In 1979, a year of enormous social unrest in Iran came to a head with the collapse of the country's monarchy and the establishment by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of an Islamic Republic. Iran went from being a pro-Western, American-backed nation to one of its arch enemies.
This new state of affairs is best symbolized by the 444-day hostage crisis at the US Embassy in Tehran. On November 4, 1979, students broke through the gates of the compound and took most of the staff hostage. Six who had evaded capture were rescued by a Canadian-American effort in early 1980.
For over a year the standoff continued. US President Jimmy Carter, coming to the end of his term, authorized a disastrous rescue attempt called Operation Eagle Claw, which resulted in the deaths of eight American soldiers. After long and tense negotiations, Iran released the remaining hostages on January 20, 1981, at the exact moment that newly sworn-in President Ronald Reagan completed his inaugural address.
The hostage crisis remains the longest in recorded history.
- 1979-11-04 500 Iranian students loyal to Ayatollah Khomeini seize the US Embassy in Tehran, taking 90 hostages for 444 days
- 1980-03-24 ABC's nightly Iran Hostage crisis program renamed "Nightline"
- 1981-01-20 The US diplomats and citizens held hostage at the US embassy in Tehran are released and begin their journey home after 444 days
- 1981-01-25 52 Americans held hostage by Iran for 444 days arrived back in US