Iranian Hostages and the Failed Rescue

The Iran Hostage crisis started when 66 Americans were taken captive when a group of 400 Islamic students and militants took over the American Embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979 in support of the Iranian Revolution.

Their main demand was that the former Shah, an ally of the U. S. be retuned to Iran to face charges. Ayatollah Khomeini, the religious leader of Iran refused to meet with envoys of the U. S. who were bringing a letter from President Carter. He also said they would execute the hostages if a rescue attempt was made.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched on the occupied U.S. Embassy shouting “Burn, Carter, Burn” and burned an effigy of the President and an American flag.

17 days after the hostages were taken, Iran released 13 hostages, 8 black men and 5 white women. Khomeini threatened to put any white American men accused of spying on trial unless the cancer-stricken Shah is returned to Iran.

Five months after the hostages were taken, a daring effort to rescue 53 American hostages ended in tragedy even before it began when 2 military aircraft collided on a remote Iranian desert, killing 8 Americans. The ground crash also injured a number of other Americans who were preparing to stage a helicopter raid on the Embassy grounds to rescue the hostages.

President Carter was ridiculed and took the responsibility for the failed mission. Khomeini threatened hostage deaths if second “silly maneuver” was tried.

On January 20, 1981, after 444 days of captivity, the hostages were finally released after a deal was worked out which included a release of Iranian assets seized by the U.S. for the release of the prisoners. President Reagan took office the same day.