Watch: Retired Delta Force operator explains the gear used in the unit's first mission in Iran

Iran Hostage Crisis
Photo credit Graham Morris / Stringer

In November of 1979 Iranian "students" raided the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking it over and holding over fifty American citizens hostage.

As diplomatic solutions failed to resolve the situation, President Jimmy Carter had a newly established hostage rescue capability he could call upon. The unit had just been activated and was called 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta or more commonly Delta Force.

When the hostage rescue mission was approved by the president, Delta launched into Iran in April of 1980. Operation Eagle Claw as it was known failed for numerous reasons, among them issues with helicopters that were not up to the task.

In 1980, the U.S. military did not have the robust counter-terrorism and special operations capabilities that it has today. These tactics, techniques, and procedures had to be developed from scratch by service members, often on the fly as challenges presented themselves.

In a series of videos shot by the Silent Warrior Foundation, retired Delta Force operator Sergeant Major Phill Hanson shows the gear he wore and used on Operation Eagle Claw, going through each piece of the kit individually providing an amazing historical insight into America's early counter-terrorism endeavors.

As Hanson comments, this was way before there was any real tactical industry that manufactured specialized web gear, harnesses, protective equipment, boots, or uniforms for soldiers.

Instead, the operators had to take existing military gear or commercially available items off the shelf (like golf gloves and hiking boots) and modify them as needed.

Sergeant Major Hanson described how parachute riggers assigned to Delta Force helped them customize their gear, using their sewing machines to make assault belts and create all sorts of additions to the standard-issue field jacket, including hidden pockets for submachine gun and pistol magazines.

The standard Army OD green gear was also dyed black for the mission, something that Hanson remarks probably destroyed a lot of washing machines around the Fort Bragg area at the time.

The talk-through, walk-through approach in the videos with Hanson are well worth the time and will be of extreme interest to anyone who cares about U.S. military history.

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Reach Jack Murphy: jack@connectingvets.com or @JackMurphyRGR.