Operation Eagle Claw : What Went Wrong

Decent Essays

SSG Jeremy G. Michael
SFC Maradol

Iran took 52 Americans hostage on November 4, 1979. The resulting failed rescue attempt, Operation Eagle Claw, was an international embarrassment for the United States. No single event or decision resulted in the mission’s failure; instead, the failure resulted from a chain of poor decisions. This single operation highlighted the need for a dedicated special operations aviation unit dedicated to the rescue of American citizens and their repatriation. This paper discusses the global situation and some of the poor decisions that were made throughout the entirety of the mission from planning through the crash at Desert One. The …show more content…

Due to the sensitivity of the mission, the Department of Defense chose to bypass already established Joint Task Forces (JTF) that existed. Instead, an ad-hoc JTF was created specifically for Operation Eagle Claw. The newly created JTF encountered problems defining areas of responsibility and areas of focus. The JTF included three branches of the military in the operation the Navy, Army, and Air Force. The operation rehearsed for five months prior to its execution. The JTF never conducted a rehearsal during the five months. All elements conducted individual rehearsals only joining on the night of execution. Problems that were encountered on the night of Operation Eagle Claw were never identified prior which ultimately contributed to the failure of the mission. Due to OPSEC considerations, the rotary-wing aircraft chosen for Operation Eagle Claw was the RH-53. The RH-53, chosen solely because it looked “correct” on a United States Navy ship. The decision to choose the RH-53 significantly contributed to the mission failure at the desert-landing zone known as Desert One. The RH-53 was a poor choice for several reasons. First, the pilots chosen to fly the mission were United States Air Force pilots who were unfamiliar with the aircraft and its characteristics. Second, the RH-53 historically had a poor Operational Readiness (OR) rate as it suffered from significant maintenance issues making it unreliable. Third, the RH-53 had no inflight refueling

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