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Bruce Laingen

Bruce Laingen

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Lowell Bruce Laingen was the senior American official held hostage during the Iran hostage crisis
Iran hostage crisis
The Iran hostage crisis was a diplomatic crisis between Iran and the United States where 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981, after a group of Islamist students and militants took over the American Embassy in Tehran in support of the Iranian...



Laingen, born on a farm in southern Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

, graduated from St. Olaf College
St. Olaf College
St. Olaf College is a coeducational, residential, four-year, private liberal arts college in Northfield, Minnesota, United States. It was founded in 1874 by a group of Norwegian-American immigrant pastors and farmers, led by Pastor Bernt Julius Muus. The college is named after Olaf II of Norway,...

. He also studied at the National War College
National War College
The National War College of the United States is a school in the National Defense University. It is housed in Roosevelt Hall on Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C., the third-oldest Army post still active. It was officially established on July 1, 1946, as an upgraded replacement for the...

, and received a M.A. in International Relations from the University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities is a public research university located in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, United States. It is the oldest and largest part of the University of Minnesota system and has the fourth-largest main campus student body in the United States, with 52,557...

. During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 Laingen served in the US Navy, and in 1949 he joined the US Foreign Service. He served until 1977 at posts in Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, and then was appointed ambassador to Malta
United States Ambassador to Malta
This is a list of Ambassadors of the United States to Malta.Until 1964 Malta had been a part of the British Empire. Malta was granted full independence on September 21, 1964. The United States recognized the new nation and established full diplomatic relations...

 in 1977. Laingen was then sent back to Iran as the US chargĂ© d'affaires
United States Ambassador to Iran
Prior to 1944, Iran was not served by a United States ambassador; instead, a diplomatic minister was sent instead. After the revolution in 1944, the first ambassador was then named....

, but within months of his arrival, the US embassy was overrun by student protesters. He, along with two other American officials, was at the Iranian Foreign Ministry at the time of the assault. They were held for the next 14 months.

After his ordeal, Laingen was awarded the State Department's Award for Valor along with several other recognitions. Laingen's next position was that of Vice President of the National Defense University
National Defense University
The National Defense University is an institution of higher education funded by the United States Department of Defense, intended to facilitate high-level training, education, and the development of national security strategy. It is chartered by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with Navy Vice Admiral...

, a post traditionally held by a senior diplomat. He retired from the Foreign Service in 1987.

Views on Iranian Negotiations

According to the full text of a recently leaked diplomatic cable attributed to Laingen, and written roughly three months prior to his being held hostage, he took a skeptical view of Iranian negotiators, labeling them as egoists, and characterized the Persian people as having cultural and psychological limitations while resisting Western rationality.

External links

  • Bruce Laingen Papers at Minnesota Historical Society
    Minnesota Historical Society
    The Minnesota Historical Society is a private, non-profit educational and cultural institution dedicated to preserving the history of the U.S. state of Minnesota. It was founded by the territorial legislature in 1849, almost a decade before statehood. The Society is named in the Minnesota...