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Operation Eagle Claw 1980

Operation Eagle Claw 1980 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review February 2020 Title Operation Eagle Claw 1980
Author Justin Williamson Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2020 ISBN 9781472837837
Format 80 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $22.00


It entered popular lore as simply “Desert One” – the “disastrous bid to end the Iran hostage crisis”, career US diplomat Justin Williamson says.

Now he charts the fiasco in Operation Eagle Claw 1980 – 52nd in Osprey’s entertaining and informative “Raid” range.

Williamson competently kick-starts contents with key background details – the fall of Iran’s Imperial régime, rise of the Islamic Republic, capture of America’s Embassy, and presumed paralysis of US President Jimmy Carter’s administration.

Not quite.

Soon after Iranian “students” seized dozens of American hostages, Carter launched diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis – and simultaneously directed the US military to prepare rescue options.

Williamson traces the latter across three illuminating chapters:

  • Initial Strategy
  • The Plan
  • The Raid

Charged with liberating the captives and on its first mission, America’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – “Delta Force” – was, with extreme operational security, “expected to operate in hostile terrain with very limited support or help from the outside” and “mount the assault and get out with the hostages without a massacre in the streets taking place”.

Extraordinarily risky and complex, with almost no room for miscues or missteps, the resulting Operation Eagle Claw almost invited failure. And eight Americans subsequently died without the aborted action accomplishing anything.

Maps, photos, and action illustrations augment the account. “Aftermath” and “analysis and conclusion” sections helpfully distill events and lessons. Extended captions, selected bibliography, and index further complement contents. And it’s annotated!

Some of us vividly recall the débâcle at Desert One – and the seismic shame, fury, and frustration it fueled among military and civilian alike. Impacts reached far beyond the Carter Administration’s waning “malaise” years.

Connect the dots yourself. Get this superb little study.

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!