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Richard G. Trefry Archives Exhibits

American Public University System’s Richard G. Trefry Archives contain documents and items that represent the history, development, and progress of the institution as its recorded memory.

Operation Eagle Claw - Rescue Mission Report

Rescue Mission Report

Rescue Mission Report

Report of the Joint Chiefs of Staff looking at the causes of the failure of the mission to rescue the American hostages during the Iranian Hostage Crisis in April 1980.

It was called Operation Eagle Claw, and it was meant to put an end to the Iranian Hostage crisis. The plan was to fly in special force troops deep into Iranian territory and then drive the soldiers into Tehran to secure the hostages enabling their return.  

However, things went wrong nearly from the start of the operation. Sandstorms damaged some of the helicopters on their approach to Desert One, the designated staging area in the Yazd Province of Iran. A rogue smuggling fuel tanker was also blown up when it refused to stop, and a local bus was stopped and detained adding to the stress and chaos of the day. 

With the mission behind schedule and under-equipped thanks to the loss of a few of the helicopters, President Jimmy Carter aborted the mission. As one of the remaining helicopters hovered to await refueling, the pilot became disoriented in the kicked up sand of the rotor wash and flew into a grounded plane supporting the mission. The resulting crash and fire claimed the lives of eight servicemen.  

This failed rescue attempt proved to be one of the defining moments of the Carter administration, and would be a factor in him losing his reelection bid later that fall. The Trefry Archives is making available the report conducted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff that explores what led to the failures of Operation Eagle Claw. (INCLUDE LINK TO REPORT) Referred to as the Holloway Report, after ADM J. L. Holloway III, Chairman of the Special Operations Review Group, the Rescue Mission Report offers an important look at a piece of 20th Century American Military History.