- I was part of a special mission unit.
Our target was to rescue 53 American hostages inside the U.S. Embassy compound.
We would rescue them, rally to a departure airfield, and bring them out safely from Iran.
And I was the acting unit intelligence officer.
Two of the maps we had were tourist maps.
How come we could not produce better mapping of Tehran proper?
- Hi, I'm Shain Brenden.
As a veteran, I understand how objects we brought back from service can be so meaningful.
They can remind us why we served and what we did or help us transition back to civilian life.
Today I talk with a veteran whose object is a reminder that we can and should learn from failure.
- I served in the United States Army for a little over 20 years, with the bulk of it being in the Army Special Forces community.
I enlisted originally in 1961, and I retired as a captain.
- Why did you decide to enlist?
- I had a wild streak going on in 1961, and it ended up with me losing all of my money playing the ponies.
Consequently, I enlisted in the army.
- So I want to talk a little bit about Operation Eagle Claw.
- I played a great role in trying to get at least two of the maps produced and turned into this special plastic and then issued to people going in on the mission, both air crews as well as the ground force, in the event that they would need them to evade and escape.
I'll hold one up for you right now.
- Oh, great.
- This is a tourist map of Tehran City.
And there is another tourist map of Iran.
It was a very complex mission that required two plus nights in order to execute.
We were using helicopters that were not state of the art, and in addition, they had no air refuelable capability, but nonetheless, we were going to give it a try.
Personally, I did not feel that we had a great chance of success, but when the commander in chief, the President of the United States, tells you to go, you salute smartly, and you go.
- Late yesterday, I canceled a carefully planned operation, which was underway in Iran, to position our rescue team for a later withdrawal of American hostages.
Equipment failure in the rescue helicopters made it necessary to end the mission.
As our team was withdrawing, after my order to do so, two of our American aircraft collided on the ground following a refueling operation in a remote desert location in Iran.
To my deep regret, eight of the crewmen of the two aircraft which collided were killed, and several Americans were hurt in the accident.
- Instead of putting the failed mission behind you, you've been very open and willing to talk about it.
- What I decided was to share lessons learned from the failed Eagle Claw mission because there are a lot of lessons to be learned, lessons not only in how to plan, but lessons in resource capability, and last but not least, lessons in leadership.
And so over the years, I have felt an obligation to talk about the mission, to point out the good and the bad and how we've corrected some of those deficiencies.
- Why are the maps that you kept so important to you?
- They're a reflection on several things.
First off, we expended the entire stock of that special plastic in the U.S. inventory.
And at the time I learned that, I scratched my head and said, we are that unprepared.
In order to have a good capability, you've got to devote some resources to it.
When I talk to the members of Congress, when I talk to their staff, I continue to push the fact that defense is not cheap.
It tells me, stand in the face of bureaucrats that think they have a solution but have no reality in terms of how that solution will actually operate on the ground.
I've kept the maps throughout the years, but this mission occurred years and years ago.
I'm beyond having it have a psychological impact on me.
But the other thing is, at my age, it's time to start getting rid of different artifacts.
I've agreed to donate two of the maps to the Silent Warrior Foundation fundraiser.
So hopefully, that'll bring in thousands of dollars to help the youth of our country.
They're the future of our nation.