Word of the catastrophe reached the White House just before the force left the ground in retreat. The president was in his study, surrounded by his advisers, still absorbing the shock of the abort decision. He received a call from General Jones.
Jordan watched the president close his eyes, and then Carter’s jaw fell and his face went pale.
“Are there any dead?” Carter asked.
The room was silent. Finally the president said softly, “I understand,” and hung up the phone.
He calmly explained to the others what had happened. The men took in the awful news quietly. Then Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who had submitted his resignation earlier that day because he objected to the mission, said, “Mr. President, I’m very, very sorry.”
Jordan ducked into the president’s bathroom and vomited.
America’s elite rescue force had lost eight men, seven helicopters, and a C-130, and had not even made contact with the enemy. It was a debacle. It defined the word “debacle.”