In the Spring of 1980. ;arry Craig was the manager of the FAA control tower at Lubbock International Airport. He was getting ready to go home one normal friday, when he received a visit from a special forces colonel in the air force.
"He explained to us that they were going to have a special operation that night," Craig says.
And that was all the information that Larry Craig got.
"The basis for security is it's on a need to know basis. And I guess I didn't need to know."
Unbeknownst to Craig, Lubbock had been chosen as a rehearsal site for a joint Air Force-CIA mission called Operation Eagle Claw. The goal: extract 53 American hostages from the American embassy in Tehran, Iran. Lubbock was chosen because its flat, arid, elevated conditions are similar to those surrounding Tehran.
Shortly after midnight, a number of odd things began happening in the skies over Lubbock. Large cargo planes landed in Cotton Center and Brownfield and at Reese.
Then, the radar began to light up.
"On our RADAR scope we started seeing targets approaching from several directions," Craig says.
Ten to twelve blips on the RADAR began roaming up and down 4th street from Reese, to what is now Covenant Hospital and back.
This activity is consistent with Operation Eagle Claw. The plan was to storm the embassy, load the hostages into helicopters, and fly them to the safety of a nearby soccer stadium. With 53 hostages and only 12 helicopters carrying crew, multiple trips would be required.
"At the same time another target came in from the southeast and went into an orbit over that very same vicinity. It was a very very tight circle," Larry craig remembers.
With giant cargo planes on the ground, helicopters whipping around over head, and a small turbo prop circling the hospital, it sounded like world war 3 outside. But no one saw anything.
"The night that this occurred it was a very very clear night. Almost no clouds in the sky and it was nearly a full moon. Several people said they stood outside looking and looking and looking, and they could hear it clearly overhead, but they could not find it in the sky."
Another nod to Operation Eagle Claw. The mission used painted aircraft so as to make them invisible to the naked eye when flying at night.
"The phone was just ringing off the wall," Craig says 30 years later. "My wife was at home in bed, and our phone was just ringing off the wall with people trying to find out information."
But just as quickly as it had all started, the RADAR blips returned to Reese and later flew off into the night. The practice mission was over Larry Craig never heard another word about it.
On April 24th, Operation Eagle Claw was a miserable failure. Eight servicemen were killed and several aircraft destroyed before the misison commander eventually aborted the mission.
So what KO'ed the plans so carefully laid in Lubbock? Of all things, it was a West Texas-style dust storm.
Larry craig remembers that night. And although he says he had no idea what was going on at the time, He says it was exciting to say the least.
"It was an adventure. You know? Something special that doesn't go on every day."