THIRTEENTH “WESTPAC” DEPLOYMENT AND
FIRST INDIAN & ARABIAN SEA DEPLOYMENT
Iranian revolution & Iran hostage crisis
Cheju-Do Islands in the Sea of Japan on the way home via Korea
(13 November 1979 to 11 June 1980)
I was the Operations Department Yeoman for three years and the Special Services Yeoman in port Bremerton, Washington for six months. I arranged ski trips for the crew.http://www.uscarrierhistory.com/index_files/page0001.htm
My fellow shipmates and I, along with other service members of the USS Nimitz (CVN-68), naval escort ships; Army Rangers, Air Force and Marines, all played a role in “Operation Evening Light” and “Operation Eagle Claw” regardless of his duty. Now days I guess I would have to say his or her role.
The Coral Sea left Singapore 29 January 1980 and was at sea for 7-days prior to relieving USS Midway (CVW-41) in the northern part of the Arabian Sea on 5 February 1980 in connection with the continuing hostage crisis in Iran.
The Coral Sea traveled 6-days before entering a port, spending 89-days in the Indian Ocean and "GONZO" Station in the North Arabian Sea; while the USS Coral Sea (CV-43) was at sea a continuous 102-days. The Coral Sea crew was awarded the Sea Service Ribbon, Meritorious Unit Commendation and the Navy Expeditionary Medal.
The USS CORAL SEA CV-42, CVA-43, CVB-43 and CV-43 HISTORY, AND A TOUR OF DUTY IN THE U. S. NAVY (August 1977—February 1983) CONSTRUCTION to LAUNCHING and EARLY JET AIRCRAFT DEVELOPMENT (10 July 1944 TO 2 April 1946) story and tour of duty discloses events that have never been disclosed before and is due for release by years end.
The flowing is presented as an historical summary of “Operation Evening Light” and “Operation Eagle Claw” and is more relevant then you can imagine in light of current events.
“USS Coral Sea (CV-43) with CVW-14 embarked (tail code NK) departed 13
November 1979 Alameda, California, on her 13th “Westpac” deployment operating with the Pacific Fleet (25 January 1960 to Present) and tour of duty with the 7th Fleet in the Far East, she will under go her first Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea deployment during the Iranian revolution & Iran Hostage Crisis to strengthen the U.S. Naval presence in the crucial Indian Ocean area as tensions heightened over Iran's taking of 52 American diplomats’ hostage, in what would turn out to be Operation Evening Light during Operation Eagle Claw, the attempt to rescue the US Embassy workers being held hostage in Tehran,Iran. Prior to her deployment conducted an intensive workup cycle, refresher training and CarQuals, to include many visits at North Island Naval Air Station, San Diego, Ca. February to November 1979 and was the ready carrier off the coast of California for about four months going from off the coast of Mexico, up to the Aleutians, and back, completing overhaul at Puget Sound Naval Ship Yard, Bremerton, Washington and sailed for Alameda, Ca. (6 March 1978 to 8 February 1979), during which time on 20 November 1978, Coral Sea suffers a fire of unknown origin while moored at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash., which causes damage to the medical and dental spaces, delaying departure from the Ship Yard as the medical department was completely gutted by the fire (11 months - the carrier underwent $80,000,000 overhaul, during which the last of her 5-inch battery and all gun directors were removed - thirty-six years old., during which time Captain Stanley R. Arthur, relieved Captain Aitcheson, Jr. 3 June 1978 with Commander Hutchinson being relieved by Commander Curtain, USN, the Operations Department Head, frocked to Captain and assumed duties as the XO, while Captain Stanley R. Arthur is scheduled for rotation in December with Captain Richard M Dunleavy, to become the first Naval Flight Officer in history to command an aircraft carrier (NHC Battle Order p _). Reclassified CV-43 30 June 1975; involved in two Vietnam peace coast patrol cruises, ending with Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of Saigon 28 April 1975 during the evacuation of the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh 12 April 1975 in Operation Eagle Pull, while her first Vietnam peace coast patrol cruise was during Operation Homecoming (9 March 1973 to 11 August 1973), following six Vietnam War Combat cruises during the Vietnam Conflict/War (1 November 1965 to 17 July 1972), completing her 1st & 2nd Vietnam Expeditionary Force (VEF) deployments during her 1st & 2nd “Westpac,” (first CVA in the Bering Sea during 12 December 1961 to 17 July 1962 deployment). She will under go her 13th foreign water deployment since her visit to Vancouver, B.C. (18 to 22 March 1960) when she deployed from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Washington upon completion of sea trials and a post-overhaul inspection and survey evaluation, commencing once recommissioned, following SCB 110A conversion (16 April 1957 to 25 January 1960), decommissioned 24 April 1957, completing nine tours of duty in the Mediterranean Sea operating with the 6th Fleet (7 June 1948 to 13 August 1956); reclassified hull classification symbol CVA-43 1 October 1952. She will under go her 24th deployment since her commission 1 October 1947” (Ref.1-Coral Sea, 2-USS Coral Sea “Welcome Aboard” brochure, 34, 35 & 72).
USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) Air Wing would change from Carrier Air Wing FIFTEEN (CVW-15) to Carrier Air Wing FOURTEEN (CVW-14); marking the first time since World War II that two Marine fighter squadrons comprised the fighter arm of a Navy Air Wing. VMFA-323 and 531 F-4Ns covered CVW-14 during a period of hectic West Coast fighter transition” (Ref. 43).
“On 5 October 1960, Coral Sea debarked her two fighter squadrons ashore at Atsugi while embarking two Marine Douglas Skyraider' -Night fighter modified for cold weather Jet Attack Bomber squadrons, VMA-121 and VMA-324, thus pioneering the "all attack" carrier concept” (Ref. 43 & 72).
VMA-324 - Marines – Vagabonds - Attack Squadron flew the Douglas Skyhawk –
Jet Attack Bomber - Drone director - DX600 (TC) of the A4D-2
VMA-121 - Marines – Green Knights - Attack Squadron flew the Douglas Skyhawk –
Jet Attack Bomber - Drone director - VK800 (TC) of the A4D-2
Photos of Marine and Navy Aircraft during 1960 that flew onboard USS Coral Sea (CV-43) http://www.usscoralsea.net/pages/lnr60s.html
“The Air Wing was comprised of six squadrons and two detachments (elements of a parent squadron) which, acting in concert, perform the vital functions of attack, air intercept and support.
Carrier Air Wing FOURTEEN (CVW-14) was comprised of highly accurate, light-attack weapons platform incorporation a number intricate computer systems adding in the precise deliverance of a variety of ordnance as is the case in the A-7E Corasir, flown by the Shrikes of VA-94 and Redcocks of VA-22, both based at NAS Lemoore, Ca. in 1978.
The first time onboard, CVW-14 embarked on Coral Sea in November 1979 in route to the Western Pacific.
The air wing’s fighter arm was comprised of two U.S. Marine Corps fighter squadrons, flying F-4N Phantom II’s. The Death Rattlers of VMFA-323 and the Grey Ghosts of VMFA-531 joined the CVW-14 team, marking the first time since World War II that two Marine fighter squadrons comprised the fighter arm of a Navy Air Wing. They Grey Ghosts were normally a part of the 3rd Marine Air Wing home based at MCAS El Toro.
VMFA-323 and VMFA-531 joined Carrier Air Wing FOURTEEN officially on 1 July 1979, and for the first time since World War II, two Marine fighter squadrons deployed aboard a Pacific Fleet carrier. It was also the first time without a Navy fighter squadron in the air wing.
Captain Dave Rogers, USN, assumed command of CVW-14 aboard the USS Enterprise when the wing had F-14A Tomcats in place of the F-4Ns deployed onboard the Coral Sea. Captain Rogers or CAG, qualified in the RF-8G Crusader while attached to the Enterprise, bringing a total of 12 different types of aircraft he flew during his tour aboard the USS Enterprise. Prior to Captain Rogers’s assignment to the Coral Sea as CAG of CVW-14, CAG Rogers had flown 40 different types of military aircraft, with over 900 landings on 14 different carriers.
The Snakes were commanded by LTCOL Dave Denton, and were last deployed overseas during the Vietnam War between 1965 and 1969. During World War II they were one of the most highly decorated Marine squadrons and downed 124 enemy aircraft during the Okinawa campaign. During the Korean conflict, a Snake Corsair shot down a North Korean MIG-15 in aerial combat.
The Ghosts were commanded by LTCOL Gary Braun and were last deployed overseas in 1972 when they made a Mediterranean cruise in USS Forrestal (XXX). The squadron saw action in Vietnam deploying to DaNang in 1965. In 1978, the Ghosts received the Hanson Award in recognition of being the best fighter squadron in the Marine Corps.
CVW-14’s attack and early warning squadrons (VA-27, VA-97, VA-196 and VAW-113) have been with the wing for several years and made the USS Enterprise cruise. VA-27, commanded by Commander John McGrath, flew the A-7E Corsair II. VA-96, commanded by Commander Tom Woodka, flew the A-6F Intruder and VAW-113 under the command of Commander Dieter Olsen, flew the E-2B Hawkeye. Rounding out the air wing were VFP-63 Detachment 2’s RF-8G’s under the OinC, LCDR W. H. Reidelberger and HC-1 Detachment 3’s SH-3H’s with LCDR Richard Sadlier as OinC.
On 5 August 1964, while onboard the USS Constellation (CV-64), CVW-14 conducted the first retaliatory air strikes against North Vietnam.
On 27 January 1973, CVW-14 squadrons also flew the last sorties of the Vietnam War, aboard the USS Enterprise.” (Ref. 3-Publication of the Tailhook Association, Volume 7, Number 3)
Phalanx Close-In Weapons System (CIWS) mounts was in place prior to “Westpac.”
USS CORAL SEA (CV-43) with CVW-14 (13 Nov 1979 to 11 Jun 1980)
VMFA-323 Death Rattlers – Combat Squadron flew McDonnell-Douglas - Phantom II Jet Fighter - NK100 (C) on the F-4N http://www.usscoralsea.net/images/7980f4vmfa323.jpg
VMFA-531 Grey Ghosts – Combat Squadron flew the McDonnell-Douglas - Phantom II Jet Fighter - NK200 (TC) on the F-4N http://www.usscoralsea.net/images/7980f4vmfa531.jpg
VA-97 Warhawks – Attack Squadron flew the Vought - Corsair II – Jet attack aircraft - NK300 (TC) on the A-7E http://www.usscoralsea.net/images/7980a7va97.jpg
VA-27 Royal Maces – Attack Squadron flew the Vought - Corsair II – Jet attack aircraft - NK400 (TC) on the A-7E http://www.usscoralsea.net/images/7980a7va27.jpg
VA-196 Main Battery or Devil Spades – Attack Squadron flew the Grumman - Intruder - Jet Attack Bomber - Tanker - NK500 (TC) on the A-6E/A6-E/KA-6D http://www.usscoralsea.net/images/7980a6va196.jpg
VAW-113 Black Eagles - Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron flew the Grumman Hawkeye eqquiped wth Electronics - NK600 (TC) on the E-2B http://www.usscoralsea.net/images/7980e2vaw113.jpg
*VFP-63 DET 2 Eyes of the Fleet - Light Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron flew the Vought Crusader – Jet Fighter - Reconnaissance - NK620 (TC) on the RF-8G http://www.usscoralsea.net/images/7980f8vfp63.jpg
HC-1 DET 3 Pacific Fleet Angels - Helicopter Combat Support Squadron flew the Sikorsky Sea King – Anti-submarine - NK720 (TC) on the SH-3G http://www.usscoralsea.net/images/7980h3hc1.jpg
(Ref. 34, 35, 39, 41 & 76)
(*1) disestablished on Mar.1, 1978
(*2) disestablished on Mar.1, 1978
VFP or VF(P) - Light Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron or Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron or Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron (Light) or Light Photographic Squadron.
Photos of Marine and Navy Aircraft during 1979/80 that flew onboard USS Coral Sea (CV-43) http://www.usscoralsea.net/pages/lnr70s.html
or the example Photo History of the MAILCALLS greates collections of the Picture Gallery maintained at World War II Posters, Aircraft from the past to the present, Helicopters, Ships, Subs & Military Equipment http://community.fox6.com/forums/thread/896131.aspx
or “Operation Evening Light” and “Operation Eagle Claw” (1980) http://community.fox6.com/forums/thread/905345.aspx
VMFA-323 Death Rattlers and VMFA-531 Grey Ghosts 79/80 CV-43 cruise http://rleeermey.org/viewtopic.php?t=10068
Aircraft of Uss Coral Sea (CV-43) and Nimitz: http://www.uscarrierhistory.com/index_files/page0005.htm
Photos of Ships during 79/80 Cruise: http://www.uscarrierhistory.com/index_files/page0008.htm
“On 18 November 1979, USS Midway (CV-41) arrived in the northern part of the Arabian Sea in connection with the continuing hostage crisis in Iran. Militant followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini, who had come to power following the overthrow of the Shah, seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on 4 November and held 63 U.S. citizens hostage. Spokesmen for the mob demanded that the United States return to Iran the deposed Shah who was in a New York hospital at the time” (Ref. 1-Kitty Hawk).
“On 19 November, the Iranians occupying the Teheran embassy free three American hostages: a woman and two black Marines. Ten more of the Americans are freed the following day” (Ref. 1- Constellation).
“USS Coral Sea (CV-43) was ordered to enter Hawaii the morning of the 21st of November 1979, in order to take on needed supplies and provisions. The crew wasn’t allowed liberty. Coral Sea would depart within seven hours for “Westpac” to support National Security Policy off the coast of Korea. The men of the Coral Sea demonstrated their devotion to duty by rapidly loading fuel, food and other supplies as well as make needed repairs to the ship and exited Pearl Harbor in six and one half hours ready to carry out the policies of our government. I saw the leopard colonies for the first time in my life. I had always thought the disease was no longer a threat to civilization” (Ref. 2).
While in port the Admiral allowed me to print 250-copies of my 103-page book. I only had 6-hours to finish the Xeroxing. I stored Energy Quest books in the Print Shop, as there was limited space in the Operations Department Office.
“USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) cruise was extended two and a half months to support contingency operations in the North Arabian Sea during the Iranian hostage crisis. On 21 November, Kitty Hawk and her escort ships were directed to sail to the Indian Ocean to join USS Midway (CV-41) and her escort ships, which were operating in the northern Arabian Sea” (Ref. 1-Kitty Hawk).
“USS Coral Sea (CV-43) encountered high winds on 24 November 1979 and those of us whose birthday was the 24th, lost it due to crossing the International Date Line. By an international agreement you automatically loose a day when you cross the line heading west and you regain it when you head east” (Ref. 2).
“USS Coral Sea (CV-43) spent a couple of days operating off Guam, occasionally getting to see the main island” (Ref. 2).
“Jimmy Carter gives a press conference on the 24th day of Americans being held hostage in Iran November 28, 1979” (Ref. 12).
“In December 1979, the wife of the senior foreign officer being held hostage, Penelope Laingen, tied a yellow ribbon around a tree on the lawn of her Maryland home. Yellow ribbons sprouted all over the country, and the song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" was revived with a new meaning that helped unite the country against Khomeini” (Ref. 5 CNN Interactive).
“USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) arrived on station on 3 December 1979, and with USS Midway (CV-41) provided the U.S. with A-6 Intruder and A-7 Corsair II attack aircraft and F-4 Phantom and the modern F-14 Tomcat fighter aircraft, which could respond to a variety of situations if called upon during the Iranian hostage crisis. This was the first time since World War II that the U.S. Navy had two carrier task forces in the Indian Ocean in response to a crisis situation” Ref. 1-Kitty Hawk).
“USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) arrived on station on 3 December 1979, and with USS Midway (CV-41) provided the U.S. with A-6 Intruder and A-7 Corsair II attack aircraft and F-4 Phantom and the modern F-14 Tomcat fighter aircraft, which could respond to a variety of situations if called upon during the Iranian hostage crisis. This was the first time since World War II that the U.S. Navy had two carrier task forces in the Indian Ocean in response to a crisis situation” (Ref. 1-Kitty Hawk).
“In December 1979, the wife of the senior foreign officer being held hostage, Penelope Laingen, tied a yellow ribbon around a tree on the lawn of her Maryland home. Yellow ribbons sprouted all over the country, and the song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" was revived with a new meaning that helped unite the country against Khomeini” (Ref. 5 CNN Interactive).
On 8 December 1980 while steaming to Pusan, Korea, departing Hawaii several days earlier, we heard that John Lennon died at the age of 40, being shot down by an unknown assailant in New York.
Pusan, Korea 10 to 12 December 1979
USS Coral Sea (CV-43) arrived at Pusan, Korea, 10 December 1979. The crew was given liberty and we spent several days in Pusan, Korea. The ship was anchored and we went to shore aboard an Amphibious Landing Craft. Several months earlier, my uncle, Loyd Henion, had visited Soul Korea on official business. As the Economic Financial Planner and Manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation, he was there to assist the Korean Transportation Department with their interstate highway development. We only spent a couple of days in Pusan, Korea.
“On 14 December 1979, USS Independence (CV-62) with CVW-6 embarked arrived Norfolk, Virginia
, ending her 14th Mediterranean
Sea deployment operating with the Sixth Fleet
, her first Indian Ocean
and Arabian Sea
/Gulf (Persian Gulf) deployment during the Iranian Hostage Crisis operating with the 7th Fleet
. Steaming home via her fourth transit through the Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, Suez Canal, traveling through the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic, Independence visited Genoa, Italy. Reclassified to CV-62 - "Multi-purpose Aircraft Carrier" 28 February 1973; made one Vietnam
Combat cruise during the Vietnam Conflict/War
and first deployment operating with the 7th Fleet
, earning 1 battle stars
for service in Vietnam, returning from the South China Sea
off the coast of Vietnam
, via the straits of Malacca, Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea
on her second Suez Canal
transit steaming from the Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, to and from the Mediterranean Sea 10 May 1965
; ending her third Mediterranean
Sea deployment operating with the Sixth Fleet
in support of President John F. Kennedy
's firm stand on Berlin
during a reoccurrence of stress in a critical area, on her fourth deployment. Her 18th deployment ended (28 June 1979 to 14 December 1979), since her commission as a Forrestal Class Attack Aircraft Carrier at the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard, New York, 10 January 1959
” (Ref. 1 Independence, 72 & 325).
Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines
USS Coral Sea (CV-43) arrived at Subic Bay, Republic of Philippines 20 December 1979.
“On 22 December 1979, Captain Richard M Dunleavy, USN relieved Captain Stanley R. Arthur USN as USS Coral Sea (CV-43) CO to become the first Naval Flight Officer in history to command an aircraft carrier. Captain Arthur was assigned duty with Commander in Chief of the U. S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii. Commander Curtain, USN, the Operations Department Head and my boss while assigned to the Operations Department, would be frocked to Captain and assume duties as the XO.
“Jimmy Carter calls for sanctions against Iran to force the release of American hostages and reads from Longfellow's poem I heard the bells on Christmas day December 21, 1979” (Ref. 12).
“On 21 December 1979, the Defense Department announced a three-ship nuclear-powered carrier battle group from the Sixth Fleet would deploy to the Indian Ocean to relieve the Seventh Fleet carrier battle group led by USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63)” (Ref. 1-Kitty Hawk & 72).
“The 6th Fleet
carrier battle group consisted of the nuclear-powered USS Nimitz (CVN 68)
and her nuclear-powered escort ships. However, on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1979, a massive Soviet airlift of 5,000 Russian airborne troops and equipment into the Afghanistan capital of Kabul was conducted. The U.S. protested the large influx of Soviet troops which the Soviet Union claimed were there at the request of the Afghanistan government” (Ref. 1-Kitty Hawk & 72).
“On 27 December 1979, a Soviet-backed coup installed a new president in Afghanistan. Two carrier task forces centering around USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) and USS Midway (CV-41) continued contingency operations in the northern Arabian Sea” (Ref. 1-Kitty Hawk).
Two carrier task forces centering around USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) and USS Midway (CV-41) continued contingency operations in the northern Arabian Sea” (Ref. 1-Kitty Hawk).
USS Coral Sea (CV-43) departed Subic Bay, Republic of Philippines 9 January 1980 and steamed for Pattaya Beach, Thailand.
“Jimmy Carter stands firm on embargo against the Russians 13 January 1980” (Ref. 12).
Pattaya Beach, Thailand
USS Coral Sea (CV-43) arrived Thailand 18 January 1980, having departed Subic Bay, Republic of Philippines 9 January 1980. Departing two days later on the 20th for Singapore. Pattaya Beach, Thailand was charming. We went to shore in small canoe type boats that would come alongside the carrier, requiring us to climb down ladders. The captain of theses canoes propelled and steered the boat by lifting the shaft from the water, placing the propeller back in the water to the starboard or port side of the stern. Speedboat Para sailing was really popular.
USS Coral Sea (CV-43) Co, Captain Dunleavy announced to the crew he did not want anyone Para sail gliding. There’s always someone who pushes things to the limit. One sailor Para sailed all around the Carrier. The Captain ordered the Master-At-Arms “Shore Patrol” to arrest him when he came ashore. Captains Mast was convened and this guy was busted.
“USS Nimitz (CVN-65) and her escort ships joined USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) and USS Midway (CV-41) and their escort ships on station in the Arabian Sea on 22 January 1980
. The following day Kitty Hawk departed for Subic Bay, R.P., having spent 64 days in operations connected with the Iranian crisis. For their actions in the region, Kitty Hawk and CVW-15 sailors and officers were awarded the Navy Expeditionary Medal” (Ref. 1- Kitty Hawk).
“On January 21, 1981, Jimmy Carter speaks bitterly on the behavior of the Iranians in an interview before boarding a plane for Germany to meet with the hostages” (Ref. 12).
“Jimmy Carter's State of the Union Address 23 January 1980, with an introduction by Tip O'Neill January 23, 1980. Reactions and discussion to President Carter's State of the Union Address, by Richard Valeriani, John Palmer, David Brinkley, Carole Simpson, Robert Byrd, and Ted Stevens. Broadcast on NBC TV” (Ref. 12).
“Reactions and discussion to President Carter's State of the Union Address, by Richard Valeriani, John Palmer, David Brinkley, Carole Simpson, Robert Byrd, and Ted Stevens January 23, 1980. Broadcast on NBC TV” (Ref. 12).
Only five days out of Thailand, USS Coral Sea (CV43) pulled into Singapore Bay for a four-day rest and relaxation liberty on the 25th of January 1980, departing on the 29th, the crew quickly got underway with operations. I met real nice people at a Seventh Day Adventist Church and was ntroduced to Pigeon Plato Apartment Complexes. There werer pirated cassette tapes and records in the city street markets to be found and just about anything else money colud buy.
On January 30th, USS Coral Sea (CV43) was in the OPAREA just east of Singapore where the ship crossed deck with the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-43). This was a major cross decking for loading of weapons, all variety of needed supplies, and mail. Also on this same day, Coral Sea passed over the equator. The Shellback initiation was held off until the 2nd of February, due to the supplies from the cross decking on the flight deck. On January 31st, Coral Sea was heading through the Malacca Straits, and then on track to the Indian Ocean.
“Republican response to the State of the Union Address 1980. With John Tower, Bill Young, Jake Garn, William Clements, Rudy Boshwitz, William Roth, and William Brock January 30, 1980. Broadcast on CBS-TV” (Ref. 12).
Impervim Neptvini Rergis
On February 2, 1980 approximately 5° north of the equator, USS Coral Sea (CV-43) entered the IMPERVIM NEPTVINI REGIS. His Royal Highness boarded the Coral Sea to carry out the traditional initiation of the land-lubbing Pollywogs, those who have not crossed the equator, into his domain. We took a day off in order for veteran sailors to initiate those of us who had never before crossed the equator. The temperature outside was in the hundreds and on the flight deck 110 degrees.
Upon King Neptune’s arrival he was greeted by Captain, Richard Dunleavy, and given a royal welcome to the Coral Sea. In private conversation, the King was overheard saying to a Trusty Shellback (one who has already crossed the equator into the world of King Neptune), “My mission aboard Coral Sea is to make these, the lowest of my subjects, a part of my Royal Domain, but not to do any bodily harm to them.”
The initiation ceremonies were ordered to begin. With that, the Pollywogs were instructed to shift to the uniform of the day, which consisted of a reversed and inside out pair of pants and a T-shirt worn the same way.
The preparation to mold each division into a respective unit was as diversified as the imagination of the Shellback in charge. Upon assembly of the Pollywogs, the procession was taken up to the flight deck by division. Since my division consisted of three we joined the Operation Specialist Division (CIC Operators). Shellbacks used a few feet of fire hose in order to spank us every time we tried to get up off the hot deck. Lying on our stomachs on the elevator until the elevator reached the flight deck seemed like forever.
Once on the flight deck we were told to craw on our stomachs straddling the catapult steel runner while the Royal hose team sprayed water on us or Shellbacks dumped liquid slop on our heads.
We crawled a fair distance before we entered many obstacles. The first obstacle was the Royal Baby. We were told to kiss the Royal Babies big belly, a belly with grease on it. My beard was covered with grease as the Chief grabbed my head and really rubbed my face in his grease filled baby. Another obstacle was a mid evil torture device made out of wood. I was lucky enough to skip this obstacle but others were not. They would lock your head in a forward down position and your arms were stretched out and locked down. Shellbacks would then spank you with a few feet of fire hose and throw liquid slop on you.
During this initiation Shellbacks would constantly ask us “What are you”? If you didn’t say “Pollywog” Shellbacks would spank you with a few feet of fire hose and throw liquid slop on you.
As we crawled our way down the flight deck once we passed through the obstacles, our last obstacle was an eight feet metal container full of liquid slop. We were told to sit in this tank while to our surprise one of the Chief Shellbacks would dunk us in this liquid slop. When we came up for air, he would ask us “What are you”? I guess I was a little slow to catch on, so I shouted out “Pollywog” Chief. The Chief dunked me again. When I came up for air again, the Chief asked me “what are you”? Louder I answered “Pollywog” Chief. Once again the Chief dunked me and when I came up for air the Chief asked me “What are you”? I answered “A pissed off sailor” and then I pulled the Chief in the tank with me. The Chief couldn’t stop laughing and told me I was supposed to say Shellback. I felt like a bumbling edit but one thing for sure, I wasn’t about to be dunked again.
During the initiation Shellbacks would ask us “what are you”? If we didn’t answer “Pollywog” Shellbacks would spank us with a few feet of fire hose and throw liquid slop on us, so I thought we were suppose to say “Pollywog” to the end.
At the end of the ceremony I had to shave my beard. The Navy had announced that Petty Officer Second Class and above were allowed to have a beard so it was time to shave anyway but the grease didn’t do much for a beard.
We were all given a certificate and became Shellbacks. Since the days of John Paul, Jones, the Father of the U. S. Navy, the same questions have been asked, and in most cases the same answer has been ascertained. Times change, but the sailor is the same. A special few cross that geographic line and enter the realm of King Neptune and become as well as their predecessors, “SHELLBACKS”.
“USS Coral Sea (CV-43) with CVW-14 Air Wing and COMCARGROUP THREE embarked, was in the North Arabian Sea on Gonzo Station
4 February 1980, having been established following the November 1979 takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran
” (Ref. 1- Constellation & 72).
“On 4 February 1980, USS Coral Sea (CV-43) cross-decked with USS Midway (CV-41), transferring supplies and crossing the two E-2B aircraft. A turn over brief was also conducted between both ship’s officers (Ref. 2-USS Coral Sea “Welcome Aboard Brochure/March 1980-Vol 8; No. 2).
“After leaving Singapore, USS Coral Sea (CV-43) was at sea for 8-days at the time she relieved USS Midway (CVW-41) in the northern part of the Arabian Sea on 5 February
1980 in connection with the continuing hostage crisis in Iran” (Ref. 2-USS Coral Sea “Welcome Aboard Brochure/March 1980-Vol 8; No. 2).
“On 20 February 1980, USS Midway (CV-41) with Carrier Air Wing Five
(CVW-5) embarked arrived Yokosuka
, Japan (NAF Atsugi, Japan), ending her 19th deployment, as the U. S. Navy’s forward-deployed carrier operating with the 7th Fleet
, her fourth Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea
deployment ended. Arriving in the northern part of the Arabian Sea in connection with the continuing hostage crisis in Iran
on 18 November 1979, joined 21 November 1979 by USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), and both carriers, along with their escort ships, were joined by the USS Nimitz (CVN-68)
and her escorts on 22 January 1980
, continuing operations until relieved by USS Coral Sea (CV-43) on 5 February
1980. Reclassified to CV-41 30 June 1975; made nine “Westpacs” and one while forward deployed; made three Vietnam Combat cruises operating with the 7th Fleet
during the Vietnam Conflict/War
; ending her eighth “Westpac” deployment operating with the Pacific Fleet
and tour of duty with the 7th Fleet
, on her third South China Sea
deployment, her third Vietnam combat cruise in the Far . Her 21st deployment since her second recommission 31 January 1970
ended, following completion of a four-year conversion-modernization at the San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard
, having arrived 11 February 1966
. Her 27th deployment since her first recommission upon completion of a overall (SCB-110) at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard
, Bremerton Washington (August 1955 to 30 September 1957) ended; decommissioning in August 1955 when she arrived at Bremerton Washington upon completion of her World Cruise, on her 11th deployment (27 December 1954
to 14 July 1955), the first operation of ships of her class in the western Pacific, joining the 7th Fleet
6 February 1955 conducting operations in the Western Pacific and in waters off Taiwan
, remaining with the 7th Fleet until 28 June 1955
, sailing via the Cape of Good Hope
upon departure from Norfolk
, Va., operating with the United States Atlantic Command
under the direction of the 2nd Fleet
from 7 November 1945 to 6 February 1955, during which time and prior to her transfer to the Pacific Fleet
from the Atlantic Fleet Command, Midway made one Northern and one Western deployment (2nd Fleet
), seven Mediterranean
Sea deployments operating with the 6th Fleet
, one Southern Atlantic and Caribbean
Sea Shakedown cruise operating with the Atlantic
Fleet under the direction of the 8th Fleet
(7 November 1945 to 2 January 1946), on her first deployment; reclassified CVA-41 on 1 October
1952. Her 39th deployment ended (30 September 1979 to 20 February 1980), since her commission 10 September
1945, having the destination of being the lead ship
of her class
, and the first to be commissioned after the end of World War II
” (Ref. 1- Midway & 72).
“USS Midway (CV-41) with Carrier Air Wing Five
(CVW-5) embarked conducted Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan (NAF Atsugi, Japan) February to May 1980” (Ref. 72).
USS Midway (CV-41) with CVW-5 (Feb to May 1980)
“On 25 February 1980, USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) with CVW-15 embarked arrived San Diego
, Ca., ending her 12th “Westpac” deployment operating with the Pacific Fleet
and tour of duty with the 7th Fleet
, which included Vietnamese search and assistance operations ordered by then-Commander-in-Chief, President Jimmy Carter, to aid Vietnamese refugees who were attempting to escape the Socialist Republic of Vietnam via small boats, followed with new orders for Kitty Hawk and her escort ships to operate south of the Korean peninsula in response to the assassination of South Korean President Park Chung Hee on 26 October 1979, followed by a two-and-a-half month deployment extension to support contingency operations in the North Arabian Sea during the Iranian hostage crisis, on her first Indian Ocean deployment to join USS Midway (CV-41) and her escort ships which were operating in the northern Arabian Sea, her first Arabian Sea
/Gulf (Persian Gulf) deployment, arriving in the northern part of the Arabian Sea in connection with the continuing hostage crisis in Iran, arriving on station 3 December, and the two carrier forces provided the U.S. with A-6 Intruder and A-7 Corsair II attack aircraft and F-4 Phantom and the modern F-14 Tomcat fighter aircraft, which could respond to a variety of situations if called upon during the Iranian hostage crisis, becoming the first time since World War II that the U.S. Navy had two carrier task forces in the Indian Ocean in response to a crisis situation, while two weeks later, on 21 December 1979, the Defense Department announced a three-ship nuclear-powered carrier battle group from the Sixth Fleet would deploy to the Indian Ocean to relieve the Seventh Fleet carrier battle group led by Kitty Hawk, when on 27 December 1979, a Soviet-backed coup installed a new president in Afghanistan, while both carriers continued contingency operations in the northern Arabian Sea until 23 January 1980, when Kitty Hawk and her battle group were relieved by USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and her escort ships, having joined Kitty Hawk and USS Midway (CV-41) and their escort ships on station in the Arabian Sea on 22 January 1980, departing for Subic Bay, R.P., on the 23rd, by the time she made it to port, had spent 64 days in operations connected with the Iranian crisis, and for the actions of Kitty Hawk and CVW-15 sailors and officers, they were awarded the Navy Expeditionary Medal; reclassified a CV-3 “Multi-Purpose Aircraft Carrier” on 29 April 1973; made six Vietnam
Combat cruises during the Vietnam Conflict/War
operating with the 7th Fleet
; awarded a Presidential Unit Citation, a Meritorious Service Commendation, four Navy Unit Commendations, a Battle Efficiency "E" and many other unit awards. Her 14th deployment ended (30 May 1979 to 25 February 1980), since her commission 29 April 1961” (Ref. 1-Kitty Hawk & 72).
“USS Constellation (CV-64) (Connie) with CVW-9
embarked departed San Diego
, Calif. 26 February 1980, on her 12th “Westpac” deployment operating with the Pacific Fleet
and tour of duty with the 7th Fleet
in the far east, on her second Indian Ocean
and first Arabian Sea
/Gulf (Persian Gulf) deployment (2nd voyage). Prior to her deployment completed a relatively short eight-month turnaround cycle, commencing upon return from her 11th “Westpac” deployment. Ending her 11th “Westpac” deployment operating with the Pacific Fleet
and tour of duty with the 7th Fleet
in the far east, on her 9th South China Sea South deployment, her first Indian Ocean
deploymenmt and first Gulf of Aden via the Arabian Sea
deployment. Reclassified to CV-56 1 July 1975; made seven Vietnam
Combat cruises during the Vietnam Conflict/War
, received a Presidential Unit Citation from President Nixon in 1973; making two deployments operating with the United States Atlantic Command
under the direction of the 2nd Fleet
, ending her second deployment after a two-month trip and home port transfer steaming in the Western/Southern Atlantic via Mayport, Fla., where she embarked some squadrons from CVG-5
steaming in the Eastern and Southern Pacific around Cape Horn to her new home port of San Diego
, Calif., operating with the Pacific Fleet
. She will under go her 14th deployment since she was commissioned 27 October 1961
” (Ref. 1- Constellation & 72).
USS Constellation (CV-64) with CVW-9 (26 Feb to 15 Oct 1980)
Iran History & Air Arm - Iran hostage crisis
Continues (February to 31 March 1980)
“Demands announced in February 1980 were the return of the shah to Iran for trial, the return of the shah's wealth to the Iranian people, an admission of guilt by the United States for its past actions in Iran, plus an apology and a promise not to interfere in Iran's affairs in the future.
These were clearly unacceptable demands, especially the first one, as the shah had left the United States in December 1978 to take up residence in Panama. In response to the demands, diplomatic ties with Iran were severed followed by Carter threatening new sanctions against Iran unless some progress was forthcoming” (Ref. 4).
“Several hundred people gathered in front of the Iranian embassy in Washington D.C. shouting "Go Home" and "Let our people go!" Their rage, their very presence seemed to be saying, "We've had enough!" The D.C. police had roped off the sidewalk, ironically providing the Iranian building the very protection the embassy in Iran lacked. Sales of Iranian flags went up across the nation and Americans burned them in protest. Meanwhile, throughout the United States, Iranian students demonstrated in support of their country, denouncing the White House and demanding the shah's immediate extradition. These demonstrations prompted a violent backlash across the nation as anger and frustration had risen as the days passed and the hostages were not released. The crisis instilled a new sense of patriotism as Americans supported the President. Iranian-Americas faced problems that hadn't been seen since Japanese-Americans had been interned during World War II: some were booted out of their jobs; others had their property vandalized; and their children were taunted in school. While the nation poised for action, the administration worked to soothe public passion, fearful the demonstrators might precipitate a riot, which would have been highly publicized in Iran, and might have caused Americans to be harmed in retaliation. News from Iran had already indicated Khomeini's intent to have the hostages tried as spies” (Ref. 4).
“The public was more supportive of Carter than it had been a few months earlier, but was becoming more impatient with each passing week because of the apparent impotence in dealing with international crises. Citizens of all ages who normally paid little attention to foreign affairs sat transfixed in front of their television sets, breathlessly following each new twist and turn of events -- even when not much was happening, which was usually the case. Television quickly domesticated the foreign scenes and characters by bringing them into the intimacy of our living rooms.
“President Carter repeatedly met with the families of the hostages; he confessed to reporters that virtually his every waking moment was spent worrying about the fate of the captives” (Ref. 4).
“During the first few months of the siege, about one-third of the three network s weeknight newscast time was devoted to the hostage story. ABC even created a regular thirty-minute nightly program The Crisis in Iran: America Held Hostage, which premiered on Day 5 of the crisis and promised to broadcast as long as the crisis lasted” (Ref. 4).
“By March 1980, ABC executives responded to the early success of this news special at eleven-thirty P.M. by creating a regular news program, Nightline, which focused on major news events, including the hostage crisis. On Day 74, CBS anchor Walter Chronkite concluded his nightly news broadcast by announcing the number of days the hostages had been held captive, and maintained that practice until the end of the crisis” (Ref. 4).
US Boycotts Moscow Olympics – 21 March 1980
As if there wasn’t enough to worry about, tensions between the two super powers of the world resulted in the U.S. announcing it would boycott Moscow Olympics, March 21, 1980. “Citing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, President Carter tells a group of American athletes that the U.S. won't be sending a team to the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. Later in the month, President Carter orders the U.S. secretary of commerce to ban all exports to the Soviet Union "of any goods or technology" related to the games, further encouraging other nations to join a U.S.-led boycott” (Ref. 5-CNN Interactive).
Pre-revolutionIIAF -Imperial Iranian Air Force (mid '20s-feb79)IIAA - Imperial Iranian Army Aviation, IIAA (-feb79)IIN - Imperial Iranian Navy (-feb79)Iran
History & Air Arm
Pre-revolutionIIAF -Imperial Iranian Air Force (mid '20s-feb79)IIAA - Imperial Iranian Army Aviation, IIAA (-feb79)IIN - Imperial Iranian Navy (-feb79)
“By 1979, up to 160 to 300 F-16A/Bs, seven Boeing E-3A AWACS aircraft and other assets were on order, negotiations for 75 more F-14As were due to start, and the IIAF was also to build the most comprehensive training installations outside the USA, very similar to those used for the Red Flag exercises. Training began with a fast pace, in the US, and young Iranian officers started undergoing F-16 flying and AWACS control courses” (Ref. 21).
“Under the Shas rule the USA supplied a large number of combat aircraft during the late 1960s and through 1970s. The IIAF took delivery from the USA up to 104 Northrop F-5A/Bs Freedom Fighters, and then continued with purchases of 32 McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom’s (first examples were delivered in March of 1971), 177 to 208/9 to 223 to 225 F-4E Phantom fighter-bomber’s (plus eight F-4Es borrowed from the USA and subsequently returned), 140 to 165 to 185 F-5E fighters, at least 20 RF-4Es (only 16 of which were delivered officially), and 79 to 80 Grumman F-14As, as well as a large fleet of Boeing 707-3J9C tankers, Lockheed C-130E/H Hercules transports, and a number of Boeing 747-2J9C strategic transports” (Ref. 16, 19, 21, 22 & 27).
“Despite having only 450 combat aircraft, bases and facilities built in Iran could easily accommodate and support as many as 3,000 fighter and support aircraft” (Ref. 21).
“The Imperial Iranian Air Force was the largest overseas operators of the F-4 Phantom before the Revolution” (Ref. 20).
“Numbering some 40,000 officers and men in 1973, the air force had grown to 100,000 in 1979 and was expected to grow further by 1980. Air force headquarter was located at Doshan-Tappeh, near Tehran, and major bases were spread throughout the western half of the country. The principal base, Mehrabad AFB (occupying the southern section of Tehran International Airport) was the largest air base in the Middle East. In mid-1970s the IIAF airbase structure was consist of a number of Tactical Air Bases which were numbered”: (Ref. 22).
The Imperial Iranian Air Force (IIAF) bases: (As of Late 1979) - (Ref. 19)
1st Tactical Air Base, Tehran (Mehrabad)
11Th. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-4E
12Th. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-4E
13Th. Combat Instructor School (CIS) F-4E
11Th. Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron RF-4E + RF-5 + RT-33
11Th. Tactical Transport Squadron (T.T.SQ.) C-130
12Th. Tactical Transport Squadron (T.T.SQ.) C-130
707 Squadron B-707 Tanker / Transport
747 Squadron B-747 Tanker / Transport
F-27 Friendship Transport (was in Doshan Tappeh)
11Th. Search and Rescue SquadronSupport Squadron F-33 & L-20
2nd Tactical Air Base, Tabriz
21st. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-5E
22nd. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-5E
23rd. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-5E
21st. Counter Insurgency Squadron O–2A
21st. Search and Rescue SquadronSupport Squadron F-33
3rd Tactical Air Base, Hamadan (Shahrokhi)
31st. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-4E
32nd. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-4E
33rd. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-4E
34Th. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-4E
31Th. Search and Rescue SquadronSupport Squadron F-33
4th Tactical Air Base, Dezfull (Vahdati)
41st. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-5E
42nd. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-5E
43rd. Tactical Fighter Training Squadron (T.F.T.SQ.) F-5E
41Th. Search and Rescue SquadronSupport Squadron F-33 & L-20
5th Tactical Air Base, Agha Jari (Omidieh)
51st. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-5E
52nd. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-5E
53 rd. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-5E
51st. Search and Rescue SquadronSupport Squadron F-33
6th Tactical Air Base, Bushehr
61st. Tactical Fighter Training Squadron (T.F.T.SQ.) F-4E
62nd. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-4E
63rd. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) 32 F-4D
6st. Search and Rescue SquadronSupport Squadron F-33
7th Tactical Air Base, Shiraz
71st. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-4E
72nd. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-14
73rd. Tactical Fighter Training Squadron (T.F.T.SQ.) F-14
71st. Tactical Transport Squadron (T.T.SQ.) C-130
72nd. Tactical Transport Squadron (T.T.SQ.) C-130
71st. Search and Rescue SquadronSupport Squadron F-33
8th Tactical Air Base, Isfahan ( Khatami )
81st. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-14
82nd. Tactical Fighter Training Squadron (T.F.T.SQ.) F-14
81st. Search and Rescue SquadronSupport Squadron F-33
9th Tactical Air Base, Bandar Abbas
91st. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-4E
92nd. Tactical Squadron (T.SQ.) P-3F Orion
91st. Search and Rescue SquadronSupport Squadron F-33
10th Tactical Air Base, Chabahar
101st. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-5E
102nd. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-4E
103 rd. Tactical Fighter Squadron (T.F.SQ.) F-4E
101st. Search and Rescue SquadronSupport Squadron F-33
Other Air Bases
Tehran: Doshan Tapeh Air Base - (Air force headquarters and the IIAF`s training facility).
Tehran: Galeh Morghi Air Base
Tehran: Ghasreh Firuzeh Air Base - (Air force Depot)
Mashhad: Air Base” (Ref. 22).
There was always one Squadron of F-5 or F-4 in Mashhad.Each of 11 F–5 E Squadron had over 18 Aircraft (could form 15 SQ) Each of 12 F-4 E Squadron had over 15 Aircraft (Could form 16 SQ)Each of 4 F–14 Squadron had 20 Aircraft (Could form 7 SQ.)
**** Each and every Air Base had a Search and Rescue Squadron Plus a support squadron equipped with F-33 Bonanza Aircraft” (Ref. 19). http://www.iiaf.net/history/tactair.html
IRIAF - Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (feb79 - current)
IRIAA - Islamic Republic of Iran Army Aviation (feb79 - current)
IRINA - Islamic Republic of Iranian Navy Aviation (feb79- current)
IRGCAF - Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Air Force (Pasdaran-e Inqilab)
IRGCN - Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy” (Ref. 22). http://iiarmy.topcities.com/army/Air/air.html
IIAF F-4 Phantom serial Numbers:
67-14869/14876 McDonnell F- 4D-35-MC Phantom; 67-14877/14884 McDonnell F- 4D-36-MC Phantom; 68-6904/6911 McDonnell F- 4D-37-MC Phantom; 68-6912/6919 McDonnell F- 4D-38-MC Phantom; 69-7711/7726 McDonnell F- 4E-46-MC Phantom; 69-7727/7742 McDonnell F- 4E-47-MC Phantom; 71-1094/1101 McDonnell F- 4E-51-MC Phantom; 71-1102/1115 McDonnell F- 4E-52-MC Phantom; 71-1116/1129 McDonnell F- 4E-53-MC Phantom; 71-1130/1142 McDonnell F- 4E-54-MC Phantom; 71-1143/1152 McDonnell F- 4E-55-MC Phantom; 71-1153/1166 McDonnell F- 4E-56-MC Phantom; 72-0266/0269 McDonnell RF- 4E-48-MC Phantom; 73-1519/1534 McDonnell F- 4E-57-MC Phantom; 73-1535/1549 McDonnell F- 4E-58-MC Phantom; 73-1550/1554 McDonnell F- 4E-59-MC Phantom; 74-1725/1728 McDonnell RF- 4E-61-MC Phantom; and 74-1729/1736 McDonnell RF- 4E-62-MC Phantom’s” (Ref. 19). http://www.iiaf.net/aircraft/jetfighters/F4/f4.html
Specification for Mc Donnell Douglas F-4 PHANTOM II
Type: multi-role fighter
Performance: combat radius 786 miles; top speed 1585 mph; ceiling 62000 feet
Power plant: two General Electric J79-GE-17A turbojets rated at 11810 lbs thrust each dry; 17900 with afterburner
Armament: one M61 20mm cannon w/ 640 rds, maximum ordnance 16000 lbs, including bombs, missiles, AIM-7Sparrow, AIM-9 Sidewinder, Maverick and AAMs” (Ref. 19).
Because of the Iranian revolution in 1979, the U. S. canceled orders by the Iran government on 160 F-16s; 75-0222/0257 McDonnell F- 4E-63-MC Phantom’s; 78-0751/0754 McDonnell RF- 4E Phantom’s; 78-0788 McDonnell RF- 4E Phantoms’ and 8-0854/0864 McDonnell RF- 4E” (Ref. 19).
IIAF had about 500 combat aircraft in: (Ref. 22)
10 fighter bomber squadrons
10 fighter-ground attack squadrons
4 fighter squadrons
1 reconnaissance squadron
1 air tanker squadron
4 medium transoprt squadrons
4 light transoprt squadrons
3 SAM battalions
80 Grumman F-14A (Tomcat) Fighter
32 McDonnel Douglas F-4D (Phantom II) Fighter/Bomber
177 McDonnel Douglas F-4E (Phantom II) Fighter/Bomber
16 McDonnel Douglas RF-4E (Phantom II) Reconnaissance
12 Northrop F-5A (Tiger) Fighter
141 Northrop F-5E (Tiger II) Fighter
28 Northrop F-5B/F (Tiger II) Trainer
5 Northrop RF-5F (Tiger II) Reconnaissance
10 Beech F-33A (Bonaza) Trainer
39 Beech F-33C (Bonaza) Trainer
25 Lockheed T-33A (Shooting Star) Trainer
6 Lockheed P-3F (Orion) Maritime Patrol
15 Lockheed C-130E (Hercules) Cargo/Transport
49 Lockheed C-130H (Hercules) Cargo/Transport
15 Boeing 707-320C Tanker/Cargo/Transport
6 Boeing 747 Tanker/Cargo/Transport
13 Fokker F-27-400M (Troopship) Cargo/Transport
5 Fokker F-27-600 (Friendship) Cargo/Transport
4 Fokker F-28 V.I.P/Transport
3 Rockwell Aero Commander 690A Utility Aircraft
4 Dassault Falcon 20 V.I.P/Utility Aircraft
2 Cessna 310 Utility Aircraft
12 Cessna 337 Utility Aircraft
2 Lockheed JetStar Cargo/Transport
10 Kaman HH-43F (Huskie)
45 Agusta-Bell AB-205
68 Agusta-Bell AB-206A (JetRanger)
5 Agusta-Bell AB-212
39 Bell 214C
4 Agusta-Boeing Vertol CH-47C (Chinook)
16 Super Frelon
2 Agusta-Sikorsky AS-61A4
AIM-54A Phoenix - (AAM) – 424
AIM-9L Sidewinder - (AAM) - 1666
AIM-7E Sparrow - (AAM) - 948
AGM-65A Maverick - (ASM) - 2500 OR 216
Condor (ASM) – X
AS 12 (ASM) – X
160 F-16A (Light fighter/strike)
7 E-3A AWACS (Airborne warning and control ships)
160 F-16A (Light f7 E-3A AWACS (Airborne warning and control ships)
AIM-9L Sidewinder (AAM)” (Ref. 22).
“Both of the orders of 160 to 300 F-16A/Bs and seven Boeing E-3A AWACS aircraft were cancelled after the Islamic revolution in 1979. The sale of the Boeing AWACS to Iran created considerable controversy, because Iran was the first foreign customer for this system, and NATO countries had been unwilling to buy it, because the cost was so high” (Ref. 22).
“Unfortunately, one immediate effect of the cancellation of the Iranian order was that the individual unit cost of the F-16 was driven sharply upward. However, many of the F-16s intended for Iran were eventually sold to Israel” (Ref. 18).
Based on Letters of Intent to Purchase, had the revolution not occurred, 177 to 208/9 to 223 to 225 F-4E Phantom fighter-bomber’s, depending on which source (223 operational Phantom’s of the IIAF could have been, with and additional 306 on order, 529 assorted Phantom’s and 160 F-16’s, totaling 689 jets” (Ref. 16, 19, 20, 21, 22 & 27).
“Following the Islamic revolution, massive numbers of contracts with Western arms suppliers were cancelled by the new government, including an order for 400 AIM-54A Phoenix missiles” (Ref. 28).Iran
History & Air Arm
“As the U. S. Of America prepared to enter the fifth month of the crisis in Iran, President Carter's frustration level grew from the inactivity in the release of the hostages. On April 7, he announced the severing of diplomatic relations with Iran, the implementation of a complete economic embargo against Iran, an inventory of financial claims against Iran to be paid from Iranian assets in the United States, and told Iran's diplomats to leave the country within twenty-four hours.
“The US broke diplomatic relations with Iran on 8 April 1980” (Ref. 11).
“President Carter ordered the Pentagon to prepare a contingency plan for military action to rescue the hostages. The greatest problem was the inaccessibility of the American embassy compound - located more than 600 miles from the nearest operating aircraft carriers and deep within the heavily populated urban center of Tehran” (Ref. 4).
“Carter also gave the approval for a military attempt to rescue the hostages. The fact that a small plane had successfully penetrated Iranian airspace and had examined a potential rescue staging site without being detected, convinced Carter that such a mission was feasible” (Ref. 4).
“The newly certified US Army Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (Airborne) was put on full alert and plans were being drawn up for a rescue” (Ref. 11).
“USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) with CVW-7 embarked departed Norfolk, Virginia
15 April 1980, on her first Indian Ocean
and Arabian Sea
/Gulf (Persian Gulf) deployment operating with the 7th Fleet
, steaming through the Southern Atlantic to the bottom of South Africa and through the Mazambique Channel to the Arabian Gulf operating with the United States Atlantic Command
) under the direction of the 2nd Fleet
to the Indian Ocean. Prior to her deployment not reported history from 14 July 1979 to 14 April 1980, with the exception of an F-14
of VF-142 crashing into the sea while attempting to land aboard the Dwight D. Eisenhower on 6 March 1980; made her first deployment on her Mediterranean
Sea deployment operating with the 6th Fleet
. She will under go her second deployment since her commission 18 October 1977
” (Ref. 72 & 383).
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) with CVW-7 (15 Apr to 22 Dec 1980)
“USS South Carolina (CGN 37) joined USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) as part of her task force” (Ref. 84A).
“On 18 April 1980, USS Constellation (CV-64) and her battle group departed Subic Bay, the Republic of the Philippines, to relieve USS Coral Sea (CV-43), steaming westward to the Arabian Sea, where Gonzo Station
had been established following the November 1979 takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran
” (Ref. 1- Constellation & 72).Iran hostage crisis
“As the Iranian hostage crisis drags into its second year, 52 Americans are still held captive by the new regime in Tehran, with no resolution in sight. President Carter's threats and sanctions fail to bring them home, and in April 1980 the administration calls on the military” (Ref. 386).
President Carter, Joint Chiefs and Commanders in the field were convinced the hostages could be rescued without going to war with Iran.
“USS Coral Sea (CV-43) with CVW-14 Air Wing and COMCARGROUP THREE embarked, was on "GONZO" Station in the North Arabian Sea and at sea 87 continuous days (29 January to 24 April 1980), when Operation Evening Light
in support of the top-secret mission Operation Eagle Claw began at about dawn on 24 April 1980, in connection with the Iranian crisis, operating along side USS Nimitz (CVN 68), with her air wing, while the Nimitz launched eight helicopters sailing in the Arabian Sea off the southeast Coast of Iran for there 600-mle flight to Desert One, the attempt to rescue 52 US Embassy American diplomats held hostage in Tehra,n Iran
” (Ref. 4 & 72).Operation Eagle claw – Mission to Rescue HostagesPlanning a Mission
“Teheran is well inside Iran and away from friendly countries. The hostages were not held at an airport as in Israel's four years earlier Entebbe raid. Good intelligence was hard to come by about forces inside the embassy and in Teheran. And of course, all the planning and training had to be carried out in complete secrecy” (Ref. 11).
“American diplomatic efforts to release the hostages were thwarted by Khomeni supporters. At the same time, Pentagon planners began examining rescue option.
Initially, the preferred solution was the infiltration of the force by trucks from Turkish territory but this plan was rejected due political disadvantages and the risk of a great number of casualties made to discard the possibility of a night paratrooper’s assault so the choice fell again, after all, on the use of helicopters” (Ref. 11).
“For planners, the situation was bleak. Intelligence information was difficult to get. The hostages were heavily guarded in the massive embassy compound. Logistically, Tehran was a city crammed with 4 million people, yet it was very isolated -- surrounded by about 700 miles of desert and mountains in every direction. There was no easy way to get a rescue team into the embassy” (Ref. 4).
“Another scenario was parachuting an elite Army Special Forces team in. The team would fight its way in and out of the embassy, rescuing the hostages along the way. That plan was deemed suicide. After realizing there was no infrastructure or support for a quick strike, planners started mapping out a long-range, multifaceted rescue.” (Ref. 4)
“By December 1979, a rescue force was selected and a training program was under way” (Ref. 11).
The top-secret mission was called Operation Eagle Claw.
Training exercises were conducted through March 1980 and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) approved mission execution on 16 April 1980. Between 19 and 23 April, the forces deployed to Southwest Asia.
What was ultimately decided on was an audacious plan involving all four US armed forces services” (Ref. 11).
“What emerged was a complex, two-night operation. An Army rescue team would be brought into Iran.Operation Evening Light
in support of the top-secret mission Operation Eagle Claw began at about dawn on April 24, 1980, when eight helicopters were launched from the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) sailing in the Arabian Sea off the southeast Coast of Iran” (Ref. 4).
“HM-16 provided the eight helicopters for Operation Eagle Claw and was on duty until 19 May 1980 when the squadron returned to Norfolk, Virginia,
after an unprecedented 193 days continuous at sea.
“Three MC-130E Combat Talon’s "Hercs" would leave Masirah Island, Oman on the evening of 24 April 1980, and fly to a barren spot in the desert of Iran, known as Delta One staging area, several hundred miles southeast of Tehran and offload the Delta force men, Combat Controllers, and translators/truck drivers.
Once on the ground, the rescue team would board the Navy RH-53's of HM-16 USMC crews flying in from USS Nimitz (CVN-68) having flown off the carrier at dawn April 24, 1980” (Ref. 4).
“Three EC-130's following the Combat Talon's would then land and prepare to refuel the Navy RH-53D's with USMC crews of HM-16 flying in from USS Nimitz (CVN-68)” (Ref. 11).
“Once the helicopters were refueled, they would fly the task force forward to meet up with agents already in-country, and hide briefly near the US embassy, aided by several Iranians who had been hired by the CIA, awaiting the assault the next night” (Ref. 4).
“The helicopters would then fly to areas about 50 miles outside Tehran and hide until called by the Delta operators” (Ref. 4 & 11).
“The operation required a total of 12 USAF planes (4 special ops MC-130E Combat Talon, 3 command post EC-130E Commando Solo, 3 gunships AC-130 Spectre, and 2 cargo C-141 Starlifter), and F-14A Tomcat’s, A-6E Intruder’s and A-7E Corsair’s, supplied by the aircraft carriers USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and USS Coral Sea (CV-43) in the Arabian Sea to provide air support.
On the second night, the MC-130's and EC-130's would again fly into the country, this time with 100 US Army Rangers troops, and head for Manzariyeh Air Base, about 40 miles southeast of Tehran. The Army Rangers were to assault the field and hold it so that the two C-141's could land to ferry the hostages back home.
AC-130H Spectre gun ships would be over the embassy and the airfield to "fix" any problems encountered, providing cover for the rangers at Manzariyeh, support Delta's assault, and to suppress any attempts at action by the Iranian Air Force from nearby Mehrabad Airbase” (Ref. 4).
American intelligence agents would escort the Delta team to the embassy in trucks were they were to storm the American embassy, kill whoever tried to stop them, and free the hostages. There, the raiders were to board trucks with the freed prisoners for a further 50-mile trip into Tehran, then rendezvous with the Navy’s RH-53's of HM-16 USMC crews hiding out until ordered to a nearby football stadium. They and the hostages would be flown to Manzariyeh Airfield and the waiting C-141's would fly out of the country. All the aircraft but the eight helicopters would be flown back; the helicopters would be destroyed before leaving” (Ref. 4 & 11).
“Secrecy and surprise were critical to the plan. The entire mission would be done at night, and surprise was the Army shooters' greatest advantage.
It was an ambitious plan; some say too ambitious.
"This mission required a lot of things we had never done before," said retired Col. (then-Capt.) Bob Brenci, the lead C-130 pilot on the mission. "We were literally making it up as we went along."
Flying using night-vision goggles was almost unheard of. There was no capability, or for that matter, a need, to refuel helicopters at remote, inaccessible landing zones. All these skills and procedures would be tested and honed for this mission.
"These capabilities are routine now for special operators, but at the time we were right there on the edge of the envelope," said retired Col. (then-Capt.) George Ferkes, Brenci's co-pilot.
The aircrews weren't the only ones pushing the envelope. Airman First Class Jessie Rowe was a fuels specialist at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., when he got a late night call to pack his bags and show up at the Tampa International Airport. He met his boss, Tech. Sgt. Bill Jerome, and the pair flew to Arizona. They were now a part of Eagle Claw. Their job? Devise a self-contained refueling system the C-130s could carry into the desert to refuel the helicopters at the forward staging area.
"No one told us why," said Rowe, who's now a major at Hurlburt Field and one of just two operation participants still on active duty. "But, you didn't need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out.
"We begged, borrowed and stole the stuff we needed to make it work," he said. "We got it done. In less than a month, we had a working system."
The Eagle Claw players were spread out, training around the world. The Hurlburt crews spent most of their time training in Florida and the southwestern United States. The pieces were coming together. At the same time, negotiations to free the hostages continued to go nowhere. By the time April 1980 rolled around, the Eagle Claw team had been practicing individually, and together, for five months. The aircrews averaged about 1,000 flying hours in that time. In comparison, a typical C-130 crew dog would take three years to log 1,000 hours” (Ref. 9).Its Showtime
“A month before the assault a CIA Twin Otter had flown to Desert One. A USAF Combat Controller had ridden around the landing area on a light dirt bike and planted landing lights to help guide the force in” (Ref. 11).
“"We were chomping at the bit," Brenci said.”We just wanted to go and do it."
After a long training mission in Arizona and a flight to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., to pick up parts, Col. J.V.O. Weaver (a captain then) and his crew, returned to Hurlburt Field to an unusual sight.
"We rolled in and noticed the maintenance guys were on the line painting all the birds flat black," Weaver said. "They painted everything. Tail numbers, markings. Everything."
The plan was moving forward. Less than a day later, six C-130s quietly departed Florida bound for Wadi Kena, Egypt. The president hadn't pulled the trigger yet, but the hammer was cocked on the operation.
The Army and Air Force troops were in Egypt awaiting orders. The Marines and sailors, the helicopter contingent, were aboard the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) afloat in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Iran” (Ref. 9).
“The Persian Gulf, also known as the Arabian Gulf, is a 600-mile-long body of water which separates Iran from the Arabian Peninsula, and one of the most strategic waterways in the world due to its importance in world oil transportation. At its narrowest point (the Strait of Hormuz
), the Gulf narrows to only 34 miles wide” (Ref. 450).
"I remember we ate C-rats (the predecessor to MREs) for days and then one morning a truck rolls up, and we're served a hot breakfast," Rowe said. "Light bulbs went on in everyone's minds."
The hot breakfast was a precursor to a briefing and pep talk from Army Maj. Gen. James Vaught, the Joint Task Force commander for Eagle Claw. The mission was a go.
"Everyone was pumped up," said retired Chief Master Sgt. Taco Sanchez (then a staff sergeant). "Arms were in the air. We were ready!"
Next stop, Masirah, a tiny island off the coast of Oman. To say this air patch was desolate would be kind. It was a couple of tents and a blacktop strip. It was the final staging area -- the last stop before launching” (Ref. 9).
Not knowing how the Iranian Pilots would conduct themselves in the air in the case of a battle, weighed heavy on the minds of everyone associated with Operation Evening Light
in support of Operation Eagle Claw on board both USS Coral Sea (CV-43) and the USS Nimitz (CVN-68). Aircraft from both carriers were armed and stood ready to execute several contingency cover and strike operations in support of aircraft on the ground and in their exit from Iranian air space. On board both carriers in Combat Information Center everyone knew when the first MC-130E Combat Talon’s "Hercs" lifted off from Masirah. The “Hercs” would have to fly in without being detected and the eight helo’s needed for the mission would soon follow” (Ref. 43).Iran
“The U.S.-trained Iranian Imperial Air Force was widely regarded as second only to Israel's in the Middle East—more than a match for Iraq and a serious adversary for even the Soviet Union. The Khomeini regime, however, regarded it as a waste of money that rightfully belonged to the mostazafin (poor oppressed masses)
After Khomeini seized power on 11 February 1979, one of the new government's first acts was a purge of the armed forces, particularly the officer corps, which was (probably correctly) thought to be a hotbed of monarchist sentiment. The Air Force, where virtually the entire fighting element—the combat pilots—is composed of officers, was especially hard hit. To make matters worse, Iran's best combat pilots had been trained in the United States and Israel, making them particularly suspect” (Ref. 24).
“Just before sunset on April 24, 1980, Brenci's MC-130 took off toward Desert One. The die was cast. Brenci's crew would be the first to touch down in Iran. They carried the Air Force combat control team and Army Col. Charlie Beckwith's Commandos (Force combat control team) were on board Brenci's MC-130, as was Col. James Kyle, the on-scene commander at Desert One and one of the lead planners for the operation. The other Hercs left Masirah after dark, and the helicopters launched off the Nimitz.
It was a four-hour flight. Plenty of time to contemplate what they were attempting.
Beckwith would lead the rescue mission into the embassy.
"We just tried to stay busy," Sanchez said. "We were in enemy territory now. The pucker factor was pretty high."
The first challenge would be to find the makeshift landing strip. Only 21 days earlier, Maj. John Carney, a combat controller, had flown a covert mission into Iran with the CIA to set up an infrared landing zone at Desert One. Carney was perched over Brenci's shoulder as the C-130 neared the landing site. The lights he had burled in the desert would be turned on via remote control from the C-130's flight deck. The question was would they work?
Brenci was a couple miles out when in slow succession a "diamond-and-one" pattern appeared through his night-vision goggles. The bird touched down in the powdery silt, and the troops went to work” (Ref. 9).
“That insertion went well, with no contact, and the pilots reported that their sensors had picked up some radar signals at 3,000 feet but nothing below that.
Shortly after the lead C-130 landed, a bus came by on a dirt road. Its driver and about 40 passengers were held until the Americans left” (Ref. 11).
The activity of CIC onboard USS CORAL SEA (CV-43) and USS Nimitz (CVN-65) April 24 1980 was fast and furious.
As the Operations Department Yeoman, my duties were vast and although temporarily assigned to Commander Carrier Group Three, I was expected to continue with my regular duties. I received a call from the admiral’s staff while I was typing a message in the Operations Department Office just before dawn on April 24.
We were not yet at General Quarters and it was early in the morning. During the time we were on “GONZO” station, I was lucking to get 4-hours sleep a day. Staying up was normal and this morning was like any other morning with the exception that my General Quarters station would change.
My duties normally during General Quarters was Repair 7 Forward Damage Control Team (forward 02 level hose team) yet temporarily assigned to Commander Carrier Group Three, the Admiral wanted me to manage all incoming/out going messages in Combat Information Center. As a Yeoman Third Class Petty Officer my duties were unusual to say the least, yet my performance had already been tested.
Understanding your enemy and its abilities means everything in a battle, especially when your enemy once was your partner in the skies for 30-years.
Sailing in the Arabian Sea off the southeast Coast of Iran, Coral Sea and Nimitz were actively engaged in Operation Evening Light
in support of Operation Eagle Claw commencing at about dawn on 24 April 1980, when eight helicopters were launched from the USS Nimitz (CVN-65) sailing in the Arabian Sea off the southeast Coast of Iran for there 600-mle flight to Desert One” (Ref. 4).
When the choppers needed for the mission, eight total, left the Nimitz, Combat Information Center (CIC) was extremely active.
“The RH-53's were supposed to fly formation, low level, to the meet area. Because of the demands of the mission, at least six helicopters were needed at Desert One for the mission to go forward.
Weather for the mission was supposed to be clear. Further inland, the Marine helo pilots met their own private hell. The helicopter pilots were told to fly at or below 200 feet to avoid radar. This limitation caused them to run into what is known in the Dasht-e-Kavir, Iran's Great Salt Desert, as a "haboob", or dust storm, that they could not fly over without breaking the 200-foot limit.
Two hours into the flight, two helicopters lost sight of the task force and landed, out of action. Another had landed earlier when a warning light had come on. Their crew had been picked up but the aircraft that had stopped to retrieve them was now 20 minutes behind the rest of the formation.
Battling dust storms and heavy winds, the RH-53's continued to make their way to Desert One. After receiving word that the EC-130's and fuel had arrived, the two aircraft that had landed earlier started up again and resumed their flight to the rendezvous. But then another helicopter had a malfunction and the pilot and Marine commander decided to turn back, halfway to the site. The task force was down to six helicopters, the bare minimum needed to pull off the rescue.
The first group of three helicopters arrived at Desert One an hour late, with the rest appearing 15 minutes later” (Ref. 11).
“At Desert One, all the C-130s had landed and were taxied into place. They were waiting for the choppers.
We weren't on the ground that long, but my God, it felt like an eternity waiting for the helos,” Beyers recalled. The first two helicopters to roll in pulled up to Beyer's aircraft to be refueled. When the sixth chopper showed, everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
The Army troops boarded the helicopters. The fuels guys did their magic. Everything was good. Then word spread” (Ref. 9).
“The rescue attempt had been dealt its final blow when it was learned that one of the aircraft had lost its primary hydraulic system and was unsafe to use fully loaded for the assault. Only five aircraft were serviceable and six needed, so the mission was aborted. One of the helicopters had a hydraulic failure. Game over” (Ref. 11).
Of great concern before and during the mission was what to do if the IIRA gets wind of Operation Eagle Claw, while secret operations were being conducted and next day operations would surely alert Iran’s Air Force of not only the location of Coral Sea and Nimitz but Desert One and Manzariyeh Air Base where first and second day operations of Eagle Claw were underway and to occur upon completion of mission.
When Desert One staging area was no longer a secret, and while our planes were still on the desert floor, the Iranians begin an air campaign headed strait for our position at Desert One. Planes were launched from USS Coral Sea (CV-43) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68), until nearly every aircraft was in the sky over the desert. As previously stated, the Coral Sea alone had two fighter squadrons of F-4N's (Phantom II), a first time since WW II.
While in CIC I observed first hand how close our nation came to a possible war with Iran.
Combat Information Center Air Traffic Control Scopes captivated everyone's attention, as we witnessed an estimated 75-aircraft coming straight for the assault force. he Iranians had launched their entire Air Force stationed at the Tehran Air Force Base. Between both Carriers, an estimated 160 aircraft were launched, headed straight for the Iranian Aircraft. You could see the aircraft on the Air Traffic Control Scopes. A couple of seconds after the aircraft merged you could see three dots headed in the direction of the Tehran Air Force Base. Had either side fired at each other, the out come may have been much different.
I new then, the full striking force of our planes made a big difference. The Iranian pilots wanted no part of an air battle with U. S. Naval and Marine fighter pilots.
Had there been an air battle USS Nimitz (CVN-65) F 16’s and A-6F’s complimenting USS Coral Sea (CV-43) F-4N Phantom’s would have battled each other and pilots skills would have determined the outcome of dogfights in the air.
The Iran Air Force was well trained and with almost 223 operational Phantoms, as a part of the Shah's plan to modernize the Imperial Iranian Air Force, IIAF was capable of destroying a great number of planes launched from both Coral Sea and Nimitz.
“Contrary to Western reports, F-4 squadrons managed to maintain their combat effectiveness despite widespread political upheavals and personnel purges. Technical malfunctions, often appearing during flight preparation, would reduce the flight packages, but missions were seldom aborted for this reason” (Ref. 18).
An air war was the last thing the U. S. needed or wanted.
Pilots of the USAF and IIAF had been working together for a period of 22-years, having established friendships with each other over the years with the exception of those Pilots who the Khomeini discharged, killed or exiled because of loyalties to the Shah.
An Air Battle between USMC and Navy Pilots with the IIAF was the last thing either air force wanted.
I truly believe a level of respect each air force had for one another’s capabilities was the under lining factor no shots were fired by either side.Operation Eagle Claw was canceled
“Beckwith needed six helicopters. Kyle, the on-scene commander, aborted the mission.
"It was crushing," Rowe said. "We had come all that way, spent all that time practicing, and now we had to turn back."
The decision made, now the crews had to evacuate the Iranian dust patch. Time was a factor. The C-130s were running low on fuel. Sunrise was fast approaching, and the team didn't want to be caught on the ground by Iranian troops. Members had already detained a civilian bus with 40-plus passengers and were forced to blow up a fuel truck, which wouldn't stop for a roadblock.
They had worn out their welcome. Dejected and disappointed, they just wanted to button up and go home.
Beyers' aircraft, flown by Capt. Hal Lewis, was critically low on fuel. But, before it could depart, the helicopter behind the aircraft had to be moved” (Ref. 9).
Operation Eagle Claw tragedy after mission was canceled
"We had just taken the head count," recalled Beyers. They had 44 Army troops on board. Beyers was on the flight deck behind Lewis' seat. "We got permission to taxi and then everything just lit up."
A fireball engulfed the C-130. According to witnesses, the helicopter lifted off, kicked up a blinding dust cloud, and then banked toward the Herc. Its rotor blades sliced through the Herc's main stabilizer. The chopper rolled over the top of the aircraft, gushing fuel and fire as it tumbled” (Ref. 9).
“It was dark and his rotors kicked up an immense dust cloud, making it difficult to see
when the pilot took off” (Ref. 11).
“Fire engulfed the plane. Training kicked in. The flight deck crew began shutdown procedures. The fire was 0utside the plane. Beyers headed down the steps toward the crew door. That's when someone opened the escape hatch on top of the aircraft in the cockpit, Beyers said. Boom. Black out.
Tech. Sgt. Ken Bancroft, one of three loadmasters on the airplane, knew he had troops to get off the plane. He went to the left troop door. Fire. Right troop door. Jammed shut.
"I don't know how I got that door off," Bancroft said.
He did. One after another, this hulk of a man tossed the Army troops off the burning plane like a crazed baggage handler unloading a jumbo jet.
Beyers had been knocked out. The flight deck door had hit him on the head as he went down the steps. When he came to, he was on fire. Conscious again, he crawled toward the rear of the plane.
"I made it halfway," Beyers said. "I quit. I knew I was dead." Somehow he moved himself closer to the door. Then he saw two figures appear through the flames. Two Army troopers had come back for him. He was alive, but in bad shape.
Beyers always had the bad habit of rolling up his flight suit sleeves. He finally paid the price. His arms, from the elbows down, were terribly burned. His hands were charred. Hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, gone. Worse were the internal injuries. His lungs, mouth and throat were burned. Yet, he clung to life.
The desert scene was one of organized chaos. Failure had turned to tragedy.
"I knew they were dead," Bancroft said of his crewmates in the front of the plane. "I looked up there, and it was just a wall of fire. There was nothing I could do.
The C-130 was evacuated and the order came to blow the aircraft and exfiltrate the country.
“The last plane left Desert One a half hour after the accident. Beyer was on that airplane.
"The accident was a calamity heaped on despair. It was devastating," wrote Kyle in his book called "The Guts to Try."
"The C-130 crews and combat controllers had not failed in any part of the operation and had a right to be proud of what they accomplished," Kyle said. "They inserted the rescue team into Iran on schedule, set up the refueling zone, and gassed up the helicopters when they finally arrived. Then, when things went sour, they saved the day with an emergency evacuation by some incredibly skillful flying. They had gotten the forces Out of Iran to fight another day -- a fact they can always look back on with pride" (Ref. 9).
“However, in the dust and confusion the order never reached the people who would blow the aircraft. There were wounded and dying men to be taken care of and the aircraft had to be moved to avoid having the burning debris start another fire. Because of this failure to destroy the helicopters, the Americans left behind them 5 RH-53D intact and top secret plans fell into the hands of the Iranians the next day and the agents waiting in-country to help the Delta operators were almost captured” (Ref. 11).
“Pride and sorrow are the two mixed emotions most participants share.
“Admiral Thomas B. Hayward, Chief of Naval Operations, in a video message to USS Nimitz (CVN-68), USS Texas and USS California during their transit home from the Indian Ocean:
"A few days ago the President made a very courageous decision as he ordered us to execute the rescue operation as we tried to free our Americans held hostage in Teheran. It was not a risk-free operation-there is no such thing as a risk-free operation..... we all shared considerable disappointment that we were not successful. But let's not be despondent about that. Our job is now to remain alert, to look for those opportunities, times when we can bring our Americans out. Our job is to stay ready” (Ref. 11).
“"We were the ultimate embarrassment," Sanchez said.”Militarily we did some astounding things, but ultimately we failed America. I'm proud of what we accomplished. I was 27 years old, and when I think about that mission it still sends shivers down my spine."
Sanchez's words capture the essence of every man on the mission. They were a brave, courageous group of men, attempting the impossible, for a noble and worthy cause. They came up short and have lived 21 years with the demons, or gremlins, that sabotaged their mission of mercy.
"They tried, and that was important," said Col. Thomas Schaefer, the U.S. Embassy defense attaché and one of the hostages. "It's tragic eight men died, but it's important America had the courage to attempt the rescue.”
Even having lived so long with the horrible outcome of that mission, Beyers never doubts his choice to take part.
"We do things other people can't do," he said. "We would rather get killed than fail. It was an accident. But, I have no doubt, had the Army guys gotten in there, we would've succeeded."
Eight men died during the aborted attempt to rescue American hostages held captive in Iran. Five of them were airmen from the 8th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Three were Marine helicopter crewmen.
"Take solace in the fact [that] what they did only a few could even attempt," said Lt. Gen. Norton Schwartz, the commander of Alaskan Command, at a 20th anniversary commemorative ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Fla. "What they did was keep the promise. They had the guts to try."
Schwartz was a pilot in the 8th SOS at the time of the rescue mission and went on to command Hurlburt's 16th Special Operations Wing.
Another special operator and now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Hugh Shelton, expressed similar sentiments during a speech at an April 2000 ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery honoring those killed.
"The sheer audacity of the mission, the enormity of the task, the political situation at the time. When I reflect on the results -- both positive and negative -- I'm awed," Shelton said.
"The very soul of any nation is its heroes. We are in the company of giants and in the shadow of eight true heroes," he said.
Those heroes are Capt. Richard L. Bakke, 33; Capt. Harold J. Lewis, 35; Capt. Lyn D. McIntosh, 33; Capt. James T. McMillan II, 28; Tech. Sgt. Joel C. Mayo, 34; Marine Staff Sgt. Dewey L. Johnson, 31; Marine Sgt. John D. Harvey, 21; and Marine Cpl. George N. Holmes Jr., 22.
“The aftermath of the rescue operation was a barrage of investigations, congressional hearings and, believe it or not, more planning and training for a follow-on rescue mission.
Members of the 8th SOS were involved in those plans. In fact, some of the same crewmembers that participated in Eagle Claw came back and started preparing for the follow-up mission.
A memorial was placed at Arlington National Cemetery honoring the eight men killed. Subsequently, other tributes have been made remembering the men who died at Desert One. Hurlburt has dedicated streets in their honor. New Mexico's Holloman Air Force Base Airman Leadership School is named for Tech. Sgt. Joel Mayo, the C-130 flight engineer killed at Desert One.” (Ref. 9- U.S. Air Force, Air Force News Agency COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group)
“Survivors abandoned the scene, leaving the four remaining helicopters, with weapons, maps and a number of secret documents regarding the operation, and the dead bodies behind in the flaming wreckage. A few hours later, in the early morning, Carter went on national television to report to the American people on the disaster that had just occurred. The President behaved with great dignity; he made no excuses, sought no scapegoats, and accepted absolute personal responsibility” (Ref. 4).
“April 25, 1980 -- A defining moment for President Jimmy Carter, for the American people and for America's military. At 7 a.m. a somber President Carter announces to the nation, and the world, that eight American servicemen are dead and several others are seriously injured, after a super-secret hostage rescue mission failed. Broadcast on ABC-TV” (Ref. 15-ABC).
“Although initial reaction to the tragic mission was supportive of the President, the failure of the rescue attempt did more to undercut the Carter presidency than any other single event, even before this incident, the hostage crisis had become a political liability for the President. As details of the botched plan were revealed, it became another one of the many failures that Americans attributed to the President. There was little hope for another rescue mission, since Iran had put its guard up and dispersed the hostages to various locations in Tehran. The fiasco of the rescue mission, however, provided Carter a convenient moment to abandon his Rose Garden campaign in favor of a more public candidacy” (Ref. 4).
“USS Constellation (CV-64) reached the eastern Indian Ocean when the unsuccessful 24 April 1980 raid to free American hostages took place, and after cross decking supplies and spare parts, Constellation relieved the USS Coral Sea (CV-43) "GONZO" Station in in the North Arabian Sea 30 April 1980” (Ref. 1- Constellation).
By the time USS Constellation (CV-64) relieved USS Coral Sea (CV-43) with CVW-14 Air Wing and COMCARGROUP THREE embarked, departing the Arabian Sea, she was on "GONZO" Station in the North Arabian Sea 89 continious days since Coral Sea’s arrival in the Indian Ocean 1 February 1980, steaming through the Malacca Straits 31 January 1980, and then on track to the Indian Ocean, departing Singapore Bay 29 January 1980.
USS Coral Sea (CV-43) departed the Arabian Sea 30 April 1980, steaming through the Indian Ocean and Malacca Straits via the South China Sea enroute to Subic Bay.
“Edmund Muskie sworn in as U.S. Secretary of State May 9, 1980” (Ref. 12).
“Nine days at sea prior to USS Coral Sea (CV-43) arrival at Subic Bay 9 May 1980, to be the ship’s first stop on the way back to her home base, NAS Alameda, Ca., having been at sea 102 consecutive days, departing the Arabian Sea 30 April 1980.
Cheju-Do Islands in the Sea of Japan on the way home via Korea.
“USS Coral Sea (CV-43) departed Subic Bay, R.P., spending a week in port, proceeding to Korea but while in direction, Coral Sea was ordered to the south of the Cheju-Do Islands in the Sea of Japan, following the potential of civil unrest in the Republic of Korea.
While in route to Cheju-Do Islands in the Sea of Japan, the crew of USS Coral Sea (CV-43) was notified that the long-dormant Mount St. Helens erupts in Washington State, hurling ash 15,000 feet into the air and setting off mudslides and avalanches, proceeded by a weeklong series of earthquakes and smaller explosions of ash and smoke. The eruptions cause minimal damage in the sparsely populated area, but about 400 people -- mostly loggers and forest rangers -- are evacuated.
USS Coral Sea (CV-43) arrived off Cheju-Do Islands in the Sea of Japan 22 May 1980.
“On 26 May 1980
, USS Nimitz (CVN-68) with CVW-8 embarked arrived Norfolk, Virginia,
steaming through the Southern Atlantic on her way home from the Indian Ocean operating with the United States Atlantic Command
) under the direction of the 2nd Fleet
, her first Indian Ocean
and Arabian Sea
deployment operating with the 7th Fleet
ended. Operating 144 continuous days at sea during the Iran hostage crisis, Nimitz was actively engaged in Operation Evening Light
during “Operation Eagle Claw” commencing at about dawn on 24 April 1980, when eight helicopters were launched from the Nimitz sailing in the Arabian Sea off the southeast Coast of Iran for there 600-mle flight to Desert One, the attempt to rescue 52 US Embassy American diplomats held hostage in Tehra,n Iran
, while the mission was aborted in the Iranian Desert when the number of RH-53's operational helicopters fell below the minimum needed to transport the attack force and hostages out of Iran during Operation Eagle Claw, and upon arrival the ship's crew was greeted by President and Mrs. Carter, members of Congress, military leaders and thousands of families and friends, the largest given to any carrier battle group returning to the United States since the end of World War II. Made her second Northern Atlantic voyage on her second Mediterranean
Sea deployment operating with the 6th Fleet
; ending her first Caribbean
Sea and Northern Atlantic depoyment on her first deployment; reclassified CVN-68 30 June 1975. Her fourth deployment ended (10 September 1979
to 26 May 1980) since she was commissioned on 3 May 1975
by President Gerald Ford
” (Ref. 4, 72 & 371).
“USS Coral Sea (CV-43) remained on station off Cheju-Do Islands in the Sea of Japan until the USS Midway (CV-41) could relieve Coral Sea.
“Following a period in Yokosuka, USS Midway (CV-41) was again on duty, this time relieving USS Coral Sea (CV-43) 30 May 1980 on standby south of the Cheju-Do Islands
in the Sea of Japan
following the potential of civil unrest in the Republic of Korea” (Ref. 1- Midway & 72).
Arriving in Korea in June 1980, USS Coral Sea (CV-43) spent only a few days anchored prior to arriving Alameda, Calif.
“Following a period in Yokosuka, USS Midway (CV-41) was again on duty, this time relieving USS Coral Sea 30 May 1980 on standby south of the Cheju-Do Islands in the Sea of Japan following the potential of civil unrest in the Republic of Korea” (Ref. 1-Midway).
“In June 1980, USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) was awarded the Meritorious Unit
Commendation and the Naval Air Force Pacific Battle Efficiency 'E' an the best carrier in
the Pacific Fleet for her operations connected with the Iranian crisis, when she spent 64
days in operations and year long efficiency evaluation” (Ref. 1- Kitty Hawk).
“On 11 June 1980, USS Coral Sea (CV-43) with CVW-14 embarked (tail code NK)
arrived Alameda, California, ending her 13th “Westpac” deployment operating with the Pacific Fleet (25 January 1960 to Present) and tour of duty with the 7th Fleet in the Far East, her first Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea deployment during the Iranian revolution & Iran Hostage Crisis ended. Arriving Hawaii the morning of the 21st of November 1979, supplies and provisions were loaded, and Coral Sea departed the following day, arriving at Pusan, Korea, 10 December 1979, for two days of liberty, departing 12 December 1979, arriving at Subic Bay, Republic of Philippines 20 December, remaining in port until 9 January 1980, during which time on 22 December, Captain Richard M Dunleavy, USN relieved Captain Stanley R. Arthur USN as CO to become the first Naval Flight Officer in history to command an aircraft carrier, with Commander Curtain, USN (frocked to Captain), the previous Operations Department Head, Dunleavy’s XO, departing Subic Bay, Coral Sea arrived Thailand 18 January 1980, departing two days later on the 20th for Singapore, five days out of Thailand, Coral Sea pulled into Singapore Bay for a four-day rest and relaxation liberty on the 25th of January 1980, departing on the 29th, the crew quickly got underway with operations, headed for the OPAREA just east of Singapore where the ship crossed deck with the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-43) on 30th January, loading of weapons, all variety of needed supplies, and mail, passing over the equator, the same day, the Shellback initiation was held off until the 2nd of February, due to the supplies from the cross decking on the flight deck, heading through the Malacca Straits, and then on track to the Indian Ocean on 31st January, arriving approximately 5 North of the equator, on 2 February 1980, Coral Sea entered the IMPERVIM NEPTVINI REGIS, spending two days standing down, cross-decking with USS Midway (CV-41) 4 February 1980, transferring supplies and crossing the two E-2B aircraft, while a turn over brief was also conducted between both ship’s officers. Coral Sea with CVW-14 Air Wing and Rear Admiral D. C. Chambers, COMCARGROUP THREE embarked, joined up with the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and her escort ships, operating in the North Arabian Sea on Gonzo Station 4 February 1980, established following the November 1979 takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran, Iran, Coral Sea was at sea 87 continuous days (29 January to 24 April 1980), when Operation Evening Light in support of the the top-secret mission “Operation Eagle Claw” began at about dawn on 24 April 1980, in connection with the Iranian crisis, when eight helicopters were launched from the Nimitz sailing in the Arabian Sea off the southeast Coast of Iran for there 600-mle flight to Desert One, the attempt to rescue 52 US Embassy American diplomats held hostage in Tehra,n Iran, while the mission was aborted in the Iranian Desert when the number of RH-53's operational helicopters fell below the minimum needed to transport the attack force and hostages out of Iran operating along side USS Nimitz (CVN 68), with her air wing, concluding operations the next day, Coral Sea remained on "GONZO" Station in the North Arabian Sea until relieved by USS Constellation (CV-64) 30 April 1980, herself reaching the eastern Indian Ocean when the unsuccessful 24 April 1980 raid to free American hostages took place, and after cross decking supplies and spare parts, Coral Sea had been in the Indian Ocean/North Arabian Sea 93 continuous days since her departure from Singapore 29 January 1980, arriving in the Indian Ocean 1 February 1980, steaming through the Malacca Straits 31 January 1980, arriving on "GONZO" Station in the North Arabian between 4 and 5 February, and was at sea nine days prior to Coral Sea’s arrival at Subic Bay 9 May 1980. Coral Sea was at sea 102 consecutive days at sea since her departure from Singapore Bay 29 January 1980, departing Subic Bay, R.P., spending a week in port, Coral Sea proceeded to Korea but while in direction, Coral Sea was ordered to the south of the Cheju-Do Islands in the Sea of Japan, following the potential of civil unrest in the Republic of Korea, arriving off Cheju-Do Islands in the Sea of Japan 22 May 1980, remaining on station off Cheju-Do Islands in the Sea of Japan until relieved by USS Midway (CV-41) 30 May 1980, arriving in Korea in June 1980, Coral Sea spent only a few days anchored prior to arriving Alameda, Calif., making port calls at Pusan, Korea; Subic Bay, R.P.; Pattaya Beach, Thailand and Singapore (NHC Battle Order p _). Reclassified CV-43 30 June 1975; involved in two Vietnam peace coast patrol cruises, ending with Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of Saigon 28 April 1975 during the evacuation of the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh 12 April 1975 in Operation Eagle Pull, while her first Vietnam peace coast patrol cruise was during Operation Homecoming (9 March 1973 to 11 August 1973), following six Vietnam War Combat cruises during the Vietnam Conflict/War (1 November 1965 to 17 July 1972), completing her 1st & 2nd Vietnam Expeditionary Force (VEF) deployments during her 1st & 2nd “Westpac,” (first CVA in the Bering Sea during 12 December 1961 to 17 July 1962 deployment). Her 13th foreign water deployment since her visit to Vancouver, B.C. (18 to 22 March 1960) when she deployed from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Washington upon completion of sea trials and a post-overhaul inspection and survey evaluation, commencing once recommissioned, following SCB 110A conversion (16 April 1957 to 25 January 1960) ended, decommissioned 24 April 1957, completing nine tours of duty in the Mediterranean Sea operating with the 6th Fleet (7 June 1948 to 13 August 1956); reclassified hull classification symbol CVA-43 1 October 1952. Her 24th deployment ended (13 November 1979 to 11 June 1980), since her commission 1 October 1947” (Ref.1-Coral Sea, 2-USS Coral Sea “Welcome Aboard” brochure, 34, 35 & 72).
When USS Coral Sea (CV-43) arrived in San Francisco tugboats spraying water greeted
us. Other boats were they’re honking their horns. Many smaller boats were on hand but
stayed a distance away from the ship. Flowers and confetti blanket of the ship were hung
over the Golden Gate Bridge. The families of the crew were on the pier and ship horns
Were announcing our arrival. It was quite a thing to see from the Ships Flight Deck.
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