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.
Mac McCahan relates the story of a Chinook that mistakenly strayed into the Korean DMZ and was shot down. Closer to home, as North Korean armor was massing across the border, he tells why his wife became suddenly upset and convinced that another war was imminent. It turned out to be a case of Loose Lips.
He always wanted to fly. In fact, Al Muller was building model airplanes before he could read. This naturally led him to the Air Force and after basic training and a first assignment transporting troops, he entered the Air Force Institute and became an Aeronautical Engineer.
After the war, Bob Baker was sent to the 82nd Airborne and received glider training and jump training. It was a supply job he was interested in and he was disappointed when he didn't get it. He landed another assignment and found out that a supply clerk could get into some real shenanigans.
The Generals kept asking, why do we lose our satellite link during the heavy tropical rain in the Philippines? The answer, according to communications engineer Mac McCahan, is in the true shape of a raindrop, a shape which is not what you might think.
Barry McCaffrey remembers being astonished at the low casualties sustained during Desert Storm and was thankful as soon as they started to take troops out. After his time there, he stepped into a position working for Colin Powell and eventually President Clinton working in the drug policy division.
After a short bit of shore duty, Frank Noonan was assigned to the USS John R. Craig, a destroyer that was bound for a goodwill tour in the Pacific. It berthed in some unlikely places, including up the Irrawaddy River at Rangoon. (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
Chuck Ware was selected for battalion command, but he deployed to Iraq as an Inspector General for General Barry McCaffrey. He soon had his battalion and was a little unnerved to find out that there were forty Lieutenant Colonels in the rear as replacements for battalion commanders who were killed. Saddam Hussein had been built up to be almost formidable.
After his deployment to Korea, Joe Estores came back to the States and spent time stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey. On his next assignment abroad, he got to experience the Cold War through his patrol of the East & West German border.
There was no doubt Mac McCahan was a problem solver. He developed a scheme for bit stuffing that made incompatible gear work together. Should have been a patent right there. Then he encountered a problem that was projected to cost one million dollars and take a year to fix. Would he do it in half the time for half the money? Think again.
In Korea, he had switched from Radio Operator to Radio Repairman with a little on-the-job training. After that tour, Arthur served at Ft. Hood for a while and then tried his hand at civilian work. He reenlisted and learned avionics repair and then applied for air traffic control school to learn that valuable skill.
His job was to keep the tanks going in Cold War Germany and he did just that, including going to school just on turrets. Bill Morris recalls that school in the foothills of the Swiss Alps and also remembers the all night engine overhauls on the mighty tanks. There was even some excitement when he made a wrong turn and drove his maintenance truck into East Berlin.
After his Air Force career, Al Muller worked on some very interesting research, including a burning wing that squirted the craft forward like the squeezing of a watermelon seed and a non-aerodynamic rotating wing that puffed air out through slits.
Vietnam forced a great change in Army training and operations. Conditions and equipment were upgraded and the quality of the soldiers improved with the advent of the all volunteer force. Chuck Ware was stationed in Cold War Germany when the new attitude swept in.
He entered the Army with an ROTC commission and a journalism degree. During college, he was in the Pershing Rifles, who enjoyed firing a blank round during their drill routine to get everyone's attention. At Fort Benning, he moved right through the basic course, jump school and Ranger school.
At the onset of Operation Desert Storm, Ernest Banasau is a Logistics Coordinator in Germany. He contacts the command to offer his services in the war effort, and is stationed in Turkey to play a coordinating role in Operation Provide Comfort, protecting Kurdish refugees from Saddam Hussein's army.
Following the harrowing experience of covering the Vietnam war, Joe Galloway spent three years in Cold War Moscow. He had to play private eye just to get mundane information and he playfully told them about some advice he was going to give Washington after he left.
Al Muller had a nice assignment recovering satellites and their film but the switch to video ended that mission. Before he left Honolulu, a chance encounter with a lost pilot led to a stuffed alligator hanging on the wall. This began an amazing odyssey for the trophy.
Pilot Bill Hanna returned to service for the Berlin Airlift and remained in Europe to provide transportation for the Cold War effort. He remembers a little wine-based detente in Italy when Communists marched on his picnic. Also, he explains why he decided on a career in the Air Force as a result of walking into a clothesline.
Communications engineer Mac McCahan caught the eye of the White House when he successfully managed two projects for the White House Communications Agency. The first was extending coverage of the first moon landing to Alaska and the second was managing the satellite link for a presidential trip to Asia.
After his tours in Vietnam, Ross McKimmey accepted a position as the Assistant Chief of Staff Communications & Electronics in Berlin, Germany. Living near the entrance to East Berlin, he and his company spent a lot of time there.
After his time in Vietnam, Barry McCaffrey spent some time teaching at West Point and enjoyed his time there. After working there, McCaffrey left to live in Europe to work at the headquarters of NATO and then moving back to D.C. to work at the Pentagon.
Reorganization was swirling around Mac McCahan at the 101st Airborne and he was nearly made battalion commander. After a European exercise where he met two Medal of Honor recipients, he found out that a communications plan for a hospital he'd drawn up had achieved some distinction.