Articles

This presidential candidate hatched a successful rescue mission in Iran

In a little-known operation during the opening days of the Iranian Islamic revolution, a Texas billionaire — who would later run for president twice as an Independent — put together a daring rescue mission for two employees imprisoned by revolutionaries.


Through cunning, guile, persistence — and a little luck — the Americans were secreted out of the country in the midst of a violent revolution that would see 52 other Americans held for 444 days and a failed rescue attempt that ended in the deaths of eight U.S. troops and a deeply wounded presidency.

Related: This deadly failure in the Iranian desert lives in hostage rescue mission infamy >

A full year before the American embassy in Iran was seized by revolutionaries, militants resisting supreme leader Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi captured two employees of a Texas computer company who were in the country helping put together information systems for the government. Their boss, a Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot, was determined to get them out — by skill or by force.

Perot is best remembered for his two third-party campaigns for the U.S. presidency. The now 86-year-old CEO was the last third-party candidate to poll neck-in-neck with the two major party candidates.

Perot founded IT equipment company Electronic Data Systems in 1962. Within six years, Perot became what Forbes called "the fastest, richest Texan." He would sell EDS to General Motors for $2.4 billion in 1984 — but in 1978, he was still the man in charge. He made a deal with the Shah to install EDS social security computer systems in Iran and sent Paul J. Chiapparone and William Gaylord to fulfill the contract.

In December 1978, Chiapparone and Gaylord were denied their passports to leave the country. When the two Americans went to negotiate their exit from Iran, they were thrown in jail by Islamic revolutionaries.

With bail set at $12.7 million, it was a good thing Ross Perot was their boss.

Perot was appointed by Secretary of the Navy John Warner to report on the conditions of Americans in Vietnamese and Laotian POW camps for four years until the prisoners were released in 1972 at the end of the Vietnam War.

The very next month the Shah abdicated his throne and fled the country, leaving a power vacuum that would eventually be filled by Islamic revolutionaries led by the cleric Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Americans all over Iran would be persecuted and some held prisoner, including 52 U.S. embassy personnel held for 444 days. But Perot refused to let his men suffer the same fate. And though he was willing to pay the ransom, there was concern that the captors might not receive the funds.

So Perot launched Operation HOTFOOT (Help Our Two Friends Out Of Tehran). He recruited a team of mercenaries with combat experience in Vietnam, including retired Army Col. Arthur "Bull" Simons, to lead the rescue.

"Bull" Simons preparing for the Son Tay raid, left.

The original plan called for Simons' team of former Green Berets to storm the Ministry of Justice building and walk out with the two employees. But the rescuers later learned Chiapparone and Gaylord were moved to Qasr Prison just outside Tehran.

Perot snuck into Iran on January 13 via a series of courier jets that moved news footage in and out of the country to try a negotiated release of his men. Coming up empty on a peaceful resolution, Perot lost patience.

With the two men in Qasr Prison, a commando raid became too dangerous. So instead they hatched a plan for an Iranian EDS employee named Rashid to start a riot and lead a crowd of angry, pro-Khomeini revolutionaries to storm the prison and free thousands of political prisoners held inside.

The prison is now a museum and memorial to the Shah's prisoners.

Simons and his team picked up the prisoners and moved them to Tehran, where they began the 500-mile journey to an EDS rescue team waiting in Turkey. Despite being arrested in almost every town they fled through, Rashid kept them from the executioner and guided their escape from Iran.

Courtroom sketch of the rescue by Ida Libby Dengrove (University of Virginia archives)

On February 17 — after 46 days in Iran — all of Perot's EDS employees and every member of his rescue team — including Rashid — arrived at his hotel room in Istanbul, and the next day were home safe in the United States.

Perot's men made it out of Iran in two Land Rovers in two days. By November 1979, almost a full year after the EDS employees were captured, 52 American Embassy workers would be held hostage while the world's most powerful military held its breath.

 

Humor

These old Navy training videos on how to flirt are hilariously bad

The National Archives hosts countless educational films that have come from the military throughout the ages. If you want to learn about declassified nuclear testing, they've got it. If you want to learn how to properly resist communist propaganda, they've got that, too. If you want to learn the 1960's way of wooing women, you better believe the U.S. Military has wasted money on making those videos, too.

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less
Podcast

Combat poetry reveals what life is like on the Afghan front lines

Justin Eggen had some things stuck in his head for a long time during — but especially after — his two deployments to Afghanistan. These thoughts became poems and short stories that reflected his feelings and personal experience as a Marine in Marjah and in Afghanistan's Sangin Valley. They are Eggen's way of handling the overwhelming series of emotions from and memories of his time there.

Keep reading... Show less
Military Life

7 things grunts think about on watch in fighting holes

If nothing else has made you question your choice to join the infantry before, digging a fighting hole definitely will. It's always miserable, it's extremely time consuming, and there's always a giant rock waiting for you once you're halfway down. But, once you get that hole dug, it's smooth sailing. Now, all you have to do is deal with the sleep deprivation and crummy weather.

Keep reading... Show less
History

That time US troops found 200 tons of stolen Nazi gold

In the closing months of World War II, the defeated Nazi Army scrambled to hide the hundreds of tons of gold they had despicably stripped from various nations during their occupation. As they hurriedly stashed their ill-gotten gains, they were unaware that the Allies were drawing near.

Keep reading... Show less
Lists

10 military spouses you should unfriend on Facebook immediately

Often, there comes a point when people decide to give their Facebook friends list an overhaul.

They completely change their social landscape online by avoiding accepting friend requests from certain types of people, and they give their current friends list a good, hard scrub.

Everyone has their reasons. Maybe they're doing it for security purposes, or because a handful of people's posts drive them crazy or they want to keep a more professional profile. Military spouses in particular might do so because they want to focus on positive, stress-free relationships – that is, the ones that bring wine, wear sweat pants, and check judgment at the door.

Keep reading... Show less
GEAR & TECH

This JASSM variant could replace the Harpoon

For a long time, the AGM-84/RGM-84 Harpoon missile has been the primary anti-ship weapon of the United States military. Over the years, with improvements, it's successfully held the line. But, as is perpetually the case, time and technological advances have forced the U.S. Military to look for a missile with even more reach and punch.

Keep reading... Show less
Entertainment

7 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to watch before 'Infinity War'

Not planning a two-day Marvel Cinematic Universe marathon right before seeing "Avengers: Infinity War?"

Nobody has time for that.

To accommodate fans who want to freshen up their knowledge, we collected a list of the most essential MCU movies to watch right before you see "Infinity War," which is scheduled for release April 27, 2018.

Keep reading... Show less