North Estimated Each Hostage Was Worth 550 TOW Missiles

From a Times Staff Writer

White House aide Oliver L. North figured the price of an American hostage in Lebanon to be 550 TOW anti-tank missiles and 8 Hawk anti-aircraft missiles, worth about $5.7 million, says a memorandum disclosed Thursday by the Tower Commission.

On Dec. 4, 1985, North, who was later fired for his role in the Iran- contra affair, proposed a deal with Iran under which the United States would sell 3,300 TOWs and 50 Hawk missiles to the regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in exchange for the release of five Americans and one Frenchman held by pro-Iranian terrorists.

The scheme makes it clear that specific amounts of weaponry were to be exchanged for an agreed-on number of hostages.

In a memorandum to then-National Security Adviser John M. Poindexter, North sketched an operation in which arms would be exchanged for all the hostages on a single day, beginning at “H-hour”:

“H-hr.: 1 707 (with) 300 TOWs = 1 AMCIT (American citizen).

“H + 10 hrs.: 1 707 (same (aircraft)) w/300 TOWs = 1 AMCIT.

“H + 16 hrs.: 1 747 w/50 Hawks & 400 TOWs = 2 AMCITs.

“H + 20 hrs.: 1 707 w/300 TOWs = 1 AMCIT.

“H + 24 hrs.: 1 747 w/2,000 TOWs = French hostage.”

The memo suggested that the biggest shipment of weapons--the 2,000 TOWs--would be saved for last to give Iran an incentive to complete its part of the bargain.


In the months after North’s memo, however, the United States sold Iran 1,500 TOWs and two shipments of Hawk parts--and received only two hostages in return.