Posts Tagged ‘Tehran’

iranhostageresucue01

Operation Eagle Claw Memorial

I remember the fall of 1979.  I was a senior in high school.  And it was an eventful time.  Some of the events seemed more significant at the time than they would be in the long run, such as when the Pittsburgh Pirates  defeated the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.  It was before the Washington Nationals existed.  So the Orioles were as close to a local team as we had. 

Other events from that time became ingrained in my memory because of how they affected me on a personal level, such as when several fans of The Who were killed at a concert at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio.  A combination of “festival” (unassigned) seating and too few entrances being opened resulted in eleven kids being trampled to death when the crowd surged forward trying to enter the concert.  Those kids were all approximately my age, and I remember thinking that it could have been me.

Still other events were even more significant in nature and would have rippling effects on history.  One of those events would come to be known as the “Iran hostage crisis.”  It started on November 4th, 40 years ago today, when hundreds of Iranian Islamic fundamentalists who supported the Iranian Revolution under the Ayatollah Khomeini, mostly students, took over the United States Embassy in Tehran and took 66 Americans hostage, demanding that the U.S. send the former Shah of Iran back to stand trial.  or days nothing was known of the hostages’ condition until their captors finally released all female and black hostages. Later, one other man was released for medical reasons, leaving 53 Americans captives.

By spring of the following year the situation had reached a standstill.  All diplomatic attempts to secure their release had failed.  So President Jimmy Carter authorized a secret joint-services military operation on April 25, 1980, to rescue the hostages.  The plan, known as Operation Eagle Claw (Operation Tabas in Iran), called for a rendezvous of helicopters and cargo planes at a remote desert site in Iran, known as Desert One, before attempting the actually rescue of the hostages. However, the mission was aborted when two of the aircraft collided.  The ensuing explosion and fire claimed the lives of eight American service personnel.  They included three Marines:  Sergeant John D. Harvey, Corporal George N. Holmes Jr., Staff Sergeant Dewey Johnson; and five Air Force personnel:  Major Richard L. Bakke, Major Harold L. Lewis Jr., Technical Sergeant Joel C. Mayo, Captain Lyn D. McIntosh, and Captain Charles T. McMillan.  Their bodies could not be recovered before the surviving aircraft had to abandon the desert staging area. Shortly thereafter the eight bodies were returned to the United States. 

The failed rescue operation resulted in some rather undesirable consequences. Firstly, the hostages were scattered across Iran, to make another rescue mission impossible. Also, the US government received heavy criticism from governments around the world for making such blunders in a very critical situation. As a matter of fact, experts and President Carter himself believe that the failure of Operation Eagle Claw was a major reason he lost the presidential election to Ronald Reagan.

Only 20 minutes before Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President on January 20, 1981, Iran finally released the hostages.  They were held for 444 days, making it the longest hostage crisis in recorded history.  

On this lunchtime bike ride I visited a monument dedicated to the memory of the gallant servicemen, who died in the valiant effort to rescue the American hostages.  It is located in Arlington National Cemetery, near the Memorial Amphitheater.  The monument consists of a white stone marker that bears a bronze plaque listing the names and ranks of the three Marines and the five airmen killed in Operation Eagle Claw.

NOTE:  Although it was a failed mission and its widespread failure would be a moment of profound humiliation for the United States, the operation has since become known as the “most successful failed mission in history.”  Many tactics and procedures were first used and developed by the military personnel of Operation Eagle Claw, including blacked out landings, landing on unprepared runways, multi-aircraft air field seizure, clandestine insertion of small helicopters and many other procedures, some of which are still classified to this day.

Iran Freedom March

While I was sitting in my office working this morning I received a message from our security personnel advising all employees to use caution if exiting the building around 1:00pm because many of the streets in the Downtown area would be shut down by the police for a large group of people.  However, the message simply urged caution.  It contained no specific information or explanation of what was going to be happening.  So naturally I was curious enough to schedule today’s lunchtime bike ride for the same time so I could go out and see first hand what was going on.

It turned out to be the Iran Freedom March, an annual protest in which Iranian-Americans march down Pennsylvania Avenue, from 10th Street to Freedom Plaza, where members and supporters of the Organization of Iranian American Communities gather for speeches and to draw attention to their call for a regime change in Tehran and ask the U.S.  They then finish by marching the last couple of blocks to The White House, where they call on the U.S.  government to label Iran’s military and intelligence agency as terror organizations.  The group seeks an uprising in Iran and regime change to establish a democratic, secular and non-nuclear nation.

Among other speakers, Maryan Rajavi, president-elect of the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran, addressed the marchers.  In prepared remarks, she noted that the rally was held on International Women’s Day and congratulated women fighting for equality under a “misogynist regime.” She stated, “On this day, Iran and Iranians take pride in the women of Iran who have risen up and waged one of the greatest resistances of the modern era.  They have given tens of thousands of martyrs, prisoners and torture victims, and for four decades have been active on all the fields of battle.”  Rajavi then called on the U.S. State Department to designate Iran’s military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the Ministry of Intelligence as foreign terrorist organizations, asserting “Doing so would be a positive message to the Iranian people, and a decisive message against the clerical regime.”

It wasn’t the way I planned to spend my lunchtime today.  But those plans can wait until next week.  I’m glad I was able to observe the march, and learn more about their cause.

 

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]