One late fall evening 40 years ago, a worn-out white Gulfstream II jet descended over Fort Lauderdale, Fla., carrying a regal but sickly passenger almost no one was expecting.
Crowded aboard were a Republican political operative, a retinue of Iranian military officers, four smelly and hyperactive dogs and Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the newly deposed shah of Iran.
Yet as the jet touched down, the only one waiting to receive the deposed monarch was a senior executive of Chase Manhattan Bank, which had not only lobbied the White House to admit the former shah but had arranged visas for his entourage, searched out private schools and mansions for his family and helped arrange the Gulfstream to deliver him.
“The Eagle has landed,” Joseph V. Reed Jr., the chief of staff to the bank’s chairman, David Rockefeller, declared in a celebratory meeting at the bank the next morning.
Less than two weeks later, on Nov. 4, 1979, vowing revenge for the admission of the shah to the United States, revolutionary Iranian students seized the American Embassy in Tehran and then held more than 50 Americans — and Washington — hostage for 444 days.
The shah, Washington’s closest ally in the Persian Gulf, had fled Tehran in January 1979 in the face of a burgeoning uprising against his 38 years of iron-fisted rule. Liberals, leftists and religious conservatives were rallying against him. Strikes and demonstrations had shut down Tehran, and his security forces were losing control.