Accessibility links

Breaking News

Top U.S. Diplomat During Iran Hostage Crisis Dies At Age 96

Bruce Laingen, former charge d'affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, waves a flower and "V" sign at the close of a press conference in West Point on January 27, 1981.

Bruce Laingen, who was the most senior U.S. diplomat during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, died at age 96, his son has said.

Chip Laingen on July 17 said his father died on July 15 from complications from Parkinson's disease at an assisted-living facility in Bethesda, Maryland, outside Washington, D.C.

Laingen was serving as charge d'affaires at the time of the hostage crisis and was held hostage for 444 days with 51 other Americans after a group of Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy following the overthrow of the shah of Iran.

After his release, he called for reconciliation with Iran in numerous interviews, including one with RFE/RL.

In 2009, he told RFE/RL that he had a "sense of regret" that the United States and Iran hadn't yet "found the basis for a relationship."

Chip Laingen told Minnesota Public Radio on July 17 that his father accepted the top post at the embassy in Iran when others had rejected it.

"He went in knowing what the risks were.... He was convinced, as the consummate diplomat that he was, that dialogue can overcome all, and things would be better," Chip Laingen said.

The experience of being held hostage profoundly changed Laingen.

"Obviously, it changed my life.... The effect of that was to deepen my commitment to my country, to diplomacy, to my family, to my colleagues who were held with me," he told RFE/RL.

Laingen, a diplomat for 38 years, will be buried later this summer in his hometown of Odin, where he was born on August 6, 1922.

Based on reporting by The Star Tribune, AP, and Minnesota Public Radio