Operation Eagle Claw (or Operation Evening Light or Operation Rice Bowl) was an American military operation ordered by President Jimmy Carter to attempt to put an end to the Iran hostage crisis by rescuing 52 Americans held captive at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran on 24 April 1980.
The plan called for a minimum of six helicopters; eight were sent in. Two helicopters could not navigate through a very fine sand cloud (a haboob) which forced one helicopter to crash land and the other to return to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68). Six helicopters reached the initial rendezvous point, Desert One, but one of them had damaged its hydraulic systems.
The spares were on one of the two helicopters that had aborted. From the early planning stages, it had been determined that if fewer than six operational helicopters were available, then the mission would be automatically aborted, even though only four were absolutely necessary for the operation.
In a move still debated, the commanders on the scene requested to abort the mission; Carter gave his approval. As the U.S. force prepared to leave Iran, one of the helicopters crashed into a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft containing fuel and a group of servicemen.
The resulting fire destroyed the two aircraft involved and resulted in the remaining helicopters being left behind and the deaths of eight American servicemen. Operation Eagle Claw was one of the first missions conducted by Delta Force.
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