January 20, 1981 – After 444 excruciatingly painful days, 52 American hostages were released from Iran within minutes of President Ronald Reagan taking office. The hostages were seized, in part, in retaliation of the deposed Shah entering the Unites States for medical treatment. After leaving Iran on January 16, 1979, the Shah first went to Egypt and then to Morocco, Bahamas, Mexico, and was later reluctantly admitted to the United States for treatment of gallstones by President Carter. The Shah then went to Panama where the new Iranian government formally requested he be extradited back to the Iran to stand trial and possible execution. Concerned, the Shah returned to Egypt where he died on July 27, 1980.
Back in Iran, the new Islamic Republic and the people of Iran were outraged that the Shah was able to avoid prosecution and particularly blamed the United States. On November 4, 1979 a group of students stormed the American Embassy and seized the staff there. No one expected that they would be held very long but across America outrage grew and people began to tie yellow ribbons around their trees. The Carter administration was exceedingly frustrated and ultimately humiliated when an attempt by U.S. military to free the hostages ended in disaster. Diplomatic negotiations drug on for more than a year and it became apparent that they would never be released as long as Carter was President. Finally the nightmare was over. Carter left office and as soon as Reagan took the oath of office our hostages were released.