The Plan Commences
With Col. Simons and his men in Tehran, finishing up the last details, Mr. Perot also got into the country, saying he was a news courier for NBC. The streets of Tehran were in chaos, full of burning cars and armed militia. Driven to the prison compound, he was able to visit his two employees, reassure them that help was on the way and later provide details to the rescue planners.
Mr. Perot headed to Turkey, and on Feb. 11, 1979, the plan went into action. As the commando team was planning the prison break, a young Iranian EDS worker helped stoke a riot by anti-shah dissidents nearby. The mob, many firing rifles in the air, stormed the prison and freed the EDS executives along with thousands of other inmates.
"We wanted to use as little force as possible to get them out, but we had the force if necessary," Mr. Perot said. "Fortunately, we didn’t need to use it."
After 46 days, Mr. Chiapparone and Mr. Gaylord were free, making their way to a rendezvous point at a Tehran hotel. From there, they and key members of the team set off by car because air travel was too risky. They talked their way through checkpoints, relying heavily on a forged letter, written in Farsi and stamped with an emblem from the "Library of Rezaieh Religion School" that said they had permission to travel freely.
On Feb. 15, 1979, they crossed the Iranian border into Turkey, getting a bus that Mr. Perot had helped arrange. They later caught a flight to Istanbul, meeting up with Mr. Perot before heading to Frankfurt and, three days later, back to the United States.
"All I can say to Ross is just a big thank you," Mr. Chiapparone said.