The images were stark and startling after the debacle at Desert One in Iran on April 24, 1980, 37 years ago today. An incinerated C-130 aircraft and six RH-53 helicopters left with bodies burned and strewn about spoke of the failure of the United States to rescue the 52 diplomats and Embassy personnel held in Tehran, Iran.

The story began more than 170 days prior when on November 4, 1979, when Iranian militant students stormed the US Embassy in Tehran and took the diplomats hostage. Then President Jimmy Carter put into motion the plan that would use the US’ new hostage rescue force “Delta Force” into action.

The ultimate mission failure would generate much-needed lessons learned to pave the way for dedicated special operations air assets and a new Special Operations command structure that we know today.

So how exactly did this dark day in US Special Operations history change things for the better for the troops that followed?

The Plan:
Since no joint Special Operations Command existed at the time, the National Security Adviser, the Joint Chiefs, and the Secretary of Defense put together an ad-hoc task force to plan, and conduct the mission.

The staff planning began in November of 1979 and by early March they had what they considered a workable plan. It brought together members of four of the branches of service with personnel and units spread across the globe which would prove to be ominous.

Army Major General James B. Vaught was appointed Joint Task Force commander. The remainder of the officers assigned to lead the various components, including Colonel Charles A. Beckwith (Delta Force commander) to be the ground assault commander; Colonel James H. Kyle (USAF MC-130 special operator) to command the fixed wing contingent; and Marine Lieutenant Colonel Edward Seiffert to lead the helicopter force.

It was a very intricate and detailed operation and consisted of the following details: