International Operation Name: N/A
International Operation Dates: N/A
Mandating Organization: Government of Canada
Region Name: Middle East
Canadian Operation Name: Operation BATON
Canadian Operation Dates: 1978/12/03 - 1979/01/10
Mission Mandate: To evacuate Canadian and foreign nationals from Iran
In 1978, the domestic policies of the Iranian government brought about large-scale demonstrations. Increases in taxes and the imposition of fines were used to make up for the decrease in oil revenues. Large portions of the populace resented the outflow of funds perceived to be buying American weapons, and some of the first demonstrations in 1978 leading to the revolution were against big banks with large foreign or minority ownership.
Blue and white collar workers, the destitute, and the Shia clergy, each acting for their own reasons, came together in 1977-78, operating mainly in urban areas. With opposition strength rising, the Shah fled the country on 16 January 1979. At the same time, the army was drawn into the demonstrations, initially by refusing orders to fire on the crowds. Then, in January-February, 1979, some radical young officers, mostly from the Air Force, openly aligned themselves with the revolutionary forces.
As a result of the civil unrest in Iran, the Department of External Affairs requested and the Government of Canada authorized the CF to provide aircraft for a potential evacuation of Canadian nationals from Iran. The staging point for the CF aircraft was Ankara, Turkey.
Phase I involved the deployment of approximately 105 personnel to Ankara on 9 December 1978, arriving 10 December. These personnel set-up the Airlift Control Element in the hangar of a Turkish national handling company – USAK - at Ankara Airport. A temporary easing of tensions permitted the largest portion of personnel to return to Canada on 16 December 1978.
Phase II involved the evacuation of Canadian and other foreign nationals. Aircraft were kept on 24 hour Notice to Move at CFB Trenton after Phase I, with a CC-137 and CC-130 departing on 31 December with only 4 hours Notice to Move. They arrived in Ankara on 1 January and 2 January respectively. A CC-130 from CFB Lahr departed that location arriving 2 January. Two other CC-130 departed CFB Trenton arriving in Ankara on 3 January. These two aircraft were then immediately serviced and departed for Tehran in under eight hours.
On 3 January 1979, four flights were made into Tehran by four CC-130 aircraft. Three flights carried on to Rasht, on the Caspian Sea, to evacuate personnel, including some from the Montreal-based Stadler-Hurter Company. All told, the Canadian Forces evacuated 356 civilians: 227 Canadians, 56 West Germans, 43 British, 14 Americans, 6 Australians, 5 Finnish, 2 New Zealanders, 1 Czech and 2 of unknown nationality.
A fifth flight on 4 January picked up 52 personnel. Due to the lateness of the aircraft’s arrival, the curfew prevented evacuees from departing their homes for the trip to the airport, thereby forcing the aircraft to stay an extra night. The next morning, Iranian customs created delays that prolonged the stay of the aircraft. In the end, it picked up 39 Canadian, 10 British, 1 American, 1 Australian, and 1 New Zealander. With this last flight of Phase II, the personnel commenced the redeployment phase, with the last aircraft departing Ankara at 1800 local, 6 January 1979.
Op BATON was not over however. A final flight was arranged in late January 1979, with the belief that 160 personnel required evacuation. This was Phase III of Op BATON. One Hercules was involved, departing CFB Trenton on 31 January and returning 8 February. As with previous missions, Iranian authorities created a 72-hour delay in flying to Tehran. The final flight on 6 February picked up 58 personnel: 33 Canadian, 9 American, 6 British, 5 New Zealand, 2 French, 1 Australian, 1 Philippine and 1 Egyptian.
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