July 28, 1980 – Day 268 for the Americans held hostage in Iran. It was also the day most Iranians woke up to the news that The Shah had died in Cairo of Cancer at the age of 60. Tehran Radio, not given to understatement, referred to the death of the Shah as “the bloodsucker of the century has died at last”. And in Cairo, preparations were being made for the funeral, where the Shah was to be buried with full honors. The Shah’s body was moved during the night to Abdeen Palace in Cairo, with the coffin draped in the flag of Iran and taken by gun carriage down the avenues of Cairo to the Al-Rifai Mosque and was to be buried next to the two last Kings of Egypt; Fouad and Farouk. The body of the Shah’s father, who also died in exile, was buried briefly in this mosque during World War 2. The big question was who would represent the U.S. at the funeral. It was thought the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Alfred Atherton would represent the White House. It was also certain no American of higher rank was going to honor the Shah, who was Washington‘s staunchest ally in the Middle East for over 35 years. The only American of note, who confirmed he was going was former President Richard Nixon, who was scheduled to arrive last in the afternoon.
The death of the Shah brought a notably muted response from the State Department, who said the Carter Administration was indeed going to be represented by Atherton and no other indication that President Carter would be sending a special representative from Washington. The low-key approach, along with the somewhat muted statement from the White House indicated that Washington did not want to say or do anything that could further complicate the hostage situation. Whether the Shah’s death was going to have any impact on the Hostages being held in Iran, was one of those questions for which no one at the State Department had any certain answer other than “too early to tell”.
And that’s just a small sample of what went on, this July 28, 1980 – along with news of the upcoming Democratic Convention as presented by CBS Radio’s Firstline Report – The CBS World News Roundup and the 9:00 am network news.