265. Editorial Note

President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in his memoir: “On April 23, the day before the rescue mission, Carter decided that no concurrent attacks on other targets would be undertaken.” He added that President Jimmy Carter also “decided that during the following day, D-day, he would conduct business as usual in the Oval Office, I would operate out of my office, and Brown would be in touch with me from DOD, while General Jones would conduct the operation from the National Military Command Center.” (Brzezinski, Power and Principle, page 496)

In his memoir, Carter notes that on April 23 he “received a last-minute intelligence briefing about Iran, encapsulating information received from all available sources. The substance was that there was little prospect of the hostages’ release within the next five or six months, and that everything was favorable for the rescue mission. Our agents in and around Tehran were very optimistic.” He met with Senator Robert Byrd (D–West Virginia) that evening about notifying Congress. They went over a bipartisan list of senators “who should be notified of any secret operation of this type. I had planned to let him know about the impending rescue mission at the end of this conversation, but now I decided to brief him and the others during the following night, after our team was actually in place and ready to enter Tehran. I therefore told him that such an operation was imminent, but not when it would be launched.” (Carter, Keeping Faith, page 513–514)

According to an August 28 memorandum from Colonel Stebbins and an updated paper attached to the memorandum, the following taped conversations occurred April 24–25 between Joint Task Force headquarters at Wadi Kena and the White House. Because of secrecy requirements, normal recording capabilities were not used. Instead, a portable cassette recorder was connected to the secure instrument provided for dedicated point-to-point contact. The recorder required manual start-stop for each transmission and, therefore, had no electronic means of establishing the time for each call. Stebbins also provided codenames used for other people engaged in the calls. (Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff Records, RG 218–02–0007, J–3 DDSO, Box 7, Iranian Hostage Crisis 1979–1984, L14–19 Telephone Conversations)

The following excerpt is pages 11–12 of a 24-page transcript labeled 2808 Tape #1 Side One. All brackets except those denoting text not declassified are in the original:

Carter: Hi David.

Jones: Yes sir, Mr. President. Much clearer.

[Page 709]

Carter: David, my question was how close is the nearest settlement or town to Desert One.

Jones: We are . . . I don’t know that information . . . I asked them for a full (plot out) (phonetic) on it. It appears in the rough map I have here it’s quite a distance to the first town.

Carter: Yes. Quite a distance, OK. That was the question I tried to ask but couldn’t get through.

Jones: OK. I’ve got the book map here and we’re just trying . . . we want to know which way it’s . . . the truck was going and information of that nature . . . and if the 41 people . . . where they may have been going, leaving home and going to a place like Teheran or something may be expected at home, whatever the . . . we’re trying to figure out where the closest gendarmerie station. We’ve got the report as of a few minutes ago that about 40 minutes after the supposed truck fire gendarmerie were still not up on the network as of now.

Carter: Yes. And you don’t have any report on the helicopter’s location?

Jones: Well one report that they have passed the point of no return and the fuel to the carrier . . . the six have and that means they were only within 30 minutes out from the landing point, I should be getting a report at anytime on the helicopter in . . . and the refueling.

Carter: OK.

Jones: There’s a small town about 15 miles through the roads here to the west . . . it is much further over to the northeast depending on which way the truck was going. It is still . . . it is quite a ways to (NAIENE) (phonetic) and (YAZDEH) (phonetic) where the . . . it will be over 100 miles where we would expect the gendarmerie major post to be. We’re listening to all of those and there’s no report. But there is this town . . . we’re trying to figure out whether those would be any communications out of this little town of (ALI ABAD) (phonetic).

Carter: David, just as a matter of intent . . . do you recall why we decided to land just adjacent to a highway?

Jones: It’s not a highway, sir, it’s that little road . . . the only place we’ve been able to find, so for that we could land the 130s . . . and we looked and looked and looked and it’s the only place we found. We looked at another one and hoped to land there, and . . . we just did not find any place to land. We have speculated that if we had some delay or something to send the Otter back in if we could find another place. But we had not found another place to land, and the alternatives were (NAIENE) (phonetic) to go ahead and seize the field, or to go to this place.

Carter: OK. If you have any further reports just send them to Dr. Brzezinski.

[Page 710]

Jones: All right sir, I’ve been . . . Harold told me . . . All right, I’ll do that. Harold told me to keep him informed. I have been as soon as I get information.

Carter: Oh yeah . . . I was just going to be leaving for a while, that’s why I said that.

Jones: All right, sir,

Carter: And I’ll check with Zbig. Thank you.

Jones: OK sir. Bye.

(electronic click)

(new call)

Inman: . . . of the helicopter. Again, it’s on the field from which they normally do night ops. It’s a long way nonetheless from the desert site. And again, our best guess at this point is that it is because of the Iraqi situation that they are doing the flight. On the two reports, which are hopefully down to you now, on the gendarmerie, one of those is certainly at . . . over in Region 4 at the Iraq border. [4½ lines not declassified]. My sense is that if they . . . if this was centered over there where (Joint Chiefs of Staff Records, RG 218–02–0007, J–3 DDSO, Box 7, Iranian Hostage Crisis 1979–1984, L14–19 Telephone Conversations)

The following excerpt is pages 4–8 of a 25-page transcript labeled 2808 Tape #2 Side One. All brackets except those denoting text not declassified are in the original:

[electronic click] [new call]

Jones: General Jones.

Voice B: Yes sir. This is the White House operator. Just a moment for the President please.

Jones: OK. [pause]

Carter: David?

Jones: Yes sir. The news is not as good as I indicated to you a few minutes ago. A RH–53 getting . . . trying to get out of Desert One ran into a C–130. The only report we have is there’s some burns and injuries to people . . . our people.

Carter: This was on the ground?

Jones: On the ground . . . as the report . . . on the ground there at Desert One. Still sketchy report. And some burns and injuries and people . . . we assume in the 130, but we haven’t got whether it’s in the 130 or the RH–53. They are taking them out and putting them on . . . [words indistinct] . . . on 130s and evacuate them to Masirah. We have no idea how many or how serious. We will try to get that as soon as we can.

Carter: Uh huh.

Jones: The other part about it is that . . . it appears the report we got from the carrier on the identification of 8 crews was not accurate. [Page 711] Talking with Vaught we have only been able to determine with certainty 7 of the crews from the helicopters. It’s likely that one helicopter is down, probably they think with mechanical trouble someplace down in the southern part of Iran. We’re doing everything we can to figure out the identification of it . . . figure out a rescue way, but it looks as though we do not have the eighth helicopter crew identified. They talked with the helicopter crews at the Desert One and they said there are six there. The seventh is returning to the carrier from having landed down below . . . they think the other one went down from mechanical trouble, which probably means they are on the ground and can be retrieved though.

Carter: Now can we detect them on the ground . . . can we find them on the ground?

Jones: We should be able to if they landed OK . . . we should be able to with radios and the rest . . . to be able to find them. We’re going to try every effort to see . . . to locate them, to include the helicopters that are coming back to the coast . . . to pick up radios, NSA to try to pick up any radio contact from them. They should be able to pick them up, should be able to get them if everything goes OK. But we are expending all of our efforts towards two things. Getting the people out of Desert One, and two, to identify this eighth crew and get it rescued. I have talked to Admiral Long, who’s talking to the carrier task force commander to do everything they can to avoid any casualties on Iranians, and only as a last resort to engage. In that regard, because of the endangering of our hostages. Still the report . . . and of course it’s still sketchy until we get everybody figured out . . . that there were no Iranians that were killed or injured at Desert One, but we’ll have to confirm that a little later.

Carter: Is everyone off the ground now at Desert One?

Jones: No, they are having to . . . it’s been I guess 15 or 20 minutes since I talked to Vaught . . . they may be off the ground, but they were having to move everybody from that 130 to another 130, and helicopter and 130 people had to get off. I would expect them to be off fairly shortly. I asked him for a report as soon as they all get off and headed south. I will pass that word on.

Carter: OK. Thank you David.

Jones: Yes sir.

[electronic click] [new call]

Long: Long speaking.

Johnson: Ah sir, General Johnson here. The Chairman asked me to check, sir, if we had a confirmation on the one helicopter making it back to the Nimitz sir.

Long: We have not received a report yet that they . . . the first helo is back aboard Nimitz.

[Page 712]

Johnson: All right sir. Thank you sir.

Long: All right. Good bye.

Johnson: Good bye sir.

[electronic click] [new call]

Long: . . . as of 2300Z

Johnson: Yes sir.

Long: Reference C–130/helo accident refers. All helos being destroyed/left. All crews coming out in C–130s with some casualties. Number unknown. That’s paragraph one. Got that?

Johnson: Yes sir. That all . . . I understand they are destroying all helos?

Long: All helos being destroyed/left. It is they are being destroyed or left.

Johnson: Those that could not fly out. All right sir.

Long: General, I’m giving you what [CURTSY] saying. I don’t know that.

Johnson: All right sir.

Long: All crews coming out in C–130 with some casualties. Numbers unknown. Paragraph two. No additional tankers available at Diego Garcia. Additional tanking must come from Wadi Kena. Two KC–135 on station. One boom rigged for C–130. One rigged basket for TACAIR with 28,000 pounds. Basket KC–135 can stay until 250530Z if recovered [SEEB] (phonetic) Oman. Paragraph 3. BLUEBEARD . . . BLUEBEARD 5 on board Nimitz. That’s it.

Johnson: All right sir. Thank you sir.

Long: So the first helo is back aboard. And as soon as you tell the Chairman that, call me back. I’ve got another message for you.

Johnson: All right sir. Thank you, sir.

Long: Good bye.

[electronic click] [new call]

Johnson: General Johnson.

Voice C: Yes sir. Is General Jones there for the President?

Johnson: Yes sir . . . [word indistinct].

Voice C: Beg pardon?

Johnson: Yes, General Jones is here.

Voice C: Thank you.

Jones: Yes

Voice C: General Jones, one moment for the President, please sir.

Jones: Yes. Uh huh. [pause]

[indistinct voices in background]

[Page 713]

Voice C: Go ahead, gentlemen.

Carter: Hello?

Jones: Yes sir, Mr President.

Carter: Heard anything else?

Jones: Yes sir. I just got a report from General Vaught. He’s on the other phone now, but let me just give you a run down. He believes that all Americans who are alive are off the ground. That is his report.

Carter: All Americans who are what?

Jones: He said who are alive. There are some who evidently were fatalities there. Here is his report. He said it’s unsure until they sort it out . . . what they have done is because of the problem of the helicopter and the departure of time . . . and the daylight flyout, they have decided to take everybody out in the 130s and to leave the helicopters there because of the risk of losing people.

Carter: OK. All right.

Jones: Their estimate is that one helicopter crew . . . the one that was involved in the accident . . . the crew . . . the missing . . . probably died in the accident.

Carter: Yes . . . I . . .

Jones: Probably five, they think one got out, that the . . . in the EC–130 . . . when the helicopter hit it up in that part, the pilot is believed missing and presumed dead. And some passengers . . . the passengers most got out, but there may have been some trapped in there. And they haven’t been able to make an exact accounting. They just went around and made sure that everyone they could get a hold of got aboard and get them out. They don’t believe that anybody remained . . . except fatality . . . but the accounting is very very poor. As to right now they have to sort it out as to what . . . what the situation would be. The . . . if they all left now . . . it’s about 2 and one half hours to coast with the . . . with the MC–130s and another hour and a half up to . . . down to Masirah. We are getting air MEDEVAC aircraft into Masirah . . . the one out of Daharan so that there will be the medical treatment there when they arrive. We . . . one helicopter is back on the carrier . . . the one that I reported earlier, and the eighth crew is still unaccounted for. We are doing everything we can to determine the rescue of it. Over.

Carter: I understand.

Jones: And we will try to get an accounting as soon as we can . . . on the accident and how many got out. It will be a little different with the 130s coming out . . . come out somewhat faster . . . better . . . and fewer . . . so the risks of them being attacked probably less . . . less than having both helicopters and 130s coming out.

[Page 714]

Carter: Yes, David. Thank you.

Jones: Yes sir.

[electronic click] [new call]

Davis: . . . Therefore imperative that crew returning to Nimitz . . . BLUEBEARD 5 be debriefed as to what occurred enroute as soon as possible, and information passed to CINCPAC. Specific questions: Can all 8 helo crews be accounted for? Were there any personnel casualties in the helo/130 collision? Now, you’ve already answered (Joint Chiefs of Staff Records, RG 218–02–0007, J–3 DDSO, Box 7, Iranian Hostage Crisis 1979–1984, L14–19 Telephone Conversations)

The following excerpt is pages 17–22 of a 25-page transcript labeled 2808 Tape #2 Side Two. All brackets except those denoting text not declassified are in the original:

Inman: Right.

Jones: The other thing about it is we want to keep the visibility as low as possible. We want to have as few people know it . . . particularly Iranians . . . until they discover something, because we’ve got to get those 130s out, which will transpire in a couple of hours . . . but we got that one helicopter crew unaccounted for we need to rescue [2 lines not declassified].

Inman: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Jones: [2 lines not declassified]

Inman: We’ll continue to do it.

Jones: OK.

Inman: Thank you.

Jones: Bye.

[new call]

Voice E: . . . for the President sir.

Jones: OK. [pause] Yes sir.

Carter: Hi David.

Jones: The update is that all of the 5 130s are enroute out. The last one should cross the coast in an hour and about 5 minutes.

Carter: About 8:10 our time.

Jones: Yes sir. Landing in two hours and 40 minutes . . . something around just before 10:00 our time down at Masirah. The first airplanes should be on the ground sometime before that. They came out early.

Carter: So the last one should be on the ground about 10 o’clock?

Jones: Should be by 10 o’clock, yes sir. Five coming out. The best . . . and again they’ll have to count everything up . . . but they believe there were 4 crew members of the RH–53 lost in the accident, one pilot of the 130, and one other in the rear for a total of 6 fairly confirmed. [Page 715] There may be others who are missing from that group. We have aero MEDEVAC airplanes . . . we had at Dhaharan one positioned for the next day . . . and a C–9 special with whole blood coming out of Germany to go into Wadi Kena to meet. We have report from [less than 1 line not declassified] . . . we’re not sure . . . may be from the helicopter crew that is missing, however their first report is that they cannot get a location on it yet. So we’re working on an expedited basis on that [less than 1 line not declassified] and the whole business of trying to rescue that crew that’re down.

Carter: How would we go about that David?

Jones: Well, probably with that RH–53 we now have back and refueled on the Nimitz. They also have other helicopters. That would be the quickest thing. We are also . . . we had loaded aboard C–5 in New Mexico . . . launching some special RH–53s that we did not launch ahead of time because it would tip the hand of the whole operation. But if it becomes very complex they are better. But it appears that the Nimitz could pick up in the rescue . . . from the Nimitz . . . with its helicopters if we could find out where the crew is located. So that’s where . . . now it appears that everybody’s airborne out of Desert One and getting close to the coast. We’re really concentrating on trying to find that crew. And also be sure to get those 5 aircraft across the coast without being intercepted.

Carter: Now David one thing we don’t want to do is compound the problem by having a major pitched air battle over Iran.

Jones: Yes sir. I had told that to . . .

Carter: We need to think this through if we know where that crew is on the ground, how to go about getting them out.

Jones: Yes sir. Well when we find it I’ll talk with you or with Harold and we’ll make sure we’ve got a well organized plan to get in and to get it out. I told Harold one thing we wanted to do the better choice we have [1½ lines not declassified] to get this helicopter crew picked up. We have no report [less than 1 line not declassified] any alerting of anybody anyplace.

Carter: That’s unbelievable, isn’t it?

Jones: Yes sir.

Carter: Someone just walked through the office watching TV. They’re apparently having massive riots on the street over there in Tehran because of other altercations, and they said the streets in Tehran looked almost like they did when the Shah fell.

Jones: I hadn’t heard that. I know there was a lot of fighting in and around the Iraqi border, and many people killed over there that we’d gotten earlier. Things have quieted down now as far as all of the gendarmerie out in the country.

[Page 716]

Carter: David let’s leave it this way. I’m not going to say anything or do anything until we clear it with you. And before you all firm up any part of air intrusion into Iran again make sure you have the clearance from me and Harold.

Jones: Yes sir.

Carter: Because I’m going to ask Harold to stay here with me.

Jones: Well . . . we will and I’ve got . . . we’re working the aftermath problem but we can. All my colleagues have been here and . . . one thing that I have authorized CINCPAC to do is to have the ships that are in the . . . and we had planned to do this after the operation revealed . . . ships in the Persian Gulf that are at sea to move on down out so that . . .

Carter: Yes.

Jones: It will take awhile . . . but the LaSalle is in port and would stay in port in Bahrain . . . it can’t sail now for quite awhile and we think it’s safe in port . . . but the others to come on down and try to avoid any confrontation. One thing that came in as a recommendation . . . which I recommend against . . . that is on the destruction of those helicopters . . . the problem is if we try to destroy and go into the middle of the country we might get there before people get there, but you can never be sure.

Carter: I wouldn’t worry about that. If we send a gun ship in there, there would probably be more complications.

Jones: It would probably be an A–6 sir, but I do not recommend . . .

Carter: An A–6 or anything . . . I was . . .

Jones: . . . recommend for it . . .

Carter: Let’s not do it, because if there are hundreds of Iranians all over those helicopters looking at them as a curiosity . . . you know we’re going to wind up with a bunch of Iranian casualties.

Jones: I agree.

Carter: So let’s not do that.

Jones: We’re working our best . . . I recommend not and we will not.

Carter: OK. We’ll charge them for the helicopter later.

Jones: All right sir.

Carter: OK David. Thank you.

Jones: That’s all I have.

Carter: David?

Jones: Yes sir?

Carter: One other thing . . . we’ve got a problem and a fairly substantial time delay in getting any part of message to GHOTBZADEH [Page 717] and BANI-SADR . . . and what we’d like to do as soon as you all . . . you might want to think of this independent of us . . . we’ve got to go through the Swiss and things have to be translated into French and so forth . . . and so we’ve got at least a couple of hours delay in getting him a message. And I need to let him know as soon as possible that we had planned a rescue operation . . . we had canceled it when we had a collision between . . . an accident involving our own aircraft. So far as we know there are no Iranian casualties and that we . . . that all Americans have been withdrawn. We don’t want to have them think we’re invading Iran and have them all of a sudden go on a bloodbath against Americans over there.

Jones: Uh huh. Yes I think though they will . . . it will take them quite awhile if they don’t see the 130s coming out or anything like that . . . to get out to those helicopters and then look at them and identify them as American . . . and not . . . they were all painted . . . and to get inside them . . . there are things we had to abandon . . . we’re not sure what they’ve . . . abandoned in there . . . but I think there will be a considerable time period before they’re really aware of it. I think we’ll have a few hours . . .

Carter: Yes.

Jones: . . . and so we are working that and we will be alert to that.

Carter: Let me know . . . let me know immediately when you hear anything about . . . [less than 1 line not declassified]. David it’s better for you to call . . . we’re all here in my little black office . . . it’s Signal 176 . . . and then just tell me to pick up the secure phone, if you want to call me.

Jones: OK. Signal 176 and then ask you to pick up secure.

Carter: Yeah. One other thing David. Do you have anyway yet to know what American bodies were left in there?

Jones: No we do not. We . . . they had report of one body, but it was confused if whether the body was taken out. The intent would have been to bring the bodies out.

Carter: I know. I understand they were completely burned.

Jones: They said they were missing . . . I think there may be one body coming and the other 5 missing, but that is clearly not determined as yet.

Carter: OK. I’ll be sitting here by the phone.

Jones: Yes sir. Thank you.

[electronic click]

[new call]

Jones: . . . the other one we got back through [CURTSY] which we’re still not sure of indicated that 7 were coming back from Desert [Page 718] One and one had already arrived back at the Nimitz. We will assume for now there is a crew down. The main thing is to get . . . we’ll ask when the 130s come out. We got a report from [less than 1 line not declassified]. We don’t want though any egress or penetration of Iranian territory with a search mission until we sort things out a little better . . . is the crew down, where is it down, some debriefing and that, and figure out our rescue operation. Over.

Long: All right. I understand. I’m now satisfied there was only one crew aboard the helo that has returned to Nimitz.

Jones: Yeah.

Long: We have . . . we are trying to find out through both your office as well as [CURTSY] how many crews are actually in the 130s. And we have accepted the SAR mission and we are going to [CURTSY] to tell him to give us plans . . . do not execute at this time . . . but give us plans for a search plan considering egress and no egress. Now we’re pretty well convinced here . . . or I am . . . that the nature of the beeper is such that it would be impossible to detect it in any range in excess of 50 miles. And probably considerably less from where we are out in the Gulf. So that would appear if there is in fact a helo down that the only way we would be able to detect that beeper . . . other than overhead system . . . would be actually overflying Iranian territory. We will not do that until we get some other indication that that’s what is required.

Jones: OK. I agree. Maybe if they can hide out by dark comes again that RH–53 that’s got all the overnight capability . . . the night capability might do it. Maybe the 130s coming out can get some indication on beepers. And also when the crews land we ought to be able to get some indication of when that helicopter dropped out. If it just flat dropped out of the sky it most likely crashed. If he aborted because of maintenance trouble he should have told somebody he was going down with (Joint Chiefs of Staff Records, RG 218–02–0007, J–3 DDSO, Box 7, Iranian Hostage Crisis 1979–1984, L14–19 Telephone Conversations)

The following excerpt is pages 5–8 of a 23-page transcript labeled 2808 Tape #3 Side One. All brackets except those denoting text not declassified are in the original:

Voice A: Yes sir, we can.

Jones: OK. [pause] Ah . . . Two C–130s have arrived at Masirah. . .

Carter: Uh huh.

Jones: . . . and the three . . . the same kind . . . will coast out about 15 minutes from now and landing about an hour and 45 minutes from now . . . the last ones. We got a medical evacuation airplane that should be landing ahead of it . . . still uncertain as to number of . . . the . . . [Page 719] people that were casualties at Desert One. That’s just . . . they won’t know until they get on the ground at Masirah and count up everybody. We now believe . . . and it’s highly likely . . . we keep getting confusing reports . . . but it’s highly likely that that eighth helicopter crew is on the 130. They just haven’t been able to confirm it . . . it’s been on again, off again . . . through one channel we get a confirmation, through the other channel an uncertainty . . . but when they land in an hour and 45 minutes, shortly thereafter we should know. So I would say better than 50–50 that the eighth crew . . . so we won’t have a rescue mission to perform, but that’s still uncertain.

Carter: Well, if that materializes that will be the first good news that we’ve had tonight.

Jones: Yes sir.

Carter: Any disturbance in Iran yet?

Jones: I just talked with Admiral Inman and he said everything is very quiet. Nothing . . .

Carter: I cannot understand that.

Jones: Nothing at all.

Carter: David, can you explain to me now . . . we’re getting down to the point where I’m going to have to start notifying . . . you know . . . members of Congress . . . and even telling the American people. It’s getting to . . . it’s not crucial, it’s getting more and more urgent. [1½ lines not declassified]

Jones: [4½ lines not declassified]

Carter: I’ll hold.

Jones: The belief here is that they will . . . get working together today and it’s getting . . . it’s light over there now . . .

Carter: It is?

Jones: [4½ lines not declassified]

Carter: [1 line not declassified]

Jones: [4 lines not declassified]

Carter: [1 line not declassified]

Jones: [8½ lines not declassified]

Carter: [7 lines not declassified]

Jones: [3½ lines not declassified]

Carter: [1 line not declassified]

Jones: [1 line not declassified]

Carter: [1 line not declassified]

Jones: [1 line not declassified]

Carter: [1 line not declassified]

Jones: [1 line not declassified]

[Page 720]

Carter: [1 line not declassified]

Jones: [7½ lines not declassified]

Carter: [2 lines not declassified]

Jones: [1 line not declassified]

Carter: [1½ lines not declassified]

Jones: [1½ lines not declassified]

Carter: [1 line not declassified]

Jones: [1 line not declassified]

Carter: [1 line not declassified]

Jones: [9 lines not declassified]

Carter: [3½ lines not declassified]

Jones: [1 line not declassified]

Carter: Sure, I got you. OK, well I’ll be here if you need me.

Jones: There’s one thing I would suggest be considered as to what to tell the Omanis . . .

Carter: Yes, Cy and Warren are working on that.

Jones: What we’d planned to do is attempt to transfer the people . . . particularly with the burned one injured . . . but transfer the people and get them to Wadi Kena . . . so they’re not on the ground down there . . . to get back to better care . . . and to get them out of Masirah . . . but it’s likely to be some . . . some discovery there.

Carter: OK. There’s two things . . . just to summarize . . . the obvious. There’s two things I need to know about. One is that eighth helicopter . . . the crew. And the other one if the alarm is raised.

Jones: [6½ lines not declassified]

Carter: OK.

Jones: . . . specifically can be the better.

Carter: [less than 1 line not declassified] I’ll try to take care of my advisors over here. OK?

Jones: All right sir.

Carter: Thank you David.

[electronic click] (Joint Chiefs of Staff Records, RG 218–02–0007, J–3 DDSO, Box 7, Iranian Hostage Crisis 1979–1984, L14–19 Telephone Conversations)

The following excerpt is pages 15–18 of a 23-page transcript labeled 2808 Tape #3 Side Two. All brackets except those denoting text not declassified are in the original:

Brown: We’re not considering that, at least not very . . . not so soon . . . but you couldn’t get these back.

Jones: Yet again . . . but the visibility of it. I’m inclined to agree . . .

[Page 721]

Brown: All right.

Jones: . . . that we go ahead and start moving them back tomorrow if that’s OK.

Brown: Yeah . . . let me check here, but that’s my inclination. Very strong inclination. OK. See . . . the Vice President is here and would like to talk to you a little. Then, after that, maybe you could get John [COUSTAY] (phonetic) to call me back over here . . . I’ll be in the Cabinet Room or reachable there . . . with his ideas about the sheath of things he sent over in the way of messages that we would send out. The only one I would propose to send out now, suitably modified, is the CINC’s alert message. I don’t think it makes sense now to tell the Pakistanis, the Omanis, and the Indians to stay away from our ships.

Jones: I agree.

Brown: OK. Here’s the Vice President.

Mondale: David, I just wanted some information. If you’re busy in an operational sense just call me back.

Jones: No, I’m not busy right now. If I get a hot call or something . . . [words indistinct]

Mondale: Yeah, sure. As I understand it our planes have now cleared Iranian territory.

Jones: That is correct. We still have an uncertainty as to one of the helicopter crews.

Mondale: Uh huh. But everyone that was at Desert One got in the 130s . . . has left and has cleared Iranian territory.

Jones: Yes sir. We had an unfortunate accident at Desert One, where a helicopter ran into a 130 and they both caught fire, and it appears that all but one crew member on the helicopter is a fatality and a small number . . . maybe the pilot and one or two . . . we’re not sure . . . in the back on the 130 from that accident and until they get back and sort it out we won’t be sure. But a small number . . . caused by an accident there as they were getting ready to leave.

Mondale: What do you estimate? Six dead?

Jones: Well . . . that’s so uncertain right now. I would say that’s . . . that’s about what we know about, but there may be some others missing or dead from that accident.

Mondale: Yeah . . . ah . . . what about the helicopter crew that we’ve had trouble finding?

Jones: Well, we think it’s aboard the 130, but we’re not sure. It was confusion as to . . . out of Desert One we got a report that there were only 6 crews there. Then a report . . . no, there were seven crews, and that one got picked up. We have one crew, the eighth one, that had landed and then went back to the Nimitz.

[Page 722]

Mondale: Uh huh.

Jones: Arrived Nimitz about an hour or so ago. He reported that his indication is that there were seven, and one had been picked up. We won’t know for sure . . . and I would say better than 50–50 that this seventh helicopter crew is aboard the 130s, but certainly not a high assurance. It should land . . . the 130 should land at Masirah in about 40 minutes and then they’re going to . . . General Gast is going to meet . . . check everybody as they get off and see who’s missing and . . . one of the first things we do is whether that helicopter crew is there. If it’s not, then we’ve got to . . . a rescue . . . problem of trying to find it without penetrating . . . we then trying to do things through NSA and others to . . . get some indication of where it is . . . the radio beacons . . . we’d earlier had the indication of a beacon . . . but that could be spurious. We got quite a few of those.

Mondale: If, in fact, the crew is aboard, presumably the craft had to land because it was stricken . . . another chopper picked them up and took them on to Desert One, huh?

Jones: That’s what the feeling is, the most probable thing now . . . but still not a certainty.

Mondale: Uh huh.

Jones: When they had the accident and the delay and the time that they had [words indistinct due to Mondale’s breathing] they decided all to come in the 130s . . . supposed to fly helicopters . . .

Mondale: They just left them behind. . .did they blow them up?

Jones: No . . . for a number of reasons. One is they didn’t have time . . . it was the primary reason. And I would guess another reason . . . at least if I had a 130 problem and had to go back . . .

Mondale: You . . . you might need them. Yeah.

Jones: What it looks like now in the post mortem is that everything would have worked well . . . we lost from a reliability standpoint . . . three of our eight helicopters . . . and a determination had been made that if we lose more than 2 of the 8 before we leave Desert One . . . the probability of losing one more was very high . . . and therefore the mission couldn’t be accomplished . . . so that . . . so for want of the nail was three of eight helicopters [voice smothered over by Mondale’s breathing] . . . the mission.

Mondale: And we’d flown these helicopters all over the country successfully, hadn’t we?

Jones: Well, we have . . . those had been on the Nimitz since last December or so but they’ve been flying off the Nimitz, and the crews went out about a week ahead of time and did some flying on these helicopters. But they were different ones than we had in the States because we shipped those out many many months ago. We’ve been [Page 723] working on them and been flying them out there and . . . but it’s just one of those things . . . the reliability impacted on the mission . . .

Mondale: We just got two bad breaks, that’s all.

Jones: It looks as though that . . . there’s no tip off from that desert landing as yet, and we’re surprised, but these vehicles . . . and the vehicle that drove through evidently didn’t report anything.

Mondale: It’s hard to believe, isn’t it.

Jones: Well if I were a person over there and I wasn’t sure if you put your head above water you’d get your head chopped off . . . that if I were some poor guy out in the country I’m not sure I just wouldn’t drive home . . . you don’t know who’s there and what it’s all about, and that sort of thing.

Mondale: Yeah.

Jones: So, I . . . we thought maybe there was a good chance he wouldn’t report. Now, the bus load of 41 people . . . we don’t know if this bus was still OK and that they are heading to town or that they are . . . the bus was disabled and they’re waiting for the next vehicle to come by or what. There were more vehicles than we thought. We knew there were vehicles coming down that road. We had expected that on a Thursday night . . . a holiday . . . weekend there would be fewer road . . . vehicles in the middle of the night. We did have the expectation there would be some and the roadblock was set up for stopping of the vehicles. But he hasn’t tipped off yet, so we’d have been up in the hideout now, and everything was total green at that way . . . bedded down, and things were going. But the reliability . . . once we aborted, when you do that sort of thing . . . confusion increases and the unfortunate accident.

Mondale: I suppose people get so damned distressed and disappointed that they sometimes lose their efficiency too, don’t they?

Jones: We may never know, but we’ll try to find out what happened . . .

Mondale: Sure.

Jones: . . . helicopter running into that 130 out there. It looked as though . . . if we accept the uncertainty of that helicopter . . . which we think now is probably aboard that 130, we could have gotten all our people out. We don’t have any indication of any casualties among the Iranians right now . . .

Mondale: Uh huh. OK, thank you very much David.

Jones: You’re welcome, sir.

Mondale: Right, Bye. (Joint Chiefs of Staff Records, RG 218–02–0007, J–3 DDSO, Box 7, Iranian Hostage Crisis 1979–1984, L14–19 Telephone Conversations)