Hostage Release

by Daniel L. Haulman

Operation Name: Hostage Release
Location: Algeria and Rhein-Main AB, West Germany
Date: January 20–25, 1981
Emergency: Iran released 52 U.S. hostages it had held for 444 days.
Organizations: 55th Aeromedical Airlift Squadron, 435th Tactical Airlift Wing, and 89th Military Airlift Wing
Airlifted: 52 former hostages.
Aircraft Used: C–9 (four) and C–137 (two)

After seizing the U.S. embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979, Iranian militants held 52 embassy staff members hostage for 444 days. On January 20, 1981, the day of President Reagan’s inauguration, Iran released the hostages and an Algerian airliner transported them to Algiers, Algeria. The Military Airlift Command brought them home.

Two C–9 airplanes from the 55th Aeromedical Airlift Squadron of the 435th Tactical Airlift Wing, each transporting 26 former hostages, flew from Algeria to Rhein-Main AB, West Germany, on January 21. Former President Carter greeted them when they arrived in West Germany. They spent four days of rest, medical examinations, and debriefing in a military hospital in Wiesbaden.

On January 25, an 89th Military Airlift Wing C–137 airplane, nicknamed Freedom One, airlifted the 52 former hostages from Rhein-Main AB via Shannon Airport, Ireland, to Stewart AFB near West Point, New York. There they were reunited with family members.

A second C–137 and two C–9s of the 89th Military Airlift Wing joined Freedom One a few days later to transport the former hostages and their families to Andrews AFB, Maryland, for a welcome ceremony in Washington, D.C., at the end of the month.

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