The Lady would never exploit an American military disaster to score
political points against any president of the United States.
— British MP on Margaret
The Shah’s death brought another abrupt change in Washington. Deprived of the former ruler as a bargaining chip, President Carter abandoned his efforts to win the release of the U.S. hostages by diplomatic means. The U.S. would now “lance the boil” by covert military action.
No one knew anything about this outside the White House and the Delta force commandos who ever since the Embassy was seized had been practicing a rescue attempt, but on Sunday morning April 27, I got a strange telephone call from the chairman of my local Conservative Party in England. The previous night, his daughter’s boyfriend who worked for a local undertaker had brought her home in one of the company’s hearses. Asked why, the young man explained that early the next morning he and all the other undertakers he knew had been asked to present themselves at the USAF base at Lakenheath for a highly confidential assignment. Intrigued, the girl’s father asked if I knew anything about this. Had an airplane crashed or had there been an explosion at the airbase?
The following day, I learned that a long range U.S. aircraft had flown into Lakenheath with a large number of corpses aboard. Many were so badly burned that they were unrecognizable. The bodies had been taken to the base mortuary but since no U.S. staff morticians were available to