Iran Rescue Mission (Operation Desert I) Monument

Iran Rescue Mission Monument

The fall of 1979 was a turbulent period in Iran. The Shah had been deposed by Islamic fundamentalists under the Ayatollah Khomeini, and although diplomatic relations still existed between the United States and Iran, these relations were strained. On November 4, 1979, hundreds of Iranians seized the U.S. embassy and took 66 Americans hostage. For days nothing was known of the hostages' condition until their captors finally released all female and black hostages. Later, one other man was released for medical reasons, leaving 53 Americans captives of the Iranian Moslem fundamentalists.

By spring of 1980, the situation had reached a virtual standstill, with all diplomatic channels apparently exhausted. In the absence of diplomatic options, President Jimmy Carter authorized a secret military operation on April 25, 1980, designed to rescue those remaining American hostages. The plan called for a rendezvous of helicopters and cargo planes at a remote desert site in Iran before attempting the actually rescue of the hostages. However, the mission was aborted when a freak accident caused two of the aircraft to collide. The ensuing explosion and fire claimed the lives of eight American service personnel. Their bodies could not be recovered before the surviving aircraft had to abandon the desert staging area. Shortly thereafter the eight bodies were returned to the United States, but the remaining 53 hostages were not freed until January 20, 1981, 444 days after they had been captured.

A monument dedicated to the memory of those gallant servicemen, who died in the valiant effort to rescue the American hostages, has been erected near the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery. The white stone marker bears a bronze plaque listing the names and ranks of the three Marines and the five airmen. Three of those men -- Maj. Richard Bakke, Maj. Harold Lewis, Jr. and Sgt. Joel Mayo --are now buried at Arlington in a grave marked by a common headstone located about 25 feet from the group memorial.

Peters, James Edward. Arlington National Cemetery: Shrine to America's Heroes. Woodbine House, 2000.


Iran Rescue Mission (Operation Desert I) Monument

In Honor of Members of the
United States Armed Forces who
Died During an Attempt to Rescue
American Hostages Held in Iran
25 April 1980
U.S. MARINE CORPS
JOHN D. HARVEY
SGT
30 MAY 1958
GEORGE N. HOLMES
CPL
20 JULY 1957
DEWEY L. JOHNSON
SSGT
26 MAY 1948
U.S. AIR FORCE
RICHARD L. BAKKE
MAJ
13 MAY 1946
HAROLD L. LEWIS, JR.
MAJ
26 FEBRUARY 1945
JOEL C. MAYO
TSG
26 OCTOBER 1945
LYN D. McINTOSH
MAJ
11 OCTOBER 1946
Charles T. McMILLAN
CAPT
4 OCTOBER 1951


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