Iranian Hostages Released

Published: 1981
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President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy lay a wreath at the grave of slain U.S. hostage Robert Stethem in Arlington National Cemetery July 2, 1985. Later that day the President welcomed home more American hostages at Andrews Air Force Base. (UPI Photo/Vince Mannino/FILES)

Nick Charles: On January 20th, 1981, 52 Americans who were held hostage in Tehran following the takeover of the U.S. Embassy finally had their prayers answered: they were going home. They had to pass through a gauntlet of Iranians screaming anti-American slogans as they headed for the plane that would take them to freedom after 444 days of captivity.

After a debriefing in Wiesbaden, West Germany, they were taken to the West Point Military Academy in Upstate New York, where they were reunited with their families.

Bill Small was there …

Bill Small: "The plane that carried the 52 American hostages from Iran on America's Inauguration Day didn't leave Tehran until after Ronald Reagan was President and Jimmy Carter, who had worked for 14 months to get the hostages home, was out of office.

"But Carter saw the results of his efforts two days later in Wiesbaden, West Germany, when he met the 52 who arrived there for a few days of rest and reorientation and where he spoke angrily of their treatment … "

President Jimmy Carter: "'The acts of barbarism which were perpetrated on our people by Iran can never be condoned. It's has been an abominable circumstance that will never be forgotten.'"

Bill Small: "Over the next days, the hostages made their way to West Point for reunions with their families, and on January 27th they flew to Andrews Air Force Base near Washington for a motorcade to the White House, through streets choked with cheering well-wishers waving thousands of yellow ribbons.

"At the White House, the 52 became 53 again with the addition of hostage Richard Queen, released because of illness, and there was a welcome from President Reagan … "

President Ronald Reagan: "You've come home to a people who for 444 days suffered the pain of your imprisonment, prayed for your safety and most importantly shared your determination that the spirit of free men and women is not a fit subject for barter. Let terrorists be aware that when the rules of international behavior are violated, our policy will be one of a swift and effective retribution.'"

Bill Small: "And a response from the chargé d'affaires at what used to be the American Embassy in Tehran, Bruce Laingen … "

Bruce Laingen: "' … 53 Americans who will always have a love affair with this country.

"'Mr. President, in very simple words that come from the hearts of all of us, it is good to be back.

"Thank you, America, and God bless all of you. Thank you very much.'"

Bill Small: "But by year's end, the hostages had mostly faded from the public consciousness with the lack of media attention, a relief for many who had grown weary of their notoriety.

"This is Bill Small."