Operation Eagle Claw

Operation Eagle Claw

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Operation Eagle Claw (or Operation Evening Light or Operation Rice Bowl) was an American military
United States armed forces
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States. They consist of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.The United States has a strong tradition of civilian control of the military...

 operation
Military operation
Military operation is the coordinated military actions of a state in response to a developing situation. These actions are designed as a military plan to resolve the situation in the state's favor. Operations may be of combat or non-combat types, and are referred to by a code name for the purpose...

 ordered by President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office...

 to attempt to put an end to the Iran hostage crisis
Iran hostage crisis
The Iran hostage crisis was a diplomatic crisis between Iran and the United States where 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981, after a group of Islamist students and militants took over the American Embassy in Tehran in support of the Iranian...

 by rescuing 52 Americans held captive at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran
Tehran
Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

, Iran on 24 April 1980. The humiliating public debacle that ensued damaged American prestige worldwide and is believed by many, including Carter himself, to have played a major role in his defeat in the 1980 presidential election.

The plan called for a minimum of six helicopters; eight were sent in. Two helicopters could not navigate through a very fine sand cloud (a haboob
Haboob
A haboob is a type of intense duststorm carried on an atmospheric gravity current. Haboobs are regularly observed in arid regions throughout the world. They have been observed in the Sahara desert , as well as across the Arabian Peninsula, throughout Kuwait, and in the most arid regions of Iraq...

) which forced one helicopter to crash land and the other to return to the aircraft carrier . Six helicopters reached the initial rendezvous point, Desert One, but one of them had damaged its hydraulic systems. The spares were on one of the two helicopters that had aborted. From the early planning stages, it had been determined that if fewer than six operational helicopters were available, then the mission would be automatically aborted, even though only four were absolutely necessary for the operation. In a move still debated, the commanders on the scene requested to abort the mission; Carter gave his approval.

As the U.S. force prepared to leave Iran, one of the helicopters crashed into a C-130 Hercules
C-130 Hercules
The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed and built originally by Lockheed, now Lockheed Martin. Capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings, the C-130 was originally designed as a troop, medical evacuation, and cargo transport...

 transport aircraft containing fuel and a group of servicemen. The resulting fire destroyed the two aircraft involved and resulted in the remaining helicopters being left behind and the deaths of eight American servicemen. Operation Eagle Claw was one of the first missions conducted by Delta Force
Delta Force
1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta is one of the United States' secretive Tier One counter-terrorism and Special Mission Units. Commonly known as Delta Force, Delta, or The Unit, it was formed under the designation 1st SFOD-D, and is officially referred to by the Department of Defense...

.

Planning and preparation


The operation was designed as a complex two-night mission. The first stage of the mission involved delivering a U.S. Army Delta Force rescue team to a small staging site inside Iran, near Tabas
Tabas
Tabas is a city in and capital of Tabas County, Yazd Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 30,681, in 7,962 families.Tabas is located in central Iran, 950 kilometers southeast of Tehran, in Yazd Province. Formerly it was part of the Khorasan province. It is a desert city with...

 in Yazd Province
Yazd Province
Yazd Province is one of the 31 provinces of Iran. It is in the centre of the country, and its administrative center is the city of Yazd.The province has an area of 131,575 km², and according to the most recent divisions of the country, is divided into eleven counties: Maybod, Mehreez, Taft,...

 (formerly in the south of the Khorasan province). The site, named Desert One, was to be used as a temporary airstrip for the three USAF special operations MC-130E Combat Talon I penetration/transport aircraft and three EC-130E Hercules, each of the latter equipped with a pair of collapsible fuel bladders containing 6,000 U.S. gallons of jet fuel. Desert One would then become a staging base for eight Navy RH-53D Sea Stallion
CH-53 Sea Stallion
The CH-53 Sea Stallion is the most common name for the Sikorsky S-65 family of heavy-lift transport helicopters. Originally developed for use by the United States Marine Corps, it is also in service with Germany, Iran, Israel, and Mexico...

 minesweeper helicopters. The RH-53s, flown by US Marine Corps personnel off the aircraft carrier in the nearby Indian Ocean, would then transport the rescue team to Tehran. These operations were covered by Carrier Air Wing 8 (CVW-8)
Carrier Air Wing Eight
Carrier Air Wing Eight , is a United States Navy aircraft carrier air wing based at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia. The air wing is attached to the aircraft carrier USS George H.W...

 aboard Nimitz and CVW-14
Carrier Air Wing Fourteen
Carrier Air Wing Fourteen , is a United States Navy aircraft carrier air wing based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California. The air wing is attached to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.-Mission:...

 aboard the . For this operation, the aircraft bore special black-red-black identification stripes on their right wings.

After flying in under radar and landing at Desert One, the C-130s would off-load men and equipment and refuel the arriving helicopters, which would, in turn, undertake the rescue operation. The helicopters would fly the ground troops to the Desert Two "hide site" near Tehran the same night, where the helicopters would be concealed. The next night, the rescue force would be transported in trucks to the embassy by CIA
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 agents, overpower the guards, and escort the hostages across Roosevelt Boulevard (the main road in front of the embassy) to Shahid Shiroudi Stadium
Shahid Shiroudi Stadium
The Shahid Shiroudi Stadium is a sports stadium in Tehran, Iran, currently used only for Athletic competitions. Until 2009 it was used mostly for football matches....

, where the helicopters would retrieve the entire contingent. The Joint Task Force commander was U.S. Army Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 James B. Vaught, while the fixed-wing and overall air mission commander was Colonel James H. Kyle, the helicopter commander Marine Lieutenant Colonel Edward R. Seiffert, and Delta Force commander Col. Charlie Beckwith.

The Tehran CIA Special Activities Division
Special Activities Division
The Special Activities Division is a division in the United States Central Intelligence Agency's National Clandestine Service responsible for covert operations known as "special activities"...

 paramilitary team, led by retired Special Forces officer Richard J. Meadows
Richard J. Meadows
Major Richard J. Meadows was a U.S. Army Special Forces officer who saw combat in U.S. wars from Korea to the Iran Hostage Rescue mission in 1980. He was a pivotal player in the creation of the modern U.S. Army Special Forces....

, had two assignments: to obtain information about the hostages and the embassy grounds, and to transport the rescuers from Desert Two to the embassy grounds in pre-staged vehicles. In reality, the most important information came from an embassy cook who was released by the Iranians. He was discovered on a flight from Tehran at the last minute by another CIA officer, and confirmed that the hostages were centrally located in the embassy compound – this was a key piece of information long sought by the planners.
The assault on the embassy was to occur after eliminating electrical power in the area to disrupt any military response by the Iranians. AC-130 gunships
Lockheed AC-130
The Lockheed AC-130 gunship is a heavily-armed ground-attack aircraft variant of the C-130 Hercules transport plane. The basic airframe is manufactured by Lockheed, while Boeing is responsible for the conversion into a gunship and for aircraft support...

 were to orbit overhead to provide supporting fire. The helicopters were to transport the rescuers and hostages from Shahid Shiroudi Stadium to Manzariyeh Air Base outside of Tehran
Tehran
Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

 (34°58′58"N 50°48′20"E). There a Ranger force
75th Ranger Regiment (United States)
The 75th Ranger Regiment , also known as Rangers, is a Special Operations light infantry unit of the United States Army. The Regiment is headquartered in Fort Benning, Georgia with battalions in Fort Benning, Hunter Army Airfield and Joint Base Lewis-McChord...

 would seize the airfield to permit C-141 transports
C-141 Starlifter
The Lockheed C-141 Starlifter was a military strategic airlifter in service with the Air Mobility Command of the United States Air Force...

 to land in advance of the rescue to transport the contingent from Iran under the protection of fighter planes.

On 1 April, three weeks before the operation, a USAF combat control team officer, Major John T. Carney Jr., was flown in a Twin Otter
De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter
The DHC-6 Twin Otter is a Canadian 19-passenger STOL utility aircraft developed by de Havilland Canada and currently produced by Viking Air. The aircraft's fixed tricycle undercarriage, STOL abilities and high rate of climb have made it a successful cargo, regional passenger airliner and MEDEVAC...

 to the Desert One site by two CIA officers for a clandestine survey of an airstrip. Despite their casual approach to the mission, he successfully surveyed the airstrip, installed remotely operated infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

 lights and a strobe to outline a landing pattern for pilots, and took soil samples to determine the load-bearing properties of the desert surface. At that time, the floor was hard-packed sand, but in the intervening three weeks, an ankle-deep layer of powdery sand was deposited by sandstorms.

Execution of the mission



Only the delivery of the rescue force, equipment and fuel by the MC-130E Combat Talons (call sign
Call sign
In broadcasting and radio communications, a call sign is a unique designation for a transmitting station. In North America they are used as names for broadcasting stations...

s Dragon 1 to 3) and EC-130Es (Republic 4 to 6), all flown by Combat Talon crews, went according to plan. The special operations transports took off from their staging base at Masirah Island
Masirah Island
Masirah is an island off the East coast of Oman, 95 km long north-south, between 12 and 14 km wide, with an area of about 649 km², and a population estimated at 12,000 in 12 villages mainly in the north of the island...

 near Oman
Oman
Oman , officially called the Sultanate of Oman , is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the...

 and were refueled in-flight by KC-135 tankers
KC-135 Stratotanker
The Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker is an aerial refueling military aircraft. It and the Boeing 707 airliner were developed from the Boeing 367-80 prototype. The KC-135 was the US Air Force's first jet-powered refueling tanker and replaced the KC-97 Stratotanker...

 just off the coast of Iran.

Dragon 1 landed at 22:45 local time after the hidden lights were activated. The landing was made under blacked-out conditions using the same improvised infrared landing light system as that installed by Carney on the airstrip, visible only through night vision goggles
Night vision goggles
A night vision device is an optical instrument that allows images to be produced in levels of light approaching total darkness. They are most often used by the military and law enforcement agencies, but are available to civilian users...

. The heavily loaded Dragon 1 required four passes to determine that there were no obstructions on the airstrip and that it could squeeze into its small confines. The landing resulted in substantial wing damage to the Talon that later required it be rebuilt "from the ground up", but no one was hurt and the Talon remained flyable. Dragon 1 off-loaded Kyle, a USAF combat control team (CCT) led by Carney, Beckwith and part of his 120 Delta operators, 12 Rangers of a roadblock team, and 15 Iranian and American Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

-speakers, most of whom would act as truck drivers. The CCT immediately established a parallel landing zone north of the dirt road and set out TACAN beacons
Tactical Air Navigation
A tactical air navigation system, commonly referred to by the acronym TACAN, is a navigation system used by military aircraft. It provides the user with bearing and distance to a ground or ship-borne station. It is a more accurate version of the VOR/DME system that provides bearing and range...

 to guide the helicopters. The second and third MC-130s landed and discharged the remainder of the Delta Force operators, after which Dragon 1 and 2 took off at 23:15 to make room for the EC-130s and the eight RH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters (Bluebeard 1 to 8).

Bluebeard 6 was grounded and abandoned in the desert when its Marine pilots interpreted a sensor indication as a cracked rotor blade. Its crew was picked up by Bluebeard 8. Then, the remaining helicopters ran into an unexpected weather phenomenon known as a haboob
Haboob
A haboob is a type of intense duststorm carried on an atmospheric gravity current. Haboobs are regularly observed in arid regions throughout the world. They have been observed in the Sahara desert , as well as across the Arabian Peninsula, throughout Kuwait, and in the most arid regions of Iraq...

 (fine particles of sand suspended to a milky consistency in the air following dissipation of a thunderstorm). Bluebeard 5 flew into the haboob, but abandoned the mission and returned to the Nimitz when erratic flight control instrumentation made navigating without visual reference points impossible, just 25 minutes from clear air. The scattered formation reached Desert One, 50 to 90 minutes behind schedule. Bluebeard 2 arrived at Desert One with a malfunctioning second-stage hydraulics system (which powers the number-one automatic flight control system and a portion of the primary flight controls) leaving one hydraulics system to control the aircraft. (Bluebeards 2 and 8, which were later abandoned, now serve with the Iranian Navy.)

Soon after the first crews landed and began securing Desert One, a tanker truck apparently smuggling fuel was blown up nearby by a shoulder-fired rocket
M72 LAW
The M72 LAW is a portable one-shot 66 mm unguided anti-tank weapon, designed in the United States by Paul V. Choate, Charles B. Weeks, and Frank A. Spinale et al...

 as it tried to escape the site. The passenger in the tanker truck was killed, but the truck's driver managed to escape in an accompanying pickup truck; when the tanker truck was evaluated to be engaged in clandestine smuggling, the driver was not considered to pose a security threat to the mission. The resulting fire illuminated the nighttime landscape for many miles around, and actually provided a visual guide to Desert One for the disoriented and dehydrated incoming helicopter crews. A civilian Iranian bus with a driver and 43 passengers traveling on the same road, which served as the runway for the aircraft, was forced to halt at approximately the same time and detained aboard Republic 3.
With only five Sea Stallions remaining to transport the men and equipment to Desert Two, which Beckwith considered was the abort threshold for the mission, the various commanders reached a stalemate. Helicopter commander Seiffert refused to use Bluebeard 2 on the mission, while Beckwith refused to reduce the size of his rescue force. Beckwith failed to incorporate intelligence from a Canadian diplomatic source into a "bump plan"; additionally, he anticipated losing additional helicopters at later stages, especially as they were notorious for failing on cold starts and they were to be shut down for almost 24 hours at Desert Two. Kyle recommended to Vaught that the mission be aborted. The recommendation was passed on by satellite radio up to the President. After two and a half hours on the ground, the abort order was received.

Debacle


Fuel consumption calculations showed that the extra 90 minutes idling on the ground had made fuel critical for one of the EC-130s. When it became clear that only six helicopters would arrive at Desert One, Kyle had authorized the EC-130s to transfer 1,000 U.S. gallons from the bladders to their own main fuel tanks, but Republic 4 had already expended all of its bladder fuel refueling three of the helicopters and had none to transfer. To make it to the tanker refueling track without running out of fuel, it had to leave immediately, and was already loaded with part of the Delta force. In addition, RH-53 Bluebeard 4 needed additional fuel, requiring it be moved to the opposite side of the road.

To accomplish both actions, Sea Stallion Bluebeard 3 had to be moved from directly behind the EC-130. The helicopter could not be moved by ground taxi, and had to be moved by "air taxi" (flying a short distance at low speed and altitude). An Air Force CCT marshaller attempted to direct the maneuver from in front of the helicopter, but was blasted by desert sand churned up by the rotor. As the marshaller attempted to back away, the pilot of Bluebeard 3 perceived he was drifting backward (engulfed in a dust cloud, the pilot only had the CCT marshaller as a point of reference) and thus attempted to "correct" this situation by applying forward stick in order to maintain the same distance from the rearward moving marshaller. The RH-53 struck the vertical stabilizer
Vertical stabilizer
The vertical stabilizers, vertical stabilisers, or fins, of aircraft, missiles or bombs are typically found on the aft end of the fuselage or body, and are intended to reduce aerodynamic side slip. It is analogical to a skeg on boats and ships.On aircraft, vertical stabilizers generally point upwards...

 of the EC-130 with its main rotor and crashed into the wing root
Wing root
The wing root is the part of the wing on a fixed-wing aircraft that is closest to the fuselage. On a simple monoplane configuration, this is usually easy to identify...

 of the EC-130.
In the ensuing explosion and fire, eight servicemen died: five USAF
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 aircrew in the C-130, and three USMC
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 aircrew aboard the RH-53, with only the helicopter pilot and co-pilot (both badly burned) surviving. During the following frantic evacuation by the C-130s, the helicopter crews attempted to retrieve their classified mission documents and destroy the helicopters, but Colonel Beckwith ordered them to get on the C-130s or be left behind. The helicopter crews boarded the C-130s. Five RH-53 helicopters were left behind mostly intact, some damaged by shrapnel. The Iranians gained at least four of them.

The C-130s carried the remaining forces back to the intermediate airfield at Masirah Island, where two C-141 medical evacuation aircraft from the Night Two staging base at Wadi Abu Shihat, Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 (referred to as Wadi Kena by the US Forces due to its location near Qena) 26.555058°N 33.132877°W picked up the injured personnel, helicopter crews, Rangers and Delta Force
Delta Force
1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta is one of the United States' secretive Tier One counter-terrorism and Special Mission Units. Commonly known as Delta Force, Delta, or The Unit, it was formed under the designation 1st SFOD-D, and is officially referred to by the Department of Defense...

 members, and returned to Wadi Kena. The injured were then transported to Ramstein Air Base
Ramstein Air Base
Ramstein Air Base is a United States Air Force base in the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz. It serves as headquarters for the United States Air Forces in Europe and is also a North Atlantic Treaty Organization installation...

, Germany. The Tehran CIA team left Iran, unaware that their presence had been compromised.

Aftermath


The White House announced the failed rescue operation at 1:00AM the following day. The embassy hostages were subsequently scattered across Iran to make a second rescue attempt impossible. Iranian Army investigators found nine bodies, eight Americans and one Iranian civilian (which Iran used to criticize the White House's announcement that "there were no Iranian casualties" ). 44 Iranian civilians were interviewed and gave eyewitness accounts of the operation.

The failure of the various services to work together cohesively eventually forced the establishment of a new multi-service organization several years later. The United States Special Operations Command
United States Special Operations Command
The United States Special Operations Command is the Unified Combatant Command charged with overseeing the various Special Operations Commands of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps of the United States Armed Forces. The command is part of the Department of Defense...

 (USSOCOM) became operational on 16 April 1987. Each service now has its own Special Operations Forces under the overall control of USSOCOM. For example, the Army has its own Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), which controls the Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF). The Air Force special ops units
1st Special Operations Wing
The 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida is one of two United States Air Force active duty Special Operations wings and falls under the Air Force Special Operations Command ....

 that supplied the MC-130 elements of the rescue attempt were awarded the AF Outstanding Unit Award for both that year and the next, had the initial squadron of nine HH-53 Pave Low
MH-53 Pave Low
The Sikorsky MH-53 Pave Low series is a long-range combat search and rescue helicopter for the United States Air Force. The series was upgraded from the HH-53B/C, variants of the Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion. The HH-53 "Super Jolly Green Giant" was initially developed to replace the HH-3 "Jolly...

 helicopters transferred from Military Airlift Command
Military Airlift Command
The Military Airlift Command is an inactive United States Air Force Major Command of the USAF which was headquartered at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. It was constituted on 1 January 1966 and active until the end of the Cold War, when the Air Force table of organization was revised...

 to its jurisdiction for long-range low-level night flying operations, and became co-hosts at its home base of Hurlburt Field
Hurlburt Field
Hurlburt Field is a U.S. Air Force installation located in Okaloosa County, Florida, immediately west of the Town of Mary Esther. It is part of the greater Eglin Air Force Base reservation, and is home to Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command , the 1st Special Operations Wing , the...

 with the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).

The lack of well-trained Army helicopter pilots who were capable of the low-level night flying needed for modern special forces missions prompted the creation of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR)
160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne)
The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment is a special operations unit of the United States Army that provides helicopter aviation support for general purpose forces and Special Operations Forces. Its missions have included attack, assault, and reconnaissance, and are usually conducted at...

 (Night Stalkers). In addition to the creation of the 160th SOAR, the DOD now trains many helicopter pilots of the USAF,USN,USMC and USA in lowlevel penetration, in-flight refueling and use of Night-vision goggles. H-47,H-53,H-60 and V-22 aircraft all include special operations capabilities and in-flight refueling.

Planning for a second rescue mission attempt was authorized under the name Project Honey Badger shortly after the first failed. Plans and exercises were conducted, but the manpower and aircraft requirements grew to involve nearly a battalion of troops, more than fifty helicopters, and such contingencies as transporting a 12-ton bulldozer to rapidly clear a blocked runway. Even though numerous rehearsal exercises were successful, the failure of the helicopters during the first attempt resulted in development of a subsequent concept involving only fixed-wing STOL
STOL
STOL is an acronym for short take-off and landing, a term used to describe aircraft with very short runway requirements.-Definitions:There is no one accepted definition of STOL and many different definitions have been used by different authorities and nations at various times and for a myriad of...

 aircraft capable of flying from the United States to Iran using aerial refueling, then recovering aboard an aircraft carrier for medical treatment of wounded.

The concept, called Operation Credible Sport
Operation Credible Sport
Operation Credible Sport was a joint project of the United States military in the second half of 1980 to prepare for a second rescue attempt of the hostages held in Iran using a Lockheed C-130 Hercules airlifter modified with rocket engines...

, was developed, but never implemented. It called for a modified Hercules, the YMC-130H, outfitted with rocket thrusters fore and aft to allow an extremely short landing and take-off in Amjadieh Stadium. Three aircraft were modified under a rushed secret program. The first fully modified aircraft crashed during a demonstration at Duke Field
Duke Field
Duke Field , also known as Eglin AFB Auxiliary Field #3, is a military airport located three miles south of the central business district of Crestview, in Okaloosa County, Florida, United States-Units:...

 at Eglin Air Force Base
Eglin Air Force Base
Eglin Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located approximately 3 miles southwest of Valparaiso, Florida in Okaloosa County....

 on 29 October 1980, when its landing braking rockets were fired too soon. The misfire caused a hard touchdown that tore off the starboard wing and started a fire. All on board survived without injury. The impending change of administration in the White House forced the abandonment of this project.

Despite the failure of Credible Sport, the Honey Badger exercises continued until after the 1980 U.S. presidential election, when they became moot. Even so, numerous special operations techniques and applications were developed which became part of the emerging Special Operations Command repertoire.

President Carter continued to attempt to secure the release of the hostages before the end of his presidency. Despite extensive last-minute negotiations, he did not succeed. On 20 January 1981, minutes after Carter's term in office ended, the 52 U.S. captives held at the U.S. embassy in Iran were released, ending the 444-day Iran hostage crisis.

Retired Chief of Naval Operations
Chief of Naval Operations
The Chief of Naval Operations is a statutory office held by a four-star admiral in the United States Navy, and is the most senior uniformed officer assigned to serve in the Department of the Navy. The office is a military adviser and deputy to the Secretary of the Navy...

 Admiral
Admiral
Admiral is the rank, or part of the name of the ranks, of the highest naval officers. It is usually considered a full admiral and above vice admiral and below admiral of the fleet . It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM"...

 James L. Holloway III
James L. Holloway III
James Lemuel Holloway III is a retired United States Navy admiral and naval aviator who was highly decorated for his actions during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. After the Vietnam War, he was posted to The Pentagon, where he established the Navy's Nuclear Powered Carrier...

 led the official investigation in 1980 into the causes of the failure of the operation on behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Holloway Report primarily cited deficiencies in mission planning, command and control, and inter-service operability, and provided a catalyst to reorganize the Department of Defense, and the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986.

A memorial honoring the eight Americans who lost their lives during the rescue attempt is located in the Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, is a military cemetery in the United States of America, established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, formerly the estate of the family of Confederate general Robert E. Lee's wife Mary Anna Lee, a great...

.

Iranian response


Some hardline Iranians claimed that United States' failure on this mission was a form of divine intervention. They especially note the similarity of this incident to the story of Abraha
Abraha
Abraha also known as Abraha al-Ashram or Abraha b...

 in attacking the Kaaba
Kaaba
The Kaaba is a cuboid-shaped building in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and is the most sacred site in Islam. The Qur'an states that the Kaaba was constructed by Abraham, or Ibraheem, in Arabic, and his son Ishmael, or Ismaeel, as said in Arabic, after he had settled in Arabia. The building has a mosque...

 in the Year of the Elephant
Year of the Elephant
The Year of the Elephant is the name in Islamic history for the year approximately equating to 570 AD. According to Islamic tradition, it was in this year that Muhammad was born...

. This event is referred to in Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

, sura
Sura
A sura is a division of the Qur'an, often referred to as a chapter. The term chapter is sometimes avoided, as the suras are of unequal length; the shortest sura has only three ayat while the longest contains 286 ayat...

 105, Al-Fil, and is discussed in its related tafsir
Tafsir
Tafseer is the Arabic word for exegesis or commentary, usually of the Qur'an. Ta'wīl is a subset of tafsir and refers to esoteric or mystical interpretation. An author of tafsir is a mufassir .- Etymology :...

. Many Iranian writers and journalists also compared the two events.

United States Air Force

  • 1st Special Operations Wing
    1st Special Operations Wing
    The 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida is one of two United States Air Force active duty Special Operations wings and falls under the Air Force Special Operations Command ....

    : 1st
    1st Special Operations Squadron
    The 1st Special Operations Squadron is part of the 353d Special Operations Group at Kadena Air Base, Japan. It operates MC-130 Combat Talon II aircraft providing special operations capability...

     (MC-130), 8th
    8th Special Operations Squadron
    The 8th Special Operations Squadron is part of the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida. It operates CV-22 Osprey in support of special operations.-Mission:...

     (MC-130), and 16th Special Operations Squadron
    16th Special Operations Squadron
    The 16th Special Operations Squadron is part of the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon AFB , New Mexico. It operates AC-130H Spectre aircraft in support of special operations.- Mission :...

    s (AC-130)
  • SF-121 Personnel involved (1 per aircraft)are still classified.
  • RED HORSE
    Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers
    United States Air Force Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers units are the Service's equivalent of the USMC Combat Engineers and Navy Seabees....

     units, and numerous support organizations
  • 1st Combat Communications Squadron
    1st Combat Communications Squadron
    The United States Air Forces in Europe's 1st Combat Communications Squadron is a unit located at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. It is part of the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing.-Decorations:...


United States Army

  • 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (“Delta Force”), including Col.
    Colonel
    Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

     Charlie Beckwith, Maj.
    Major
    Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

     Peter Schoomaker
    Peter Schoomaker
    Peter Jan Schoomaker is a retired four-star general of the United States Army and served as the 35th Chief of Staff of the United States Army from August 1, 2003 to April 10, 2007. Schoomaker's appointment as Chief of Staff was unique in that he was recalled and came out from retirement to assume...

    , Maj. William G. Boykin
    William G. Boykin
    Lieutenant General William G. Boykin was the United States Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. He has played a role in almost every recent major American military operation, serving in Grenada, Somalia, and Iraq. He is currently an author and teaches at Hampden-Sydney College,...

    , and MSG Eric L. Haney
    Eric L. Haney
    Eric L. Haney is a retired member of the United States Army counterterrorist unit, the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta , more commonly known as Delta Force. In recent years he has been writing on terrorism, guerrilla warfare, and special operations...

  • 75th Ranger Regiment
    United States Army Rangers
    United States Army Rangers are elite members of the United States Army. Rangers have served in recognized U.S. Army Ranger units or have graduated from the U.S. Army's Ranger School...

  • United States Army Special Forces
    United States Army Special Forces
    The United States Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets because of their distinctive service headgear, are a special operations force tasked with six primary missions: unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, hostage rescue, and...


United States Navy and Marine Corps

with Carrier Air Wing 8
Carrier Air Wing Eight
Carrier Air Wing Eight , is a United States Navy aircraft carrier air wing based at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia. The air wing is attached to the aircraft carrier USS George H.W...

 and escorts (USS California (CGN-36)
USS California (CGN-36)
USS California , the lead ship of the California-class of nuclear-powered guided missile cruisers, was the seventh warship of the United States Navy to be named for the State of California....

, USS South Carolina (CGN-37)
USS South Carolina (CGN-37)
USS South Carolina was the second ship of the California-class of nuclear powered guided missile cruisers in the United States Navy....

, USS Texas (CGN-39)
USS Texas (CGN-39)
USS Texas was the second Virginia-class nuclear guided missile cruiser. She was the third ship of the United States Navy to be named in honor of Texas.-Construction:...

 and USS Reeves (CG-24)) and escorts, with Carrier Air Wing 14
Carrier Air Wing Fourteen
Carrier Air Wing Fourteen , is a United States Navy aircraft carrier air wing based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California. The air wing is attached to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.-Mission:...

, Amphibious Support.
  • Marine Aviation Weapons Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1)
  • Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 16 (HM-16) aboard Nimitz

External links

  • "The Desert One Debacle" – The Atlantic, May 2006
  • Modern Warfare: Special Operations, Operation Eagle Claw – The first part of a series of articles on Kuro5hin
    Kuro5hin
    Kuro5hin is a collaborative discussion website. Articles are created and submitted by Kuro5hin's users and submitted to queue for evaluation. Site members can vote for or against publishing an article and, once the article has reached a certain number of votes, it is then published to the site...

  • Pictorial overview
  • Airman magazine – Interviews with surviving participants link is broken
  • The Holloway Report – The official DoD
    United States Department of Defense
    The United States Department of Defense is the U.S...

    investigation into the incident