February 14, 1979 – American Embassy In Tehran: A Dry-Run And Rehearsal Of Sorts
February 14, 1979 – A day where the news had more ominous overtones for the future than it did the present. In the midst of all the chaos surrounding the ouster of the Shah, rebels disenfranchised early-on with Ayatollah Khomeini sprang up, particularly in Tehran where the U.S. Embassy was overrun and seized; the Ambassador and staff were taken away and held. This, on top of strikes going on, were threatening to plunge the country into chaos. The Ayatollah was compelled to broadcast an appeal to the nation; to end the chaos and, at least for the strikers, to go back to work. He said that the strikes, which began the previous October and had paralyzed Iran’s oil industry, the economy and government had achieved their purpose. “We have succeeded in throwing out the Shah”, the Ayatollah said.”We have achieved success in our revolution.Therefore, it is necessary for people to return to work”. The appeal followed what many believed was the first overt and purposeful challenge to his authority from armed extremist groups which had initially helped in the Revolution. At mid-day, masked and hooded male and female guerrillas (some describing themselves as Communists) stormed the American Embassy in the heart of Tehran, claiming to be looking for Savak Police rumored to be taking refuge in the Embassy compound as well as looking for weapons they claimed were stored there. The attackers, numbering roughly 100 overcame the 19 U.S. Marines on guard. They then rounded up Ambassador William Sullivan and some 140 other Americans in the compound and held them prisoner in the Ambassador’s residence. At one point, several Americans were taken away to Tehran University, which appeared to be a kind of headquarters for left-wing extremist elements. After about a half hour, regular forces loyal to Khomeini arrived at the Embassy and freed the captives as well as securing the release of the American prisoners at the University. In the confusion, three of the original attacking extremists and an Iranian Mess Waiter at the Embassy were killed and two Marines were wounded. Since the incident, the government broadcast appeals to stay away from the Embassy, saying it was under the protection of Khomeini’s Revolutionary Militia.
There was other news that day, but this one was particularly interesting since the whole thing seemed to be repeated again only a few months later – only that time the incident lasted some 400 days. But certainly a harbinger of things to come, this February 14, 1979 as reported by CBS Radio News.