Air base remembers men killed on failed Iran hostage
By BILL KACZOR
April 21, 2000, HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AP) - A rose bush has been planted
for each of eight servicemen, including five Hurlburt-based airmen, who
died in a failed attempt to rescue American hostages from the U.S. embassy
in Iran 20 years ago next week. Related feature
The bushes were ceremoniously placed Thursday in the ground outside
the chapel at this Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle as mission veterans
and family members of their lost comrades looked on. A commemorative coin,
each with the name of one the deceased engraved on it, was buried with
each rose bush.
A symposium and retreat ceremony, which included a flyover by four C-130
transports in a missing man formation, preceded the planting.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, deputy commander of the United
States Special Operations Command, spoke during the ceremony of the impact
the mission had.
"It changed us forever," Schwartz said. "Never again
will we be so unprepared, so ill-equipped."
The failure prompted Congress and the military to expand, improve and
better coordinate the special operations forces of all services. The U.S.
Special Operations Command was created at Fort Bragg, N.C., as a result
of the disaster. The joint command is now at MacDill Air Force Base near
The rosebush planting replicated a similar ceremony held outside the
8th Special Operations Squadron's headquarters here after the mission.
Those bushes, however, were lost when the building and the rest of Hurlburt
The five airmen and three Marines died when a Marine Corps RH-53 helicopter
that was lifting off collided with a four-engine turboprop C-130 parked
at Desert One, a clandestine refueling site in Iran , on April 25, 1980.
"Be assured they did not die in vain," said Lt. Col. Ray Chapman,
the 8th's current commander. "Today, we are properly funded and trained
to operate the most sophisticated machines and equipment available anywhere
in the world."
After being held 444 days, the 52 hostages were released in January
Symposium speakers included retired Col. James Kyle, the Air Force's
on-scene commander, who wrote "The Guts to Try," a book about
Kyle, now residing in Honolulu, took the name from a message on a case
of beer given to surviving airmen by British workers at an airfield in
Oman, which had been used as a staging base. It read: "To you all
from us all for having the guts to try."
The rescue mission had been scrubbed just before the crash because only
five of eight Navy and Marine helicopters had made it to Desert One in
working order after flying through a sand storm from the aircraft carrier
Kyle said there were problems both with the helicopters, which lacked
sophisticated navigation gear of Air Force MH-53 Pave Lows, and pilots
who were unused to flying with night vision goggles or in dusty desert
At the time, however, there were not enough Pave Lows to do the mission
and the Navy resisted efforts to let Air Force pilots fly the helicopters,
The humanitarian group No Greater Love will hold another memorial service
Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery.
The five airmen killed were Maj. Richard L. Bakke, of Long Beach, Calif.;
Maj. Harold L. Lewis Jr., of Mansfield, Conn.; Tech. Sgt. Joel C. Mayo,
of Harrisville, Mich.; Capt. Lyn D. McIntosh, of Valdosta, Ga., and Capt.
Charles T. McMillan, of Corryton, Tenn.
The Marines were Sgt. John D. Harvey, of Richmond, Va.; Cpl. George
N. Holmes Jr., of Pine Bluff, Ark., and Staff Sgt. Dewey L. Johnson, of
"Special Operations success in Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, Bosnia,
Kosovo, and contingencies yet attempted," Chapman said, "are
because they, the men we honor today, had the guts to try."