In the BBC documentary, “America Held Hostage”, Bahman Kalbasi tells the story of the Iran Hostage Crisis with accounts by American officials held at the American embassy for the 444 day ordeal.
The documentary features footage from November 4, 1979 when students mobbed the embassy in about an hour’s time, by the account of former NIAC Advisory Board member and current Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran, John Limbert.
Out of the fourteen months he was held, Limbert spent nine in solitary confinement. Recounting some of his tense experience, he said
The most frightening was one night he just dragged us all out of where we were, middle of the night and lined us up against the wall and started cocking their weapons as though they were going to execute us.
Another hostage, Bill Daugherty, then CIA, recalls the frantic shredding of documents as the embassy was being stormed. He nervously offered an alibi, feigning ignorance as a recent foreign service hire, not knowing the hostage-takers had already infiltrated the safe of L. Bruce Laingen, senior American official at the embassy, which contained a cable outing him as CIA. One young student, about 19 or 20, had an Uzi pointed at his stomach with the safety off. Daugherty recalls, almost comically:
“…I thought, ‘all this kid had to do was sneeze’…”
Laingen spoke of his anger and frustration over the 444 days of the hostage crisis. He said at one point to the hostage takers that they had no right morally and legally to take these actions, especially to visitors to Iran. In response he was told: “You have no rights to complain. You took a whole country hostage in 1953.”
President Jimmy Carter had stopped all imports from Iran, froze Iranian assets, and tried all diplomatic channels to no avail; his administration was made to look impotent as the hostages remained captive. Their final release came the day Ronald Reagan became President to the great relief of the hostages and their families. It was to be the beginning of Iran’s isolation.