Customer Reviews: On Wings of Eagles
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on August 29, 1999
Once Ken Follett decided to write the book, On Wings of Eagles, he took two years to carefully research every date, place, person and other key fact in the story. This is exactly what you would expect an ex-newspaper man to do, especially one who is writing his first major non-fiction novel and wants to protect his reputation as a successful writer. Ken spent months researching the Iranian Revolution and the EDS rescue mission. He spent weeks individually interviewing everyone who participated in the rescue (except Colonel Bull Simons who unfortunately had died several months after the rescue ended). Follett crossed-checked his facts with the State Department, including staff stationed in the American embassy during the Revolution, with Iranians familiar with the events that had transpired in their country, and with many other people to make sure he got the story right.
To the extent that his literary goal was achievable, the book speaks for itself. Anyone who was in Iran during this period of time, and who was familar with the overthrow of the Shah's government, knows how accurate Ken's story is compared to the events that transpired.
It was indeed fortunate for the hostages that Ross Perot formed an employee-based rescue team that was successful in their mission. Follett describes this part of the story in great detail. He also relates the other strategies that were employed in an attempt to free the two executives, including the extensive use of lawyers in Iran, the lobbying for assistance at the State Department and the White House, and the exploration of several military-oriented solutions. Follett also documents EDS'attempts to pay the $12,750,000 bail (ransom?)for the two hostages. Unfortunately, none of these solutions worked.
If Follett has any problem with his story, it is the vast quantity of source material that he has to manage. Where does he start, where does he stop?? Which people and which incidents are worth including, which are not?? And, does he praise Ross Perot?? Of course he does. Ross is the person who led the rescue, who put his own life and personal reputation on the line. Ross actually went to the Gasr jail to see it for himself, to personally tell the two hostages to keep their faith and to gain first-hand knowledge of the Revolution taking place in Iran. How could Follett tell the story and not praise Perot. Actually, the facts do it for him.
In truth, the bottom line measurement of the success of an author's work lies in how many copies of his book are sold. In the case of On Wings of Eagles, the results are staggering. More than twenty years later, the paperback version of the story is still being sold in a dozen languages on bookshevles all over the world.
In case, you are wondering how I know all this to be true, I lived the story as one of the hostages who was rescued. I gave the book five stars for accuracy and excitement.
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on June 23, 2000
On The Wings of Eagles is destined to be a classic. It is the true life story of Ross Perot trying to save members of his corporation who are being held hostage by the Iranian government. He first tries using his clout and influence in Washington but when that does not work he hires a team of mercenaries to go to Iran to free the hostages and return unharmed to the United States.
The book reads like a fictional spy novel; however, it is a true story. Not "based on a true story" but 100% nonfiction, according to author Ken Follett. Nevertheless, this is one book that you will just not want to put down.
The maps, pictures, and cast of characters list makes the book even easier to follow.
Furthermore, the book also gives insight into the real life character, ex-presidental candidate, Ross Perot.
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on September 29, 2006
Book Review: "On Wings of Eagles" by Ken Follett; published by William Morrow, New York in 1983; Non Fiction.

I read quite a few books, usually one or two per week on average, and my selection varies widely from the latest murder mystery fiction novels to the more mundane non fiction biographies of ordinary people that lived through extraordinary situations hundreds or even thousands of years ago. I am a firm believer that almost every book is worth reading especially if the alternative is not to read at all. I like reading so much that when left alone in an environment with no other suitable distraction I will often read the labels on product cartons including tissue boxes, furniture cushions, and even the tiny shampoo bottles found in hotels. Reading is educational, entertaining, and therapeutic while also being quite inexpensive, flexible, and completely portable. Like most readers I have developed a preference for a number of topics and acquired an addiction for a few select authors yet one book stands out among all others as by far the best book I have read in over 30 years of persistent study.

The book currently at the top of my list is "On Wings of Eagles" by Ken Follett. This book reads like a non-stop action thriller and it competes with the finest of the wild and dramatic novels out there yet the most incredible aspect of the story is that it is 100% true as recounted to the author first hand by many of the original subjects. I know this for fact as I have researched the story several times, at first in disbelief and then later out of admiration and a passion to find out even more about the origins of this unique situation and the amazing people that were involved. My research included querying numerous news archives, reviewing public profiles of several large corporations, communicating with a few veteran book collectors, and eventually to direct contact with the author who was kind enough to correspond with me on several occasions.

The story takes place in that late 1970s. It starts innocently enough when EDS, a large computer processing company based in Dallas, wins a contract from the Iranian government to provide computer hardware and software that will administer the Iranian social security system including taxes, finances, and payouts to the citizens of Iran. The company assigns hundreds of employees to the project and many of them are relocated to Iran where they setup a typical corporate office complete with cubicles, meeting rooms, typewriters, secretaries, etc. They install and maintain a massive mainframe computer system and live relatively normal lives including a Monday-Friday work week with shopping, social events, and errands on the weekends. A number of the main executives even brought their families with them to eliminate the burden of long term separation that often accompanies massive out of town projects. The wives furnish and decorate their houses and apartments, they buy cars and appliances, and the kids go to school just like they would back home in Dallas. Several families even have pets including dogs, cats, and birds.

For a while everything seems to be going well and the contract is worth many millions in revenue so the company is looking forward to a substantial profit as the deliverables are completed and payment is made. This is where the trouble starts. The Iranian government becomes unstable and they withhold payment on all invoices due to the company despite the significant work that has already been completed. Various fanatical groups emerge to stir up trouble in their desire to take over from the local government. Demonstrations are held in the streets, protests and vandalism become common, and civil order begins to erode. Eventually it becomes unsafe for the Americans to travel after dark and a curfew is imposed. The EDS workers and their families are concerned but they assume this is a temporary situation that will blow over in time once the political arguments are resolved. They are initially confident of their safety since they are providing a critical service to the Iranian government which in turn provides a valuable service to the Iranian citizens, so of course it would be unwise for Iran to turn on the service providers that are supporting them.

Unfortunately the opposite happens and in just a few short months the entire country is thrown into a full scale revolution which includes severe restrictions on travel. Violence, gunfire, and civil unrest are common place and there is now a much greater threat to Americans in particular. At this point the US government issues orders to evacuate all non-essential US embassy staff and American citizens living in Iran, so of course the company decides to evacuate the employees and temporarily shut down the project. Most of the employees put their belongings in storage or hire Iranian friends to look after their homes and possessions in anticipation of returning once order has been restored. A small skeleton crew of top executives and core employees volunteer to remain behind and maintain the system in hopes that the Iranian government will be restored, pay the outstanding invoices, and welcome the Americans back to resume their work on the lucrative contract.

Unbeknownst to EDS, the Iranian government was running out of money thus they were not able to pay the invoices however they also needed to keep the system running to maintain critical services if they were to eventually recover. To solve their dilemma one of the government officials decides to have two of the top executives arrested, interrogated, and jailed on false charges of corruption. The official refuses to pay the invoices and insists that the remaining crew continue to maintain the system. The executives are found guilty without a trial and bail is set at $13 million dollars. The entire process is quite unusual given the normal laws and legal processes in Iran so EDS immediately engages a team of top lawyers and US government officials to get their employees released from prison and returned to the US.

A long battle ensues driven primarily by Ross Perot, the EDS President, and his extensive network of powerful corporate and political allies. All options are considered including payment of the outrageous bail however nothing works. The US government is not willing to risk creating an international incident since the employees initially appear to be safe in jail, the legal advisors recommend against paying the bail since there is no assurance that the employees would be released and it could encourage further arrests or increased demands, and all attempts to reason or bargain with the Iranian government end in total failure. At this point Ross makes a bold move which would have been viewed as completely insane by many and actively thwarted by all government officials had they known about it at the time.

Ross decided to form a small team of his top executives by selecting those that were closest and most loyal to him. By coincidence they also just happened to be ex-military soldiers formerly assigned to Special Forces duty for the US Army. Ross then hired an old friend of his, a legendary retired military colonel and former Green Beret known as Col. Bull Simmons, to lead the newly formed commando team. He gathered the group in his Dallas headquarters, swore them to secrecy which included cover stories for their families, and charged them with doing whatever it took to rescue the imprisoned employees and bring them back to the US. He provided unlimited funds, transportation, and valuable connections to certain influential parties that could get things done. Then he stepped out of the way and let the team get to work.

Col. Simmons trained the team, conducted reconnaissance, obtained the proper gear, and arranged for the team to be smuggled into Iran. The remainder of the story is quite exciting and will keep you turning page after page well into the early morning hours as you fight off sleep and struggle to keep your eyes open for just one more paragraph. I won't ruin the surprise by relating the outcome but suffice to say it is quite an adventure that serves as a reminder of how strong the bonds can become between team members when they are led and motivated by the best and then made dependent on each other for survival against all odds.

In closing I recommend that you buy not one but several copies of this book. You will want one to read, one to keep in safe storage with your permanent collection, and several to give to your family and friends. In the past several years I have purchased more than a dozen copies and given them all away except for one which is an original first edition hardback that was signed by Ken Follett, Ross Perot, and 7 of the top executives that were involved in the rescue operation. That copy is safely stored away with my most treasured possessions where it remains for many months at a time until I get the urge to pull it out and read it again or show it to friends as I highly recommend an item for their shopping list on their next trip to the bookstore.
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on February 21, 2014
This book could have been made better by deleting a third of it. While Ross Perot's character, genius, courage and loyalty to his employees is well-portrayed and endearing, the book bogs down in monotonous and repetitive detail.Ken Follett is a master of creating drama and suspense and this was real-life drama and suspense, so it was surprising that he didn't portray the emotions the characters were feeling in this book very well. I understand this is real life, but life can be every bit, sometimes even more, cliff-hanging than fiction. The dramatic points fell flat. Despite the rich material, this book read like a history book and a superficial one at that. The Iran crisis has historical implications beyond what happened to the EDS employees, and yet this aspect of the book was given short-shrift. Overall, the first half of the book kept my interest and so did the desire to know what happened to the Americans, but slogging through the last third of the book to finally get the answer, didn't seem worth it.
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VINE VOICEon December 23, 2006
Ken Follett captures in his unique, exciting style the true life story of Ross Perot's refusal to let the Iranian government hold two of his employees in captivity when they had done nothing wrong. The book follows the actual events through the capture of the the two employees, the ineffectual US government attempts to release them through diplomatic channels, and the assembly and training of the recovery team. Follett does an excellent job of profiling the team, detailing their military and professional backgrounds, as well as their personal situations and motivations for volunteering for the rescue mission. The author also gives an excellent profile of Ross Perot, the friendly, seemingly soft-spoken millionaire with a will of steel. This book is easy to read, with plenty of adventure and the occassional humorous story to keep it personal and human. An absolutely outstanding story, it not only tells a true story but teaches important lessons about leadership and loyalty.
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on April 26, 2014
Finishing this book was an exercise in perseverance. It was tedious, far too detailed and repetitive. I kept ploughing on because I've enjoyed all the Ken Follett books I've read previously and kept thinking the pace and interest level would pick up. Plus I'd paid good money for it! Sadly things didn't improve.
It appears that the instruction to the author was to mention every tiny detail of the men's experiences - blow by blow - no matter how ordinary and boring. I'm glad I've finished it!
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on November 27, 2012
The history is interesting, but the book is long on details, a lot of them not important. If you looking for a thriller or action kind of book, this isn't it.
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on April 30, 1997
Ken Follett takes the reader behind the scenes of an event that was played out in newscasts across the nation. He gives us several different points of view about the EDS hostage crisis, and we finally learn how Ross Perot was able to rescue his employees. I especially enjoyed the historical backgound he gives for the period when the Shah was forced to abdicate his throne. This book is a page turner, prepare to lose some sleep
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on October 11, 2001
Most people know Ross Perot as the little guy with big ears who wanted to be President. A Texan of short stature with alot of money. He's all that - and a hell of alot more. Any person who takes the time to read this book will learn what a great and honorable person he is. His loyalty to his EDS employees goes far beyond what any person could have possibly expected. When members of his corporate entity (EDS) are arrested in Iran at the beginning of the Iranian revolution, his first reaction is to ensure that their families in the States are taken care of. His second step is to bring all the pressure he can muster to the State Department to free his men. When he meets roadblocks there -- he hires the best Special Ops guy around and puts together a small group of his employees. Together, along with a wad of cash for bribes, they go into Iran where they break their men out of jail and eventually are able to sneak out of the country. Here is a man who put himself and his money on the line in order to protect his employees. The mechanics of the how are left to the reader. After reading this book, I am quite sure you will have found new respect for the little man from Texas.
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on June 20, 2013
I love Ken Folletts books. They are gripping and written in such a way that I find it hard to put them down after starting - even the long historical novels ( especially those). Unfortunately this book does not live up to the usual standards - I was happy to put it aside for later... I tried that several times.. And ended up giving up halfway through the book.
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