Phoenix Rising

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

Keith Nightingale

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 :
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ISBN : 9781612008776
Pages : 336
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
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“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.”

In 1980, the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was seized and the American citizens there taken hostage. The Joint Chiefs of Staff examined its inventory of capabilities and concluded it had in reality, no capabilities other than nuclear weapons or mass conventional forces—neither of which were rational outcomes. Any capability tailored for this form of conflict would have to be built from scratch.

Keith Nightingale, then a junior officer, was Deputy Operations Officer of Joint Task Force Eagle Claw, commanded by Major General James Vaught, which attempted to do just that. This is his personal, unique account of the events leading to the rescue attempt, and how its failure directly led to the creation of the Special Operations competency that the United States enjoys today.

About The Author

Colonel Keith Nightingale is that rarest of breeds—a hard-core military man who wields a pen as brilliantly as any weapon, and strategically deploys a full literary arsenal. Targeting our senses with the sights, sounds, smells, textures, and even the tastes of war, his myriad of minute physical details, visual similes, and extended metaphors invariably strike home. To quote Pulitzer-Prize winner Tom Ricks, contributing editor to Foreign Policy: “If you want to know about war, Keith Nightingale is your man.” Nightingale’s work is further endorsed by General David Petraeus, General Volney Wagner, Susan Eisenhower, Emmy-winner Dennis Murphy, and other luminaries.


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

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