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From the Ashes of Desert One to the Rebirth of U.S. Special Operations
Phoenix Rising recounts the paradoxical birth of SOF through the prism of Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue fifty-two Americans held hostage in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. When terrorists captured the Embassy on November 4, 1979, the Joint Chiefs of Staff quickly realized that the United States lacked the military capability to launch a rescue. There was no precedent for the mission, a mission that came with extraordinary restrictions and required a unique force to take it on. With no existent command structure or budget, this force would have to be built from scratch in utmost secrecy, and draw on every branch of the U.S. military.
Keith Nightingale, then a major, was Deputy Operations Officer and the junior member of Joint Task Force Eagle Claw, commanded by Major General James Vaught. Based on Nightingale's detailed diary, Phoenix Rising vividly describes the personalities involved, the issues they faced, and the actions they took, from the conception of the operation to its hair-raising launch and execution. His historically significant post-analysis of Eagle Claw gives unparalleled insight into how a very dedicated group of people from the Chief of Staff of the Army to lower-ranking personnel subjugated personal ambition to grow the forces necessary to address the emerging terrorist threat - a threat which the majority of uniformed leadership and their political masters denied in 1979. The Special Operations capability of the United States today is the ultimate proof of their success.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
"Can't recommend this book highly enough."--General Stanley McChrystal (Ret) "Jack Koons, Cyberwarfare Officer (DoD, Ret)" "This truly astonishing book by an Army officer involved in the planning and conduct of the operation will come as a shock to readers used to hearing about meticulously planned and executed American special operations..."--General Stanley McChrystal (Ret) "New York Journal of Books" "Entertainingly written, brilliantly insightful. I spent most of my military career in the shadow of the professionals who, lacking the necessary structure, equipment, or intelligence, audaciously attempted to rescue Americans held hostage in Iran. The mission failed frustratingly, but Keith Nightingale captures both the drama of the event he participated in, and the bureaucratic fighting that followed. Without both battles, the Special Operations Forces we rely on today would not exist."--General Stanley McChrystal (Ret) "If you really want to know how modern Special Operations forces began, you must read this book. It is truly a classic of 'inside baseball' combined with literary skill. I learned things I never knew but were extremely consequential for the Nation. Truly a Must Read. Keith knows this form of combat and was a true warrior in every sense. This is an important work and I don't say that lightly."--General Barry McCaffery (Ret) "Keith Nightingale is an American treasure. He is a combat leader who has been there and done that in some of the hardest places on the planet. On top of that, he's a fine and clear writer."--Thomas E. Ricks, author of Fiasco, The Generals and the forthcoming First Principles: What America's Founders Learned from the Greeks and Romans and How That Shaped Our Country "Eloquently written, meaty with detail and richly laced with insight, Nightingale's fascinating account of the struggles to stand up the U.S. military's special operations capability is worth buying just for his first-hand description of the planning behind the effort to rescue the Iran hostages."
--Sean Naylor: author of Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command