Iran Hostage’s Diary / Robert C. Ode

Robert C. Ode portrait

Robert C. Ode was one of the fifty-two American citizens taken hostage by Iranian students in November 1979 at the American embassy in Tehran. They were held for a total of 444 days and finally released, after lengthy negotiations, on January 20, 1981.

Ode (pronounced Odee) was the oldest of the hostages and was in fact retired from diplomatic service. He had taken a special assignment to go to Tehran and expected to be there only a few months when taken with the other embassy staff.

He was allowed to keep a diary after a few months as captive, when conditions under which the hostages lived were loosened, although the conditions were never good. The hostages were separated into small groups that were not allowed to communicate. They were cut off from outside news and contact with the American government, while letters to and from their families were delivered late or not at all. They were blindfolded when taken outside their rooms to take showers or exercise. Moreover, the students were very amateurish jailers, so that essential supplies frequently ran out, meals were often late and improvised and frequently inadequate, and onerous security restrictions far in excess of what was needed were arbitrarily applied. More serious was the problem that medical attention was extremely inadequate, while many of the hostages were senior embassy staff with serious health worries. Above all, there was the psychological pressure of never knowing when they would be released or what the American government was doing to help them.

Ode’s journal consists of 115 pages. What is presented here are selected pages illustrating either significant changes or problems in the conditions of his captivity, along with some typical days where the main problems were boredom or food. The full diary is available to the public. For information, contact the Jimmy Carter Library in Atlanta at (404) 865-7100 or e-mail

Robert C. Ode

Although many of their letters were not delivered to each other, a mainstay of Ode’s captivity was the correspondence of his family and friends, especially his wife, Rita Muth Ode, who was under great strain herself but cheered Ode with accounts of the new home she was preparing for his retirement, occasionally receiving advice about the new house from her captive husband.

After months of negotiations, the Iranian government released the hostages in January 1981. The negotiations had been conducted by the Carter administration, while the release was made the first day of the Reagan administration. President Reagan asked Carter to fly to Germany to welcome the released hostages, while Reagan announced their return to Congress and the world.

Ode died on September 8, 1995 in Sun City West, Arizona, where he had lived in retirement with Rita in the home that she had described to him in her letters while he was captive in Iran.

Robert Ode’s Diary