3:01 | After months of intense planning and training, Operation Eagle Claw commenced. Pilot Roland Guidry was on the first plane to arrive at Desert One, a remote rendezvous point in the Iranian desert. There, the mission would unravel, done in by mechanical malfunctions and worse.
Keywords : Roland Guidry pilot Iran Hostage Crisis helicopter (chopper) Lockheed MC-130 Combat Talon bodies
After four years spent mostly in the Arctic, C-130 pilot Roland Guidry's next assignment was to a SAC unit that was developing reconnaissance drones. The Soviets had beefed up the air defenses in Vietnam and it had become too dangerous for manned flights over the North.
Launching reconnaissance drones was a tricky business. C-130 pilot Roland Guidry flew these top secret missions in which he released drones off the North Vietnamese coast. The first problem was going undetected. Then, the release had to be precise for the drone's programming to get it to the right area.
If the photo-reconnaissance drone had a successful flight, it's program would return it to the water off Da Nang. Pilot Roland Guidry describes the recovery system for the film, which was basically the same as the one used to retrieve film from satellites. It was developed and analyzed in Saigon, then sent to the US for deeper scrutiny.
Analysis of photo-reconnaissance showed that American POW's were being held at a compound in Son Tay. C-130 pilot Roland Guidry flew top secret missions releasing drones that captured intelligence over North Vietnam and he explains how none of the pilots knew who was responsible for the discovery. A task force was formed and a rescue mission launched but it was too late.
Roland Guidry explains that the drone missions he was flying were not limited to Vietnam but included China and North Korea as well. A special, longer range drone had to be developed for the missions in China. When he rotated back to the States, the Air Force sent him to graduate school in astronautics.
Roland Guidry's first language was French, down in the Louisiana bayou. Inspired by a cousin who enlisted first, he went in after college, where he began pilot training at a civilian flight school. Tough as nails is how he describes real flight school at Reese Air Force Base. When it came time to pick your aircraft, the C-130 was still available and that suited him just fine.
Roland Guidry didn't just fly any old C-130, he was flying a C-130D, outfitted with skis. The vast network of radar sites in the Distant Early Warning system needed supplies and servicing. Some of the Arctic sites were so distant and isolated, there were no runways for a wheeled landing. It was during this time that he first went to Vietnam on temporary duty supporting the construction of a new base.
Roland Guidry was in charge of testing and research for Air Force special operations but the Vietnam era was ending. That meant there was little for him to do so he focused on improving equipment for pilots of the newer and faster jet fighters.
C-130 pilot Roland Guidry had flown top secret missions in Vietnam and that was good preparation for his new assignment as commander of the 8th Special Operations Squadron. They flew the special ops version of the C-130, the Combat Talon. He was just settling in at the job when startling news came from Iran.
The seizure of the American embassy in Tehran caught the Pentagon flat footed with no existing special operations capability to do anything about it. An ad hoc task force was hastily assembled and Roland Guidry was part of that effort. He had just assumed command of an Air Force special ops squadron which immediately began training with the new Delta Force. Part 1 of 4.
Early in the planning for the rescue attempt of the hostages in Iran, it was decided that carrier based helicopters would be the key aircraft. They would rendezvous with fixed wing aircraft carrying personnel and fuel in the remote Iranian desert. Pilot Roland Guidry explains why a preliminary clandestine mission was required before planning could continue. Part 2 of 4.
The plan was complicated, with a lot of moving parts, but there was high confidence that the team would be able to rescue the hostages in Iran. Pilot Roland Guidry describes how a combination of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters would deliver the Delta Force and the Rangers and then extract them along with the hostages. Part 3 of 4.
The last details of the plan to rescue the hostages in Iran are laid out by Roland Guidry, who was pivotal in planning the air operations. Part of it relied on a clandestine operative who came out of retirement to participate and was inserted ahead of time to secure a warehouse for the team to use. Part 4 of 4.
The rescue attempt failed but it was the genesis of an all out effort to reorganize and improve the special operations capability of the military. Roland Guidry helped manage the air operations as the team began Project Honey Badger, which aimed to mount a second try at freeing the hostages in Iran.
The Pentagon set up a commission to investigate Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran. Roland Guidry was the first chief of air operations at the newly formed Joint Special Operations Command, the organization created to deal with unconventional warfare in the future.
The newly formed Joint Special Operations Command was beefing up the capabilities of all branches. One of the keys was the formation of SEAL Team 6. Over at the Air Force, Roland Guidry explains how they struggled to come up with the assets to succeed at their part of the plan. In the middle of all this, Grenada suddenly became a hot spot.
When Roland Guidry was given the command of the 8th Special Operations Squadron, he had to prove himself because he was not from a special ops background, per se. He did just fine. The missions he'd flown in Vietnam were perfect preparation. He says it takes a certain type of low key individual to excel at that type work.
Operation Eagle Claw was a pivotal moment in Special Operations history. Unconventional warfare had been ignored after the Vietnam War and three veterans of that conflict, who were also deeply involved with the attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran, reveal the inside story of the planning and tragic outcome. George Ferkes, Roland Guidry and Keith Nightingale each offer a unique perspective on the events.