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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

31 Years Ago: The Beginning of a 444-Day Crisis

On Nov. 4, 1979, Iranian militants stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran, taking more than 60 Americans hostage. The group would be held in captivity for the next 444 days by the followers of Muslim cleric Ayatollah Khomeini. Those followers demanded the return of the deposed Shah of Iran, who had fled the country in January of that year.

President Jimmy Carter, whose administration was plunged into crisis by the hostage situation, embarked on a course of patient diplomacy which eventually helped secure the hostages’ release. But it was the hostage crisis and Carter’s response to it, coupled with the concurrent energy crisis, that helped secure Ronald Reagan’s victory in the 1980 Presidential election.

The Jimmy Carter Library and Museum features an interesting digital collection of documents pertaining to the hostage crisis. Among those resources you’ll find a list of those held captive, those who escaped capture those servicemen who perished in Operation Eagle Claw, an aborted attempt to free the hostages. The collection also features the journal kept by captive Robert C. Ode and a link to National Archives holdings related to the failed rescue effort.

Also, the Central Intelligence Agency’s library features a detailed first-person account of the hostage crisis, written by William J. Daugherty who served in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations in Iran.

The photo at left comes from the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence.

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