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.
Navy Vet Fred Mills joined the Army Reserve and then the regular Army, which trained him as an aviator, fulfilling his original enlistment goal. His first stop was post-war Korea where he was given a mysterious mission that did not happen.
General William F. "Buck" Kernan's biggest heroes are the troops and NCO's that helped develop him into an effective leader. He feels privileged to have served with the Rangers. They are still the role models for the rest of the Army and that is why they lead the way.
After his tour in the Dominican Republic Mac McCahan began the Training With Industry program. He worked with the New York phone company learning the network and installing phones in the field, then applied that knowledge to military telecommunications.
Bill McCowen entered the jet age when he moved from the B-29 to the B-47, which he handled so well he became an instructor pilot for the aircraft. Shrugging off the trouble he caused when he let a 2nd Lieutenant fly in the front seat, he was among the first to regularly fly at high altitude, where he was startled by his first sight of a contrail.
Barry McCaffrey was in charge of rallying the different battalions right before Desert Storm started and he made sure to do it very decisively. Because they had so many months preceding the conflict, the plans were extensively mapped out so that the different units were all prepared.
His last duty was at the European Command in the early seventies. West Pointer Bill Ray found that the Army was falling apart there to the point that there was an actual mutiny in a Signal Corps unit. He speaks of his feelings about visiting the Vietnam War Memorial and of the lessons he feels should be taken from that war.
Al Matheson highlights his long and varied post-Vietnam career including a strange turn of events which led to him writing out a personal check for a new space shuttle. He considers his experience as a Forward Air Controller, though, to be the high point of his service.
In the post-Trujillo chaos of the Dominican Republic, Signal Corps officer Mac McCahan began a long run of finding solutions to communications problems. After restoring phone service by adapting old exchanges, he was able to communicate with Washington by whistling the appropriate tones to establish a connection.
Her father was a Green Beret, but when Gail Taylor Black expressed interest in joining the military, he was skeptical. Shortly after he passed away, she joined the Texas National Guard. She got encouragement from her aunt, who cared for her children while she trained.
All Al Muller knew about the safety field was that if you were assigned Safety Officer, you would be stuck in that position the rest of your career. When he was assigned to Systems Safety at the HQ level, though, he discovered that it was one of the best assignments possible.
As if restoring communications in the restive Dominican Republic wasn't enough to keep him busy, Mac McCahan had to deal with constantly shuttling back to Ft. Bragg for briefings and an acting Signal Officer who wrote him up for spite. Not to mention lacking the counter sign at a crucial time.
His chance meeting with Norman Schwarzkopf in Vietnam proved to be a lucky break for reporter Joe Galloway when he went to cover Desert Storm. Schwarzkopf was a little higher up in the food chain by then, so Joe was too. Nothing like a letter from a General in your pocket.
Ralph Puckett's favorite tour was the three years he spent in Germany with a Special Forces Group. He had his family there and the Ranger learned a lot from the assignment. It was early on for Vietnam, but he heard stories and began reading up on it. Back in the States in a Pentagon job, he asked to be put on the list to go.
Assigned a command position that was usually occupied by a Lt. Colonel, Major Mac McCahan sought assurances that he would get no interference because of his rank. He got that assurance and soon, the promotion to Lt. Colonel as well. Then he wound up with a distinctive blue beret thanks to the new Air Assault movement.
After serving in World War II and the Korean War, Clyde Burnette was stationed in the Philippines as the Vietnam War began to heat up. He nearly got sent there but returned to the States to finish his career which included prepping aircraft for possible use in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
What do men need in a leader? Ralph Puckett draws on his long experience to answer that and then relate it to today's challenges for the military. He notes that some mistakes are repeated and that perhaps, "What we learned is that we don't learn anything from our wars."
During an extended mission, Dan Brogan and his battalion came across all sorts of enemy combatants as they patrolled the desert. After a particularly hairy encounter, they joined up with another battalion to stay safe against potential threats.
Back in the States and commanding a Signal Battalion, engineer Mac McCahan wrote an article on nodal communications systems that was groundbreaking. He used off the shelf gear and existing installations and improved service for all users.
After suffering severe wounds in Korea, Ralph Puckett spent two years at the Ranger Department in various training assignments. Then he went to a command assignment in Puerto Rico, a "go to war" company. He was given the job of setting up a short orientation school, experience that would help him on his next assignment.
Mac McCahan knew he wanted a military career. He had a taste of military life as an Air Force dependent and he secured a congressional appointment to the Air Force Academy, but a run in with an eye chart derailed that. He settled in at Clemson with Army ROTC but a freak accident cost him a year.
After twenty two years of service, Ralph Puckett retired and had a successful private life, but it was inevitable that he would reconnect with his beloved Rangers. His talent at building confidence is put to very good use at the Ranger school.