I remember waking up the morning of April 25, 1980 to the horrible news that an American special forces rescue team had had a terrible collision in the Iranian desert, and eight U.S. servicemen had been killed. The rescue attempt, Operation Eagle Claw, failed. I remember thinking, “What else could go wrong?”

The 52 U.S. embassy hostages in Iran were being tortured. They were being held in solitary confinement. They were beaten and deprived of food or water or medical attention. They were treated to psychological torture by being stripped naked and put blindfolded before a firing squad–only to have the Iranian soldiers pull the trigger on unloaded rifles.

President Carter decided this had gone on far enough. He and the U.S. military put together a rescue team comprising 93 Delta Force soldiers, a 13 man special assault team, 12 Army Rangers, and 15 Persian translators.

They took off in eight large helicopters and four EC130 transport planes. The plan started falling apart not long after they took off. One chopper had a bad hydraulic leak and had to turn back. Another turned back in a sandstorm, and a third could not go on due to a cracked rotor blade. President Carter was told we needed a minimum of six choppers to carry on. He ordered the rescue attempt aborted.

As a chopper was lifting off, it crashed into a transport plane. In the ensuing fireball, eight U.S. servicemen we’re killed

The rest of the team made it back, but without rescuing anyone. The mood of our nation was utterly depressed with this news. The Iranians said that God had stopped the evil Americans. President Carter later said that it was this debacle in the desert that helped destroy his reelection bid that year.