33 years ago today the US undertook Operation Eagle Claw - a failed military mission to rescue 52 diplomats and embassy staff taken hostage in Iran.
The operation encountered many obstacles and was eventually aborted. About 90 Delta Force commandoes, eight helicopters and six aircraft landed in the Iranian desert on the first staging area, Desert One, but only five helicopters arrived in operational condition. One encountered hydraulic problems, another got caught in a cloud of very fine sand, and the last one showed signs of a cracked rotor blade.
During planning it was decided that the mission would be aborted if fewer than six helicopters remained, despite only four being absolutely necessary. The commanders asked President Carter for permission to abort. In a move that is still discussed in military circles, Carter granted the request.
As the US force prepared to leave, one of the helicopters crashed into a transport aircraft which contained both servicemen and jet fuel. The resulting fire destroyed both aircraft and killed eight servicemen.
A US airman's burned body amidst the wreakage of one of the destroyed aircraft at Desert One.
The hostage crisis lasted for another year after "divine intervention", as some Iranians say, stopped Eagle Claw.
Al Jazeera Alireza Ronaghi reports from Tehran:
Hostages being paraded in front of the cameras at the US Embassy in Tehran.
Operation Eagle Claw was one of Delta Force's first missions. Out of lessons learned from this failure, the mighty US Special Operations Command rose phoenix-like from the ashes, to carry out the remarkable military achievements of the subsequent three decades.
The eight who perished at Desert One did not die in vain. Honor them.
- STORMBRINGER SENDS