January 24, 1981 – The American hostages, held for 444 days at the Embassy in Tehran had been released some days earlier and flown to Wiesbaden West Germany, before continuing on to home in the U.S. – largely kept away from reporters, they were in the process of being debriefed on their ordeal. For a time, it was reported one of the former hostages would stay behind in Germany to be with his wife. But now it was reported they would all fly together as a group back to the U.S. and to the reunions being planned at West Point with their families. They were scheduled to leave the following day, but the blackout on access by reporters would continue. According to the Doctor in charge of the medical team examining the hostages, one of the greatest needs the hostages had was to tell of their experiences in captivity. A few came to the hospital gates to talk with reporters, but were forced to stand out in sub-freezing weather in order to do so. State Department officials had refused to make their Briefing Room available to the former hostages who wanted to recount what happened to them. Two of the former hostages stepped out of the hospital gates and were promptly mobbed by reporters and photographers. State Department officials also backtracked on their initial reports of the hostages meeting with former President Carter, saying there was no bitterness about U.S. government actions during the hostage crisis.
Former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance said that he and other officials who met extensively with the 52 hostages in West Germany were appalled by the scope of atrocities committed by their Iranian captors. Describing the treatment as “barbaric”. They had some indication before, but the breadth and extent of the atrocities was much larger. He also said the hostages were divided over a number of key issues that surrounded their captivity; the American handling of the negotiations, even Vance’s own role and his resignation after in protest over the failed rescue attempt in April of 1980. Vance went on to say he was closely questioned on those issues, but that there was no hostility towards the Carter Administration. Vance also said the hostages were divided over whether or not the U.S. should honor its agreement negotiated with the Iranians that won their release. Mr. Vance declined to offer any suggestions to the Reagan Administration on how to deal with that question.
In Wiesbaden, doctors examining the hostages sent messages back to Washington saying that some of the hostages were not in such good shape, indicating they were in much worse medical and emotional condition than first thought, and were advising the White house they needed more decompression time.
And there was more news, including indications that all was not going well in Poland with labor unions and the government on a collision course, with millions of workers staying away from work, despite threats from the government.
That’s just a small slice of what went on this day. There was more news – lots of it, via The CBS World News Roundup.