Reporter (archive): The American embassy in Tehran is in the hands of Muslim students tonight.
Ed Bradley (archive): They are holding hostages, one report says as many as 100, most of them American.
Ted Koppel (archive): The State Department has set up a special task force
Sam Donaldson (archive): Here in New York. Iranian students chained themselves to the Statue of Liberty.
Australian Reporter (archive): The reaction in New York, whether or not it's a coincidence, has been the occupation of the Statue of Liberty.
Reporter (archive): The demonstrators draped a banner demanding the United States return the Shah to Iran.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: My mother in law, she would keep the radio on all night. And it was the first thing that she heard.
Sam Donaldson (archive): Latest reports say as many as 90 Americans may be involved, others say as few as 35.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: We hadn't had any calls from the State Department. It just came across as a news report. And the government would not release the names of any of the people being held.
Reporter (archive): At a news conference inside the compound we were shown photographs taken yesterday of U.S. marine guards at the embassy after they were taken prisoner and blindfolded by their captors.
Outside the compound, “Give us the Shah!" they cried, and we will free the Americans.
Reporter (archive): The U.S. does not have a great number of options in dealing with what is a very sensitive situation in which there is no central authority. But one thing is certain, there will be no bowing to the mob's demand for the return of the Shah.
Hodding Carter (archive): In answer to the question, are we considering handing him over or are there any plans to do so or to meet that demand? The answer is no.
Reporter (archive): Your Highness, could I talk to you for just a moment? How is your husband?
Queen Farah (archive): He's fine. Thank you.
Reporter (archive): Because of what's happened in Iran, would you consider going to another country for treatment?
American Protesters (archive): Burn! Burn! Burn!
American Student (archive): They invaded a sacred part - the embassy. An embassy is a sacred part of any nation. That's what they invaded. The Ayatollah is condoning this. And we want him!
American Protesters (archive): Fuck the Ayatollah! Fuck the Ayatollah!
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: There was demonstrations in the United States against Iran. Americans were very angry, and rightly so.
American Protesters (archive): Go home! Go home! Go home!
Reporter (archive): Despite a police ban, up to a thousand Iranian and anti-Iranian demonstrators massed in Beverly Hills, the Iranians outnumbered
and targets of violence. There is little sympathy for Iranian students supporting the takeover.
John Johnson (archive): Given the fact that most of the Iranian students here in the United States are receiving the benefits of an American education and at the same time supporting your student counterparts in Iran who are holding Americans hostages, the American public has begun to ask, should you be allowed to stay in the country?
American Protester (archive): I think the Iranians, if they don't like our government and they don't like our system, I think they need to go back to Iran.
American Protester (archive): We’re sick of being stomped on! We’re not gonna take it anymore! We’re sick of it! America! America!
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: 1979 was a time in American history when we weren't feeling very good about ourselves. The Vietnam War had ended in a terrible evacuation of our people from the embassy. I remember the images of people clawing to get on the last helicopters going out. The economy was not doing very well. Everything in the country was like negative, negative.
Reporter (archive): A gasoline shortage led to violence over the weekend in Levittown, Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia
David Brinkley (archive): A new study shows the American people spend one fourth of their entire personal income on buying and operating cars and trucks.
President Jimmy Carter (archive): It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: America had just been battered from one side to another. We have another oil crisis so that basically people are waiting at the pumps. The economy was tanking. Everything seemed to be going wrong at the same time. And this simply added to that sense.
Reporter (archive): Any encouraging news from Iran Mr. President?
President Jimmy Carter (archive): No.
Reporter (archive): Status quo, sir?
President Jimmy Carter (archive): Yes, I’m afraid so.
Reporter (archive): President Carter's special two man diplomatic mission to Iran remains stalled in Turkey.
Reporter (archive): The spokesman tried to counter a spreading bleak impression that all diplomatic trails have led to a dead end.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: The America who you know of John F. Kennedy could go to the Moon, all of a sudden we can't do anything right and here’s our people being held hostage in Iran. And again, we can't do anything.
Hilary Brown, Foreign Correspondent: Initially, it wasn't easy for anybody to get into Iran in the first few days after the seizure of the hostages. But then the Ayatollah and his supporters realized that this was a wonderful way to get the world's attention. And a wonderful platform for their anti-American message was to let the press in. So then the press corps came in in droves and I was among those people who were allowed in.
Hilary Brown, Foreign Correspondent (archive): At the embassy today, the reaction to the U.N. resolution…
Hilary Brown, Foreign Correspondent: What made it riveting was that they had been able to do this, that they've been able to seize American diplomats and, you know and the odd marine, and hold them hostage inside the American embassy, which they had occupied, 3000 of them apparently, in total defiance of international law.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent:
I received a phone call one morning in my hotel room. It was this voice saying this is the student followers of the imams line. We are calling you from the Nest of Spies to tell you to be here at nine o'clock because we have revelations to make. It was rather haunting to know that the American hostages were right there within shouting distance, but we could do nothing for them. We were taken in to one of the marine guard huts, I believe it was, where the students would hold their press conferences.
Student Hostage Taker (archive): The main reason of our occupation in United States embassy is to attack to America and its actions and the expulsion of Shah from America.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: They were very naive if they thought that the United States could just hand the Shah over.
Student Hostage Taker (archive): If the America doesn't answer to our demand we will never release the hostages and we will never release the embassy. In case if United States decide to do something to release these hostages, you must be sure that they will definitely be killed.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: I'm not even sure they fully understood that seizing the embassy was an act of war.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: As far as we knew, everybody in the embassy had been taken. For the first 72 hours it was basically just what we could get from our intelligence sources, which of course was limited.
Reporter (archive): At the State Department, a special working group was on duty around the clock trying to monitor developments in Iran. But there's a tremendous sense of frustration…
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: We had a report from the Iranians actually covering the event, that the son of Ayatollah Khomeini came to the embassy and climbed over the wall, lost his turban, and then got in and announced the Iranian government was fully behind the people who took the hostages. And at that point, it was very clear that until Khomeini changed his mind or decided to do something
differently, that the people were there to stay. People in the West don’t appreciate just how shocking this was not just to us, but even to people in Iran.
Australian Reporter (archive): Well here in Washington, there's a real sense of humiliation and depression, and I think above all, helplessness. The president has no intention of handing over the Shah. I think that the bottom line may be that the only hope for a solution here is that the Ayatollah, that he may come around to reason…
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: At that point we realized that this was going to be a marathon, not a sprint. I told my family that basically they had lost me until this was over. You were basically dedicating yourself to something. I actually felt like it was sort of taking religious orders.
President Jimmy Carter (archive): The actions of Iranian leaders and the radicals who invaded our embassy were completely unjustified. They and all others must know that the United States of America will not yield to international terrorism or to blackmail.
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: There were a number of terrorist incidents in the mid to late 70s.
Reporter (archive): Six guerrillas stormed the OPEC offices with a barrage of submachine gun fire just before noon today. Three men were killed. The terrorist issued a host of…..
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: Hostage taking it became a cottage industry.
Walter Cronkite (archive): Waiting in the sweltering heat of a metal aircraft, hostages are the 20th century equivalent of the Barbary pirates.
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: There was the hijacking of a Lufthansa aircraft that went to Mogadishu. There was the Munich Olympics hostage-taking and disastrous results there.
Reporter (archive): Five Arab commandos carrying submachine guns climbed the Olympic compound fence, broke into the Israeli team's quarters, shot and killed two Israelis and held nine others hostages all day and into the night.
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: So there was definitely a whole series of events that attracted military professionals because these events began to create that demand among Western governments for the building of a specialized hostage rescue forces.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: The idea of a rescue mission was discussed within hours after the taking of the hostages. I was not involved in that planning process, but I was aware that it was was going on.
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: Military planning began right away. I was called, I think within the first three or four days. They were looking for people who spoke Farsi, who knew the embassy, folks who would be able to help get an assault force that deep inside Iran and that deep inside a city of six million people without being discovered.
The next day, I flew to Washington. I told the guy that picked me up, ‘I can tell you right now you can count me in.’
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff pulled together a small group of planners in the Pentagon. They put a new cipher lock on the door. They shut it off from everybody else. But the planning started immediately. The control of the number of people exposed was draconian.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: In the beginning, I assumed the United States Air Force was going to come in and maybe bomb Abadan, make it incrementally difficult for Iran to export anything. And maybe that would stop them. But again, the question would be, would they take it out on us?
Massoumeh “Mary” Ebtekar, Hostage Taker (archive): The CIA had various agents as embassy personnel to each of whom a cover was assigned so that the true nature of his job would not be exposed.
Frank Reynolds (archive): In one respect, at least the Iranians have succeeded, you might say, because they have forced themselves into the consciousness of this country. And they have made it very difficult, if not impossible, for the highest officials of this government to deal with anything else.
TV Announcer (archive): This is an ABC News Special. The Iran Crisis. America Held Hostage.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: This was the story of the year. And it was the only story of the year in many respects because it just kept coming at you day after day. And that has effected us ever since.
Hilary Brown, Foreign Correspondent: It led to huge audience ratings. The appetite that the American viewing audience has for news was kind of discovered with this story.
Frank Reynolds (archive): It’s Saturday morning there and we are going to switch live to Tehran…
Peter Jennings (archive): Iranians are well aware that these demonstrations are being seen in American living rooms. Some of them actually believe they will convince Americans to see the Shah and the embassy occupation as they Iranians see it.
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: The long and the short of it is that terrorism is theater. It's political theater. You're drawn to the events like bugs to a light. We watched every inch of footage of the guards, of the people around the embassy, of their demeanor, of their military training, of how they were holding their weapons, of where their guard posts were, trying to get an ever more accurate picture of the situation around the embassy walls as well as any pictures that we could get from inside the embassy.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: The students became quite sophisticated in bringing in media people, bringing in officials. They would say, ‘ok I want your room cleaned up and you sit down there and smile. And we will do stills and have videographers coming in. The Iranians were trying to make a point that we were treated well. And there were posters all over about what America had done to Iran. It was just everywhere. They knew that they were the center of all the news that could be used by the government and by foreign press.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: As time goes on I also became very angry that there were American reporters who were standing outside the embassy giving them a platform in the United States. We shouldn’t have been there.
Hilary Brown, Foreign Correspondent: Yeah. Of course, we realized that we were being played. Yes. We were providing a daily platform for them, for their anti- American grievances. There is a kind of symbiotic relationship between the hostage-takers and the press. It worked both ways, I suppose, in that sense. But we had to cover this.
Student Hostage Takers sung in Farsi(archive):
Khomeini you are the Imam
You are the manifestation of honor
You are the one who has sacrificed his life for the cause Human salvation is your motto
Dying for righteousness is your glory It is you, the guardian of God
Student Hostage Taker (archive): I ask them to introduce themselves.
William Quarrels (archive): My name is Sergeant William Quarrels, United States Marine Corps.
Australian Reporter (archive): Three Americans from among the eighty hostages at the US Embassy in Tehran have been freed by their Muslim captors and are now in hospital in West Germany. Ten others later told foreign reporters that they too would be released later tonight.
Walter Cronkite (archive): Good evening. Ten more American hostages, four women, six black men at the US Embassy in Tehran, prepared this evening to leave Iran having been ordered freed by Ayatollah Khomeini.
American Hostage (archive):
They indicated that we are being released not as a compromise, but because they felt some type of feeling for us as blacks and women.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: Yeah, they thought that would make Americans say, Oh, they're wonderful, folks, they like these other persecuted minorities, blacks and women, they let them free. And they actually thought that would garner them some support in the United States. They actually thought the black people of America would rise up and support them.
Vernon Jordan, National Urban League (Archive): The freeing of the black and female hostages in Iran is a cynical attempt to divide the American public. We join today with all Americans in demanding the release of all of the hostages in Tehran today.
Maynard Jackson, Mayor of Atlanta (archive): The recent statement by the Ayatollah Khomeini calling on Afro- Americans to join his struggle against the United States is convincing evidence of how sadly and perhaps how tragically misinformed he is about our country.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: Their ignorance of America was only equaled by American ignorance of Iran.
Reporter (archive): You've seen it before this week around the country. Today happened in Atlanta, the burning of the Iranian flag.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: You've never seen two countries that understood each other so little, even after all those decades of being an alliance, as it were.
Massoumeh “Mary” Ebtekar, Hostage Taker (Archive): The United States is an imperialist power. And it's one of the characteristics of an imperialist power to plant spy dens and spy networks all over a country to control all its major political, social, economical systems, and to control these systems for its own benefits.
British Reporter (archive): But are you really saying that the people that you have taken prisoner that you're holding in this building are responsible for that in a way?
Massoumeh “Mary” Ebtekar, Hostage Taker (Archive): We don't say that these hostages are, innocent? No. They were the people through which these crimes, many of them, have been done, and yet…
British Reporter (archive): But they’ re still hostages aren’t they? I mean, they were diplomats and they’re now hostages.
Massoumeh “Mary” Ebtekar, Hostage Taker (archive): Well, what does that have to? I mean?
British Reporter (archive): I mean that it that is the basis, if you like, of international anger…
Massoumeh “Mary” Ebtekar, Hostage Taker (archive): That is the basis but what about, what about the crimes?
British Reporter (archive): …That international law has been broken?
Massoumeh “Mary” Ebtekar, Hostage Taker (Archive): What about what about international law in the case of the crimes that the Shah committed, in the case of 60,000 martyrs we gave in this country?
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: We all got very curious about Mary. She spoke excellent English and we asked her where she’d learned her English. And she said she learned it in Tehran, but she was lying. Because Mary had been educated in the United States. Mary was not her name. At that time I learned her name was Niloofar Ebtekar. And I gather she since became Massoumeh. She was obviously very dedicated to this revolution that she was a part of and certainly very, very hard line about the hostages.
British Reporter (archive): Are you at all worried that there could be some kind of psychological damage to these people that you're holding as a result of their captivity?
Massoumeh “Mary” Ebtekar, Hostage Taker (Archive): Psychological damage to the hostages?
British Reporter (archive): Yes, that quite simply, that some of them might, if you hold on much longer, just go mad.
Massoumeh “Mary” Ebtekar, Hostage Taker (Archive): Why should they? I mean, in our prisons at the time of SAVAK, tens of thousands of our most brilliant youngsters were kept in dungeons and tortured. No one cared for their “psychological after effects”.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: Sister Mary. She was there to interrogate most of us. Accusing us, threatening trials. I had very negative feelings toward her. I just felt that she brought out the worst in me.
Peter Jennings (archive): But you say you will follow the orders of Ayatollah Khomeini…
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: And she had lived in the United States as a young woman. She spoke English. Her English was good enough so that she could speak to reporters. So she was the basic PR person.
Massoumeh “Mary” Ebtekar, Hostage Taker (Archive): The only way is that the American government, led by the criminal Carter, return Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the cause of corruption and the exploitation of the Iranian people. Must be returned to Iran with the property of the Iranian people and must be tried in a court of justice. And this Court of Justice will be the trial of the American presidents of his time as well.
Sam Donaldson (archive): Mr. President, can this crisis go on indefinitely? Or ought the Ayatollah Khomeini understand that at some point the American people may demand, and other nations may expect, that you move forward to resolve it by whatever means you find necessary?
President Jimmy Carter (archive): It would not be possible or even advisable for me to set a deadline about when or if I would take a certain action in the future. This is an ever present consideration on my mind. I'm carrying out all the duties that normally fall on the president's shoulder, which are adequate. But I never forget one moment that I'm awake about the hostages whose lives and whose safety depend on me.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: People were really behind the president. They were prepared to support him. And, you know to be brutally honest, he was taking advantage of that too. Presidents are politicians.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: All the families were invited down to Washington for a meeting and to let us know what was going on. Jimmy Carter and Rosalyn Carter were standing up front in each one of the family members who were there came up and spoke to them for a few minutes. They didn't tell us a whole lot. And I gave them a picture of the two children, and I said, just remember that their father is one of the people in the embassy. So keep that in mind whatever it is that you decide to do. He put it in his jacket pocket and you know he held my hand and he said, ‘I will always put the well- being of the hostages first, that’s the most important thing to me.’
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: Carter is a very empathetic person. And he met with the hostage families. He was advised not to. Brzezinski said, Don't do it. Send me, send somebody else to talk to them. But don't you, as president, sit down with the hostage families. Because he knew you would hear some terrible stories and you would probably say something that you shouldn’t. All of which he did.
President Jimmy Carter (archive): I am not going to take any military action that would cause bloodshed or arouse the unstable captors of our hostages to attack them or to punish them, I'm going to be very moderate, very cautious. Our purpose is to get the hostages home and get them safe. That's my total commitment.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: Meeting with the hostage families, telling them he's not going to do anything that will harm their people, that quickly, you know, filtered out into the world. And the Iranians knew that the price they might have to pay for keeping people there was minimal.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: You know, I'm deeply grateful as the wife of one of the hostages, how deeply Jimmy Carter felt about the hostages. But I think there had to be a separation of - and you know this is like a hard thing to say - of the humanity of the people who are being held and what you have to do diplomatically. And he was never able to do that. So he suffered greatly because he felt the responsibility of the lives of the people who were being held. In the beginning of the crisis, the news media didn't have any idea of where I was, and I kept my own location secret. I didn't want anybody to know. I was never a public person. I don't like people knowing who I am. However, the media went ahead and called every Rosen in the Brooklyn phone book trying to find out if this was the family of Barry Rosen.
Tom Snyder (archive): Barbara Rose, Wife of American Hostage: is with us tonight, her husband is the press attache at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. And he's been in Iran in November. And he is now one of the 50 people who are being held there.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: It was very difficult. I've never done this before. I was a public school teacher. I'm a mother, I'm a wife, I'm not a media personality. What do you do and how do you navigate this?
Tom Snyder (archive): How do you feel about Iranians right now?
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage (archive): I have absolutely nothing against the Iranian people. I know quite a few Iranians. My husband has been a graduate student of Iranian studies. And as a result of that we know a lot of Iranians. And it's not the fault of the Iranian people. It's one group of terrorists who are holding them, and it has nothing to do with the people of Iran.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: I said one time on a news program, I call them terrorists and then I, you know, it was like, Oh my God, what did I just say? What if this affects how he's being held and what they're doing to him? Can I take that back? And they say, no, you’ve really said it. And so you just were on your own to figure out exactly what to say, what not to say.
Tom Snyder (archive): Can you believe that this happened?
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage (archive): No, and there were days that I can still…
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage (archive): It was difficult. At times it was also very helpful for me.
Tom Snyder (archive): What can we do for you, all of us Americans?
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: …In that I felt that I could maybe influence what was happening.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage (archive): Well, for us personally, I don't think there's much that can be done. We just have to go through the situation. But for the hostages to send the postcards.
Tom Snyder (archive): Christmas cards? You like that?
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage (archive): Christmas cards and postcards to the Iranian Embassy asking that the the hostages be freed and to the Iranian mission at the United Nations. And perhaps by so many thousands of postcards coming in, we will be able to effect a change in their attitude.
Reporter (archive): Christmas time usually brings people together, and this Christmas, a lot of people have gotten together because of a good cause. Some say we haven't been this united since Pearl Harbor.
Hostage Family Member (archive): People are angry, frustrated, supportive, together, unified. They want to do something.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: What amazed me was the amount of mail that we would receive from any American. Piles would come in. Guards would bring these bags
and they'd open them up and then, poof, hundreds and letters. And that was really, really the first time that I realized how people were supporting us in the United States.
School Teacher (archive): I'm an American and I want those hostages home. Say it again, kids.
School Kids (archive): I’m an American and I want those hostages home!
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: Penny Laingen, who is the wife of Bruce Lange in the charge at the embassy, came up with the idea of a yellow ribbon to show support for the hostages. And it caught on. You would go anywhere practically in the country and the yellow ribbons tied for the hostages.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage (archive): The families of the hostages feel so good to know that there are so many people out here in the United States who care so deeply for the ordeal that we've gone through. And it helps give us the support that we need to go on.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage (archive): We had a large maple tree in front of the house in Brooklyn, and we tied a big yellow ribbon around the tree.
Robert Stone: Tie a yellow ribbon…
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: Yes tie yellow ribbon around the old oak tree. It's a lot nicer than going out and you're having demonstrations where you're burning or, you know, yelling hatred at somebody.
Priest (archive): We pray that you'll impart your infinite wisdom with the leaders of both nations, in the end the arrangements will be swiftly arrived at that these hostages will be set free to return to our nation and to their loved ones.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: We always celebrated both holidays. We did a Hanukkah celebration with my mother-in-law and my brother-in-law’s house. And then we did a little Christmas with, you know, the kids at my parents. I believe it was that Christmas Day that they showed the the film of the the hostages Christmas.
Reverend Sloane Coffin (archive): Silent night. Holy night….
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: Christmas. They brought in Reverend Sloane Coffin from New York, who is very, very famous. Videographers came in and photographers came in for propaganda purposes. That was their way to show they care about the hostages and their holiday. And they were going to broadcast it to the families outside and to show that we're all right. I must have garnered about 20 oranges and every other possible fruit. They were in my pockets, everywhere. We had no fruit, all that time.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: We heard that Reverend Sloane Coffin was going to be one of the ministers going over to Iran, and we gave him letters to bring to Barry.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: He whispered to me, ‘Here are the photos of Barbara sent to you. She sent her love.’ And I said, 'please send my love to her.’
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: You're watching it. And that's your husband, the father of your children, halfway around the world being held hostage. He looks okay, but you don't know that he's okay. It's a very strange experience.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: Communicating with our families was very strange. We would write letters never knowing if they would ever get there. We had to be very careful in what we said, just sort of very cursory letters about ‘how the kids, Ari and Zan?’ ‘I love you both and sent my love to mommy.’
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage (archive): Well, I think he's trying to tell me that he's being treated, you know, as well as possible under the under the circumstances And I was very heartened by what he did write. His spirit seems to be very high and he seems to be handling the situation very well.
Reporter (archive): Mrs. Rosen, how did your son react to this gorgeous cartoon?
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: I remember writing a little cartoon for Alexander, where I'm mailing a letter to him with my love.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage (archive): Oh, he loves it. He's only three. I mean, he sits and looks at it and we explain it to him.
Reporter (archive): Does he have any idea what's going on?
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage (archive): Oh, he does know where his father is. He does know the names of the people involved. He knows Ayatollah Khomeini. He’s able to pronounce Ghotbzadeh, which a lot of people here can’t do.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: That became something for me that was very, very important which was my direct communication with him. I didn't want him to forget me.
Iranian Crowd (archive): Ala akbar! Ala akbar! Khomeini akbar! Khomeini akbar! (God is great. Khomeini is great)
Reporter (archive): Earlier today Iranian television broadcast a film called Spy Confessions. It was produced by the embassy militants and it showed two of their hostages alleging that this embassy was engaged in espionage.
Massoumeh “Mary” Ebtekar, Hostage Taker (archive): We have found no evidence that proves that these people are diplomats. All evidence proves that these people are spies.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: There were very few Farsi speakers in the embassy. I think there were three of us. It didn't register at all to our hostage takers that three Farsi speakers could not be overthrowing the Iranian government or trying to pervert Iran.
Student Hostage Taker (archive): We know that they are spy because we have the documents.
Tom Brokaw (archive): This film shows militants and the paper shredder embassy officials used to destroy US documents. Apparently, they believe the repaired documents will support their charges of American crimes against Iran.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: One day, there’s this phalanx of guards with rifles. And they march me to this desk. And I'm told, sign this piece of paper, which confirms that I am a spy and I was working for the CIA. I'm saying to myself, hmm Barry, I’m a member of the Foreign Service, I can't do this. And then I'm thinking about Barbara and the kids and I’m saying, look, they're not going to do, I mean they’re not going to kill me. They're not. They need me. But I don't know. So I think the better part of valor is to sign.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: Barry was accused of being the great spy in plotter. His photo was on the front page of the Post.
British Reporter (archive): Do you want these people to go on trial?
Massoumeh “Mary” Ebtekar, Hostage Taker (archive): Yes. And the hostages will be tried in a Islamic court and the sentences will be carried out on them.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: When we saw the accusations that were being made against him, it was extremely, extremely upsetting. And I think it became very hard on Barry because it wasn't too long after that when you know pictures came out and he was pretty sick.
Reporter (archive): A doctor from the local version of the Red Cross takes a close look at the hostages. There’s little doubt that the release of the film by Iran is to try to allay nagging doubts abroad, especially in America, about their wellbeing and physical condition. It’s hardly definitive evidence.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy (archive): In January. I had what I thought was a convulsion. My heart started to beat very fast. And my stomach and everything…
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: I was undergoing a panic attack. I was in a pretty deep depression. You know, it's very hard to talk about the issue of depression. I was in a black hole. I totally was in a situation where I felt hopeless and helpless and only thought very negatively about myself.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy (archive): Things going inside of me like my heart beating fast. I hear it all the time…
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: And beginning of the captivity. I was trying to be tough. But I was worn down. I was totally worn down. There were moments and times where I thought about doing away with myself. And it was not inconceivable because several of us ah slit their wrists, or tried to commit suicide by knocking their heads against cement walls.
Reporter (archive): …and Barry Rosen in the center, the press attache, he is from Brooklyn
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: My mother in law became extremely, extremely depressed. As anybody would.
Sarah Rosen (archive): President Carter, this is my plea to you as a mother to a father. Not as a president, but as a mother to a father. Please listen to my plea. My husband is gone but I want my son back. Barry is fading away.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: I feel a lot of times during the whole crisis. I was always the one who was trying to hold these different things together. I had to represent Barry. I had to take care of the children and take care of the extended family, you know, and. And how do you do all of this?
Reporter (archive): Does Alexander ever say when's daddy coming home?
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage (archive): Just about every night when I put him to bed?
Reporter (archive): What do you what do you tell him?
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage (archive): Soon, we hope.
President Jimmy Carter (archive): I continue to share with all of you the sense of outrage and impatience. We are attempting to secure the release of the Americans through the International Court of Justice through the United Nations and through public and private diplomatic efforts. We are determined to achieve this goal. We hope to do so without bloodshed.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: The White House Chief of Staff, Hamilton Jordan, and President Carter, they were conducting negotiations behind the scenes with a couple of people who represented Ghotbzadeh.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: Ghotbzadeh was made Foreign Minister during the hostage crisis. He desperately wanted to get the hostages released. He understood the threat that this hostage seizure was to any kind of moderation in the Islamic Revolution. And it was gradually forcing any other voices to be silent. You know, we have to remember that Sadegh Ghotbzadeh had been sent to live and study with Mossadegh when he was a young man. Mossadegh had been the prime minister before the CIA coup in 1953. But this was in the mid 50s, after the coup. So Sadegh studied with him and was very, very much affected by his teachings. Ghotbzadeh saw himself very much as a son of Mossadegh and wanted to carry on in that tradition.
Reporter (archive): One last question, some Americans are characterizing you as a hard liner. Is that fair?
Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, Aide to Ayatollah Khomeini (archive): Well, I'm a nice guy.
Peter Jennings (archive): In the revolutionary atmosphere, Mr Ghotbzadeh has at times shown a willingness to find a compromise solution to the Iranian-American confrontation.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: He has spent a lot of his years of exile in America, where he was a big part of the Student Revolutionary Movement and the Liberation Movement of Iran. And he had a lot of admiration for some of the best of what America had to offer.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent (archive): Has the hostage crisis become more of an obstacle than a rallying point for the revolution? Is it blocking you from getting on with the business of governing?
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: I was not aware at the time that Sadegh was meeting with Hamilton Jordan. That was a complete secret, and he would never have told me something like that, that was so explosive. And he and Jordan got along fairly well in that, and they came up with this scenario of the U.N. Commission.
Sam Donaldson (archive): A special U.N. sponsored commission to be part of a deal that would free the hostages.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: Investigators would come and report on Iran's history and the crimes of the Shah. The idea was they would be able to visit the hostages. And when they issued their report, the hostages could be released.
Ted Koppel (archive): Hope for the release of the 50 inside continues to be fueled by reports from Iran and the United Nations.
Barbara Walters (archive): The hostages could be released within three weeks.
President Jimmy Carter (archive): Recently, there have been some positive signs. Although experience has taught us to guard against excessive optimism.
Barbara Rose, Wife of American Hostage: We were all hopeful. Things would come back from Iran that we're negotiating. Ghotbzadeh would say, ‘oh, we're getting close to an agreement’. And the students would say something else.
Reporter (archive): The students are ready to allow the UN commission inside the embassy, but only on their terms.
Reporter (archive): The commission failed to get into the US embassy to visit the hostages. A power struggle between the students and foreign minister Ghotbzadeh, refereed by the Ayatollah Khomeini made that impossible.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: The fact is that the people who were doing the negotiating were representing Ghotbzadeh, whose power was actually slipping at that point. And the real power in the country was Khomeini.
Reporter (archive): They sang and chanted to those who gathered outside the embassy gates waiting to hear Tehran radio broadcast Ayatollah Khomeini's ruling on the UN Commission's visit to the hostages.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: Sadegh worked very hard to try to make some of these things work. But at every step, Khomeini would pull the rug out from under him.
Reporter (archive): As the five commissioners emerged from a meeting with foreign minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, they declined all comment to the press.
Walter Cronkite (archive): The UN commission will leave Tehran tomorrow. Khomeini’s statement, to quote “Fight against America until death”, shattered the first real hope in this prolonged crisis
Iranian Crowd (archive): Magbar America! (death to America)
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: Khomeini smelled power. He realized very quickly that this was a way to hold the Americans over a barrel and at the same time to silence all moderate voices in Iran.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: There was no end to this that you could see. Basically the hostages were going to be there until Khomeini decided to let them go.
Iranian Crowds (archive): Khomeini! Khomeini!
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: Here is a guy who is in his 80s. He has single-handedly ended the monarchy as a 2,500 year old institution in Iran. And he's got God on his side, and he truly believes that. And he won't even talk to diplomats, so almost nobody gets to see him. So how do you approach that?
Reporter (archive): Secretary of State Cyrus Vance emerged from several hours of talks with U.N. Secretary General Kirt Waldheim and the members of the U.N. Commission.
Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State (Archive): I am counseling patience. I believe that this is the best course to follow. As I indicated, the door is not closed and I think we should continue to pursue this option.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: When we got to April and all of these negotiations had broken down, I was approached by a delegation of people from the State Department who didn't want it to be known that they were approaching the White House. They said it was time to do something that basically, if there was something that could be done, this was the moment to do it because clearly the Iranians were not negotiating in good faith. But the reason they didn't want it to be known is that their boss, Cy Vance, didn't share their view at all. Vance was a lovable character and his staff in the State Department, they loved him. They despised Brzezinski.
Zbignew Brzezinski (archive): My view is that in addition to being guided by moral concerns, we have to recognize the continuing relevance of power. Be strong. Be strategically innovative. Take tough decisions.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: The one place where Brzezinski and Vance would clearly disagree with each other was over the actual use of military force. And so whenever that subject came up, Vance opposed it.
Ted Koppel (archive): There's been a serious drop in public support for President Carter's handling of the hostage crisis.
Hostage Family Member (archive): Right from the beginning this has been a total fiasco.
Hostage Family Member (archive): I'm not sure if they kill every one of them tomorrow that he'd do anything.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: People were tired of it this whole business of negotiating with no real hope of accomplishing anything and that every effort had been made. Patience had really run out. I wrote a memo to Brzezinski. My first line was “the hawks are flying.” I said that if there is in fact a plan for a rescue mission, this is the moment to do it.
President Jimmy Carter (archive): The authorities in Iran should realize that the availability of peaceful measures like the patience of the American people is running out. The American hostages must be freed.
Barbara Rose, Wife of American Hostage: I never thought that the United States would try to free the hostages with military action. At least through the beginning of April. And all of a sudden I started to hear instead of the well-being of the hostages and the honor of the United States, things became flipped. To me, that was a marker that something was going to happen.
Reporter (archive): Barbara Rosen wants people and the government to know that the families of the hostages are against the use of military force.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage (archive): I think most of the family members have this fear that things are escalating to a point that there will be no turning back. And we don't want to see, we don't want to see fighting. We don't want to see a war. We don't want to see people dying.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage (archive): Within about a month of the takeover, the families organized into the Family Liaison Action Group, or F. L. A. G.
John Chancelor (archive): A group of mothers and wives of American hostages who are in favor of peaceful pressure against Iran and against military action.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: They organized trips to Washington, where we met with President Carter a number of times. And they also organized the trip to Europe that I went on. We wanted to humanize the hostages and to ask for as much help as they were able to give us. I was in Germany. I met with the Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, and tried to get sanctions to be placed against Iran. I kept saying, gee, I shouldn't be here, Barry should be doing this. I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know what I'm saying.
Reporter (archive): It was an extraordinary meeting. It lasted one hour. Mrs. Rosen said it was not meant to undermine President Carter's policies, but rather to reinforce the message that the families and the European allies have unlimited patience as long as the hostages are safe.
Australian Reporter (archive): Since he came into office, many Americans and allied leaders have had trouble figuring out what Jimmy Carter would do next. And he is still keeping them guessing.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: The hostage rescue mission was officially presented to the key individuals involved when Vance was on vacation in Florida. He then came back to Washington and then privately, he told Carter that if they go ahead with a hostage rescue, no matter how it turned out, he was going to resign. He thought it was likely to fail, and he thought it was likely to end up in bloodshed.
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: In the history of special operations, this is in my opinion the most complex ever tried. The concept of the operation was:
C-130s with the assault force on board was supposed to fly from the Masirah Island up through the gut of central Iran to the rendezvous point at Desert One. At the same time, eight helicopters were supposed to take off from the Nimitz and fly close to the ground to avoid Iranian radar and rendezvous at Desert One. We would refuel the helicopters and transfer the assault force from the C-130s to the helicopters.
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: Then depart Desert One and head towards the mountainous valley east of Tehran, Desert Two. Once nightfall occurred, we would drive in a loose convoy formation into the city and drive up along the eastern wall of the embassy. The assault force would climb over the wall, rescue the hostages, kill the terrorists and then run across the street to the soccer stadium. The helicopters would fly, land, and everybody would fly to a little used airfield to the southwest of Tehran called Manzariyeh. The Iranian forces would be eliminated, the runway would be cleared. Everybody would transition to the airplanes and fly out back to Germany. That's what was supposed to have happened. Although many of us believed this was going to be a very long shot proposition, we could see how many moving parts there were. Many of us knew how far it was to get from the coast of Iran all the way to Tehran and then get all the way back out. But I believe everybody was willing to go on the mission because we believed in the righteousness and the justness of our cause. And you got to try. I mean, that's what, you know, if you don't try, who are you?
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: The Delta Force moves from Fort Bragg to Masirah Island off the coast of Oman. The night before the mission, we have the Delta Force on Masirah. When it's time to go, I get on the airplane and we took off and we flew into Iran. At the same time, the helicopters leave the Nimitz. And they fly in line with Desert One as their ultimate goal.
Military Communications (archive): Destination is Oscar, Oscar, Mike, Alpha…
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: In the very early stages of the helicopter flight, two helicopters are lost.
Military Communications (archive): Be advised, there are two aircraft that apparently have been overdue.
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: One has some kind of a malfunction and lands. The other one lands beside that one and picks up that crew. And then they turn around and fly back to the Nimitz. Before we get 45 minutes into the helicopter flight, we are at six helicopters, which is the number required to go forward. Eventually, all the other helicopters and the assault force arrives at Desert One, which is supposed to be a place lost in the middle of the desert where nobody ever goes. A few minutes after the first airplane touches down, along comes a bus, with 40 Iranians on it. The force stops the bus, pulls all the people off, sits them over beside the road. Shortly thereafter, another vehicle comes through the midst. And this is a fuel truck followed by a pickup truck. The security force shoots the fuel truck. The fuel truck explodes in a ball of flame. The driver and passenger jump in the pickup truck and take off. The mission has gone wildly awry.
White House Switchboard Operator (archive): The President’s on the line. Go ahead, gentlemen.
General David Jones (archive): Yes, sir. Dave Jones. The one disturbing thing, when they landed, two vehicles were stopped on the road, but a third vehicle escaped. The vehicles included a bus with forty four passengers and that there were no injuries, but a gas truck’s on fire.
President Jimmy Carter (archive): David, how close is that there is settlement or town to Desert One?
General David Jones (archive): It’s quite a distance to the first town.
Unknown General (archive): Yes, quite a distance.
President Jimmy Carter (archive): Do you recall why we decided to land just adjacent to a highway?
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: We have a huge fire burning on the south end. The desert is lit up like it's daylight, and we have this group of 40 Iranians huddled over on the side of the road worried that we're going to kill them all. The deal is that you need six helicopters to move forward. Finally, it comes to pass that one of the six is not flyable. So that meant that we couldn't go forward. The order says fewer than six helicopters, abort the mission. So the decision was made that we would abort the mission. We continued to refuel the helicopters. In the midst of the refueling process, one of the helicopters took off, and as he lifted up, he lost his orientation and he flew into the left side of the C-130 that was sitting on the ground. I can see the crew on fire inside the cockpit. Some of the crew were trying to get out as they burned. An image that you cannot forget.
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: And then the ammunition and the fuel on the airplane started cooking off live rounds, flying all over the place as we moved away from that airplane and over toward the remaining C-130s. I just knew I wanted to have my butt on one of those 130s. I was on the airplane that lost an engine on takeoff. The airplane was just barely flying. We were way over-.gross on weight. We had a whole bunch of people on board. We flew all the way back to Masirah Island on three engines. When we landed they determined who the eight were who were left behind.
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: The day of the failed mission was one of the worst days of my life, perhaps the worst day of my life. There was a possibility that the assault force and everybody involved would have accomplished the ultimate special operation. You live for that. That's your business.
White House Switchboard Operator (archive): General Jones, one moment Mr. President sir.
President Jimmy Carter (archive): Hello.
General David Jones (archive): Yes sir Mr. President.
President Jimmy Carter (archive): Anything else?
General David Jones (archive): Yes, sir. I've just got a report from (unintelligible). He believes that all Americans who were alive are off the ground.
President Jimmy Carter (archive): All Americans what?
General David Jones (archive): Who are, he said, who are alive. The pilot is missing and presumed dead. The passengers, most got out, but there may have been some trapped in there. And they haven't been able to make an exact account.
President Jimmy Carter (archive): I understand.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: I was awakened in the middle of the night and told that our forces had not made it and were on their way out. The failure of the mission was extremely hard to take. I still feel that way about it. I think it was the worst day of my life, both for the benefit of the hostages and the U.S. government and Carter and everything.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: I, you know, came in and we did damage control as best we could. But basically that there was not much damage control that you could really do.
President Jimmy Carter (archive): It was my decision to attempt the rescue operation. It was my decision to cancel it when problems developed in the placement of our rescue team for a future rescue operation. The responsibility is fully my own.
British Reporter (archive): The landing site the Americans chose was through the mountains out in the flat remote desert, 10 miles from habitation. But across it runs a road upon which perhaps a dozen vehicles pass each hour. The Americans seem not to have anticipated that one would pass whilst they were here.
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: The first thing in my mind's eye that went wrong was the choice of Desert One. I, of course in hindsight have thought long and hard about why the hell did we do this there? And I don't know. But I do know that the CIA helped us pick that site. The CIA didn't pick that site off a map. In all likelihood, they had used that site for a small airplane in-fill or for agent ex-fils or for some other purpose down through history. And instead of looking for a piece of terrain that was really remote and isolated, they went with the known. And of course, the known resulted in two vehicles driving through the middle of our clandestine special operation before we were an hour into it.
President Jimmy Carter (archive): Do you recall why we decided to land just adjacent to a highway?
General David Jones (archive):It's not a highway sir, it's that little road. It was the only place we've been able to find so far that we could land the 130’s. And we looked and looked and looked and it's the only place we found.
President Jimmy Carter (archive): OK, thank you.
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: And the fact that General Jones couldn't answer the president and fact that the president asked the question point blank, that rang bells for me.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: I was in Germany when the rescue mission took place, and I had a premonition the night before. The next morning when I woke up, one of the reporters who had been with us came and told us eight men had been killed trying to free the hostages. You know, they tried. It was just so sad. The fire and the loss of life, it's just. It hurts, it still hurts.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: I was in the CBS suite in Tehran with a bunch of very, very seasoned American correspondents watching the film of Ayatollah Khalkhali and the other Iranians displaying the bodies of the dead marines and crowing over it.
Ayatollah Khalkhali, Chief Justice, Islamic Revolutionary Court (archive): This is America’s crime. Humanity has to cry because of the crimes America has committed. (in Farsi)
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: In addition to the indecency of displaying these bodies, they were actually cheering. And very seasoned, hardened correspondents in that suite were in tears.
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: Very disturbing footage. I mean, it's despicable behavior for senior officials in an alleged government to be behaving like that is truly beyond the pale.
President Jimmy Carter (archive): As they left Iran following an unpredictable accident during the withdrawal, with eight of their fellow warriors dead, they carefully released without harm 44 Iranians who had passed by the site and who were detained to protect the integrity of the
mission. This is in sharp comparison to the ghoulish action of the terrorists and some of the government officials in Iran, in our embassy.
John Chancelor (archive): The question being asked most often today was, will the president get some sympathy because he tried and failed? Or will the failure of the mission make even more people question Mr. Carter's competence?
Radio Talkshow Host (archive): Good morning, you're on KDKA conversations, this is Jim DiMarco.
Radio Show Call In (archive): Hello. I just like to say that I've never been an admirer of President Carter’s. But I think that what he’s done now is wonderful. I'm very proud of him. Even if it did fail and it makes me proud to be an American.
Radio Talkshow Host (archive): Good morning. You're on KDKA conversations.
Radio Show Call In (archive): I'm wondering why the president hasn’t done something before now. He has waited…
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: Whatever else one may believe, the rescue mission probably doomed Carter’s reelection campaign.
Ronald Reagan (archive): Isn't it about time that we decided we don't care if they don't like us, we're going to be respected. Let us be respected to the point that never again will a demented dictator dare to invade an American embassy and hold our people hostage.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: If the hostages had been rescued from under the noses of the Iranians, Carter would have won the election. He would have been the hero, and that would have been it. If, on the other hand, it had failed and the hostages had been killed, it could be argued that we tried. What happened was the worst thing that could possibly happen to Jimmy Carter. The rescue mission failed. And the hostages were still hostage.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy:
On April 24th, they took us out of the embassy and everybody was dispersed all over the country.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: I not only felt terrible for the American military men, but I also felt that we were no longer going to have any type of exit. There was no way that the United States was going to try this again. At the time, I was upset that the rescue didn't succeed, and if I had died during that situation, it would have ended the misery of captivity. By June, we were in Evin prison, which is considered the worst prison in Iran. We were in prison cells. We had a window with bars that were about 13 feet high. It was very dark. It was a bulb hanging from the ceiling and all the windows were blocked with bricks. There was a vent with a fan. The light was hitting the vent and would reflect on our ceiling. This one beautiful bird would come at a certain time in the afternoon and just sit on a branch and I'd watch him. I would tell you the other three in the cell, he's here. And we would just sit there mesmerized by him.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: He was just there tweeting. It was some way where I can move myself out of this horror into something beautiful. I was. Living in darkness, most of the time and there was that bird of light. The Iranians were censoring our mail. But I did get a letter one day. My nephew said, ‘I'm looking forward to seeing you at my bar mitzvah and it's going to be this in this date.’ And then he writes, ‘the Shah is dead’. And then it continues on with the bar mitzvah and what's going on at home.
Reporter (archive): Death came at 9:50 this morning in a Cairo military hospital where the Shah had spent the last 31 days fighting complications of cancer surgery done in March.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: Once I learned that the Shah was dead, the guards were not unashamed about talking about it. There was this great glee of his death.
Reporter (archive): Tehran radio ran the news under the headline ‘The Bloodsucker of the Century is Dead.’
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: But at the same time they admired the respect that the Shah received in his burial out in Egypt.
Reporter (archive): It would seem as though this could be some kind of turning point in the entire crisis. But in talking to people here today, I get no sense whatsoever that any imminent break is expected.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: By the time the Shah actually died, it had long ago ceased to be about him. And it wasn’t really about American hostages. It was about a power struggle in Iran.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: In the mid to late September, September 20th approximately, there was some bombing going on in Tehran. I could hear jet planes going over. What was strange is that the students were not saying Margbar America, but Margbar Saddam Hussein. Ah, there has to be a war going on between the Iraqis and the Iranians. Little did I know that it was a full-fledged invasion.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: Shah Saddam Hussein had invaded in September of 1980, thinking he could just capitalize on the chaos that Iran was in because of the revolution.
Reporter (archive): The Iraqi’s set out to take Iran’s main oil center, Abadan. Despite their internal political problems, the Iranians are confident about their own superiority.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: The Iranians fought back hard. They even members of the Air Force, especially their elite pilots, released from prison where the revolutionaries had put them, so that they could have an air force. But it was a very very costly war in lives and in misery.
Reporter (archive): It’s believed the Iranian Army, Air Force and Navy have now deteriorated to a disastrous level 15 to 20 percent of normal.
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: The Iranian regime is on its knees. The last thing that the Iranian government and Khomeini needed was another six months of the hostage crisis. This is a pure distraction from survival against Iraqis. And yet for some reason they continue to hold the hostages.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: I remember going to the war front, this is a group of us in the press. We were in a little village and the villagers are all chanting Margbar America, Death to America. They're standing on the rubble of their village that had just been bombed by the Iraqis. And we said, ‘wait a minute, why are you shouting Margbar America?’ And they said, ‘we can't see Allah, but we know he is there. And just the same, we can't see the Americans, but we know they are there.’ America had achieved a kind of extraordinary status as an omniscient, omnipotent, not a God, but a demon. The Great Satan. Nothing could persuade these people that it wasn’t America behind this war. That was always an extraordinary thing was how large America loomed in the mythology and in the minds of everybody.
Ted Koppel (archive): Who could have predicted, a full year after the US embassy was seized, the Ayatollah Khomeini would tell the radicals that they had proved a small nation can humiliate a great power and get away with it.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: It was Khomeini’s aim to make sure that Carter would lose the election. They didn’t know what would happen in the future by they certainly wanted to hand Carter a defeat.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: The hostage crisis was the reason Jimmy Carter lost the election. He couldn't solve the hostage crisis. He wasn't seen as a person who could solve the problems that were presented to the United States at that time.
Tom Brokaw (archive): It is not only a very big evening for Ronald Reagan, but it is a big evening for conservative activists throughout this country.
Reporter (archive): The size of Ronald Reagan's victory in terms of electoral votes will be historic. The electoral vote count now stands: President Carter, 45, Ronald Reagan 449.
Master of Ceremonies (archive): And here he is the President-Elect.
Crowd (archive): We want Reagan! We want Reagan!
President-Elect Ronald Reagan (archive): Thank you very much.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: The hostage crisis was a tragedy for Jimmy Carter. It was a tragedy for the people at the embassy. It was a tragedy for the moderate leadership of Iran. And it was above all a tragedy for the people of Iran. It was an excuse for the hardliners to completely take over. Because nobody could speak out against it. It was treason.
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: Khomeini used the Iran Iraq War to eliminate political opponents by putting them on the front lines with no weapons and having them to suicide charges. They used those human wave attacks to purge their ranks of those more moderates who were not fully on board with a Shia fundamentalist Islamic Republic.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: It had taken Sadegh Ghotbzadeh all his life to build this revolution. It turned out that instead of bringing wonderful freedom and democracy to his country, he had brought it a monster.
Sadegh Ghotbzadeh (archive): This radicalization, when if faces the reality of things, it has to change itself or be destroyed.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: And he tried to organize a revolt to save the revolution. They caught wind of what he was doing, and he was arrested.
Reporter (archive): Sadegh Ghotbzadeh became a household word in the United States. He was Iran's foreign minister, its chief spokesman to the world. Well, tonight, in the latest bizarre twist of events, Ghotbzadeh himself as a captive in Tehran.
Carole Jerome, Foreign Correspondent: He was accused of developing a plot to blow up Khomeini's house, which was in fact true. I remember the last time he saw me, he said, you have to get out of here. Now. They had decided that it would be useful if they arrested me and claimed I was his CIA contact. Which was totally ludicrous. I am so far from being an agent of anything. I was very worried about being picked up at the airport, but I got through okay. And when I got to London, I was told that the Revolutionary Guards had arrived at my room three hours after I left, to pick me up.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: The Iranians wanted to be done with this. They were losing money, they were losing reputation, they were losing everything. Iran had $12 billion in assets in the United States, 12 billion dollars, most of it in gold and huge quantities of money. When the hostage crisis struck, we froze those assets. As time went on that became more and more important to them. So it really came down to money.
Jim Lehrer (archive): Has there been significant movement in the last 24 hours toward a settlement?
Zbignew Brzezinski (archive): No, I'm afraid I couldn't say that there has been significant movement. There have been continuing discussions.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: The big holdup was the banks, bank loans that were syndicated all over the world. And ultimately in our negotiations with them they offered to pay off all of those loans down to zero. So Iran's $12 billion dollars basically whittled away. There was a little bit left, which was about $3 billion.
British News Anchor (archive): Well, after almost a year and a quarter in captivity, the 52 American hostages really seem on the verge of freedom. And what is known as that President Carter has made over $2 billion worth of Iranian gold and securities available as part of the terms for a deal.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: Imagine any other president in American history who has just lost a devastating reelection campaign, would devote themselves totally to the job of actually getting us out of this problem and resolving it before leaving office. Pretty much nobody. But Carter, he worked at it day and night.
President Jimmy Carter: I know you've been up all night with me and I appreciate that very much. We have now reached an agreement with Iran which will result, I believe, in the freedom of our American hostages.
Reporter (archive): Word has just been received from Algiers that an agreement has now been signed to free the American hostages.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: At the end, it was agreed, it was signed, and then we had to actually do the transaction. That is literally moving the gold from one place to another. Moving the assets from one account to another account. It was a nightmare.
Vice President Walter Mondale (archive): There are some very complex banking problems, legal problems that we're trying to resolve within hours that under normal commercial circumstances might take months to resolve.
President Jimmy Carter (archive): If it could get there at eight o'clock in the morning, oh I see the time difference…
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: And the problem was resolved literally the night before the inauguration.
President Jimmy Carter (archive): Hello. Right on man, that's great. That's great.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: Carter basically slept in the Oval Office that night.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: They were up at the White House trying to get this done. I was at my parents home and the press thought it was going to happen. They were all outside the front gate wanting me to come out and make a comment.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage (archive): I just had the radio on. They said that they’re expecting things to happen momentarily. However, we've been expecting things to happen momentarily for 4 days now. And so when the plane actually leaves the ground I think that when we will breath a sigh of relief.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: We were told you had to be ready within an hour. An hour. Just think about it. All this time and now bang, an hour.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: The transaction was being done, then I went downstairs to the operations center of the White House. And I had a phone in one hand which had a permanent connection to Carter, who was driving up to the Capitol to go through the inauguration.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: We were marched out single file. And there was this bus. There we start to move. Within a half an hour bus stops. And we had to go through this phalanx of our former guards who were spitting at us as we move toward this airplane. It was so unnecessary. Why continue to humiliate us even further? This attendant on the plane helps me up the staircase, and then I look around and I'm seeing everyone who I hadn't seen for months. I sat down. Our pilot said we needed to go through Iranian airspace and there could be the possibility of an intercept with the Iranian Air Force. So hold on. Those moments were interminable.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: We were getting second by second updates. And I kept interfering with Carter’s ride up the hill. It looked like it was going to happen and then I gave him the final report before they went out on the stage.
President Ronald Reagan (archive): I, Ronald Reagan, do solemnly swear
Chief Justice Warren Burger (archive): That I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States.
President Ronald Reagan (archive): That I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: Finally, we crossed the Turkish border. Everybody looked at everybody else. We're all smiling and laughing, telling jokes, just slapping each other on the shoulder. I mean, we went wild. It's over. It's finally over. The misery is over and maybe there’ll be a good life ahead.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: And that was it. I opened the door of the operation center and stepped out into the halls of the White House and there were huge portraits of Reagan everywhere. And it was a different world.
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: In the end, we were talking about theater. You can't get more theater than having the airplane take off from Tehran minutes after Ronald Reagan takes the oath of office. Now that is political theater and the extreme.
Crowd of Neighbors (archive): Yay! Barbara!
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: Finally, the news came through that they had taken off and it was just a big celebration at the house.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage (archive): You can tell everybody. Come on. Up. Let's get up. Tell everybody. What did we just find out? What we just find out? That what?
Alexander Rosen (archive): Daddy’s coming home!
Hostage Family Member (archive): Oh my god it’s over.
Hostage Family Member (archive): We’re so happy.
Dan Rather (archive): The hostages are out. The hostage aircraft are now nearing Algiers, Algeria. Barbara Rose, Wife of American Hostage: , who's in our studio here, Barbara Rose, Wife of American Hostage: , I'm just going to ask you briefly what your thoughts are at this moment when you see that airplane touch down in Algiers.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: Just that we wish you would touch down and see who's aboard. It is very nerve wracking.
Reporter (archive): Dan, the plane has just landed here at Bourmediene airport in Algiers. We finally have two planes from Tehran on the ground here in Algiers. The plane is taxiing into our position. The Algerian television crew that is shooting these pictures for us has moved out onto the tarmac. There is quite a group of dignitaries just waiting here to greet the hostages. The former hostages, I guess we should say. The door is open.
Dan Rather (archive): This is one of those occasions. It’s such an exciting moment, such a dramatic moment, such a meaningful moment. We want it to speak for itself.
Reporter (archive): Here they come, Dan.
Dan Rather (archive): That's Bruce Laingen, and Richard Queen if you can help me with these identifications.
Richard Queen: That’s Ann Swift on the left. Kate Koob on the right. Ah, Charlie Jones…
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: I have the pleasure. That's Barry Rosen.
Dan Rather (archive): Barbara Rosen recognizing her husband.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: When Barry got off the plane, I remember saying, I'd like to introduce everybody now to my husband, Barry Rosen. That's him. You know.
Dan Rather (archive): The 52 American hostages, all of them back.
Reporter (archive): Certainly that's the thing that we can feel here in Algiers, Dan, is their happiness. They certainly appear to be well in spite of the ordeal from what we're able to see.
Dan Rather (archive): You saw your husband briefly as he stepped off the aircraft. How did he look?
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: He looked wonderful. I can’t wait to see him in person now.
Dan Rather: Don’t they all.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: Once we landed in Algiers it was absolutely pandemonium. We were only there for a very, very short time. But the media was on top of all of us.
Former Hostage (archive): God bless America.
Former Hostage (archive): God bless America.
Dan Rather (archive): And now the 52 Americans will be brought inside for very brief ceremony and then for rapid transfer to the American aircraft for a flight to West Germany.
Ted Koppel (archive): Day 444, the last day of captivity for the hostages in Iran. Tonight they are free. What a day. What a night. Here in Washington, the President is moving around town from one inaugural ball to another. In Plains, Georgia, the former president is presumably getting his first sleep and almost three days. But before dawn, he'll be airborne again, flying to West Germany, where he'll meet with the men and women whose fate over these past 444 days became his personal obsession.
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: I went over in the airplane and we had a champagne toast to freedom. He wanted to be briefed on each one of the individuals. Find out their stories and background. We got there and then went straight to the hospital.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: Once we landed in Wiesbaden there was this moment where we met Jimmy Carter. He was not the president anymore, but he was with Cyrus Vance. And Jimmy Carter wanted to speak to us about what happened?
Gary Sick, National Security Council Staff: We got to the hospital, Carter, he went straight in and it was an extremely emotional moment. He didn't know how these folks would react.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: I think he was brave to come into that room with 52 people who were held hostage for 14 and a half months. Some were very angry at him and they said that they were angry at him. And he accepted the fact that they were angry at him and the administration. He said to us he cared mostly about our lives more than anything else. And he was pushed to the rescue because there was no possibility of any negotiation with Iran. No one would negotiate with the United States. He stayed with us for a while. There were these booths all over the place so everybody could speak to their families all at once. I spoke to Barbara and told her how much I missed her and I can't wait to see the children and how it'll be, you know, life will be beautiful once again. Of course that’s always the dream that people say they have.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: It was a very strange time, but very good to hear his voice. You know, I'm so happy that you're home, but you're not home yet. You know?
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: My mother-in-law got on the phone. And before I know it, I got a tap on my shoulder and it was President Carter.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: So Barry says here I'm putting Jimmy on the phone. So Jimmy Carter says to my mother, “hello, this is Jimmy. Jimmy, this is Jimmy.” She says, “Jimmy who?”
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: They talked for a very long time, and I thought that was really a wonderful thing that he did. It showed the compassion that he had.
Former President Jimmy Carter (archive): On behalf of all American people, one of the acts in my life which has been the most moving and gratifying in meeting with and discussing the future and the past with the now liberated Americans who were held hostage in Iran for so long. I pointed out to them that since their capture by the Iranian terrorists that the American people's hearts have gone out to them, that our nation has been united as perhaps never before in history, and that the prayers that have gone up from the people around the world to God for their safety have finally been answered.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: The hostages came home and he was just holding us all and we were just crying. We were flown to DC and there was a special reception at the White House. From there we went up to New York. Mayor Koch had a ticker tape parade and that was amazingly wonderful. Because all Americans, we weren’t broken up into Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, Liberals. Everybody was just so happy that they all came home.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: It was very very difficult for me to understand why I became a celebrity. I didn’t do anything heroic. I just wanted to be back home again. But it was impossible. It was just totally impossible. The story was too big. I felt obligations.
Television shows. Writing a book. Doing all these other things that I don’t know if I really wanted to do but I somehow felt that I was drawn into it.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy (archive): This agonizing imprisonment. This depersonalizing trial, led me once more….
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: He was sort of frozen in that period of time. Just internalized everything and his life became very small. Mine on the other hand grew exponentially. Prior to the hostage crisis I was always sort of in the background and I didn’t really have a voice. And then because I had to, I had to go ahead and become far more of a public person during that time.
Reporter (archive): You now have taken control of the Rosen family?
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: And it was hard when he came home and he felt that I was taking over doing everything.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: Barbara was very busy with the kids, busy with her own life. She was doing things with the media going back to school again and we weren’t seeing each other very often. But life intercedes and sometimes the dreams and hopes that you have are basically done away with in many ways.
Barbara Rosen, Wife of American Hostage: So now Barry is home and how do you get everything back together? So there is a lot of negotiating that had to go on and a lot of reworking the relationship. I had a reporter who said to me, “What are you going to do now that your husband is home and you are not going to be on television anymore?” That’s not how I see myself. Everybody wants to be a star. But you know I got little taste of what that was like and I did not like it.
And I went back eventually to teaching and I taught in Manhattan. And I think it was the best thing I could have ever done.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: We wanted our children to be enveloped in love and they are. They are great, great kids, and I have wonderful grandchildren now. Loving and they are the very best.
Hilary Brown, Foreign Correspondent: You know in the 60s and 70s America spend billions supporting a pro-western Shah, arming him, and what they got was an Islamic revolution and a theocracy run by clerics who despise America.
James Q. Roberts, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired: The Iranian revolution and an impact across the Muslim world. And the idea that Iranian Shia were going to revert to a fundamentalist, devout, strict form of Islam shocked the Muslim world.
Barry Rosen, Press Attaché U.S. Embassy: It may not seem to contemporaries today that the 1979 hostage crisis has anything to do with the current situation between the United States and Iran. In my mind it certainly does. From the American side I honestly believe that a great deal of our motivation stems from humiliation. And in Iran the notion is that the United States is still the imperialist that it was in 1953 and in 1979 and that has not changed. We should have been a closer friend to Iranian democracy. I think we lost our way.
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Sadegh Ghotbzadeh was tortured and tried for plotting to overthrow the theocracy in Iran. He was executed by firing squad on September 15, 1982. He was 42 years old.
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Many of the former student hostage-takers were rewarded with senior positions in the Iranian government. “Mary” Ebtekar, spokesperson for the hostage-takers, rose to the rank of vice president of Iran.
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Barry and Barbara continue to advocate on behalf of political prisoners, hostages and their families all over the world. They have been married for 50 years.