CARTER, Jimmy (1924- ), President. Typed letter signed ("Jimmy Carter") as President, to Pamela Mayo, Washington, 26 April 1980. 1 page, 4to (8 7/8 x 6¾ in.), White House stationery, envelope, very minor stain in right margin.
PRESIDENT CARTER PRAISES "THE NOBLE SACRIFICE" OF A SOLDIER KILLED DURING THE MISSION TO FREE THE HOSTAGES IN IRAN
On November 4, 1979, Iranian militants under the direction of the Ayatollah Khomeini seized the American Embassy in Teheran and took sixty hostages. When demands that the Shah of Iran be returned from America to stand trial in his homeland were refused, 52 of the adult male hostages were retained in captivity where they remained for the next several months. President Carter attempted a variety of diplomatic overtures and economic sanctions to place pressure upon the Ayatollah to release the Americans, but each met with failure. The frustrated President finally saw no option but to use force and, on April 24, 1980, ordered a military rescue team into Iran. The mission went awry, however, when several helicopters malfunctioned and two collided causing the deaths of eight servicemen. Carter later wrote of the failed effort: "I am still haunted by memories of that day--our high hopes for success, the incredible series of mishaps, the bravery of our rescue team, the embarrassment of failure, and above all, the tragic deaths in the lonely desert" (Carter, Keeping Faith, p. 528).
Here, the saddened President writes to the wife of one of the casualties: "On behalf of all Americans, I extend my deepest sympathy to you and your family in the loss of your husband, Joel, who bravely undertook a humanitarian mission for our country. I know that words cannot assuage your grief, but I hope it will be of some comfort for you to know that I mourn with you and share your sorrowful burden. The noble sacrifice made by your husband, his courage and dedication, command the highest respect and gratitude of us all. Rosalynn joins me in assuring you of our prayers for your strength at this difficult time."
On May 9, a memorial service was held at Arlington for the soldiers killed in Iran. Carter called the ceremony "One of the most difficult duties I had to face as President" but proudly noted that the families of the slain faced their loss bravely: "Their quiet courage and sensitivity exemplified in a special way the voluntary sacrifice and nobility of the men and women who served in the military forces, dedicated to preserving the freedom of us all" (Carter, p. 532).