Texas man recalls being a hostage in Iran as 30th anniversary approaches

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Rick Kupke was busy encrypting classified messages inside the U.S. Embassy in Tehran when the Marine Corps guard yelled over the radio, "They're coming over the wall!"

Hundreds of Iranian student protesters were scaling the 7-foot wall around the embassy and making their way into the building through the tear gas being sprayed.

It was Nov. 4, 1979, and the administrative officer told Kupke to send a telegram to the State Department saying, "Demonstrators . . . are taking the embassy over."

Kupke, then a 33-year-old communications officer and electronics specialist, sent the telegram, closed a vault door to keep workers in the second-floor office safe and began shredding sensitive government documents — including those about unpopular Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who fled to the U.S. that year.

"The State Department asked me if I destroyed all the cables going back and forth about the shah. They said, 'You have to confirm to us that you personally destroyed that.' I said, 'Yes.' Then they gave us the order to destroy all of our equipment."

After Kupke smashed Teletype machines, he began the first of three trips to the roof to keep rifles and shotguns out of the hands of Iranians. After his third trip, he became the 66th — and final — American taken hostage that day.

He spent 444 days in captivity in what he and others call one of the United States' first confrontations with terrorism. The hostage takers wanted the shah returned to Iran; the hostages were the bargaining chip...

On Wednesday, 30 years after being taken hostage, Kupke plans to call a few of the former hostages.

"I’ll wish them a happy Nov. 4," he said. "It’s happy because we all lived through it."...

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