Osprey's Operation Eagle Claw 1980


Justin Williamson


Osprey Publishing


$22.00 MSRP


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 80 pages, 7 x 9 inches, softcover

Osprey's Raid series has been one of their more interesting offerings. This is one that has particular interest to me as all the air assets of the mission staged through Diego Garcia when I was posted there and I had the chance to see these aircraft at that time. Here is a photo I took of the three MC-130s.

Eagle Claw was one of those operations that was pretty much a learning experience for all involved. Delta Force, which was the main assault unit, had only recently been formed and had never participated in an operation before. The planning was fairly well done, but totally failed to take into considerations warnings from the experts regarding the weather conditions that could prevail in the Iranian desert, a mistake that eventually led to the failure of the mission.

Add to it the original need for such tight operational security, that those units that had experience of somewhat similar operations during Vietnam were totally left out of the loop. An example of this was the use of USN RH-53D helicopters. These are mine sweeping helos and the Navy pilots had zero experience with low level combat insertion and extraction techniques. So the head of Delta Force used Marines to pilot these helos. Unfortunately, the RH-53D and the USMCs RH-53A/E helicopters are similar but not exactly the same. USAF combat SAR pilots and planes would have been the logical choice but were not used.

A number of other factors, including the intransience of operational leadership regarding absolute radio silence during the mission, led to errors that cost the lives of some of those participating in the operation, loss of aircraft, and the hurried evacuation of the landing site left intact helicopters as well as top secret operational information and codes that were obtained by the Iranians. However, one good thing came from this and that was that lessons were learned and future operations of this type were a lot more successful.

The author has really done a fine job telling this story. His research goes a long way to helping to provide a fairly detailed account of the build up to the operation, the operation itself, and the aftermath. This is a great read and one that you should have in your library.

January 2020

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