The Hostage Rescue Mission (1980)

Operation Eagle Claw

A - M

The background to the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-1981 is in a separate "Iran Hostage Crisis" file.

Barnard, Richard. "Bad Luck behind Chopper Failures Prior to Iran Rescue Mission, but Did They Listen?" Defense Week, 28 Jul. 1980, 6-7.

Beckwith, Charlie A. [COL/USA (Ret.)], and Donald Knox. Delta Force: The Army's Elite Counterterrorist Unit. New York: Harcourt, 1983. Delta Force. New York: Dell, 1984. [pb] With an Epilogue by C.A. Mobley. Delta Force: The Army's Elite Counterterrorist Unit. New York: Avon, 2000. [pb]

Beckwith was "founder and first commanding officer of Delta Force." The book's "Prologue" covers the White House briefing prior to the launch of Eagle Claw.

Benson, Joseph T. [MAJ/USAF] "Weather and the Wreckage at Desert-One." Chronicles Online Journal, 21 Feb. 2007. []

The author suggests "SOF weathermen should have been used in a forward observing role during EAGLE CLAW.... Inserted via helicopter 24 hours or more prior to launching the rescue mission, four two-man SOF weather teams would have been able to provide current weather conditions while determining the diurnal (i.e, over a 24-hour period) weather trends, facilitating mission planning and execution.... Long before the first helicopters lifted off the Nimitz or the lead C-130 departed Masirah, someone should have made the call for SOF weathermen."

Bowden, Mark. "The Desert One Debacle." The Atlantic (May 2006), at:

Burt, Richard. "Many Questions, Few Answers on Iran Missions." New York Times, 11 May 1980, E3.

Cogan, Charles G. "Desert One and Its Disorders." Journal of Military History 67, no. 1 (Jan. 2003): 201-216.

From abstract: Desert One "was not only an organizational failure, due to a splintering of the U.S. armed forces, but a failure of political will and political appreciation. The U.S. ... reacted tentatively [to the hostage situation] and with a certain propitiation. When ... a hostage rescue operation was finally mounted, it was so conceived that the U.S. could call it off at any step along the way. Desert One turned out to be the defining moment that led to a sea-change in American military policy in the 1980s: the spread of the principle of joint operations for the U.S. armed forces (Goldwater-Nichols Act), and the companion Cohen-Nunn Act consolidating Special Forces under a U.S. Special Operations Command."

Copley, Gregory. "Strategic Prices of the U.S. Iranian Raid." Defense and Foreign Affairs 8, no. 5 (1980): 48.

Domanski, Walter. "The Raid that Failed." Combat Illustrated 5 (Oct. 1980): 4-9 ff.

Felton, John.  "Eight Americans Killed: Congress Rallies Behind Carter after Abortive Rescue Mission." Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report 38 (26 Apr. 1980): 1067-1068.

Fialka, John J. "Copter Faults Plagued Iran Raid Training." Current News,15 Aug. 1980, 1ff.

Fink, D. E. "Rescue Helicopters Drawn from Fleet." Aviation Week & Space Technology 112 (5 May 1980): 24-25.

Gregory, William H. "Burn Before Reading." Aviation Weekly & Space Technology 113 (1 Sep. 1980): 37.

Editorial on the Hollowell report.

Griffiths, David R. "Report Reviews Iran Rescue Mission Flaws."  Aviation Week & Space Technology 113 (1 Sep. 1980): 44-46.

On Holloway Report.

Guidry, Roland D. [COL/USAF (Ret.)] "Eagle Claw Also known as 'Desert One'... A Successful Failed Mission." Air Commando Journal 1, no. 3 (Spring 2012): 18-26. []

"[F]ew may realize how degraded Air Force special operations was when the embassy [in Tehran] fell, and how much progress was made in developing tactics, procedures, and hardware" between November 1979 and January 1981

Harwood, Richard. "Series of Mishaps Defeated Rescue in Iran." Washington Post, 2 May 1980, A1.

Hayward, Karen, comp. Iranian Hostage Rescue Mission: Operation Eagleclaw. Maxwell AFB, AL: Air University, Aug. 2001. []

A bibliography covering books, documents, and periodicals.

Kamps, Charles Tustin. "Operation Eagle Claw: The Iran Hostage Rescue Mission (English Version)." Air & Space Power Journal en Español 18, no. 3 (2006), at:

"The brave men who attempted to rescue American hostages in Iran in April of 1980 unfortunately became a disastrous reminder of the need for unity of command, joint training, and good communications, and the dangers of overly complex and needlessly compartmented planning. The failure of their mission, Operation Eagle Claw, would be a prime motivator in the subsequent formation of US Special Operations Command."

Koehl, Stuart L., and Stephen P. Glick. "Why the Rescue Failed." American Spectator 13 (Jul 1980): 23-25.

Koskinas, Gianni [MAJ/USAF] "Desert One and Air Force Special Operations Command: A 25-Year Retrospective." Air & Space Power Journal 19, no. 1 (Spring 2005). []

"After the Vietnam War, the Air Force's special operations forces (AFSOF) had deteriorated so much that they could not respond to a situation in Iran.... We see significant differences in AFSOF units before and after Desert One. Veterans of that mission argue that before 1980, almost no one considered SOF missions integrated joint operations. After the rescue attempt, air commandos developed the modern notion of a joint SOF unit focused on counterterrorism.... The Desert One model has served the SOF community well for the past two decades, but 9/11 should change AFSOC [Air Force Special Operations Command] from a platform-based, single-model force to a capabilities-based force."

Kyle, James H. [COL/USA], and John Robert Eidson. The Guts to Try: The Untold Story of the Iran Hostage Rescue Mission by the On-Scene Desert Commander. New York: Crown, 1990.

According to Surveillant 1.2, Kyle was "responsible for the April 1980 ... Iran rescue mission and was commander at Desert-1, the refueling site 65 miles south of Tehran where a fiery collision put a tragic end to the mission. A good behind-the-scene account of a clandestine military mission." Crear, AIJ 18.1&2, notes that Kyle "provides an excellent explanation of the aviation and weather problems" in the Iran hostage rescue mission.

Lenahan, Rod. Crippled Eagle: A Historical Perspective of U.S. Special Operations, 1976-1996. Charleston, SC: Narwhal Press, 1998.

Despite its subtitle, Crear, AIJ 18.1&2, finds that this work "is overwhelmingly an account of the preparations for, conduct of and aftermath of the 1980 effort to rescue the American hostages in Tehran." The author "has used his personal knowledge of the operation in all its complexities and aspects plus a great quantity of material that has been declassified in recent years to write a riveting account."

Levin, Bob, et al. "A Grim Pentagon Critique."  Newsweek, 1 Sep. 1980, 20-21.

On Holloway Report.

Lytle, Stewart. "Pentagon Finds Major Errors in Iran Rescue Bid." Current News, 3 Jun. 1980. 12-F. [Hayward]

Martin, David C.  "New Light on the Rescue Mission."  Newsweek, 30 Jun. 1980, 18-20.

Middleton, Drew. "Failed Rescue Attempt Raises Doubt about U.S. Maintenance and Planning." New York Times, 26 Apr. 1980, 9.

Myers, Lisa. "Gaps Seen in Training for Rescue Attempt." Current News, 19 May 1980, 5-6.

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