Forty years ago on Nov. 4, 1979, a crowd of college students broke into the housing complex at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, and took 66 Americans hostage, including 26 service members.
Some of the hostages were released two weeks later, but the majority — 52 in all — were held for 444 days. They were released on Jan. 20, 1981.
As part of U.S. efforts to free the hostages, eight U.S. service members were killed during a failed military operation called Operation Eagle Claw.
The White House says the political climate in Iran hasn’t changed much since then.
“The Iranian regime continues to target innocent civilians for use as pawns in its failed foreign relations,” according to a statement from the White House press secretary. “Until Iran changes this and its other hostile behavior, we will continue to impose crippling sanctions.
“The Iranian regime has a choice,” the statement continues. “Instead of being the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, it can put the Iranian people first. It can choose peace over hostage taking, assassinations, sabotage, maritime hijacking and attacks on global oil markets. The United States seeks peace, and we support the Iranian people. It is time for the Iranian regime to do the same.”
On Nov. 1, the State Department released a statement saying the department looks forward to a day when the United States can safely send diplomats to Iran.
“It’s unfortunate that this anniversary serves as a reminder of the long history of malign behavior by the Iranian regime and the danger it has posed to the United States and the world over the past 40 years. The United States government continues to call on the Iranian regime to release all missing and currently detained U.S. citizens, including Robert Levinson, Siamak Namazi, Xiyue Wang and others.”
Among those killed on April 25, 1980 as part of Operation Eagle Claw were three Marines: Sgt. John D. Harvey, 21, of Roanoke, Va.; Cpl. George N. Holmes, Jr., 22, of Pine Bluff, Ark.; and Staff Sgt. Dewey L. Johnson, 32, of Jacksonville, N.C.
Five service members from the Air Force were also killed in the rescue attempt. These service members include Capt. Richard L. Bakke, 34, of Long Beach, Calif.; Capt. Harold L. Lewis, 35, of Mansfield, Conn.; Tech. Sgt. Joel C. Mayo, 34, of Bonifay, Fla.; Capt. Lynn D. McIntosh, 33, of Valdosta, Ga.; and Capt. Charles T. McMillan II, 28, of Corryton, Tenn.