Mr. Williams was among seven U.S. military personnel who were taken hostage during a failed rescue attempt against the group. The captors were affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force and Teheran had provided a boat which reached Iranian territorial waters, but the U.S. military command quickly reversed course and the American soldiers were pulled into Iranian waters.
After the hostage crisis, dozens of U.S. citizens and nine military personnel were detained in Iran and reportedly held prisoner for two years. In the ensuing hostage crisis, Iranian militants blew up at least one and perhaps as many as five U.S. military vessels that were operating in Iranian waters.
Mr. Nelson, his wife and other family members held protests outside the Iranian embassy in Washington and in Canada to highlight what they said was Iran’s cruel treatment of the hostages.
The consul general in Los Angeles brought the hostages to Los Angeles in May 1981 to be placed under voluntary release and had them flown to Nevada the next day. They returned to the United States on May 30th to a hero’s welcome.
The Iranian dictatorship apologized for the ordeal after the delegation returned home, and the members of the mission were congratulated by a small bipartisan delegation headed by then Senator Robert Dole, with the help of Senator Frank Church.
Those in charge of hostage negotiations with Iran were composed of the State Department’s Meese Counselor for Near Eastern Affairs, the point person on U.S. policy toward the Islamic republic, and a hard-line CIA agent named Gary Schroen. They agreed to pay $2 million each to the kidnappers as part of the deal, though the captors demanded millions more.
The US Embassy in Tehran’s Iranian officials realized that one of the captors, known as Mohammed Rafsanjani, may have held CIA black mail against Iran, but officials thought it unlikely that an Iranian official who had reportedly served as a lobbyist for the US government, might be involved in a kidnapping operation. The US did not know that Iranians held the American hostage when Mr. Rafsanjani was identified. After assurances that he was involved in the hostage-taking, the US conveyed to Rafsanjani that Iranian anger had grown over his role. He was subsequently acquitted of charges against him by a military tribunal.
Later, the Iranians appointed a one-man commission — the director of the Quds Force — to search for the American hostages, who were eventually found alive in a desert by commandos in 1981. The former attorney general for Iran, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, took credit for the rescue, and the newly elected prime minister, Mohammed Mosaddeq, who was a moderate, was blamed by his hard-line enemies.