Post-Vietnam POWs: Addendum – the Tehran Embassy Seizure

| April 19, 2015

On 4 November 1979, Iranian “student demonstrators” broke into and occupied the US Embassy in Tehran, Iran.  The Government of Iran shortly afterwards backed the seizure, and took the US Embassy staff – plus one private citizen – prisoner.

The seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran was not a “terrorist act”, as many have erroneously described it.  A nation’s embassy overseas is that nation’s sovereign territory.  Forcibly occupying an embassy is thus technically the occupation of another nation’s sovereign territory – which is an act of war.  The only reason I can come up with that we did not go to war at some point in the next 444 days was that the      ball-less wonder, Jimmuh the Clueless, and the Group of Fools he called his Administration        “wonderfully righteous and peaceful man” named James Earl Carter, Jr., was POTUS.  Apparently he made the determination that protecting America’s national honor was not worth a fight.

A total of sixty-five US government employees and one other US citizen were held prisoner by the Government of Iran after the seizure of the US Embassy.  An additional six US Embassy personnel evaded capture and were sheltered by foreign governments in their embassies in Tehran.

Of these, 26 individuals were military personnel.

Here is a by-name list of US personnel held prisoner by Iran the Iranian seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran.  With the exception of the six personnel who were sheltered by friendly foreign governments and later spirited out of Iran by the CIA (with a huge assist from the Government of Canada), all were taken prisoner by Iran on 4 November 1979.  Military personnel on this list are in italics.

Released by Iran on 19-20 November 1979

Kathy Gross, Cambridge Springs, PA. Secretary.
Sgt James Hughes, USAF, Langley Air Force Base, VA. Administrative Manager.
Lillian Johnson, Elmont, NY. Secretary.
Sgt Ladell Maples, Earle, USMC. Marine Guard.
Elizabeth Montagne, Calumet City, IL. Secretary.
Sgt William Quarles, USMC, Washington, DC. Marine Guard.
Lloyd Rollins, Alexandria, VA. Administrative officer.
Capt Neal (Terry) Robinson, USAF, Houston, TX. Administrative officer.
Terri Tedford, South San Francisco, CA. Secretary.
Sgt Joseph Vincent, USAF, New Orleans, LA. Administrative Manager.
Sgt David Walker, USMC, Prairie View, TX. Marine Guard.
Joan Walsh, Ogden, UT. Secretary.
Cpl Wesley Williams, USMC, Albany, NY. Marine Guard.

Released by Iran on 11 July 1980 due to illness:

Richard I. Queen, New York, NY. Vice consul.

Released by Iran on 20 January 1981 – shortly after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as POTUS

Thomas L. Ahern, Jr., McLean, VA. Narcotics control officer.
Clair Cortland Barnes, Falls Church, VA. Communications specialist.
William E. Belk, West Columbia, SC. Communications and records officer.
Robert O. Blucker, North Little Rock, AR. Economics officer specializing in oil.
Donald J. Cooke, Memphis, TN. Vice consul.
William J. Daugherty, Tulsa, OK. Third secretary of U.S. mission.
LCDR. Robert Englemann, USN, Hurst, TX. Naval Attaché.
Sgt William Gallegos, USMC, Pueblo, CO. Marine Guard.
Bruce W. German, 44, Rockville, MD. Budget officer.
Duane L. Gillette, 24, Columbia, PA. Navy communications and intelligence specialist.
Alan B. Golancinksi, 30, Silver Spring, MD. Security officer.
John E. Graves, 53, Reston, VA. Public affairs officer.
CWO Joseph M. Hall, US Army, Elyria, OH. Military attaché
Sgt Kevin J. Hermening, USMC, Oak Creek, WI. Marine Guard.
SFC Donald R. Hohman, US Army, Frankfurt, West Germany. Medic.
COL Leland J. Holland, US Army, Laurel, MD. Military attaché.
Michael Howland, Alexandria, VA. Security aide, one of three held in Iranian Foreign Ministry.
Charles A. Jones, Jr., Communications specialist and teletype operator. Only African-American not released by Iran in November 1979.
Malcolm Kalp, Fairfax, VA. Position unknown.
Moorhead C. Kennedy Jr., Washington, DC. Economic and commercial officer.
William F. Keough, Jr., Brookline, MA. Superintendent of American School in Islamabad, Pakistan, visiting Tehran at time of embassy seizure.
Cpl Steven W. Kirtley, USMC, Little Rock, AR. Marine Guard.
Kathryn L. Koob, Fairfax, VA. Embassy cultural officer; one of two women hostages.
Frederick Lee Kupke, Francesville, IN. Communications officer and electronics specialist.
L. Bruce Laingen, Bethesda, MD. Chargé d’affaires. One of three held in Iranian Foreign Ministry.
Steven Lauterbach, North Dayton, OH. Administrative officer.
Gary E. Lee, Falls Church, VA. Administrative officer.
Sgt Paul Edward Lewis, USMC, Homer, IL. Marine Guard.
John W. Limbert, Jr., Washington, DC. Political officer.
Sgt James M. Lopez, USMC, Globe, AZ. Marine Guard.
Sgt John D. McKeel, Jr., USMC, Balch Springs, TX. Marine Guard.
Michael J. Metrinko, Olyphant, PA. Political officer.
Jerry J. Miele, Mt. Pleasant, PA. Communications officer.
SSgt Michael E. Moeller, USMC, Quantico, VA. NCOIC of Marine Guard unit.
Bert C. Moore, Mount Vernon, OH. Counselor for administration.
Richard H. Morefield, 51, San Diego, CA. U.S. Consul General in Tehran.
Capt Paul M. Needham, Jr., USAF, Bellevue, NE. Air Force logistics staff officer.
Robert C. Ode, Sun City, AZ. Retired Foreign Service officer on temporary duty in Tehran.
Sgt Gregory A. Persinger, USMC, Seaford, DE. Marine Guard.
Jerry Plotkin, Sherman Oaks, CA. Private businessman visiting Tehran.
MSG Regis Ragan, US Army, Johnstown, PA. Defense Attaché staff.
Lt Col David M. Roeder, USAF, Alexandria, VA. Deputy Air Force attaché.
Barry M. Rosen, Brooklyn, NY. Press attaché.
William B. Royer, Jr., Houston, TX. Assistant director of Iran-American Society.
Col Thomas E. Schaefer, USAF, Tacoma, WA. Air Force Attaché.
COL Charles W. Scott, US Army, Stone Mountain, GA.  Military Attaché.
CDR Donald A. Sharer, USN, Chesapeake, VA. Naval Air Attaché.
Sgt Rodney V. (Rocky) Sickmann, USMC, Krakow, MO. Marine Guard.
SSG Joseph Subic, Jr., US Army, Redford Township, MI.  Defense Attaché staff.
Elizabeth Ann Swift, Washington, DC. Chief of embassy’s political section; one of two women hostages.
Victor L. Tomseth, Springfield, OR. Senior political officer; one of three held in Iranian Foreign Ministry.
Phillip R. Ward, Culpeper, VA. Administrative officer.

Spirited out of Iran by the CIA (with the assistance of the Canadian Government) on 28 January 1980:

Robert Anders, Port Charlotte, FL. Consular officer.
Mark J. Lijek, Falls Church, VA. Consular officer.
Cora A. Lijek, Falls Church, VA. Consular assistant.
Henry L. Schatz, Coeur d’Alene, ID. Agriculture attaché.
Joseph D. Stafford, Crossville, TN. Consular officer.
Kathleen F. Stafford, Crossville, TN. Consular assistant.

Anyone not listed above who claims to be one of the “1979 US Iranian Embassy Hostages” is, bluntly, a liar.

The vast majority of the US military personnel taken prisoner during the seizure of the Iranian Embassy were initially awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal for their actions while in Iranian captivity.  (One of them – SFC Hohman – also was awarded the Soldiers Medal for an act of noncombat heroism occurring during his captivity.)  They were also later accorded formal POW status (and formally awarded the POW Medal) by DoD.

The sole exception was Joseph Subic, Jr., former SSG, US Army.

Then-SSG Subic received no award whatsoever for his time in Iranian captivity.  He was later the sole former military Iranian hostage denied recognition as a POW by the Army in 2003 because “his character of service was determined not to be consistent with POW Medal policy.

During captivity then-SSG Subic apparently collaborated with his captors.  He is known to have appeared in at least one propaganda film for them, and reportedly also cooperated in other ways.  On return to US control, he was reportedly subjected to administrative sanctions, apparently over the objections of the Army Chief of Staff (who reputedly wanted to court-martial Subic), and was also apparently discharged from the Army well prior to the scheduled end of his enlistment.

In Subic’s case, it looks like the Army made the right call.  According to the articles here and here, his post-Iran life has been somewhat less than stellar – even if he did apparently manage to con his way back into the Florida National Guard (one wonders if he disclosed all the pertinent details concerning his prior active duty when he reenlisted).  He’s now a former LEO and a convicted criminal, having pleaded guilty to multiple counts of insurance fraud in 2008.

 

Author’s footnote:  the following US military personnel died in a ground accident on 25 April 1980 after the decision was made to abort Operation Eagle Claw at its planned intermediate landing site, Desert One. This cancellation was due to the loss of three of the mission’s eight RH-53D aircraft due to mechanical problems. 

Operation Eagle Claw was an attempt to rescue the 52 remaining US personnel held by Iran.

Capt. Richard L. Bakke, USAF, Long Beach, CA
Sgt. John D. Harvey, USMC, Roanoke, VA
Cpl. George N. Holmes, Jr., USMC, Pine Bluff, AR
SSgt. Dewey L. Johnson, USMC, Jacksonville, NC
Capt. Harold L. Lewis, USAF, Mansfield, CT
TSgt. Joel C. Mayo, USAF, Bonifay, FL
Capt. Lynn D. McIntosh, USAF, Valdosta, GA
Capt. Charles T. McMillan II, USAF, Corrytown, TN

Rest in peace, gentlemen.  Rest in peace.

Category: Historical, Military issues, Veterans Issues

Comments (18)

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  1. MCPO NYC USN Ret. says:

    Hondo,

    Great update.

    Note: I was in boot camp when this went down. Our CC reported to us, “listen up you maggot eating dumb fuckers, we are at war”.

    When Ronnie came onboard, the release was no coinkadink, the ground truth was essentially an ultimatum to Iran.

    Release now or else!

    The deal was cut several weeks in advance by incoming administrative representatives.

    The or else would have been a very large and immediate adhoc bombing campaign.

    I say adhoc, because at the time, our military was broke hard.

    Regardless of the state of affairs of our military at the time, Iran would have been bombed back into the stone age!

    This WAS the first message send in the beginning of the end to and of the Cold War!

    Where were the Soviets then?

    Yeap …

    • A Proud Infidel®™ says:

      I remember the historical rumor that between his election and inauguration, Ronald Reagan DID take part in talking to the Iranians and said something like “You have a much easier path in negotiating with him, just wait until I take office, Al Haig is going to be my Secretary of State!”.

    • Grimmy says:

      I went into boot camp (MCRD San Diego) May of that year.

      The Corps was so hard up for bodies in the fleet that our series skipped mess and maintenance week. So, I graduated bootcamp wihtout a single minute spent polishing brass around the base or scrubbing a single pot, pan or serving a single issue of chow in the chowhall.

      My motivation for joining up when I did was because I believed there’d be war soon. I wanted to get some time in the fleet for training with an outfit rather than waiting to get fed into the line as a barely trained replacement.

  2. MustangCryppie says:

    I worked for Neal Robinson, then BGen, when he was the J2 at EUCOM. Real good guy, very smart.

    From what I gathered he was NOT a fan of the Iranians all those years later.

    I also heard that he was released early because he was black. The Iranians wanted to show they were down with the cause. I don’t think BG Robinson wanted to leave, but it’s better he did. As an intel type, I’m sure the government was happy he left.

    Oh, and he’s described as an “administrative officer.” If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn you’re just gonna LOVE!

    • MCPO NYC USN Ret. says:

      There are good releases from captivity and there are bad ones.

      He got a good release and yes, it was better that he did.

    • DeeUSAF says:

      Administrative Officer is a diplomatic title.

    • Luddite4Change says:

      You forced me to look up his bio.

      http://www.af.mil/AboutUs/Biographies/Display/tabid/225/Article/104905/brigadier-general-neal-t-robinson.aspx

      Its interesting that it mentions nothing of his time in Tehran? He was assigned to NSA as part of the Joint Crypto Officer Program, so was probably just in country on TDY rotation.

      Also note worthy in his bio is the lack of a POW medal. The USAF did not get around to issuing the medal to the Iranian Hostages until 2011.

      One of this items that I find interesting (at least to me), is that the various legislation that authorizes issuance of the POW medal is vested in each of the individual service secretaries and not the SECDEF, which has led to some inequitable application of the law and it’s intent over the years.

      This in no way forgives the VA abortion on handing out 2 x as many benefits as have been awarded the POW medal, but give me a slightly different context to view them.

      As a matter of fact, the current Army regulation still has the prohibition against being held by terrorist written into the regulation (http://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/pdf/r600_8_22.pdf Page 22)

      • Luddite4Change says:

        Oh. The other interesting item if you read AR 600-8-22, is that the POW medal is classified as a service medal, and no orders are issued for it (AR 600-8-22 Para 2-9j(4).

        This to me is shocking and ripe for abuse, and something that should be changed….yesterday. I’d recommend that the POW medal be issued by DOD (or at least thru a DOD agency) and that its issuance be approved on permanent orders.

  3. B Woodman says:

    I remember a lot of that. I was a young PFC, fresh out of AIT, newly arrived in Germany. We had a joke memo going around with three teams on it (my name too), “be prepared to move out at any time to save the president’s ass from a sling” (or to that effect).

    I still have that “memo” in my boxes of military papers.

  4. Jonn Lilyea says:

    My family was flying out of Germany the day after they left. We were at Rhein Main Air Base when they were bussed from the 97th General Hospital to their flight home and cheered for them as the came through the gates of the Air Base.

  5. DeeUSAF says:

    The listing shows Malcolm Kalp as having an unknown title.

    Malcolm Kalp was a Commercial Officer. He was kept in solitary after attempting to escape several times. He was killed by a drunk driver in 2002.

  6. RM3(SS) says:

    I got out of the Navy in 1975. In late 1976, I interviewed for a job with a three letter govt agency to work a “listening post” in Iran. At that time Iran was a friendly country and it was a pretty good job with promotion potential. The wife at that time was adamantly opposed to moving out of the country so I passed, taking a job at the post office. We later when our separate ways, but I did thank her after the 1979 take over of the embassy.

  7. jeffro says:

    I was in beautiful Fort Campbell in the mighty 1/327 IN when Operation Eagle Claw was executed. I had about eight weeks left until I ETS’d…all I could think was here we go.

  8. OldSoldier54 says:

    This is what happens with limp-wristed leadership, or leadership that has no skin in the game.

    I NEVER thought I’d see the day when I would pine for the “good old Carter days.” Or, imagine that a more worse case was even possible.

  9. JohnE says:

    I was in grade school…

    Been reading up on Sgt Subic. He sounds like a real lifelong special troop.