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  • 11/1/2005

Seizure of the American embassy

4 November 1979 / 13 Aban 1358

By the victory of Islamic Revolution of Iran, a storm of conspiracies blew against Iran. The documents found in American embassy inTehran (now calledDen of Spies), shows that in every country there is a unit named"Operation Center" in American embassies. The chiefs of these centers direct different operations in different countries. In addition they operate under diplomatic immunity.

American ambassadors are not essentially a CIA agent but at the time of political or economic disorder in any country, America would supplant its streetwise CIA agents with ambassadors, such as appointing "Richard Holmes" (before William Sullivan) in Iran during political tumult.

After revolution and at the time of interim government, there were some movements in universities and factories all over the country triggered by America to make the political atmosphere of our country more intricate. Later it turned out that all these anti-revolutionary processes rooted in American embassy.

Meantime Imam Khomeini expressed a certain declaration against superpowers particularly United States.

The overthrow of Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran by an Islamic revolutionary government earlier in the year had led to a steady deterioration in Iran-U.S. relations. The exiled shah’s admission (Sept. 1979) to the United States by the excuse of medical treatment led Imam to issue a new decree for confronting America. He declared all students in schools, universities and seminaries to progress their combats against America and Israel by all strength, to force America to extradite criminal shah and condemn these countries' conspiracy.

In response to Imam's decree, a crowd of about 500 seized the embassy. Students of University of Tehran,PolytechnicUniversity, San'ti Sharif, Shahid Beheshti and … gathered and after a rally toward American embassy attacked there and seized all the Americans inside.

After the seizure, the documents were prevented from being torn up and a certain program was set to keep the hostages and to block leftists to infiltrate into embassy.

As soon as the news spread around, people convened before embassy enthusiastically and followed the incidents.

There were various stances and viewpoints respecting the matter. The interim government and the then prime minister that were under Imam' support, opposed this trend. Since the hostages and the country's future were entangled, amid all these different views, everybody looked forward Imam's opinion. Due to efforts took place to persuade students leave the embassy, it would be determining. The next day (5 November) imam approved the students. In response to concerns about the possibility ofAmerica's military attack, Imam said:"The occupation of the American Embassy is a second revolution, greater than the first."

America had never been disgraced in such a way during all its history. Its exaltation had been torn after this great man's expressions.

United States efforts against the seizure

Applying pressure on the interim government that halted after the PM's resignation.

Dispatching a mission including Ramsey Clark and William to Iran. Imam Khomeini refused to accept them and also said that their meeting with all the officials is possible only after the return of shah to Iran. Therefore American airplane, while in sky, changed its way toward Turkey.

America's contact with some west-dependents such as Bani-Sadr whom they though can be helpful in hostages' freedom.

Sending people or countries that could talk with the Iranian officials as mediators such ads Pakistan, Palestinians, "Hasanayn Haykal" the Egyptian journalist and finally the Pope.

Applying pressure on International communities for condemning or making a decision against Iran including United Nation and the then Secretary General, Un security Council, Islamic countries Conference Organization and Red Cross.

US Congress letter to Iran Islamic Parliament.

False propaganda against Muslim students in the embassy such as being Communist or inhumane behavior with the hostages.

But since all these were inefficient and unsuccessful, US imposed more serious pressures against the Islamic Republic of Iran:

Economic Besiege, President Carter applied economic pressure by halting oil imports fromIran.

Freezing Iranian assets in the United States.

Breaking off relation with Iran completely.

Finally military threats and maneuvers and transporting its navy force in the Persian Gulf to frighten Muslin nation of Iran!!!

At the same time, Carter began several diplomatic initiatives to free the hostages, all of which proved fruitless.

On 24 April 1980, after seeing these initiatives are ineffective and their reputation   is endangered, the United States attempted a rescue mission as the last approach that failed. After three of eight helicopters were damaged in a sandstorm in Tabas, the operation was aborted; eight persons were killed during the evacuation. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who had opposed the action, resigned after the mission’s failure.

US was in trouble with shah and embarrassedly tried to find a safe place for him and finally send him to Panama, but when faced with Panamanian reaction, send him to Egypt.


In 1980, the death of the shah inEgypt and the invasion of Iran by Iraq made the Iranians more receptive to resolving the hostage crisis. In theUnited States, failure to resolve the crisis contributed toRonald Reagan’s defeat of Carter in the presidential election. After the election, with the assistance of Algerian intermediaries, negotiations began. On Jan. 20, 1981, the day of President Reagan’s inauguration, theUnited States released almost $8 billion in Iranian assets and the hostages were freed after444 days in Iranian detention; the agreement gave Iran immunity from lawsuits arising from the incident. Of the approximately 90 people inside the embassy, 52 remained in captivity until the end of the crisis.


04 November 1979 - 20 January 1981 66 Original Captives - 63 from and held at Embassy, 3 from and held at Foreign Ministry Office.

13 released 19-20 November, 1979 and 1 released 11 July 1980. 52 remaining Hostages endured 444 days of captivity until their release on Inauguration Day, 20 January 1981.

On the day of the seizure, 6 American Diplomatsevaded capture and remained in hiding at the Swedish and Canadian Embassies, escaping the country 28 January 1980 byusing fake Canadian passports.

6 Evading Diplomats: Robert Anders, 34 - Consular Officer; Mark J. Lijek, 29 - Consular Officer; Cora A. Lijek, 25 - Consular Assistant; Henry L. Schatz, 31 - Agriculture Attaché; Joseph D. Stafford, 29 - Consular Officer; Kathleen F. Stafford, 28 - Consular Assistant

13 Women and African-American Personnel were captured, held hostage and released on 19-20 November 1979 (Imam Khomeini declared since women and blacks have suffered a great discrimination during America's history we shoe our bless and free them.): Kathy Gross, 22 – Secretary; Sgt. James Hughes, 30 - USAF Administrative Manager; Lillian Johnson, 32 – Secretary; Sgt. Ladell Maples, 23 - USMC Embassy Guard; Elizabeth Montagne, 42 – Secretary; Sgt. William Quarles, 23 - USMC Embassy Guard; Lloyd Rollins, 40 - Administrative Officer; Capt. Neal (Terry) Robinson, 30 - Administrative Officer; Terri Tedford, 24 – Secretary; Sgt. Joseph Vincent, 42 - USAF Administrative Manager; Sgt. David Walker, 25 - USMC Embassy guard; Joan Walsh, 33 – Secretary; Cpl. Wesley Williams, 24 - USMC Embassy Guard

1 hostage captured, held and released on 11 July 1980 because of Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis: Richard I. Queen, 28 - Vice Consul

52 Remaining Hostages, held captive until 20 January 1981: Thomas L. Ahern, Jr., -Narcotics Control Officer; Clair Cortland Barnes, 35 - Communications Specialist; William E. Belk, 44 - Communications and Records Officer; Robert O. Blucker, 54 - Economics Officer Specializing in Oil; Donald J. Cooke, 26 - Vice Consul; William J. Daugherty, 33 - 3rd Secretary of U.S. Mission; Lt. Cmdr. Robert Englemann, 34 - USN Attaché; Sgt. William Gallegos, 22 - USMC Guard; Bruce W. German, 44 - Budget Officer; Duane L. Gillette, 24 - USN Communications and Intelligence Specialist; Alan B. Golancinksi, 30 - Security Officer; John E. Graves, 53 - Public Affairs Officer; Joseph M. Hall, 32 - CWO Military Attaché; Sgt. Kevin J. Hermening, 21 - USMC Guard; Sgt. 1st Class Donald R. Hohman, 38 - USA Medic; Col. Leland J. Holland, 53 - Military Attaché; Michael Howland, 34 - Security Aide, held at Iranian Foreign Ministry Office;

Charles A. Jones, Jr., 40 - Communications Specialist and Teletype Operator, Only African-American hostage not released in November 1979; Malcolm Kalp, 42 - Affiliation Unknown; Moorhead C. Kennedy Jr., 50 - Economic and Commercial Officer; William F. Keough, Jr., 50 - Superintendent of American School in Islamabad, Pakistan, visiting Tehran at time of embassy seizure Cpl. Steven W. Kirtley - USMC Guard Kathryn L. Koob, 42 - Embassy Cultural Officer, one of two female hostages; Frederick Lee Kupke, 34 - Communications Officer and Electronics Specialist; L. Bruce Laingen, 58 - Chargé d'Affaires, held at Iranian Foreign Ministry Office; Steven Lauterbach, 29 - Administrative Officer; Gary E. Lee, 37 - Administrative Officer; Sgt. Paul Edward Lewis, 23 - USMC Guard; John W. Limbert, Jr., 37 - Political Officer; Sgt. James M. Lopez, 22 - USMC Guard; Sgt. John D. McKeel, Jr., 27 - USMC Guard; Michael J. Metrinko, 34 - Political Officer; Jerry J. Miele, 42 - Communications Officer; Staff Sgt. Michael E. Moeller, 31 - Head of USMC Guard Unit at Embassy; Bert C. Moore, 45 - Counselor for Administration; Richard H. Morefield, 51 - U.S. Consul General in Tehran; Capt. Paul M. Needham, Jr., 30 - USAF Logistcs Staff Officer; Robert C. Ode, 65 - Retired Foreign Service Officer on Temporary Duty in Tehran; Sgt. Gregory A. Persinger, 23 - USMC Guard; Jerry Plotkin, 45 - Civilian Businessman visiting Tehran; MSgt. Regis Ragan, 38 - USA NCO assigned to Defense Attaché's Office; Lt. Col. David M. Roeder, 41 - Deputy USAF Attaché; Barry M. Rosen, 36 - Press Attaché; William B. Royer, Jr., 49 - Assistant Director of Iran-American Society; Col. Thomas E. Schaefer, 50 - USAF Attaché; Col. Charles W. Scott, 48 - USA Officer, Military Attaché; Cmdr. Donald A. Sharer, 40 - USN Air Attaché; Sgt. Rodney V. (Rocky) Sickmann, 22 - USMC Guard; Staff Sgt. Joseph Subic, Jr., 23 - Military Police, USA, Defense Attaché's Staff; Elizabeth Ann Swift, 40 - Chief of Embassy's Political Section; 1 of 2 female hostages; Victor L. Tomseth, 39 - Senior Political Officer, held at Iranian Foreign Ministry Office; Phillip R. Ward, 40 - Administrative Officer.  


In 2000 former hostages and their survivors sued Iran under the 1996 Antiterrorism Act, which permitsU.S. citizens to sue foreign governments in cases of state-sponsored terrorism. The following year they won the lawsuit by default when Iran did not offer a defense. The U.S. State Dept. sought dismissal of the suit, arguing it would hinder its ability to negotiate international agreements, and a federal judge dismissed the plaintiffs’ suit for damages in 2002, ruling that the agreement that resulted in their release barred awarding any damages.

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