"To you all, from us all, for having the guts to try"--30 years later
By Senior Airman Ryan Whitney , 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 29, 2010
HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Men and women from across Team Hurlburt, both past and present, gathered at the Hurlburt Field Airpark to honor and remember the 30th anniversary of Operation Eagle Claw in a ceremony April 29.
Operation Eagle Claw, conducted April 24, 1980, was a complex mission to rescue 52 U.S. citizens held hostage in the U.S. embassy in Iran. Tragically, the attempt ended in the death of eight service members, including five from Hurlburt Field's 1st Special Operations Wing, who were caught in an explosion at one of the rally points before ever reaching the embassy.
"Operation Eagle Claw is a story of courage and heroism, and a testament to what length Americans will go to defend their nation, their people and their way of life," said Col. Daniel Zook, 1st SOW vice commander. "Today, as we honor the veterans and fallen warriors of that mission, we realize it was more than that. It was a genesis event that led to the creation of United States Special Operations Command and its components, and the 1st Special Operations Wing is proud to directly trace its lineage back to these heroes of this watershed event."
Although it was a failed mission, the operation has become known as the "most successful failed mission in history." Many tactics and procedures that seem commonplace today were first used and developed by the Airmen 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. The Airmen of Eagle Claw also were the first to use the first generation of night vision goggles in flight, even though the goggles were deemed unfit for flying.
This operation was also one of the leading reasons behind the stand-up of USSOCOM, which placed all military special operations units under the same chain of command, increasing service interoperability. Currently there are more than 60,000 service members assigned to USSOCOM.
Attending the ceremony alongside base leadership were many of the remaining Airmen from the operation, including retired Col. Roland Guidry, the 8th Special Operations Squadron commander during the time of the failed operation.
"It is with great pride I stand here today, to give tribute to the Eagle Claw warriors, and the important legacy they left behind," Colonel Guidry said. "The impact they made has stood the test of time, and I can't come up with the right words to honor these Airmen heroes."
After the ceremony, a CV-22 from the 8th SOS and an MC-130 from the 15th SOS performed a flyover. The MC-130s were flown by the 8th during the operation. Additionally, a rose wreath was placed in honor of the eight service members who died during the exercise; Maj. Richard Bakke, Maj. Harold Lewis Jr., Tech. Sgt. Joel C. Mayo, Maj. Lyn McIntosh and Capt. Charles McMillan II, all from the 8th SOS, as well as Marine Sgt. John Harvey, Cpl. George Holmes Jr. and Staff Sgt. Dewey Johnson.
One legacy from the operation that has lived on today is the motto of the 8th SOS, "With the guts to try." This phrase came after two British Airmen quietly delivered two cases of beer with the words "To you all, from us all, for having the guts to try" scribbled across the cardboard lid of one of the cases. This phrase has become the essence of the 8th SOS, and is part of the squadron's storied history as the second oldest operational squadron in the Air Force.
After Colonel Guidry placed the memorial wreath, a lone British pilot silently delivered two cases of beer, his unit patch and a piece of cardboard that read "To you all, from us all, to show we have not forgotten."