Even though I was only 12, I remember this incident effected the nation's collective mood. The 70's had been turbulent, with the end of Vietnam and Watergate still fresh in our minds. Inflation, stagflation, high unemployment and gas rationing all seemed to indicate the United States was quickly falling into the abyss.
Now, a group of hostile students had stormed our Embassy in Iran and taken Americans hostage. It was an outrage. It was unprovoked. It was a complete breach of international protocol. I remember thinking "If they kill the hostages...we have to go to war." Just when things seemed as though they could not get worse, the United States botched a rescue effort that left eight U.S. Serviceman dead in an Iranian desert.
Making the crisis even more interesting was this was all occurring in the middle of a Presidential race. President Carter appeared weak, even before this crisis, and even had a primary challenger. Opposing President Carter was Ronald Reagan, former governor of California.
My perspective at the time, I suspect, was like that of many Americans. President Carter was weak, ineffective, and indecisive. The failed rescue attempt was an indictment on budget cuts that had reduced the capability of our military. Inter-service rivalry may have also played a role. Finally, the hostages were released hours after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President. It appeared the Iranians did not want to deal with President Reagan has he had talked very tough on the campaign trail. Right or wrong, that is how most people perceived the crisis.
The reason I chose this subject because I wanted to explore the Iranian Hostage Crisis 30 years later. I want to look at the event far removed by the politics of the day and try to understand the cause of the crisis, what actions were taken by President Carter's administration, and investigate more deeply into the failed rescue attempt.