On April 2, 1972, Iceal "Gene" Hambleton, an intelligence analyst, was aboard a plane used to jam North Vietnamese Communist Army (NVA) radar. While over enemy territory, anti-aircraft missiles knocked his plane out of the sky. Luckily, Hambleton was able to bail out before the craft exploded. Less luckily, his bailout landed him in front of a huge army of NVA regulars in the process of launching one of the biggest North Vietnamese offensives into South Vietnam.
And they were coming for him -- the enemy found out he was an intelligence analyst, which meant he'd be a very high value POW. Fortunately for Hambleton, he had pretty extensive knowledge of something else ... the game of golf.
"On second thought, we don't want him any more."
The Insane Rescue:
A SEAL team sent in on foot to rescue Hambleton quickly realized that Vietnamese intelligence was listening to their radio communications. You can immediately see the problem this would cause with staging a rescue -- telling Hambleton where to wait for a chopper would mean half the North Vietnamese army would also be waiting in that spot.
"Surprise! Tank party!"
On the fly, the Special Forces developed what must have been the most boring special code ever with Hambleton, based on his extensive knowledge of golf courses. That's right, all that useless bullshit you have stuffed in your head could save your life some day!
Nah, we're totally kidding; algebra is useless.
Transmissions would use golf terms and Hambleton's encyclopedic knowledge of distances to the green from famous courses. An example transmission would read, "You're going to play 18 holes and you're going to get in the Swanee and make like Esther Williams and Charlie the Tuna. The round starts on No. 1 at Tucson National." How did the NVA not figure that out?
For six more days, Hambleton scrambled around the NVA-infected jungle, moving from "green" to "green." Although he mostly escaped detection, at one point he came upon a surprised Vietnamese man who attacked him with a knife. Hambleton was able to "neutralize" his attacker. So you could say that fate gave Hambleton ... a mulligan. Man, this golf code shit is easy.
"There's one ball in play and one in the bunker. Also, I may need an ambulance."
The rescue of Iceal "Gene" Hambleton (Call sign Bat 21 Bravo) from behind enemy lines was the largest, longest and most complex search-and-rescue operation during the entire Vietnam War, and it was all possible because of one man's Rain Man-like knowledge of golf.
The Iran of the 1970s wasn't at all like the Iran we know today. The ruling government was massively corrupt, the citizens were threatening to rise up and all involved parties basically blamed the United States for their troubles. OK, so we take that first sentence back.
This guy's name is probably Bahmoud Bhmadinejad.
Unsurprisingly, American corporations doing business in Iran were popular targets for aggression. Two executives working for U.S.-based electronics firm EDS, Bill Gaylord and Paul Chiapparone, learned that the hard way when they were taken into custody on trumped up (probably) bribery charges and thrown in jail on December 28, 1978.
Fortunately, their employer was this 5'6" tower of badassery ...
Yep, that's former presidential hopeful and all-around adorable crazy old man Ross Perot, and he does not take kindly to his employees being taken into custody. After lobbying the American and Iranian governments to free his captured executives to no avail, Ross Perot did what any of us would do: He used his network of old military buddies to form a strike team with the intent of freeing the hostages without any government help.
We're going to repeat that last part again with added emphasis, just so it sinks in: Ross Perot used his network of old military buddies to form a strike team with the intent of freeing the hostages without any government help.
Tuesday night at Perot's local Waffle House.
Perot managed to gain entry into Iran by posing as a journalist, at which point he immediately decided cover stories are for bitches and went straight to the Iranian government to give them one last chance to remedy the situation before things got awesome. They ignored his demands. Things got awesome.
While Perot was negotiating in Iran, 60-year-old Colonel Arthur D. "Bull" Simons, a shadowy operative who was already famous for leading a number of raids and assaults while serving with the American Special Forces, was assembling a team of men and smuggling them into Iran. But first, they spent a few weeks storming a mock-up of the Tehran prison where the EDS executives were being held. How did they know what the prison looked like? Ross Perot cased the joint, that's how.
Dramatization (may be inaccurate).
When they arrived in Iran, all their weeks of practicing the raid on the Tehran prison mock-up went to shit. The Americans had been moved to Qasr Prison, one of Tehran's largest and best fortified jails. Faced with the prospect of having the entire mission go down in flames, Perot and company again did what any of us would do in that situation. Shit their pants and flee the country, you ask? No, instead they had an Iranian EDS employee named Rashid start a freaking riot and lead the ensuing mob right to Qasr Prison. There, Rashid stoked the crowd's anger until they stormed the prison and freed all of the inmates.
"Sometimes your government are complete assholes, and that makes me think unkind things about your culture! ATTACK!"
At that point, Colonel "Bull" Simons moved in, swooped up the two executives and proceeded to get everyone out of the country. The team used Rashid as a guide and quickly made their way to Turkey, where they boarded a plane and bid adieu to the total chaos that Iran was turning into.
From start to finish, the entire operation took less than two months. Meanwhile, the Iran hostage crisis erupted shortly thereafter and dragged on for an excruciating 444 days. Damn. Are we sure Ross Perot shouldn't have been president?
The guy's got some moves.
For more implausible military missions, check out The 6 Most Hilarious Undercover Operations Ever Pulled Off. Or learn about The 25 Least Inspiring Military Operation Names.