The Hostage Rescue Mission in 1980

Operation Eagle Claw

N - Z

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

Pelham, Ann, and John Felton. "Attempting the Rescue of Hostages: Why the American Operation Failed." Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report 38 (3 May 1980): 1162-1163.

Rhee, Will. "Comparing U.S. Operations Kingpin (1970) and Eagle Claw (1980)." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 6, no. 4 (Winter 1993): 489-506.

"Kingpin" was the operational name for the raid on Son Tay; "Eagle Claw" was the operational name for the Iranian hostage rescue mission. This article engages in too much handwringing over what was done wrong without always supporting that something was wrong other than by identifying it as such.

Rivers, Gayle, and James Hudson. The Tehran Contract. New York: Doubleday, 1981. [Wilcox]

Ryan, Paul B. The Iranian Rescue Mission: Why It Failed. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1985.

From publisher: "Offers a detailed account of the failed attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran in 1980, and explains what tactical lessons were learned from the failure."

Salinger, Pierre. America Held Hostage: The Secret Negotiations. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981.

Salinger covers all aspects of the Iranian hostage crisis, including intelligence aspects and the rescue mission.

Schemmer, Benjamin F., and John T. Carney, Jr. [COL/USAF (Ret.)] No Room for Error: The Covert Operations of America's Special Tactics Units from Iran to Afghanistan. New York: Ballantine, 2002. [pb] Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 2003.

According to Gatlin, Proceedings 129.1 (Jan. 2003), the authors trace the development of the Air Force's Special Tactics Unit from its beginning in 1977 to "its integral role in Afghanistan.... The accounts of ... activities in Grenada, Panama, and Somalia often are riveting.... Regrettably,... [t]here is no formal description of how Special Tactics operators do their jobs, how they are selected and trained, or ... why [they] are, or should be, used in some operations while in others Delta Force, Ranger, SEAL, or other special forces operators call in their own air strikes."

Peake, Studies 47.1 (2003), notes that co-author Carney helped create the Air Force's "Special Tactics Units" and was involved in both the Desert One hostage rescue mission and the assault on Grenada. The book provides "an interesting, though subjective, firsthand account of a mode of warfare that has had a crucial impact on military order of battle." For Fontenot, Parameters 34.3, this is "a well-told story focused on colorful and interesting people who do very dangerous and meaningful work." It "is a compelling story that drives home the difficulty of special operations and the special qualities of those who commit themselves to that kind of service."

Scott, Alexander. "The Lessons of the Iranian Raid for American Military Policy." Armed Forces Journal International. 117 (Jun. 1980): 26ff.

Southworth, Samuel A., ed. Great Raids in History: From Drake to Desert One. New York: Sarpedon Publishers, 1997.

Eggenberger, History 26.2, finds that "[o]n the whole,... the stories are well done and make for interesting reading." Included in the 19 raids discussed are Lawrence of Arabia, Otto Skorzeny, the Canadians at Dieppe, the Chindits in Burma, and the U.S. hostage-rescue raids on Son Tay and in Iran. Additionally, in a concluding chapter on the future of such raids, the Israeli raid at Entebbe is "well discussed."

Turner, Stansfield. Terrorism and Democracy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.

Charters, I&NS 9.3, sees this book as a "combination of insider memoir, policy critique, and policy prescription." However, it is "not a comprehensive attempt to explore the fundamental issues arising from the challenge of political terrorism." Of the book's 28 chapters, 17 are devoted to the Iran hostage crisis. "The portrait of the president is hardly flattering: an indecisive man given to procrastination.... The chapters covering the Reagan era, nine in all, are by far the weaker components of the book.... Scholars of intelligence and terrorism ... will find no new insights in this book."

Rosenfeld, WPNWE, 10-16 Jun. 1991, sees Turner's work differently, calling it "a tersely written, personally unsparing and otherwise exceptionally valuable study of how the United States has handled and should handle incidents of international terrorism."

U.S. Department of Defense. Rescue Mission Report [the Holloway Report]. Washington, DC: GPO, 23 Aug. 1980. [Unclassified version available at:]

Includes statement by Admiral J. L. Holloway, III, USN (Ret.), Chairman, Special Operations Review Group.

Vandenbroucke, Lucien S. Perilous Options: Special Operations as an Instrument of U.S. Foreign Policy. New York: Oxford University, 1993. E8404V36

Cohen, FA 73.2 (Mar.-Apr. 1994), calls this a "commendable study of ... the Bay of Pigs, the Son Tay raid, the Mayaguez rescue and the Desert One fiasco.... Readers ... may set aside the didactic concluding chapter and content themselves with four well-researched cases."

According to Immerman, AHR 100.1, "Vandenbroucke identifies common explanations for the outcomes [of his four cases]. These include faulty intelligence, poor interagency and interservice cooperation and coordination, a decision-making system plagued by flawed advice and wishful thinking, and micromanagement by both civilian and military leaders far removed from the theater of operations.... This is a suggestive study, but asking broader questions would have made it more compelling."

Hilsman, PSQ 109.4, refers to the author's "calm gathering of the facts" and "convincing analysis." The author "shows that only one of the four principal special operations in the last thirty years was justified." The "book contains only a few minor errors." For example, it was the Soviets, not Castro, who took the initiative in placing Soviet missiles in Cuba. "More serious is the author's overall conclusion that ... the United States should put more emphasis on espionage.... But the fact is that ... espionage has been successful only in ferreting out technical and scientific secrets and almost never plans for offensives and the like."

Wilton, Terry L. [LTCDR/USN (Ret.)] "My View of Operation Eagleclaw." Naval Intelligence Professionals Quarterly 23, no. 4 (Sep. 2007): 26-27.

The author was the intelligence officer for an EA-6B Prowler squadron deployed aboard the USS Nimitz.

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