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April 09, 2007
Former Hostage, Iran, 1979
UPDATED
Posted by Frank J. at 12:18 AM | View blog reactions | Comments (111)

Commenter FormerHostage wrote a response to my question. Given his first hand experience of the 444 days Americans were held hostage by Iranian radicals from November 4th, 1979, to January 20th, 1981, I think everyone should give this a read:

As my screenname indicates, I can speak with Complete Moral Authority (tm) on this issue.

On the day of the takeover, the Marines were outnumbered at least 1000 to 1. We held the consulate and the communications vault for over 12 hours, helping to destroy equipment and classified material. We were under STRICT orders not to fire our weapons or pop gas grenades (too late for that last one..hee, hee, hee). We were eventually told that we were on or own and to make a break for it. The monkeys even put one of the diplomats in front of the comm vault peep eye with a pistol to their head and threatened to kill them unless the door was opened. It wasn't and they didn't. Once all the material was destroyed the doors were opened and they all got the crap beat out of them.

When we were first taken, the Iranians took us into a room individually and asked us to sign a statement denouncing the US policy in Iran, Israel, the Shah, etc. The Marines signed with names such as Michael Mouse, Chesty Puller, Dan Daly (google the last two...Marine Corps legends), Harry Butz, etc.

During the ordeal they would try to tape us for propaganda purposes. Personally, I would keep looking down to the ground or hide behind others so that my face wouldn't show (in fact, after a couple of months of not seeing me in any of the videos my records I was classified as MIA). Another Marine and I shared the same cell and when they came in with cameras we'd strip down. I heard a rumor that one of the other Marines smeared ketchup on his face and started howling.

They day before they released us, we were taken to a room with a camera and Mary the Terrorist who was going to interview us. We were threatened that if we didn't say the right things we wouldn't be released. Some Marines gave only name rank and SSN, others sang (Marine Corps Hymn or God Bless America), others just said nothing.

On the day they let us go, I was being herded towards the airplane by a couple of those monkeys. I pulled my arm out of their grasp and let them know that "We're number one"...but used the wrong finger.

For our troubles we were isolated, thumped, went through two mock executions, starved, threatened, and had to put up with useful idiots from Amnesty International showing up just to let the world know how humane we were being treated.

We resisted at each opportunity, except for Army Sgt Joe Subic who collaborated from day 1 and was later snubbed by the rest of us (and was the only one not to receive a citation). We refused to cooperate, stole keys, plugged toilets, pissed in their rations, blew circuit breakers, laughed in their face when they threatened us and cursed them when they beat us. Steve Kirtley even told one of them to pull his finger! The monkey did and Steve was beaten for the inevitable result.

We did this because we were first and foremost, MARINES! Our honor and loyalty to the United States gave us the courage. We would rather die (and that was a definite possibility) than to shame ourselves, our Corps, or our Country. We had to live up to our history and got to measure ourselves and our actions against those of greater men.

Yes, we broke now and then. But would immediately pick ourselves back up and go back to fighting. Which, by the way, confused the hell out of the monkeys!

Pity the poor Brits. All they had was the history of the E.U. and the U.N. as examples.

Semper Fi

UPDATE:

Former Hostage adds some background:

Originally this was nothing more than a blog comment, but then FrankJ stroked my...ego...and asked if he could post it. Well, we all crave attention (right Rupta?) and other than that embarrassing profile at classmates.com I'd never been "published" before so I said OK. There's a couple of things I wish I had put in or made clearer. (FYI WAL, I use "monkeys" because the other terms we used wouldn't make it through the naughty word filter...and monkeys are creepy)

First off, thanks for the comments and don't feed the troll.

Second, none of us thought that we had done anything special. That's the one thing non-military types have some trouble understanding. Personally, I was (am?) very uncomfortable with the "hero" tag that the press put on us. We did what we had to do, what we were trained to do. It was just something that Marines do.

Third, when the fecal matter hits the oscillating cooling device, you fall back to training.

The Marines have the longest boot camp of US forces, 13 weeks for enlisted. Officers have OCS, which in the Corps is the equivalent of boot camp, and lasts from 12 to 13 weeks depending on what program you commissioned on (glutton for punishment that I am, I earned a commission so endured both Boot Camp and, 10 years later, OCS and I can say from experience that even without the extra 10 years OCS was harder). After that, officers get to spend another 14 weeks at The Basic School (TBS) in Quantico where they get a taste of combined combat arms and do everything from assaulting a beach in AAAVs (sucked) to blowing up stuff with C4 (didn't suck). The Marines also still do not have co-ed training until advanced schools. It's not that women are better or worse, just different in size and strength. HOWEVER, their training matches a male's step for ever lovin' godmyfeetarekillingmewhenisthisgonnaend step.

There's no way to completely match the stress of combat...but the DIs come realllllly close. In the late 70's there was a great hue and cry from some people *cough*democrats*cough* about the barbarity of Marine boot camp. But it is this stress that prepared us for the confinement. If I could put up with 13 weeks of Drill Instructor SSgt Laird in my face, then nothing short of bullets flying would rattle me.

The training is also not all physical. In fact, you'd be surprised at how much time is spent in the classroom learning everything from basic hygiene and first aid, to squad tactics, to the nomenclature of T/O weapons (I can still field strip an M16 and damned if I can't put most in the 10 ring with a 9mm), to History and Traditions.

Finally, History and Traditions. This is one advantage every Marine has. As an average American (pre-pc) we were raised on black and white war movies ("Sarge! You! Scared?" "Sure kid, a man'd have to be crazy not to be scared") and legends: Crossing the Delaware, Gettysburg, the Alamo, the Battle of the Bulge. On top of this Marines have our own history: the Halls of Montezuma, shores of Tripoli, Bella Woods, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Khe Sahn (and more recently Fahluja).

We didn't feel that we did anything special...because we hadn't. We had acted like we were trained to act, as we were expected to act, as those who went before us had acted.

The Marines always celebrate the Marine Corps birthday (November 10th) no matter where they are. One of the traditions is the cutting of the cake with a sword. The first piece is presented to the oldest Marine present (active or retired) who then presents it to the youngest Marine present to symbolize the passing of knowledge and traditions from one generation to the next. I always thought this was way cool. It bonds us in ways that are hard to explain. A few weeks ago our financial advisor asked us out to dinner, something she does with all new clients. My wife and I said yes but were a little uncomfortable because we really didn't know her personally and would be meeting her husband for the first time. Turns out he was a former jarhead and by the end of the night we were all jokin' and smokin' as if we'd grown up together.

It's just something Marines do.

Rating: 2.3/5 (23 votes cast)

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