The hostage crisis in Iran was borne out of longstanding support by the U.S. for Shah Reza Pahlavi, who ruled Iran from 1941 to 1979, with a brief timeout in exile in 1953. Ultimately, the Shah was forced out by the growing influence and voice of Islamic fundamentalists, who viewed him as corrupt. He fled his country in January of 1979, living in exile in Egypt, Mexico and elsewhere. Shortly after the Shah left, the Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini became leader of Iran.
When the Shah entered the U.S. for cancer treatment in October 1979, the Ayatollah called for anti-American street demonstrations in his country. On Nov. 4, those demonstrations led to the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
At first, some 66 Americans were captured. Within three weeks, the hostage takers released several woman and African Americans. The crisis came to dominate the presidency of Jimmy Carter and was a reason for his defeat by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election. Moments after Mr. Reagan took his oath of office, the 52 remaining captives boarded a jet out of Iran, closing a long and painful chapter in U.S. history.