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The Release: January 20, 1981

After months of international political arguing and the election of a new US President, the Iranian students finally agreed to the release of the US hostages. The hostages had no idea if or when they would be released, but Daugherty suspected that if it were to happen, it would be on or near President Reagan’s inauguration day: a final insult from the Iranian students to President Carter.

“Nineteen January lasted forever,” recalls Daugherty. “I could not sleep, read, or close my mind. I spent most of that day pacing the room and waiting for another knock. Dinner came and went, while time dragged on and I grew more and more despondent. I had miscalculated, I thought. If I was not released now, then it would probably be a long time before I enjoyed any kind of freedom again.”

Finally Daugherty, Ahern and the other hostages were released after sundown on January 20, 1979. They were all blindfolded for the last time, put on a bus, and driven to the airport where an Air Algerie flight was waiting to take them home. “I was the last one on [the bus] standing at the rear,” says Daugherty. “I glimpsed my COS [Ahern] sitting in the seat in front of me. This was the first time I had seen him in nearly 15 months.”

Coming Home:

Ahern and Daugherty had little access to news from the outside world during their months in isolation and had no idea about the great outpouring of public support that would greet them upon their return.

“The reception in America is still difficult for me to describe,” says Daugherty. “It could not have been any warmer or more memorable. I was--and remain so today--immensely grateful for the homecoming our fellow Americans showered on us. We landed at Stewart Airport near Newburgh, New York, and, after having cheerful and tearful reunions with our families, we boarded buses for the ride to West Point, where we were to have a sheltered two days with our families before going to Washington for our official welcome home. It took more than two hours to cover the 18 miles from the airport to West Point; the way was lined with well-wishers who carried all types of signs expressing their happiness to see us back and their feelings toward the Iranians who had held us captive.”

After the parades of red, white and blue ended, and the yellow ribbons that lined the main streets of America in support of the hostages faded, life for Ahern and Daugherty eventually transitioned into a new normal.

“We went from being ‘hostages,’" says Daugherty, “to ‘former hostages,’ until, with the passage of years, we were not even that.”

Read Part 1: Storming of the Embassy: November 4, 1979
Read Part 2: Life in Captivity

To read William Daugherty’s personal account of the time he spent as a hostage in Iran, see: A First Tour Like No Other,” Studies in Intelligence, volume 41, Number 5 (Spring 1998) or pdf (310.5KB)

For related content, see our feature articles on Argo and the “Canadian Six”


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Posted: Nov 06, 2014 12:53 PM
Last Updated: Nov 06, 2014 12:53 PM