April 25, 1980 – 30th Anniversary of Desert One, Hostage Rescue Attempt in Iran Fails by Gregory Hilton

It was 30 years ago today that eight U.S. servicemen died at the Desert One site south of Tehran, Iran. Their bodies had to be left behind, and at the time it was described as the worst humiliation the U.S. had ever suffered.
The military had begun planning a rescue just days after 3,000 Iranian students overran the American Embassy on November 4, 1979, and took the staff hostage. Round after round of secret negotiations with the Iranians fell apart. The Islamic Republic preferred to use the hostage issue as an embarrassment for the administration of President Jimmy Carter. The 53 hostages would eventually be held for 444 days.
The plan was to drop 132 Delta Force soldiers on a spot in the Iranian desert. Lift them by helicopter to hiding spots sprinkled around the capital city of Tehran. They would then storm the American Embassy and rescue the 53 hostages and fly everyone to safety.
This was the first time Delta Force, the elite Army counterterrorism unit, would be used. The mission fell apart because of a sandstorm at the Desert One site. The end result was the loss of 8 service members, 7 helicopters, a C-130 aircraft, and they had not even made contact with the enemy. The mission was a complete disaster.
Secretary of State Cyrus Vance immediately resigned in protest. The failure of this mission, Operation Eagle Claw, would be a prime motivator in the subsequent formation of the US Special Operations Command.
In the post Vietnam era, the U.S. military had suffered a decade of neglect. In the summer of 1980 the Republican Party would adopt the Peace Through Strength Resolution which outlined the historic strategic and conventional moderization program which would be enacted in the next decade.
Ronald Reagan campaigned on a Peace Through Strength pledge and was elected in November of that year. Military pay, equipment, combat readiness and moral improved significantly, and in his memoirs, Jimmy Carter admitted his decision to reduce the Pentagon budget was wrong.

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