Today in history – the Iranian hostages come home

On this day in 1981, Ronald Reagan welcomes the Iran hostages home. Fifty-two hostages had been held in Iran for 444 long days.

Problems with Iran, of course, had been decades in the making. The country’s former dictator, the Shah, had obtained power with the help of the United States and Great Britain. He was generally pro-Western, but he’d faced troubles within his own country. In early 1979, he was ousted from power and exiled from the country. The Shah soon asked for asylum in the U.S. He had cancer and was seeking treatment.

President Jimmy Carter granted the request in October 1979, citing humanitarian reasons. Iranians were furious! Anti-American sentiment in that country reached a fever pitch. On November 4, 1979, revolutionary Iranians stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran and took 66 people hostage. Thirteen women and minorities were soon released. (Because they allegedly already suffered “the oppression of American society.”) One other hostage was eventually released for health reasons. The other 52 hostages were kept in terrible conditions for 444 days.

The Carter administration tried economic sanctions, freezing Iranian assets, and embargoing oil. And yet the hostage crisis continued. Finally, in April 1980, Carter approved a military attempt to extract the hostages—Operation Eagle Claw. The move was a risky one, and it ended horribly. A sandstorm caused several helicopters to malfunction. One helicopter crashed into a transport plane. Eight soldiers were killed. Footage of the wreckage emerged, letting the world know that we had tried and failed to save our citizens.

As Carter’s administration came to an end, he continued negotiations for the “innocent victims of terrorism and anarchy.” Finally, on Reagan’s inauguration day, Carter reported to Reagan that the hostages would be released.

Did Iran free the hostages because of Carter’s persistence or because it saw the writing on the wall after Reagan was elected? The question can be a subject of some dispute. In his autobiography, Reagan simply notes that he “made a decision not to criticize President Carter” on the subject because he thought it might undermine negotiations.

In a similar vein, Reagan biographer Lou Cannon describes the Reagan campaign as deliberately silent on what it might do to free the captives if they were still there after inauguration day. But Reagan’s “standoffish” position, Cannon notes, was used by Carter’s negotiators to speed a deal along. They found a way to get the message across that a new Reagan administration might not be so cooperative.

So perhaps the answer to the big debate lies somewhere in the middle?

Read the rest at

This entry was posted in Government, History, News International, Politics, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Today in history – the Iranian hostages come home

  1. stella says:

    Reagan later received the recently freed hostages at the White House on January 27. His diary entry for that day was simple:

    “Ceremony on S. Lawn to welcome hostages home. Thousands of people in attendance. Met the [families] earlier. Now we had in addition the [families] of the 8 men who lost their lives in the rescue attempt. One couple lost their only son. His widow was also here. I’ve had a lump in my throat all day.”

    Liked by 4 people

    • czarowniczy says:

      There was a whole military bureaucratic issue that caused that failed attempt and I really don’t want to get into it as the AF people killed were part of something I’d worked years before. The mission failure and the deaths of those personnel was set in stone before the first plane ever left US soil, it was a Pentagon and White House screwup from Day One.

      Often forgotten is Ross Perot’s rescue of his employees captured in Iran. He hired COL (ret) ‘Bull’ Simon to go get ’em and Bull put together a team and did so, snatched them right out from under the Iranians’ noses and got them home safely. Perot, a private businessman, succeeded where the entire US government couldn’t.

      Liked by 1 person

      • stella says:

        I read that book – On Wings of Eagles – about the Perot organized rescue. It was fascinating.


        • czarowniczy says:

          Did it mention that the pilots flying the helicopters weren’t really familiar with them?


          • stella says:

            I don’t remember, to be honest.


            • czarowniczy says:

              And that one of the choppers that turned back for ‘mechanical’ issues may have done so as the pilot was…what’s a polite word for chicken? That issue was never completely addressed but it was a sore spot for a long time.


            • czarowniczy says:

              And did it mention the AF covertly snuck a CCT officer into the LZ prior to the operation and he took soil samples to ensure the ground could support the loaded support aircraft? Problem is there were big sandstorms between the time he took the soil samples and the landings – no one monitored the weather and made the connection that the storms laid down a thick layer of dust. When they landed the propwash kicked up a huge cloud of dust that made visualoperation almost impossible.


  2. Menagerie says:

    I was then, and am now, convinced the savages had enough intelligence to see the writing on the wall. The hostages would not have been freed that January day had Carter won re-election.

    I remember that time well. My second son was born shortly after the hostages were taken. My days in the hospital (back then they kept you for three or four days) were filled with television coverage of the crisis. I went in thinking I’d soon see their release and left amazed they were still hostages. Little did I know how long that would continue.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. czarina33 says:


    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.