Tuesday, November 2, 2010
On 4 November 1979 a large group of student supporters of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran and began an occupation of it that lasted for 444 days. Among the hostages were four members of the Central Intelligence Agency station, including the chief, Tom Ahern, along with William J. Daugherty, Malcolm Kalp, and a junior operations support officer. Eventually all the hostages were released, some having endured months in solitary confinement and beatings, but not before the students had reconstructed thousands of shredded documents found in the building, some of them highly classified. These were later published in Iran as facsimiles in a 30-volume paperback series with translations, for the purpose of embarrassing the administration of President Jimmy Carter. Personnel records recovered intact helped identify the CIA officers, and they were segregated from the other diplomats. Some of the staff not on the premises at the time the compound was stormed hid with friends and Canadian diplomats in Iran, and the CIAmounted a successful operation to exfiltrate six as members of a film crew in January 1980. A more ambitious rescue attempt, code-named EAGLE CLAW, failed in April when insufficient helicopters from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz reached the staging point near Tehran, one more broke down there, and another collided with a transport plane, killing eight crewmen.