The attempted hostage crisis of 1979 to 1980 drew Iran’s third-largest global hostage crisis, narrowly averted after a member of Iran’s Islamic revolutionary guard attempted to fire a weapon on U.S. helicopters that came to rescue the Americans. The crisis turned a New York businessman into a close confidant of many high-ranking U.S. officials. Here’s what happened:
1979-1981: Guards release the Americans.
March 1979: Members of the Iranian Revolution Forces (IRF) take American hostages from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and hold them hostage for 444 days.
April 17, 1980: IRF negotiator Zahedi faces court-martial charges for his role in hostage-taking. On April 20, he is executed and thousands of his supporters surround the court house to demand the execution of his two co-defendants.
July 27, 1980: Former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr leaves the Iranian Embassy and boards a plane, telling Americans to leave. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance tells reporters the American ambassador will stay on the job and to “keep our own counsel” about whether to leave Iran.
August: The U.S. describes Iran as having abandoned its role as a “symbol of moderation” and as no longer “a ‘government in exile.’”
1979: Tens of thousands of Iranians celebrate Bani-Sadr’s departure from the embassy with joyous rallies. Many call for the U.S. to be expelled from Iran.
Aug. 9: Iran’s parliament approves a two-paragraph resolution saying it wants to close the embassy.
Aug. 23: Forty-eight Americans remain in the embassy, 14 of whom are Iranian. They are gradually allowed access to the embassy.
Sept. 10: A convoy of four U.S. helicopters arrives at the Iranian embassy to collect the Americans, but one helicopter is hit with gunfire and crashes. The remaining two helicopters evacuate the Americans. On Sept. 26, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance frees Bani-Sadr.
1979: Six weeks after the New York businessman is captured and sentenced to death for his alleged role in the failed terrorist plot against Bani-Sadr, President Carter breaks diplomatic relations with Iran.
December: At Carter’s request, Congress declares Iran’s takeover of the U.S. Embassy to be an act of war.
October 1979: The United States loosens trade ties with Iran, expelling all Iranian diplomats stationed in Washington.
December 1979: Hussein Bey is sentenced to death for his role in the hostage crisis. Bey’s relatives fight his execution for years, making a direct appeal to Carter.
May 1982: Carter releases Bey on parole.
Oct. 23, 1981: Carter warns Iran that it will face military action if the hostage-takers do not reveal the location of the Americans still in the embassy.
Nov. 30, 1981: Iranian forces kill two Americans in Lebanon after interrogating them for three weeks.
Dec. 30, 1981: The U.S. Embassy in Tehran is closed for good.
1982: As hostages remain in the embassy, Carter pardons 444 Iranian prisoners. The pardons set off a firestorm of protest from Congress, who accused Carter of doing the bidding of foreign brokers.
January 1984: Bani-Sadr dies.
1984: Terrorist attacks hit the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and a U.S. Air Force base in the Philippines. The Washington Post reporter Daniel Pearl is abducted in Pakistan and later beheaded.
1988: Huseyn Rezaei is shot by U.S. forces after leaving a United Nations meeting in Caracas and his body is then returned to Iran, which begs for a renegotiation of relations.
July 9, 1988: Two Palestinian terrorists hijacked a British airliner bound for Athens, took 77 people hostage and caused the plane to crash in Malta.
July 29, 1988: On Iran’s Independence Day, Ayatollah Khomeini makes his first public remarks about the U.S. hostages since their capture. He criticizes Washington and says their fates can be decided only by God.
Oct. 2, 1988: U.S. Marine guards withdraw from Beirut, ending a 34-day siege of the embassy.