On 24 Apr 1980, the United States attempted a daring operation to rescue the 53 American hostages held by Iran. Sandstorms and mechanical failures rendered several helicopters inoperable and the mission had to be aborted. As the commandos prepared to leave the staging area, zero-visibility conditions caused one of the RH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters to collide with a C-130 tanker, killing eight and wounding four.
Mark Bowden – the author of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War – wrote an excellent article for the Atlantic Monthly on the Desert One debacle.
The eight fallen servicemen included three Marines: Sgt. John D. Harvey, 21, of Roanoke; Cpl. George N. Holmes Jr., 22, of Pine Bluff, Ark.; and Staff Sgt. Dewey Johnson, 31, of Dublin, Ga. Five Air Force personnel: Maj. Richard L. Bakke, 33, of Long Beach, Calif.; Maj. Harold L. Lewis Jr., 35, of Fort Walton Beach, Fla.; Tech. Sgt. Joel C. Mayo, 35, of Harrisville, Mich.; Capt. Lyn D. McIntosh, 33, of Valdosta, Ga.; and Capt. Charles T. McMillan, 28, of Corryton, Tenn.
While the military did not accomplish their mission, the incident served to improve the effectiveness of our special operations forces with the creation of Special Operations Command and the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.