Book Review
Operation Eagle Claw 1980
Operation Eagle Claw 1980 - The disastrous bid to end the Iran hostage crisis
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]


Justin W. Williamson is a career US diplomat who has served in Iraq, Mexico, Spain, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has degrees from Texas Tech University, The University of Texas at El Paso, and has recently graduated from the US Army Command and Staff College with a Master of Military Arts and Sciences. He is based in Texas, USA.


Jim Laurier is a native of New England, growing up in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. He has been drawing since he could hold a pencil and throughout his life he has worked in many mediums creating artwork on a variety of subjects. He attended Paier School of Art on Hamden, Connecticut, from 1974-78 and since graduating with Hounors, he has been working professionally in the field of Fine Art and Illustration. He has been commissioned to paint for the US Air Force and has aviation paintings on permanent display at the Pentagon. He has worked on the Osprey Aviation list since 2000, and in that time he has produced some of the finest artwork seen in these volumes. He lives in New England, USA. Jim created the cover art for this book.

Johnny Shumate works as a freelance illustrator living in Nashville, Tennessee. He began his career in 1987 after graduating from Austin Peay State University. Most of his work is rendered in Adobe Photoshop using a Cintiq monitor. His greatest influences are Angus McBride, Don Troiani, and Edouard Detaille. Johnny created the battescenes for this book.

Alan Gilliland, born in Malaya in 1949, studied photography/film and architecture, and has worked as a photojournalist and cartoonist. He also spent 18 years as the graphics editor of The Daily Telegraph, winning 19 awards in that time, including numerous UK Press Awards. He now writes, illustrates and publishes fiction (www.ravensquill.com), as well as illustrating for a variety of publishers (including Osprey, the Penguin Group, Brown Reference Group, Ivy Group and Aurum), architects and developers, such as John McAslan (Olympic Energy Centre) and Kit Martin (Prince Charles’ Phoenix Trust advisor on historic buildings). www.alangilliland.com. Alan created the bird’s-eye-view illustrations for this book.

** Amid the chaos of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, zealous revolutionaries seized the US Embassy in Tehran, taking 53 Americans hostage. Running out of options, President Carter ordered newly formed First Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta - or “Delta Force” – to conduct a vast, complex rescue mission. It required a nighttime refueling operation in a hostile desert; a small, unreliable force of helicopters to lift Delta into and around the Tehran area; and Army Rangers to simultaneously seize an airfield for the evacuation. All this had to be done by a combat unit on its first mission, with an ad hoc force of pilots and support personnel who barely had time to train for the operation.

With input from men involved, declassified documents, and detailed reconstructions of the planned operation, this authoritative new history explains the raid’s background, the plans, where it went disastrously wrong, and how the lessons that were brutally learned at Desert One led directly to the creation of the modern, spectacularly capable Special Operations Command. **

** Quoted from the back cover of the book.


Osprey Publications
has released Operation Eagle Claw 1980 - The disastrous bid to end the Iran hostage crisis as Number 52 in their Raid series. It is a soft cover book with 80 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs and color photographs, color illustrations, detailed captions, and more. It has a 2020 copyright with a publication date of March 19, 2020 and the ISBN is 978-1-4728-3783-7. The book details Operation Eagle Claw, the attempted rescue of American hostages in Iran in 1980.

    - Origins
    - Chronology
    - Initial Strategy
    - The Plan
    - The Raid
    - The Aftermath
    - Analysis and Conclusion
    - Bibliography
    - Index


Author Justin W. Williamson does an excellent job of detailing the events that led to the Iran hostage crisis, the development of plans to conduct a rescue, the preparation for the rescue, the initiation of the rescue attempt and the events that led to the bitter failure of the rescue attempt. Along with his own words Justin W. Williamson has also provided several quotes and first-hand accounts from key individuals providing specific details and pertinent information from various points of the operation. Williamson describes in great detail the amount of planning for the rescue and all of the areas that were taken into consideration up to and including uniforms that were to be worn and providing members of the rescue team with money and phrase books in the event they had to bride their way out of trouble if the plan failed and they had to try to escape and evade capture. The different trainings that the team undertook and the locations of each is discussed. Throughout the book Williamson details the various events that led to the failure of the mission such as inexperienced pilots unfamiliar with the RH-53D helicopters, pilots not being briefed and trained on what to do in the event of foul weather, especially the “haboob” wind/sand storms that were common in the area, plans not being made for radio operators to be able to operate the radio equipment in the dark and send coded messages, the staging of the aircraft at “Desert One” and list goes on and on. In addition to the critical mistakes and failures, Williamson also list some mistakes that took place prior to the launch of the rescue such as members of the team having drawn training ammunition instead of actual live rounds and an incident where a technician accidentally activated the ships fire fighting system onboard the USS Nimitz, which resulted in the rescue helicopters being covered in corrosive fire-retardant foam. In regards to all of the mistakes that took place Williamson provides a quote from Delta’s intelligence officer Captain Wade Ishimoto who in 2001 stated “We sent our best soldiers over there, ill-equipped, ill-organized. Absolutely pathetic”. In addition to listing all of the many errors that led to the mission’s failure, Williamson also provides information about the planned second rescue mission, Operation Snowbird, the reactions of various leaders including president Jimmy Carter, Iran’s following actions, etc. after the mission failed. Also provided by Williamson is a helpful three-page chronology of events starting with the formation of Delta Force in 1977 to the release of the hostages in 1981, minutes after Ronald Reagan is sworn in as the 40th US president. Another bit of information provide that I found interesting was the listing of key personnel and locations and the code words assigned to each. All in all, the book is filled with a large amount of useful and interesting information that covers and details all aspects of the Iran hostage crisis beginning in 1979 and ending in 1981. The text in the book is nicely written and well detailed. As I read through the text, I did notice a few spelling errors in the text. However, the errors were few and minor and didn’t take anything away from the book. Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings. I feel that if the text is well written it shows that the author has taken the time to be professional with their writing. Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book on Delta Force and the Iranian hostage crisis to their personal library will be pleased with this very informative and interesting book.


A total of 32 black and white photographs and 30 color photographs are included in this volume. Author Justin W. Williamson stuck to the title of the book and chose subject specific photographs and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book. I would say that the photographs that were chosen for this book were for the most part lesser known photographs. There are several photographs of the various aircraft used, the ships they were carried on as well as photographs of the rescue team members themselves and the equipment they used. Also included are photographs of the various documents that the rescue team carried with them on the mission that were left behind on the abandoned helicopters when they had to abandon the mission and leave the area and were then found and taken by the Iranians. The photographs are in a correct time frame order taken before and after the mission. The majority, if not all, of the photographs will prove to be a wealth of information to the Delta Force and Iranian hostage crisis enthusiast and historian, due to the details they contain which helps explain this incident in history.

Some of the helicopters, aircraft, ships and other items of interest shown and discussed are:
    - Sikorsky RH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter
    - Grumman A-6 Intruder
    - McDonnell Douglas F-4N Phantom II
    - Grumman F-14 Tomcat
    - Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV) A-7 Corsair II
    - Lockheed Martin EC-130E
    - Lockheed C-141 Starlifter
    - Lockheed C-130 Hercules
    - Bell UH-1 Iroquois "Huey" helicopter
    - USS Coral Sea aircraft carrier
    - M3-D “Mule” aircraft tow tractor
    - Soviet spy “fishing trawler”


There are 5 color illustrations by illustrators Jim Laurier, Johnny Shumate and Alan Gilliland. Two of the illustrations are bird’s-eye-views. The illustrations are very well done, nicely detailed and are of:

Plate A (see attached front cover scan)

Cover art

- RH-53D helicopters in route to Desert One about to fly into a “haboob” sandstorm.

Plate B

The Planned Rescue, US Embassy Compound, Tehran

- A two-page birds-eye-view illustration showing the planned actions, routes, movements, etc., for the US forces when they landed at the Tehran embassy broken down into 9 identified points of interest.

Plate C

Stopping the fuel truck, approx. 1815hrs Zulu/0045hrs Tehran time.

- A two-page action illustration showing Delta Captain Wade Ishimoto and US Army Ranger Corporal Robert Rubio on the road at Desert One engaging a fuel truck with a CAR-15 rifle and a M72 Light Anti-tank Weapon (LAW).

Plate D (see attached partial scan)

Disaster at Deseret One, approx. 2222hrs Zulu/0252hrs Tehran time.

- A two-page action illustration showing RH-53D helicopter Bluebird 3 crashing into EC-130E aircraft Republic 4 after Bluebird 3 attempted to take off from Desert One in the wind and dust.

Plate E

Disaster At Desert One

- A two-page birds-eye-view illustration showing the events that led up to the aircraft crash at Desert One. The events are shown in three separate bird’s-eye-views broken down into 13 identified points of interest.
    - A: The C-130s Land
    - B: The RH-53Ds Land
    - C: The Crash and Evacuation


The captions are well written and explain the accompanying photographs and illustrations in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown. The captions go into very specific detail as to the specific individuals, aircraft, ships, and weapons shown, equipment carried and used, dates and locations and other such pertinent information and other such pertinent information. I did notice a few errors in the captions such as a misspelling for an aircraft identifier and one caption refers to the tripod being visible on an M60 machine gun when it is a bipod, not a tripod. I was impressed by Justin W. Williamson’s captions as they are very helpful to the reader due to their detailed content as opposed to other captions that I have seen that are very brief and lacking in detail.


There is 1 note included in this volume and it is:

- Author’s note which includes the following disclaimer. The contents of this work are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any body of the US government. All errors are those of the author.


There are 2 maps included in this volume and there are of:

- The first map details the planned events for the first leg of the operation and the provides information for the actual events that took place. (see attached scan)
- The second map details the planned events for the second leg of the rescue operation which obviously did not take place.

As with the other Osprey Publishing titles I was impressed with this book. This is a very nice reference book that contains a well written informative text, subject specific photographs and illustrations, well detailed captions and more, all detailing the history of the Iranian hostage crisis. As with the other Osprey Publishing titles, I would have no hesitation to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal reference library.

In addition to being available in print from, Osprey Publishing also offers Operation Eagle Claw 1980 - The disastrous bid to end the Iran hostage crisis as:

eBook (ePub) – ISBN: 978-1-4728-3780-6


eBook (PDF) – ISBN: 978-1-4728-3781-3

Osprey Publishing’s Operation Eagle Claw 1980 - The disastrous bid to end the Iran hostage crisis is also available electronically as a Kindle version through Amazon.

This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here when you make your purchase.


UK Ł13.99 / US $22.00 / CAN $30.00
Highs: Well written text and captions. Subject specific photographs and illustrations.
Lows: A few spelling errors. Some mistakes in the captions.
Verdict: An excellent volume by Osprey Publishing. Definitely beneficial to the Delta Force and Iranian hostage crisis enthusiast and historian.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: Raid 52
  PUBLISHED: Mar 30, 2020
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. All rights reserved.


Mission commander: note to self: have desert air filters installed on all helicopters tasked to the mission. Unfortunately, that never happened and for various reasons detailed in the book the mission ended tragically. Great to see books about something historically-interesting and relatively unknown to many of the current generation being covered like this.
MAR 30, 2020 - 12:43 PM
That was mentioned in the book as well. It stated that they removed the filters so that the helicopters would go faster. Just one of the many poor choices made that unfortunately ended bad for those men. I don't know which is worse.....the fact that someone thought it was a good idea to remove the filters.....or the fact that nobody thought it was a bad idea to remove the filters. Very sad. Thank you Frank. Randy
MAR 31, 2020 - 02:53 AM

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