History Book: Iran hostage crisis begins

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, November 4th. We are grateful that you’re listening to The World and Everything in It. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next, the WORLD Radio History Book. Ten years ago this week, the deadliest mass shooting at a U.S. military installation. And 40 years ago, the beginning of the Iran hostage crisis.

EICHER: But first, millions of valuable books and works of art are damaged in a flood in Italy. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: We begin today with November 4th, 1966:

NEWSREEL: In Florence, Italy, gales and torrential rains swell the waters Arno river to the bursting point—flooding this historic city…

The Arno River overflows its banks, killing more than 100 people. The flood leaves thousands homeless. More than 500-thousand tons of mud and rubble damage or destroy the city’s vast collection of rare and valuable masterpieces. 

NEWSREEL: Some $2 million worth of damage is done to artworks here…

The water ruins as many as four million books and manuscripts, and more than 10-thousand movable works of art. Conservation efforts begin almost immediately. Preservation experts come from all around the world—many donating their time—becoming known as “mud angels.” 

Conservationists develop many new methods for cleaning and repairing the damaged works. Today, more than 50 years after the flood, Florence warehouses are still full of many irreplaceable works awaiting conservation.


Next, November 4, 1979: 40 years ago today. A group of Iranian college students overrun the U.S. embassy in Tehran. President Jimmy Carter.

CARTER: We continue to face a grave situation in Iran where our embassy has been seized and more than 60 American citizens continue to be held as hostages…

Since before the Iranian Revolution in early 1979, U.S. diplomatic relations with Iran had been tense. The Carter administration supported the monarchy—angering the anti-Shah Iranians seeking to overthrow him. 

After the revolution succeeded, anti-American zealots stormed the embassy, briefly holding hostage its more than 900-member staff.

In the fall of 1979, the Carter administration approved a request from the deposed Iranian monarch for U.S. medical attention. Some Iranians saw the move as American interference and feared a military coup.

NEWSCLIP: Ever since the Shah fled the country last January, there has been a persistent belief in many quarters here in Iran, that the United States…

Hostage takers demand the U.S. extradite the Shah for trial and execution. The group also expects an apology from the American government for its “interference in the internal affairs of Iran.” The Carter administration refuses.

CLIP: Some 60 Americans, including our fellow citizen you just saw bound and blindfolded, are now beginning their sixth day of captivity within the U.S. Embassy in Tehran…

Originally, organizers of the attack intend to hold the hostages for only a short period of time. But as the standoff lengthens, popular support grows. Ayatollah Khomeini uses the crisis to rally the country to his Islamic vision for Iran. The Americans are eventually freed after 444 days of captivity.

SONG: “Ayatollah” [1979] by Steve Dahl & Teenage Radiation

And finally, 10 years ago this week—in Killeen, Texas. 

AP NEWS: There are reports of shootings at Fort Hood Army base in Central Texas…

Shortly after 1:30 p.m. on November 5th, 2009, Nidal Hasan—a psychiatrist and U.S. Army Major—walks into the Soldier Readiness Processing Center. He stops at the front desk and asks for a particular employee. The worker leaves to find him. Eyewitnesses say Hasan then steps around the desk, bows his head for a moment, shouts “Allahu Akbar” and starts shooting. 

The soldiers in the room are unarmed and awaiting examinations before leaving for—or returning from—deployment. Hasan begins shooting with a general spread of fire, then seems to target specific soldiers. Hasan shoots with deadly accuracy as his pistol is equipped with laser sights. 

He critically wounds a civilian base police woman when she attempts to stop him. A second civilian police officer arrives and shoots Hasan five times. He survives. The shooting lasts about 10 minutes. Hasan kills 13 people and wounds more than 30.

NEWS STORY: President Obama will attend a memorial service at Fort Hood today, but many are wondering how so many signs were missed prior to the mass killing…

Soon after the shooting, media reports reveal that a Joint Terrorism Task Force knew of Hasan’s connection to a radical cleric. Additionally, many of Hasan’s colleagues were aware and concerned about his radicalization, yet no one did anything about it until after it was too late.

The Fort Hood Shooting remains the deadliest mass shooting at a U.S. military installation. Hasan is currently on death row, awaiting execution.

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book. I’m Paul Butler.

One of the hostages held at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran is shown to the crowd by Iranian students. (AP Photo, File)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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