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Primary Sources: The 1970s: Iranian Revolution & Hostage Crisis
"In these excerpts from his oral history, John Limbert describes how the mob of Iranian Revolutionaries attacked the embassy, his “stupid” attempt to calm the crowd, his initial days of captivity, and a mock execution. "
"The Iran Hostage Crisis was a major international crisis caused by the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and its employees by revolutionary Iranian students, who then held the Embassy employees as hostages, in direct violation of international law. The revolutionary government of Iran, under the Ayatollah Khomeini, supported the hostage undertaking. The crisis ended with the release of the hostages after a captivity of 444 days, from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981."
"Scott Barber is a Veteran who served in the United States Navy for five years from the late 1970s until the early 1980s in California, Iran, Thailand, and Panama. Because of skill and good military record, Barber's unit was assigned to the first rescue attempt of the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1980. In this interview, Barber discusses the training involved in preparing for this mission as well as the equipment failures and combat that took place that night. Barber also shares stories of his time in Panama, where his unit was responsible for destroying boats and planes used to transport illegal drugs, and his time in Thailand, where he spent over six days living in a dumpster."
"This week marked the 25th anniversary of the end of the Iranian hostage crisis. On Jan. 20, 1981, 52 Americans were released after being held captive for more than a year. Retired Army Col. Chuck Scott tells Debbie Elliott about the long ordeal and the taste of freedom."
"Former U.S. foreign service officer John Limbert talked about his experience as a hostage in Iran from 1979 to 1981, including a memorable visit from an Iranian clergyman. This interview is from the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training oral history collection."
Note the majority of the transcripts are in Persian with a few in English. This Harvard University website provides access to a collection of "personal accounts of 134 individuals who played major roles in or were eyewitnesses to important political events in Iran from the 1920s to the 1980s. Of these, 118 narratives have been digitized and are available to researchers through this database. The collection provides scholars and practitioners the opportunity to listen to and read the personal accounts of many of Iran's former political leaders as they recall the times and events that shaped their lives and the life of their country."
"Iranian hostage, Colonel Thomas Schaefer, is introduced, discusses four areas of his experience and responds to four pre-arranged questions. Covers major hostage experiences as they relate to their exploitation; efforts to glean military information from them as well as information on other hostages; forced propaganda statements; pressures used in Iranian efforts to accomplish the above. "
"Robert C. Ode was one of the fifty-two American citizens taken hostage by Iranian students in November 1979 at the American embassy in Tehran. They were held for a total of 444 days and finally released, after lengthy negotiations, on January 20, 1981.
Ode (pronounced Odee) was the oldest of the hostages and was in fact retired from diplomatic service. He had taken a special assignment to go to Tehran and expected to be there only a few months when taken with the other embassy staff."
"In this video segment adapted from American Experience, watch newsreel footage, archival photos, and interviews to explore the events related to the seizure of 53 American hostages by Iranian radicals in 1979, at the dawn of Iran's Islamic Revolution. Fueled by widespread anger at the autocratic policies of the Shah of Iran, religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini led a successful revolt that established an Islamic republic. President Carter's decision to admit the deposed shah, a former American ally, into the United States for medical treatment preceded the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and 53 Americans who worked there in October 1979. Negotiations failed to secure the hostages' release, which did not occur until the swearing in of Carter's successor, President Ronald Reagan. This resource is part of the American Experience Collection."
"Pamela Shamshiri was nine years old when the Iranian Revolution began. Pamela and her mother and brother were in Los Angeles for Christmas when the revolution started. Her father went back to Iran, but the other three family members stayed in Los Angeles and never went back to their home. In this interview, Pamela Shamshiri details her experience with the dramatic Iranian Revolution. Pamela is interviewed by her 15-year-old son Reza Hall in Los Angeles, CA. One of the most interesting parts of the interview is from 3:26-4:33."
"Speaking to The Associated Press ahead of Monday's 40th anniversary of the attack, Ebrahim Asgharzadeh acknowledged that the repercussions of the crisis still reverberate as tensions remain high between the U.S. and Iran over Tehran's collapsing nuclear deal with world powers."
The Library/Research section of the site contains online access to selected documents, oral history transcripts, and photos from the Carter Presidency. Additional information on other available materials, related websites, etc. is also provided.
"The Iran-U.S. Relations Project promotes the multinational, multi-archival exploration of “hot button” issues in the two countries’ complex relationship spanning more than 70 years.
Our documentary holdings, from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and archival spelunking on location in Tehran, Baku, Moscow, London and elsewhere, range from a collection of the published, shredded files taken from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, to key episodes such as the 1946 Azerbaijan crisis, the 1953 coup, and the 1980s Iran-Iraq War, all the way to the JCPOA."
In 1979, the Iranian Revolution erupted. During this upheaval, the US Embassy and its personnel were seized by militants, while six diplomatic personnel managed to escape and find refuge courtesy of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor and his staff. Through their words and others' from that time, the events of that crisis are told as Canada found itself in the midst of an international intrigue that defied all conventional understanding. All this culminated in the Canadian government devising a way with CIA assistance to smuggle the fugitives out in an operation that would provide some hope during a dark time in American history.
David Martin speaks to the real "master of disguise" that was portrayed by actor Ben Affleck in the movie "Argo." Tony Mendez tells the story of how he brought back home 6 Americans by turning them into members of his movie crew.
As part of a series of conversations marking 1979 as a seminal year in the Muslim world, Steve Inskeep talks to Iranian-born journalist Kasra Naji about the Islamic Revolution. Naji was a student in Iran at the time and has been in and out of the country since then. He's a special correspondent for BBC Persian Television in London. He also is the author of Ahmadinejad: The Secret History of Iran's Radical Leader.
"A Wisconsin man who survived the Iranian hostage crisis said he believes a peaceful solution is still possible between the United States and Iran, but not if more lives are lost.
On November 4, 1979, Kevin Hermening was as a Marine security guard at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. When hundreds of students attacked the embassy he was one of 52 Americans taken hostage. The crisis lasted 444 days.
Now living in Mosinee, Hermening still remembers the message he hoped his country to send back then. In the wake of renewed tensions, he said he's hoping for a similar response."
"Six American diplomats, often know as “The Tehran Six,” avoided being taken hostage by the Iranians during the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran on November 4, 1979. Through a joint covert rescue mission by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the Canadian Government, the diplomats were able to escape Iran. This rescue is often referred to as the “Canadian Caper”."
"Born Ruhollah Hendi, the Ayatollah (the word signifies religious leader) took the name in 1930. He taught in the major Shi'ite theological school at Qom, but was exiled for his opposition to the government of the Shah. Living in Paris after 1978 he orchestrated the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran. He became the effective political and religious leader of the country until his death in 1989."