Phoenix Rising

From the Ashes of Desert One to the Rebirth of U.S. Special Operations

Col Keith Nightingale (Ret)

An arresting account of the birth of SOF through the prism of the Iran Hostage Rescue attempt by a direct observer.
Date Published :
July 2020
Publisher :
Illustration :
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Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781612008776
Pages : 336
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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An arresting account of the birth of SOF through the prism of the Iran Hostage Rescue attempt by a direct observer.

“As a junior officer and the lowest ranking 'gopher' at the creation of these forces, I saw how the several Services had great reservations regarding SOF to the point of studied dislike of it and a distinct distaste for its inclusion as a member of their force structure. The single lone exception was Army Chief of Staff Shy Myer, who saw terrorism and asymmetrical warfare as the emerging National threat and worked to build a missing capability. He did this as a lone wolf in that much of the Army leadership as well as the other Services, looked upon SOF as a high-risk loose cannon on their stable conventional deck.”

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.

About The Author

Keith Nightingale was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in 1965 from Claremont McKenna College. He graduated from Airborne, Jumpmaster, and Ranger Schools and retired as a colonel in 1993. During that time he commanded four rifle companies, three battalions, and two brigades—all Airborne or Ranger units and some in combat. He served two tours in Vietnam, was part of the Iran hostage rescue attempt, commanded an assault force in Grenada, and managed the Department of Defense Interagency Counterdrug Task Force for Latin America from Panama. He was an original member of Joint Special Operations Command as well as a founding Plankholder for the 1st Ranger Battalion in 1974. After retiring from the military, he joined Science Applications International Corporation as Senior Corporate Vice President, managing over a thousand international contracts and security programs in the Middle East conflict zone. He presently serves as a consultant and advisor to several government personalities and organizations and conducts leadership seminars for several Fortune 500 companies. Col (Ret) Nightingale is a member of the 82nd Airborne and Ranger Halls of Fame.


Author’s Note
Part 1—Creation of The Force And Development Of A Rescue Plan
Part 2—Training and Adjusting
Part 3—Execution and Events
Part 4—Aftermath and The Path Forward
Part 5—Congress 1: Bureaucracy 0


"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

"In short, Phoenix Rising is superb. The book was a pleasure to read and added another piece to the Operation Eagle Claw puzzle. It should be read by personnel at all levels in the special operations community who will draw lessons on planning complex operations, grasp the challenges of creating ad hoc organizations under pressure, and develop a deeper understanding of USSOCOM history."

- Parameters

"Phoenix Rising provides readers with two great services. First, it offers a truly unique perspective on Operation EAGLE CLAW. Additionally, it presents an excellent history of the evolution of USSOCOM. The combination of this subject matter and the outstanding readability of the volume make this one of those rare one-sit reads."

- On Point: The Journal of Army History

“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"

“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)

“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)

"Can’t recommend this book highly enough."

- 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..."

- New York Journal of Books

"...[an]engaging and a quick read. It is appropriate for anyone with an interest in international terrorism and the development of USSOCOM."

- ARMY Magazine

"Impressively informative and an inherently fascinating read..."

- Midwest Book Review

"If you are a student of special operations or someone interested in military history then you will find this a worthwhile and interesting read. "

- SOF News

‘’This book is published to the usual high Casemate Publishing standard. I have read every book published on this operation to include the Holloway Commission Report and I can say without a doubt that if you have any interest in the Eagle Claw operation or US Special Operations than this is a must have book.’’

- Aviation Enthusiast Book Club

"...vividly describes the government and military officials and forces involved in the operation, including the reasons for its failure.

- Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International

"Nightingale’s firsthand account of Eagle Claw provides a glimpse of the realities the planners faced. His observations, even when anger must lurk beneath the surface, reflect calm wisdom. Anyone reading his book can derive an understanding of the complexities involved in special operations."

- H-Net Reviews

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