minh trail, with an average of 7.5 trucks per sortie. The Specter gun ships also became tremendously popular with ground troops who often credited the aircrews with "saving their asses". Likewise, the Viet-Cong guerillas and North Vietnamese Army came to regard the Specter with tremendous fear.

The C-141 Starlifter was roughly the size of a Boeing 707 airliner. Its internal cargo area could house two basketball courts (the B variant now in use was lengthened and can actually house 3). It can carry up to 200 people, and can be outfitted with medical facilities, airline style seat rows, or a combination of both, and can move at 3/4th the speed of sound. The Starlifter entered service in 1965, and was the first jet aircraft designed to military standards as a troop and cargo transport. It was also the first military jet transport aircraft to be used for airdropping paratroopers. The first of the stretched "B" models were received in 1979, but were not available at the time of the raid. The Starlifter currently forms the backbone of the Air Mobility Command of the United States Military.

The US Army Rangers have a long history going back to pre-revolutionary war days. The first time an American unit received the designation "Rangers" was in 1670 when Captain Benjamin Church organized a force of men to fight frontier natives during what was known as King Phillips war. Since then, Ranger regiments have served with distinction in every American war. The modern Ranger infantry started in WWII when hero of the famed 3rd Infantry Division Maj. Gen. Lucien Truscott convinced the Chief of Staff that an elite forward commando unit was needed. The decision was made to form the 1st Ranger regiment, and thousands of Army infantry volunteered. A final force was carefully selected and newly activated regiment was sent to Scotland to train under war-hardened British commandos. The 1st Rangers were the first American units to see action when they joined the Canadian and British units in the attack on Dieppe. Their actions won them high praise from the Canadian and British units who had expected little from the Americans. Ranger units later served during the Normandy invasion where their fierce fighting became the stuff of legend. As well, Ranger units continued to distinguish themselves in all WWII theaters of operation. Later, in Korea one Ranger unit of 112 men went 9 miles into enemy territory to capture and kill the commanders of the 12th North Korean division. Their bold and swift assault caused panic among Korean soldiers and forced the retreat of 2 entire divisions of Korean regulars. Army Ranger bravery during Viet Nam caused the 75th Ranger Regiment to become the first standing Ranger Regiment in peacetime.

One of the names behind Operation Eagle Claw was Colonel Charlie Beckwith. Beckwith had been detached to the British elite Special Air Service (SAS) from 1962 to 1963. Upon returning to the US Army, he began to push for the creation of an elite force within the US Army Special Operations community. In 1977, just under 2 years prior to the events of Desert I, the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta was formed. Based on the model of the SAS, Delta's primary focus is with counter-terrorist operations, hostage rescue, and special reconnaissance missions. Delta is so secret, that the US Government still will not acknowledge their existence, even though their participation in events from Eagle Claw to Task Force Ranger in Somalia is widely known. Delta Force "operators" as they are called are trained to think independently while acting in concert. They form a special nexus within the SOF community, and are allowed to have a wider degree in latitude for everything from personal appearance to carrying out their orders. When Lt. Colonel Kyle first met the Delta operators participating in Eagle Claw at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, his first impulse was to have the unruly group of civilians arrested for being in a secure area. Deltas are the "quiet professionals" of the SpecOps community, and most of them won't even acknowledge being in the military (it helps that many of them grow their hair long and don't shave regularly, and also wear civilian clothing to work). Even regular Army and civilians living in and around Ft. Bragg North Carolina often aren't aware of Delta Force, even though they are stationed there. Operators also enjoy a greater degree of latitude in their weapons, and are allowed to employ non-general issue (non GI) weaponry from their own personally customized M-4 assault rifles to extremely expensive and highly customized versions of German made HK PSG-1 sniper rifles and MP-5SF sub machine guns.

Knowing what equipment and capability we did have is helpful, but it is just as important to recognize what capabilities we don't have. As previously alluded, the US Military in the late 70's was a gutted shell of a military machine. While we had the resources to carry out such a mission, the beating the military had taken since the end of the Viet Nam war had cost us dearly. Nobody paid a higher price than the SpecOps community who were generally disliked by regular military line units as an expensive waste of money. In the next installment of this essay, we will cover the events leading up to the incident at Desert I, the embarrassing failure of Operation Eagle Claw, and more importantly we will examine those failures in light of current capabilities.

In the final days before the raid, the decision was made to go with the Masirah starting point for Deltas assault force. The Manzariyeh airfield would still be used for extraction. Permission had not been obtained from the Sultan of Oman. Instead, US Forces would use British facilities at the Air Base. The British military provided defense for Oman on a contract basis for the Sultan. Although the British merely supplemented the Sultan of Oman's Air Force (SOAF), they controlled quite a bit of the territory on the airbase with exclusivity. US Forces regularly used Oman when doing combined operations with the British, so the appearance of the aircraft wouldn't be totally new. However, it would be in irregularity not covered in the deception operations currently taking place in Wadi Kena. It was decided that the risk of intelligence collectors raising red flags about the mission at this point was minimal. Just to make sure, the staging point was set up on a remote part of the airbase.

April 24th, 1979 Masirah

The Command of the Joint Task Force (COMJTF) was set up in a hanger that was given the codename "Red Barn". Using codenames is an important part of military operations; their nature is to hide or obscure the nature of the individual units from intelligence collectors. Therefore, the MC-130s would be codenamed "Dragons". The EC-130s were "Republics", the RH-53Ds were "Bluebeard", the carrier USS Nimitz would be "Gravel Pit", and the mission launch code would be "Foreman". At 12:20 HRS Zulu(1), the go code "Foreman" was sent out from COMJTF. At four separate staging areas around the Middle East, the participants of Operation Eagle Claw went into action.

14:05 HRS Z Oman

The EC and MC 130's were operating above their maximum load weight by about 10,000 lbs. This was referred to as Emergency Max Load, and is only used when absolutely necessary. The limited resources available to this mission made it absolutely necessary. Pilots in the bladder birds (EC-130s) would have to take the full length of the runway to get into the air.

At about the same moment Dragon I rolled down the runway with Col. Kyle aboard, all eight RH-53Ds aboard the Nimitz were brought onto the deck and prepped for flight.

14:35 HRS Z Dragon I

Intelligence had indicated that the Gulf of Oman would be clear of boat traffic. While one may not naturally think of fishing trawlers and oil tankers as being a danger to a military mission, the truth is that all major intelligence services used the cover of commercial maritime fishing and shipping vessels as naval intelligence points. This allowed them to slip up to and inside of territorial waters and perform Signal Intelligence Operations (SIGINT OPS). These boats often got a free pass because boarding a civilian boat wasn't typically a good move for international relations, especially when you sink a legitimate fishing boat.

Not surprisingly when Dragon I's co-pilot spotted about six vessels on the surface, it cause a slight bit of panic. The pilot climbed quickly to 6,000 ft to obscure the plane in the light haze and to avoid buzzing any of the ships. As a former ally of the US, Iran had C-130's of their own(3), so part of the mission would rely upon the similarity of US and Iranian assets to disguise the aircraft. All members of the JTF who would go into Iran carried nothing that could identify them other than their military id and dog tags. Name patches were stripped. Delta wore velcro patches over the US flag insignia on their shoulders. These patches would be removed once inside the embassy so the hostages would recognize that it was American forces that were rescuing them.

15:05 HRS Z Oman

Dragons II and III went into the air, to be followed quickly by Republic IV, V, and VI. Aboard the Nimitz, the RH-53Ds were also being launched. Bluebeard flight (2) would only be able to fly at about 100 - 110 knots with their current load, and would be overtaken by Dragon and Republic flights. All flights would stay low to the ground, flying between 250 and 1000 feet to avoid radar and long range visual tracking. Dragon I had taken off nearly an hour earlier in order to set up flight control operations and to secure the staging point. If anything was out of kilter, Dragon I could call the operation off without risking the rest of the JTF's men and equipment.

15:25 HRS Z Iran

Dragon I was "feet dry", meaning it had crossed over the Iranian coast. Soon, the aircraft would have to climb to 4,000 feet; most of Iran was on a plateau, and at that point 1,000 feet `off the deck' meant 4,000 feet above sea level.

Fifteen minutes later, Bluebeard flight was also feet dry. At this point, the Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN) system began to malfunction on Bluebeard 5, indicating that the helicopter was yawing to the right. Bluebeard 5 would rely upon the other helicopters for guidance.

Fifty minutes later, the remaining Dragon flight along with the Republic flight went feet dry. All of the aircraft had gone overland at a point near the town of Chah Bahar, a port city near Jaz in the Hormozgan administrative region. As each flight came overland, the temperature inside the aircraft began to climb to 100 degrees (Fahrenheit). Crewman began to strip off their flight suits to cool down, and the shipboard air conditioning systems strained to keep up.

16:30 HRS Z

Dragon I's pilot began having difficulty making out the terrain. Through the NOGs, the Zagros Mountains in the distance appeared fuzzy and undefined. Soon, visibility was down to between a mile and a half-mile. Flying at night was difficult under the best conditions. Judging distances in the dark was hard enough without adding the loss of stereo vision when using NOGs, but whatever they had flown into - and it certainly wasn't fog at 120 degree desert heat - was cutting their visibility. To maintain cover, all flights were following the terrain, which meant they had to hug the ground. At 110 knots, a half-mile of warning didn't give a pilot a whole lot of maneuvering room to avoid 2,000-foot peaks.

The pilot aboard Dragon I deployed the FLIR turret. Through the FLIR monitor everything was visible in all quadrants. Whatever they had flown into had certainly made things difficult, but it was decided that it wasn't enough of an impairment to break radio silence. Even though the Satellite Communication (SATCOM) radios they were using were encrypted, any radio traffic could tip off the Iranians or Soviet listening posts in the area. All of the other flights were equipped with FLIR equipment.

The Iranians called the phenomena Dragon I encountered "haboob". Whenever cold air from a rainstorm rushes to the ground, it pushes the fine dusty particles of the desert sand up into the air. There, the particles hang about like a fog until they either fall to the ground or are pushed even higher by updrafts. Other than obscuring vision, haboob is mostly harmless although pilots routinely avoid dust storms to save wear on their engines.

16:55 HRS Z Oman

Red Barn's "black box" operators were scouring the airwaves for SIGINT when one of the operators picked up a warning about a blacked out aircraft heading for Chah Bahar. For a moment in time, there was some concern that their cover had been blown, but both Dragon and Republic flights had long since passed that point, and were heading well away from Chah Bahar. It was decided that it was most likely a Iranian C-130 operating under blackout (a common practice for military aircraft in the Shah's Air Force). The report had also been made to the gendarmerie (the equivalent of the local sheriff) instead of the defense forces.

17:00 HRS Z Bluebeard Flight

Bluebeard 6 had a warning light come on in the cockpit. The "Blade Inspection Indicator" (BIM) indicator light required that the pilot immediately set the aircraft down. The rotor blades on the H-53s aren't solid, but are instead hollow wings. The blades are filled with nitrogen under pressure so that when a crack forms in the blade, the nitrogen loses pressure tripping a sensor. BIMs were usually a malfunction in the sensor, but procedure required that the pilot set down and inspect the rotor. If no cracks were visible, the aircraft could operate up to 15 hours, but experience told pilots they typically had less. Visible cracks immediately grounded the helicopter. The H-53 was a five bladed helicopter, but the loss of any portion of any single blade would severely unbalance the rotor, causing a crash.

On setting down, the pilot found that the BIM was real. Bluebeard 8 had circled around to provide assistance, and in fifteen minutes the entire force had transferred their equipment and all classified materials over to the other chopper. Bluebeard 6 would have to be left behind, and Bluebeard 8 was now 20 minutes behind the rest of the flight.

17:00 HRS Z Diego Garcia

Diego Garcia was a British Territory. The US and UK used Diego Garcia as a base for its fixed wing bombers in the region, giving tactical range control over most of Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. It was a long flight, so in order to have mid-air refueling the KC-135 Stratotankers would have to lift off now and rendezvous with the C-141s and C-130s in Daharan, Saudi Arabia.

At the same time, the airfield assault team was taking off from Wadi Kena in Egypt. Their flight plan called for them to head south along the Red Sea, turn west-northwest and fly straight through Saudi Arabia to Daharan for refueling, then on to Manzariyeh for the airfield assault. They would never make it to that point.

17:45 HRS Z Over Iran

Bluebeard flight was now hitting the haboob. The next 35 nautical miles was described by one Marine pilot as "the inside of a bottle of milk". After emerging on the other side, the pilots got reoriented. Radio silence was broken over the SATCOM to advise the formation to put more space between helicopters. The pilots were trained for flying blind under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), but more room still meant more safety.

Meanwhile, Dragon I was nearing the Desert I area. On a previous mission, a small team of Air Force Combat Controllers had flown in on a small prop plane to survey the area. They had also installed a special runway lighting system consisting of five highly directional lights which could only be seen well with FLIR or NOG equipment, or up close. The CIA-built landing lights were to be activated by remote, but it was an unproven system that had been sitting in the desert for over a month and running off batteries; not everyone was confident it'd work. The on signal was sent, and for a brief second the crew scanned the ground in anticipation. One of the crew spotted the lights thirty-degrees to the right. They had worked! Cheers and applause erupted aboard Dragon I.

In order to land, the FLIR turret would be deployed again. As the turret popped out, the screen lit up to show a small truck speeding down the main road. Dragon I had to pull out of its landing approach, and for a moment Col. Kyle wondered if the driver had seen the landing lights come on.

On the second approach, the pilot turned the FLIR off to drop the gear. Col Kyle suddenly realized that the nose gear door would get jammed against the FLIR turret if it were still deployed. He cursed to himself for not seeing this in the planning.

Without the FLIR, judging the distance to the ground was difficult. On approach, the pilot called for more power to slow the planes descent, but it was too late. Dragon I came in hard, and bounced a few times. In the cargo bay, Charlie Beckwith got bounced around and wound up under the RAT patrols jeep. As he crawled out, he made a joke to the effect of `any landing you could walk away from is a good landing'. Before Dragon I even came to a complete stop the cargo door was down and RAT patrol and Delta forces were already swinging into action. The Rangers, led by Wade Ishimoto, sped up the road to set up a roadblock.

Back with Bluebeard flight, Bluebeards I and II lost sight of the rest of the formation and had turned around to make a landing in the clear, and reorient themselves.

18:15 HRS Z Desert I

Desert I was picked because it was secluded and not heavily traveled. Someone probably should have informed the Iranians of that fact, because within minutes of having to abort their first landing the Rangers were facing down a bus full of forty Iranian civilians. A few warning shots didn't manage to convince the driver to slow down, but Ishimoto's 40mm grenade managed to convince him it was in his best interest to stop for the roadblock.

Col. Kyle had planned on taking a few detainees, but not civilians, and certainly not 40 of them. The decision was made for the passengers and their luggage to be loaded up and taken to Manzariyeh, where they would then be taken back to Egypt. There, they'd be put on a plane back to Iran. Letting them go wasn't an option, since any one of them would likely blow Eagle Claw's cover.

At the roadblock, the Rangers were trying to calm the detainees. Maj. Tyrone Tisdale, a fluent speaker of Farsi, began reciting poetry by Omar Khayyam, and that seemed to help as from the back one of the detainees yelled out in perfect English "It's about time you came, Yanks." Post revolutionary Iran was a mix of loyalists and revolutionaries, and many expected an American invasion to restore the Shah.

Back at the staging area, Col Kyle decided to send a message to Red Barn advising them of the detainees, when he found out that the SATCOM link to Red Barn and Gravel Pit was no longer getting good reception. The message would have to be sent by UHF, which wasn't secure.

18:30 HRS Z Desert I

It must've been rush hour, because vehicle numbers 3 and 4 were approaching the roadblock. This time it was a short fuel truck followed by a pickup. Ishimoto's team fired warning shots, and then the truck sped up. A few rounds into the engine block damaged the truck, but the driver was hell bent on ramming the Rangers. Ishimoto broke out a Light Antitank Weapon (LAW, basically a bazooka) and fired off a round. The projectile struck the ground below the truck (its not clear if Ishimoto was aiming for the truck or trying to make a crater in front of the truck) and bounced up into the fuel tank.

Back at the staging area, everyone heard the loud "WHUMP", and turned to look at the mushroom cloud. "That's a gasoline explosion," Beckwith stated as if he were commenting on the weather. Seconds later, Ishimoto came up on a dirt bike and filled them in on what happened. The driver had made it out right before his truck exploded, and escaped in the pickup trick that was following it.

There was great concern that the cover had been officially blown at this point, but Beckwith made an observation. The truck that was following was meant for the drivers escape. They were smuggling gas; American moon-shiners used the same tactic. He wasn't about to go complaining to the gendarmerie about his contraband gas getting blown to hell. But there was still the issue of an exploded fuel truck in the middle of nowhere. They decided they would have one of the Rangers ram the bus into the wreckage to make it look like an accident.

18:45 HRS Z Bluebeard I/II

After a few minutes of reckoning, they decided that they were too low on fuel to return to the Nimitz, and would have to forge on to Desert I. The TACAN transmitter at Desert I would be up soon enough, and they could follow the beacon in for a landing.

After five minutes in the air, Bluebeard II had a system failure in the secondary hydraulic lines. Although it was not the primary system, backup hydraulics are important. If the bird lost its primaries, the controls would lock up and the helo would crash. The pilot made the call to keep flying to Desert I, set the MH-53D down there, and check on the problem.

Back with Bluebeard flight, Bluebeard V was having major problems. For starters, the co-pilot was having a bad case of vertigo from using the NOGs. Another crewmember was about to take over for him, but the co-pilot was able to 'tough it out' and do his job. To add to that, the gimbal stopped working, and the backup indicator was sticking on turns. Without the gimball and its backup it would be very difficult to tell if the aircraft was flying level and straight. Bluebeard V then lost sight of the lead helicopter in the haboob.

After a few minutes, the decision was made aboard Bluebeard V to return to the Nimitz. The situation was degrading rapidly, and if it got any worse they may not make Desert I. Getting back to the coast gave them a better chance of rendezvousing with the Search and Rescue choppers stationed aboard the Nimitz.

Because radio silence was still being observed, nobody thought to radio to the lead and advise them of the situation. Bluebeard VII later circled back to look for V, but gave up on the search after ten minutes. JTF had now lost two helicopters, but that still left enough for the mission.

19:25 HRS Z Desert I

The remainder of Dragon flight and the Republic flight were landing now. The burning beacon which had been a fuel truck both helped and hindered the landing, and more than one C-130 had to retry their landing in order to avoid the flames and updrafts. The fire made the NOGs useless, and the FLIR turrets had to be retracted for the landing. As the final Republic flight was coming it, things were getting congested at the staging area. Delta troops were dragging their equipment onto the road to make room for the last C-130, and one Delta jumped on the SATCOM to warn the final C-130 about how close things were. Col Kyle watched him call out over the SATCOM in plainspoken English without encoding the message. Suddenly, he realized the stupidity and wastefulness of encoding messages that were going over a secure encrypted channel. This was another aspect missed in the preplanning, probably because the SATCOM units were added at the last minute.

As the C-130 touched down, the pilot feathered the props making the blades essentially backwards, and then went full throttle. The behemoth transport lurched to a stop with room to spare.

All engines were running on all aircraft. They were kept running at low power because if they couldn't start themselves they'd have to be abandoned. It wasn't uncommon for a perfectly good aircraft to have trouble starting, and require an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) to give them a boost.

21:00 HRS Z Desert I

Bluebeard flight started arriving, and the refueling operation started immediately. But when Bluebeard II landed, the pilot shut it down for inspection. It was discovered that a nut was cracked on the primary hydraulic booster and it was leaking fluid. Combined with the failure of the backup hydraulics, if this leak got much worse the controls would lock up and the helicopter would crash.

The JTF was down to 5 helicopters now - not enough to pull the mission off. Between the two extra crews, and the lost equipment, there weren't enough resources to pull this off. Col Kyle and Charlie Beckwith began racking their brains to figure out if the mission could go on. After a few minutes, word was sent back to Red Barn: 'Operation Scrubbed.'

The task force began hurriedly reorganizing and loading up the chopper crews on the Republic birds. Dragons I and II were sent back along with Republic IIV while Col Kyle supervised the refueling of the remaining Bluebeards from Republics IV, V, and VI. Bluebeard III began to lift off when it was surrounded by a whirlwind of dust from its own rotor wash. The rotor blade struck Republic IV's tail with a loud crash that immediately drew everyone's attention.

The entire task force stood transfixed as Bluebeard III spun around in the air and came down on the EC-130's wing. The wing broke and exploded as fuel spilled out, and the chopper flipped into its side. Secondary explosions rocked Desert I sending shrapnel flying into Bluebeards I, IV, and IIX. Republic IV had fourteen people on board, and the ones who survived the crash began scrambling out -some on fire. Several members of the task force ran to the crash to help rescue the crewmembers from the airplane, while others began running to get away from the heavily damaged Bluebeards on the ground.

All of the choppers had taken heavy damage from the explosion, and the only fully working Bluebeard was VII. The task force had to get the hell out now, and one chopper wasn't worth slowing everyone down. Col Kyle began directing everyone onto the C-130s, and in minutes the planes were speeding down the desert runway. Looking back, Kyle observed that the rotor blades on one of the Bluebeards were still turning. In the rush to get out, the crew didn't even have the luxury of turning the engines off.

Everyone's heart began to sink. The tremendous weight of mission failure was bad enough, but there were 8 fallen comrades back at the crash site. The fire made it impossible to retrieve them, but in military ethos you never leave a man behind. There were also classified documents on the remaining helicopters that were supposed to be retrieved or destroyed. A request for an airstrike was called out to Red Barn, but COMJTF turned the request down. If there were any survivors at the site that had been missed, they would be killed, and the fighters might encounter Iranian aircraft - an unacceptable escalation. The flight back to Masirah would take about 4 hours - plenty of time to rethink every minute of the mission.

02:00 HRS Z Masirah

The JTF survivors were tired, sweaty, and exhausted. Worse yet, they had failed in their mission, lost their buddies, and were forced to leave them behind. The operation was a complete and utter secret, so naturally everyone on the airbase knew about it by now. From the British side of the base, a jeep came speeding up to the Red Barn area. Two British pilots got out, unloaded a few cases of cold beer, and then drove off without saying a word. Scrawled across the top of the box were the words "From us all, to you all, for having the guts to try."

"For we shall be remembered. We few, we happy few, we brothers. For he who sheds his blood with me today, shall be my brother."
-Henry V, Shakespeare
Cpt. Harold L. Lewis Jr. USAF
Cpt. Lyn D. McIntosh USAF
Cpt. Richard L. Bakke USAF
Cpt. Charles McMillian USAF
TSgt. Joel C. Mayo USAF
SSgt. Dewey Johnson USMC
Sgt. John D. Harley USMC
Cpl. George N. Holmes USMC

In the wake of the Desert I incident, there was a veritable barrage of Congressional hearings and official inquiries. It was largely decided by the buraucrats that the incompetence of the commanders, mission planners, and personnel was the source of the failure. The fact of the matter is that politics, both contemporary and historic, doomed the mission to failure before it was even called for. The men represented the finest commanders, pilots, and SpecOps units available to the armed forces at the time. The tactics were not perfect, but they were as good as was possible given the external limitations placed on the mission planners by the President and the State Department. The failure of the mission lay not in the men and tactics, but in politics.

Public support for the military was severely eroded by the Viet Nam war and the tumult of the late 60s, and official policy followed suit. Military expenditures were cut drastically as domestic policy shifted to social spending. This lack of funding resulted in cuts of equipment and training. The Special Operations community was hardest hit, since conventional military commanders largely felt that SpecOps was a drain on their already tight budgets. In particular, the following factors contributed to the failure of Operation Eagle Claw:

Poor maintenance and condition of available equipment
Lack of available resources for a deep insertion missions

The equipment to be used was in a sad state at best. The long-range aircraft (C-130s and C-141s) were maintained well enough because they formed the core of the military transport infrastructure. There was also a sufficient number of C-130s left over from Viet Nam to allow for cannibalism. It is a common practice when parts are in short supply to take an aircraft out of service or use another unservicable aircraft for parts. Additionally, complex machines are like people; they require regular use to stay in good condition. This is quite aptly referred to as exercise. Even a standard automobile cannot sit for long before the loss of lubrication in certain areas of the engine, acidification of fluids in hydraulic and fuel systems, and corrosion begins to occur. The same is also true for aircraft.

In particular, the helicopters (which turned out to be a major source of operational failure) sat stowed on the USS Nimitz for months without being used. At one point, aircrews on the Nimitz actually cannibalized the MH-53Ds that would form Bluebeard flight to keep their RH-53C minesweeping aircraft running. Also, MH-53Ds are not Naval aircraft, and lack certain modifications to make them resistant to corrosion in the harsh ocean environment.

A final insult to the mission helicopters is that just prior to their launch a training accident resulted in the helicopters being doused with fire retardant foam. This foam, while useful for suppressing fires, is hardly friendly to electronic systems. While this likely had a negligible impact on the helicopters, it is exemplary of the overall disrespect for equipment that formed the lynchpin of the operation.

While the assault forces were training with the very C-130s and C-141s to be used in the actual raid, the helicopters to be used in the raid were stowed aboard the carrier Nimitz. Since the mission didn't initially include a launch from a land base at Masirah, the USS Nimitz would be used to launch the helos, and it would not be practical to ferry the helos from training bases in southern Arizona to a carrier in the Indian Ocean for this mission. However, it would have been possible and even prudent to transport the training helicopters to Diego Garcia by C-141, offload and assemble them (transport required the removal of the rotors and part of the gearbox to fit the helicopters aboard the C-141s), and then fly them to a rendezvous point with the Nimitz while it was en-route to its launch point outside the Straits of Hormuz. The advantage to this would be that any maintenance issues that were likely to crop up during the flight into Iran (the cracked rotor blades, malfunctioning hydraulics, and broken instrumentation) would have more likely occurred during the stresses of training - and been repaired. In fact, a "Blade Inspection Method" light occurred on one of the training missions.

A more practical solution would be to use the right tools for the right job. During the mission planning, Col Kyle noted that H-53's existed with an in-flight refueling capacity. However, there were a limited number of these MH-53E Sea Dragons available, and it was felt that their movement would be too high profile. It wouldn't be until two years later that Special Operations would get their very own MH-53J Pave Low III helos with improved engines and in flight refueling capability. However, the capability did exist at the time, and it should have been taken advantage of. With the in flight capability, the helicopters could take on fuel from KC-130 Hercules tanker planes and made a direct flight into Iran eliminating the need for Desert I.

Although it ultimately had no bearing on the scrubbing of the mission, the need to use a Desert I staging point at all was the greatest hindrance to the mission. Had the CH-53E with in-flight refueling capability been employed, the choppers could have flown straight to Tehran from Turkey, and back. This would have eliminated the need for Wadi Kena, Masirah, Desert I, the tankers from Diego Garcia, and the Manzariyeh airfield assault. If Desert I could have been eliminated, the dangerous conditions necessitated by the buddy refueling system would have not existed.

In spite of the haboob and delays caused by helo malfunctions, had Bluebeard V not had mechanical trouble, and had the collision not occurred, the remainder of the mission could have still been accomplished.

One of the biggest criticisms of the Desert I aspect was that in the rush to evacuate the scene, the damaged (and unreliable up to this point) helicopters were left behind with all classified materials aboard. Col Kyle had requested an air strike to destroy the remaining helicopters, but the lack of intelligence on the state of the Iranian air force made Maj General Vaught question the possibility of an altercation between US and Iranian fighters. There was also concern back at Red Barn that some JTF members may have been left behind.

At this point, one can reasonably claim that a Command and Control (C2) failure had occurred. The on-scene commander is responsible for his men, and if Kyle was calling in an air strike, you can safely assume anyone left behind is beyond dead already. More importantly, this kind of operation should not have been conducted without Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) in place. At the time, the E-3 AWACS was available, and could have operated from Daharan to provide full air radar coverage of Iran. If any Iranian aircraft were in the air, they would also present a hazard to the retreating task force on the C-130s and the JTF commander already has a responsibility to use fighter aircraft from the Nimitz to cover their retreat. The decision to not deploy AWACS was a matter of maintaining a low operational footprint. That and the decision to not risk an entanglement with Iranian aircraft was a political decision - not a military one.

Ultimately, the mission planners did the best they could with what they had. Even without rescuing the hostages, those responsible for the mission (including the legendary Charlie Beckwith and James Kyle) would have gone down in history as having pulled of the most spectacular SpecOps mission since the Son Tay raid if it were not for the deaths of the 8 airman and the loss of 8 aircraft. Here is why:

In training and developing this mission, the Joint Task Force (JTF) developed a whole new set of skills for Night Time special operations flying using FLIR, NOGs, and blacked out aircraft that utilized non-visible lighting for illumination.
In less than 172 days, the JTF had created from thin air the capability to fly thousands of miles into hostile enemy territory to stage a hostage rescue in the middle of a major city.
All aspects of this mission were kept a complete secret even from extremely high ranking military officials and almost all of the support personnel who were not directly involved in the actual mission itself. This level of security is rare enough with established operating units, but for an ad-hoc unit it represents the ultimate in integrity.
The JTF commanders had managed to pool talent from all four branches of the US Military and avoid the inter-service rivalries that typically plagued joint service operations. Air Force Combat Controllers, Marine Corps Pilots, Army Ranger and Delta forces, and Navy aircrews all cooperated in this mission.
The buddy refueling system - necessitated by the unavailability of the E model helicopters - was a completely original refueling method developed for the first time for Operation Eagle Claw.

In the time since Operation Eagle Claw, the military has recognized the importance of proactively developing advanced capabilities. All transport helicopters in the Army, Navy, and Air Force have a version with long range in flight refueling capability. Pilots routinely train in the use of night time and low level flying tactics, and in the 1980's the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) was created to fill this role.

The emphasis on forward operable aircraft has also increased. The Marine Corps took delivery of the first AV-8B Harrier in 1981. This aircraft could have played a crucial support role in providing air defense for the operations (a task left to the AC-130s in a role they were not designed to fill). Additionally, the V-22 Osprey which had been on the drawing board in one way or another since the early 70's began to receive serious backing. Had the MV-22 or an aircraft of similar capability been available to the military in 1979, they would have greatly simplified operations by eliminating the refueling tankers and extra transport aircraft. The MV-22 can carry 20 passengers, land like a helicopter, but fly four times faster than the H-53 helicopters.

One of the most significant realizations was that inter-service rivalry and resentment of the SpecOps community - or lack thereof - can make or break a mission. In 1997, the Nunn-Cohen Amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization Act established the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), which receives its own funding and is able to lease resources from all four branches of the military as needed. That removed the infighting and political aspects that had previously hindered the Special Operations Community.

Ultimately, the lesson learned (or perhaps not always learned) from Operation Eagle Claw is that when you decide on a military option, you must abandon the political option and fully support your decision, or both are doomed to failure. In the wake of the failed crisis, the hostages were separated and spread about Iran. It would be nearly another year before the hostages would be released peacefully.
Ricardo Nunes



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