On November 4, 1979, an angry mob of Iranian students, stoked by the Iranian Islamic Revolution that took place earlier in the year, ransacked the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held sixty-six American diplomats and citizens hostage for 444 days. The “Iran Hostage Crisis” became emblazoned on the American psyche as an unprovoked attack on our compatriots and national dignity. The Iranian revolutionaries, however, regarded the event simply as the “Conquest of the American Spy Den” and therefore, an appropriate response to years of perceived U.S. support for an installed corrupt puppet regime in the Iranian capital.

The inability—both diplomatically and militarily—to retrieve the hostages in a timely manner resulted in the loss of U.S. standing in the region, cost President Jimmy Carter dearly in his re-election bid, and bolstered Iran’s fervent Islamic revolutionaries, led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It became clear soon enough that the recently overthrown, U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Pahlavi and his family would not return to power. The following April, the United States launched an accident-ridden rescue attempt, Operation Eagle Claw, which resulted in the deaths of eight American servicemen and an Iranian and the loss of two aircraft. The former Shah died a few months later, in July 1980. These events only solidified Iranian beliefs that Allah was on the side of the revolutionaries, and the American hostages continued to languish as guests of their Persian hosts.