John DiacsukOperation Eagle Claw

United States Navy
Task Force 179
RH-53D Sea Stallion Helicopter Pilot

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 10.57.11 PMAs a member of the United States Navy, John Diacsuk piloted RH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters. On 24 April 1980, he was at the helm of helicopter # 5, call sign Hotel 27 during Operation Eagle Claw.

On 14 February 1979, militant Iranian students stormed into the United States embassy in Tehran and took 63 Americans hostage with an additional 3 Americans being seized at the Foreign Ministry.  Although 10 of the hostages were freed by the militants, the rest remained for over a year.  On 16 April 1980, President Jimmy Carter, after all diplomatic means had failed, approved a military rescue mission.  The mission would be code named Operation Eagle Claw.

The operation would utilize C-130’s along with RH-53D helicopters.  The aircraft would rendezvous in the Iranian desert some 200 miles southeast of Tehran.  From there the choppers would take on fuel from the C-130’s and pick up combat troops who would be, via the RH-53D’s, be transported to a mountain location where the rescue mission would be launched.

Operation Eagle Claw began on 24 April 1980.

Eight helicopters departed from the USS Nimitz, however, two were forced to abort due to mechanical issues. Because of a dust storm, the choppers were 90 minutes late arriving at the rendezvous location code named Desert One.  Once on the ground, one of the six RH-53D’s was deemed to be unfit to continue the mission due to hydraulic problems leaving five helicopters.  Because six were necessary to complete the mission, the rescue attempt had to be aborted.  As the aircraft were leaving, one of the helicopters collided with one of the C-130’s.  Both were destroyed resulting in the death of five Air Force personnel and three Marines.  Everybody else was able safely depart the location leaving behind the wreckage, gear, weapons and the dead.

After the failure of the mission, an investigation determined that in part, it had failed because of a lack of cooperation between the individual branches of the military.

John Diacsuk aka “John Boy,” a native of New York City, was part of Task Force 179 and had just returned from a deployment to Halifax, Nova Scotia where they were conducting mine sweeping operations.  Shortly after returning, eight pilots were sought to deploy to Cherry Point, NC to conduct air refueling training.  Unbeknownst to them, they would begin their training for Operation Eagle Claw.

In the interview that follows, John tells the tail of their training and the secrecy that surrounded it as well as the details of the ill-fated mission.

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