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Mission 7 - Chronology
Iran Hostage Rescue Mission

What did Delta plan to do when they got to Tehran? The operation, step by step.

March 1980
At night, a CIA Twin Otter flies into the landing area of the attack, code-named Desert One. A USAF Combat Controller scouts around the area on a dirt bike, and he and his team plant infrared landing beacons into the ground. Meanwhile, sometime in the weeks before the assault, a retired Special Forces soldier goes into Tehran with a forged passport from a small European country and walks around the embassy complex, gauging the number and disposition of the guards. He also makes contact with a black market supply company that will rent him a warehouse on the outskirts of the city and a fleet of lorry-style trucks with covered cargo areas.

April 24, 1980
7:30 pm: Six Air Force C-130s carrying 132 Delta commandos and Army Rangers fly from the island of Masirah, Oman, more than 1,000 miles to Desert One. At the same time, eight Navy RH-53Ds take off from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and race to meet them.

April 25, 1980 (Times are approximate)
2:00 am: The helos and transport planes near Desert One and trigger the infrared beacons by radio signal. The pilots equip their night vision goggles for the final landing. Even though the scout team has tested the soil, the pilots of the C-130's aren't sure it can bear the enormous weight of their planes. They hit the ground at crash landing velocity, so if the big birds begin to sink, they have enough speed to take off again. The Rangers secure the perimeter and watch for ground traffic. Trucks speed through the desert at night, shuttling people from town to town, and they come in large convoys to protect themselves from bandits.

3:00 am: After refueling, the helos lift the Delta teams to a hideout at Desert Two, a location in the hill country 50 miles southeast of Tehran. The helos fly to a point nearby, and they're covered up.

8:00 pm: After nightfall, the Delta team loads up in the back of the lorries, and the drivers take them to the embassy.

9:00 pm: Delta breaks into the complex and raids four buildings - the ambassador's residence, Chancery, Charge d'affairs residence, and a barracks - where the hostages are being held. They quickly "double-tap" any guards in their way and round up the hostages. Their demolitions expert blows a hole in the complex walls.

10:00 pm: Most of the Delta team and the hostages race across the street to the Amjadieh soccer stadium where the helos land to meet them. Meanwhile, three AC-130 Spectre gunships fly overhead, destroying jet fighters on the ground at Tehran airport, and then providing cover fire against any mobs of armed people who try to stop the teams. The helos pick up the hostages and the Delta team, and they fly to a nearby airfield which has already been seized by the Rangers. They burn the helos at the airfield, load up on C-141's, and fly to a base in Egypt.

Secret Contingency Plan
Delta Force operators planned for the possibility that the helos would crash before the pick-up at the Amjadieh soccer stadium. If that happened, there would be enough birds to extract the hostages, but not Delta. The operators came with satellite signal panels, car theft kits, and thousands of dollars worth of Iranian currency - with the pictures of the Shah cut out, just like the locals used. With the AC-130 blowing holes in the angry crowds of militants, Delta Force planned to fight their way out of the area, steal cars, and drive toward the Soviet border, where they'd turn themselves into the guards, and let the diplomatic chips fall where they may.


Iran Hostage Rescue Mission

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