• Exploring American History

End of U. S. Embassy siege

January 20, 2021, celebrates the 40th anniversary ending the Iranian hostage crisis.


November 4, 1979, placed a dark spot in the chronicles of American history. This spotting occurred in Teheran, Iran, when a group of militant Iranian students stormed the American embassy and took its occupants hostage. Blame for this outrage was leveled against the United States government by Ayatollah Khomeini, due to the fact the U.S. had allowed the deposed Shah of Iran to seek medical treatment in New York City.


All efforts by the United Nations Security Council to release the hostages fell on deaf ears.

Two weeks later, a glimmer of hope for an end to the siege occurred when the Ayatollah released some of the hostages. Those allowed to leave were the women, minorities and non-U.S. personnel. The Ayatollah was of the opinion these people were already oppressed by the U.S. government. The 52 who continued to be held would remain under the Ayatollah’s control for the next 14 months.


All efforts by President Jimmy Carter were for naught. Even the attempted rescue mission he ordered on April 24, 1980, proved to be a dismal failure, resulting in the deaths of eight military personnel and the destruction of American military aircraft. Despite the fact the Shah died in Egypt in July, the siege continued.


In November 1980, President Carter lost his bid for re-election to Ronald Reagan, the Republican candidate. Shortly after Reagan’s win, a new negotiation with Iran began with the assistance of Algerian intermediaries.


At noon on January 20, 1981, Ronald Reagan took the oath of office and became the 40th President of the United States. Minutes after he spoke his oath, the 52 hostages were wheels-up, on their way back home to America. Once they were airborne, the U.S. released $8 billion of Iranian assets it froze due to the embassy siege.



I guess my biggest failure was not getting reelected, not to ever let American hostages be held for 444 days in a foreign country without extracting them. I did the best I could, but I failed. Jimmy Carter


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