BY JEREMY SHERE
The Ben Affleck movie Argo tells the story of six Americans who were spirited out of Iran during the hostage crisis of 1979. Bedford resident Don Sharer was one of the 52 Americans who were not so fortunate, remaining a hostage for 444 days, from November 1979 to January 1981. This is his story.
On the morning of November 4, 1979, Navy Captain Don Sharer sat down at a desk in the U.S. Embassy in Iran to type a letter to his superiors in Washington, D.C. Sharer had been in Tehran for nearly eight months, working at the embassy as a Navy attaché and F-14 Tomcat fighter jet specialist, and he’d seen enough to know that it was time to leave. After several weeks of watching anti-American protests outside the embassy walls grow in size and intensity, Sharer had woken up that morning with the contents of the letter he planned to write clear in his mind: “They don’t need an F-14 specialist here. Unless otherwise directed, I am coming home.”
A professional soldier and officer with almost 20 years of experience as a U.S. Navy flyer who’d served two nine-month tours in Vietnam, Sharer was no stranger to duress. But the situation in Tehran had become so chaotic in the wake of the recent Islamic Revolution that Sharer’s main job—working to forge alliances within the Iranian Navy—had been rendered moot when his main contact there had fled the country only days before. Hundreds of Americans living and working in Iran had left, and the embassy staff had been reduced from more than 1,000 to about 60. That morning, the Iranian mob outside the embassy gates was even larger and more frenzied than usual, chanting, “Marg bar Amrika!” (Death to America!). It was time for even the most hardened soldier to go. Sharer began to type.
And then all hell broke loose.
Don Sharer discusses the beginning of his 444 days as a hostage in the Iran Hostage Crisis with Jeremy Shere. Video by Lynae Sowinski