In today’s post, I’m doing something different. I will first share what the government told everyone and then I will share from someone who is intimately involved in the event. This will become apparent by the end of the post.
On November 4, 1979, a mob of about 3,000 Iranian militants, many of which were students, stormed the US Embassy in the Iranian capital of Tehran. The few guards were overwhelmed and the militants took 66 members of the embassy and military personnel as hostages.
Prior to the storming of the US Embassy, the Shah of Iran had been deposed and sought treatment for his cancer in the US. The militants demanded that the Shah be returned to Iran where they planned on holding a mock trial for the world to see and then execute him. In exchange, they would release all of the hostages. The US refused to give up the Shah.
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President Jimmy Carter’s administration tried to negotiate the release of the hostages via diplomatic means, but those attempts failed.
In early April 1980, a plan was devised to send in a military team via helicopter to surprise the Iranians and free the hostages.
On this day, April 24, 1980, eight helicopters loaded with the military strike team left on their mission, flying low across the desert. It wasn’t long before 3 of the helicopters developed mechanical problems, causing the retrieval mission to be canceled. On the return back to base, one of the helicopters collided with a transport plane resulting in the deaths of 8 military personnel and injury of five more.
No further rescue missions were attempted by the Carter administration.
In November 1980, Ronald Reagan won the presidential election. On the day Reagan was sworn into office, January 20, 1981, the US government released $8 billion of previously frozen assets, belonging to Iran and the American hostages were released after 444 days in captivity.
That’s a brief synopsis of the official account.
Growing up, my family was very close to another family. We spent lots of time together and we even vacationed together at times. This family had three sons, the oldest was about the same age as my oldest brother, the second brother was half way between my second brother and me in age and the youngest son was about my age.
I’ve sworn to keep names out of this but for the purpose of this post, I’ll refer to the middle son as David just to help you keep track.
After high school, David joined the military and ended up in Special Forces. Most of the time, his family and us had no idea where he was serving because of the nature of his missions. I had the opportunity to speak with David and his younger brother several months after the hostages had been released.
David was bitter and extremely angry with President Jimmy Carter and his administration for how they handled the entire ordeal. David and his Special Forces group had been put on alert as soon as news of hostages was known. His unit was taken to a secure location in the Middle East where they were to be ready at a moment’s notice to go rescue the American hostages. They received daily Intel letting them know where the hostages were as they were moved from the embassy to various hotels in Tehran.
When news came down about the proposed helicopter rescue, everyone in David’s unit and those around them all believed it to be a stupid plan that had little to no chance of succeeding. The helicopters used were not equipped for that kind of a trip, lying low over the desert for that many miles. His superiors all advised against the attempt as they had better plans with a much greater chance of success than Carter’s plan, but the orders to execute their rescue plan were never given.
The general consensus among David’s unit was that the deaths of the 8 military personnel, whom he knew, was the result of a doomed mission that was only done to appease the American public who were complaining that Carter wasn’t doing enough to free the American hostages. The men killed were senselessly sacrificed just so Carter could claim he tried.
Of the 444 days the Americans were held hostage, David and his unit spent 440 days ready to rescue the hostages. No one in his unit could understand why Carter never gave the approval for them to go and do their job. They believed that Carter was nothing more than a liberal coward who failed the hostages, the rest of the US military and the American people.
The incident left David so bitter that he resigned from the military and ended up joining the police department in a major US city. However, after two years on the police department, he re-joined the military and his Special Forces unit saying it was safer than being a cop in that city, largely because he is white and the majority of the city was black.
You can choose which account of the Iran hostage rescue you want to believe, but knowing David as I do and how upset he was, I believe him over what the government and media told us. Don’t forget, Jimmy Carter is also the President that gave our control of the Panama Canal to Panama’s military dictator and all around bad guy, Manuel Noriega.
Sources for the above includes: Jimmy Carter and the Iranian Hostage Crisis; Iran Hostage Crisis; Six things you didn’t know about the Iran hostage crisis; Hostage rescue mission ends in disaster; The Iranian Hostage Crisis;