FORT WORTH, Texas -- Millionaire businessman H. Ross Perot and Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry were part of government schemes to use 'Trojan planes' and signal-sending football films to rescue the American hostages from Iran, NBC News says.
Perot, who organized his own commando squad to free two of his employees from Tehran before the American embassy was seized, came up with the 'Trojan plane' scheme but it was rejected because it seemed too simple, NBC News and its Fort Worth affiliate KXAS-TV reported Thursday.
Landry was unknowingly involved because of the popularity of his football team. After the hostages were separated and some moved from the American embassy in retaliation for last April's unsuccessful rescue attempt, a radio signal was recorded into tapes of Cowboys games donated by Landry to be sent to the hostages.
The television report said the government hoped that when the films were played direction finders would be able to lock in on the television sets and locate the Americans.
The plan fell through, however, because there was no way to know if a hostage or one of the Iranian militants was watching the game.
Landry, in Colorado on a skiing trip with his family, said he knew nothing about the signals added to the tapes.
'I had no knowledge of that,' he said. 'The only thing I wanted was them to be able to watch the games and maybe make Cowboy fans out of them.'
Perot, who instigated a massive Tehran prison riot in February 1979 to free two employees of his Dallas-based Electronic Data Systems, was involved in rescue plans within weeks of the Nov. 4, 1979, takeover of the embassy.
'The best analogy (for freeing the hostages) is like stealing a diamond,' Perot told KXAS. 'You plan it carefully and you just grab it.'
The station quoted sources as saying under one plan proposed by Perot, the United States would have set up a phony black market to sell spare military equipment parts to Iran. Parts would have been delivered on large cargo planes twice to establish trust.
On the third flight, commandos would have unloaded trucks from the plane outside of Tehran, driven to the embassy and used a non-lethal gas to knock out all the guards as well as the hostages.
The hostages would havebeen loaded into the trucks, then rushed to the airport, where they would have been flown out of Iran under escort by American jet fighters from an aircraft carrier.
The report said Perot traveled frequently to Washington and met with a think tank, including Gen. David Jones, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, former President Carter's foreign adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and Secretary of Defense Harold Brown to discuss methods of freeing the hostages.
Perot would not discuss with KXAS any of his plans for rescuing the hostages but did indicate he participated.
'Our position has been ever since the hostages were taken that we didn't want to make any comment,' he said. 'We have not made any comment and do not want to now.'
Spokesmen for the State Department and the Defense Department had no comment late Thursday on the report.
Ed Luttwak, a Washington defense consultant, said in the report that Perot's rescue plan was rejected as being too simple.
'They needed something more complicated,' he said. 'And the bureaucracy got in the way, deciding what the Army would do, the Navy, the Marines.'
Luttwak said the military devised just such a complicated plan, the 'Rice Bowl' mission that was aborted in April 1980 in the Iranian desert. Eight servicemen were killed when a helicopter collided with a cargo plane.
A second rescue mission was being practiced in Utah in July when a Fort Worth, Texas, man was killed in a helicopter accident, the station also reported.
Jay Stewart Schatte, 22, died when his helicopter -- one of 12 participating in a rescue drill -- crashed near Monticello, Utah.
Military spokesmen said in July the crash was part of a routine exercise by the Army, but KXAS quoted Pentagon sources who said the operation was part of a make-believe rescue attempt.
Following the crash, the station said the Pentagon decided it was 'silly to keep training for a make-believe mission' and aborted the plan.