8th SOS hosts Operation Eagle Claw memorial ceremony

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Victor Caputo
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Team Hurlburt gathered together to remember Operation Eagle Claw at a memorial ceremony June 23, and pay tribute to the five Air Commandos assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron and three Marines who lost their lives during the mission.

The ceremony was hosted by the 8th SOS Blackbirds and highlighted that even though the operation itself failed, the lessons learned from it laid the foundation of all future U.S. special forces operations.

“From the ashes of that daring attempt in the Iranian desert arose United States Special Operations Command, giving our nation’s elite warriors a professional home of their own,” said Maj. Gen. Mike Plehn, vice commander of Air Force Special Operations Command. “What we learned from that mission is that brave Americans will try, and can do, almost anything, but if we don’t give them adequate organization, training, and equipment, they will continue to forge ahead and give it their all, but their all might not be enough.”

On April 24, 1980, a joint-services mission was launched to rescue American hostages held by Iranian revolutionaries. The operation used eight RH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters and six C-130 aircraft, but mechanical problems and severe weather caused a mounting series of issues that led to time delays and eventually mission cancelation.

Forces on the ground at Desert One, the austere forward operating point in Iran the mission was to launch from, began preparing the C-130s for refueling, but one of the RH-53s crashed into a parked C-130, setting both aircraft on fire and killing five Airmen and three Marines.

“I would tell you that all of those who participated in that daring mission deserve our unwavering gratitude, for they changed the way American special operations forces are organized, trained, equipped, and conducted,” said Plehn. “They established our joint [special operations forces] culture, they professionalized the way we execute our business at its most fundamental level.”

Many veterans of Operation Eagle Claw attended the ceremony and were recognized by a crowd of Air Commandos and family members. The event began with a flyover of an MC-130H Combat Talon II and culminated with a flyover of four CV-22 Osprey in a modified missing-man formation after the playing of Taps.

“Those Airmen who perished in the desert in Iran were from the 8th SOS, and they were out there having the guts to try and protect American freedoms,” said Maj. Michael Rendos, the operations officer for the 8th SOS. “To be able to pay a homage to those Airmen who have set the stage for today’s Air Commandos is truly humbling.”