7 Craziest Special Forces Rescue Missions
Incredible rescue missions that will blow your mind.
#1 – Operation Thunderbolt
Arguably one of the most spectacularly audacious hostage rescues in all of history – Operation Thunderbolt remains a bold staple of military excellence. When Air France Flight 139 (and her 250 passengers) were hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, they slowly allowed any non-Israeli hostages to go, only keeping the 106 passengers and air crew that fit the bill. After landing at Entebbe Airport in Uganda (a country that was sympathetic to the terrorists), 100 Israeli commandos flew 2,500 miles in disguises to the terminal building holding the people inside. After the commandos swarmed the building, seven hijackers, forty Uganda military employees and one Israeli soldier were killed – but all 102 of the remaining hostages were successfully released from captivity.
#2 – Operation Chavin de Huantar
Back in December 1996, the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Peru was seized by 14 rebels of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, slipping past hundreds of people, armed guards and officials attending the premises to celebrate the Emperor’s birthday. After four long months of standing off, Peruvian forces snuck cameras and strategic clothing in to the prisoners as part of aide packages – while secret tunnels were dug underneath the building – ready for an assault. On April 22, 140 Peruvian commandos launched their choreographed assault on the tunnel guards as others stormed the entrances and climbed the rear walls. Although one hostage and two soldiers were lost to the battle, ALL of the rebels and over one hundred hostages were rescued.
#3 – Moscow Theatre Siege
In October 2002, 40 armed Chechen militants, supporting the separatist movement in Chechnya, took control of the Dubrovka Theatre located in Moscow – taking over 850 people inside hostage. Chosen by terrorists due to the difficult-to-rescue floor plan layout of the building, the hijackers further complicated rescue attempts by strapping themselves with bombs, ready to sacrifice themselves to stop any would-be-hero. After the second day, two hostages were executed – sending the Russian government into full force. Special forces such as Alpha Team and Vega Groups pumped an undisclosed chemical inside to knock everyone out, killing all 40 Chechens and 130 hostages – but saving the remaining 700.
#4 – Air France Flight 8969
Four members of the Armed Islamic Group planned on blowing up Air France Flight 8969 over Paris – killing three hostages and hijacking the airliner on December 24, 1994. The plane ran short on fuel – requiring an emergency landing in Marseille before carrying forward to Paris. However, the French sent counter-terrorist group GIGN in for reconnaissance and intel-gathering before being forced into action. After the hijackers opened fire on the French control tower, 30 GIGN soldiers stormed the plane through both doors, killing most of the pirates within minutes. The final hijacker barricaded himself in the cockpit, bleeding to death from his wounds – while all the remaining hostages were saved.
#5- Raid at Cabanatuan
After the fall of the Philippines in 1942 during the Second World War, Japan developed a habit of brutally imprisoning POWs – killing hundreds of thousands of unfortunate souls at the cause of the Imperial Japanese Army’s inhumane conditions and treatment. Holding tens of thousands inside, American troops planned to rescue the prisoners from one of the largest camps around, Cabanatuan. The half-hour attack was helmed by over 400 American Rangers, Scouts and Filipino guerrillas that traveled behind enemy lines, eventually rescuing over 500 prisoners of war and civilians alike. Although official numbers are somewhat grey, this harrowing rescue even inspired the 2005 movie ‘The Great Raid’.
#6 – Operation Nimrod
In April 1980, 6 Iranian separatists entered the Iranian embassy in London – taking twenty six individuals inside hostage. Demanding the release of political prisoners (including a safe and uninterrupted passage out of Britain), the standoff reached an excruciating SIX days before one of the hostage takers executed a hostage – tossing the body into the street outside. Finally breaking the non-violent deal, the British Government transferred full authority to the SAS, with SAS soldiers rappelling down the embassy’s roof and adjacent balconies just days later. During the course of 17 minutes, all but one of the terrorists were killed – while everyone (except for one hostage) was successfully saved.
#7 – Operation Jericho
During 1944, French resistance fighters had to navigate life around the perpetual fear of being captured by Nazi soldiers. After the Nazi occupation of France, notorious prisons were setup with the purpose of caging and torturing French prisoners. During February of that year, British airstrikes on Amiens Prison were attempted in an effort to free the hundreds of political prisoners and resistance fighters held inside. Led by 9 Mosquito bombers – this incredibly violent event resulted in the deaths of over 100 prisoners – however, an additional 250 escaped with 70 of them evading recapture entirely. Although the raid’s return was low, it remains a wild example of WWII brutality.