Bruce Laingen

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Bruce Laingen
United States Chargé d'affaires to Iran
In office
June 16, 1979 – November 4, 1979 (de facto)
President Jimmy Carter
Preceded by William H. Sullivan (as Ambassador)
Succeeded by Position abolished
United States Ambassador to Malta
In office
January 11, 1977 – January 20, 1979
President Gerald Ford
Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Robert P. Smith
Succeeded by Joan M. Clark
Personal details
Born Lowell Bruce Laingen
(1922-08-06) August 6, 1922 (age 96)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
Alma mater St. Olaf College
National War College
University of Minnesota
Military service
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 1943–1946
Battles/wars World War II

Lowell Bruce Laingen (born August 6, 1922) is an American retired diplomat who served as the United States Ambassador to Malta from 1977 and 1979. Laingen is best known as the most senior American official held hostage during the Iran hostage crisis, serving as the chargé d'affaires (head of diplomatic mission) at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.[1][2][3]

Personal life and career[edit]

Laingen, born on a farm in southern Minnesota, graduated from St. Olaf College. He also studied at the National War College, and received a M.A. in International Relations from the University of Minnesota. During World War II, Laingen served in the U.S. Navy, and in 1949 he joined the U.S. Foreign Service. He served at posts in Germany, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and was then appointed Ambassador to Malta by President Gerald Ford in 1977.[1][3]

Laingen holding a speech on January 27, 1981, with President Ronald Reagan in the background

Laingen was then sent back to Iran as the U.S. Chargé d'affaires in June 1979, after Ambassador William H. Sullivan and Chargé d'affaires Charlie Naas were relieved of their posts by President Jimmy Carter.[4] On November 4, 1979, the U.S. embassy was overrun by student protesters following the Iranian Revolution. 63 hostages were taken at the embassy, while Laingen and two others were seized at the Iranian Foreign Ministry Office. Mrs. Laingen tied a yellow ribbon about the oak at their home during the crisis.[5] Laingen and 51 hostages were released on January 20, 1981, following 444 days of captivity. Laingen remains the last American head of mission to Iran, as direct bilateral diplomatic relations between the two governments were severed following the seizure of the embassy and have not been restored.

After they were released from Iran, he and fellow hostages arrived in the United States at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. This occurred in January 1981.[6] Four months later, on May 26, 1981, the West Point Class of 1981 honored him as their Graduation Banquet Speaker during a formal dining event in the Cadet Mess Hall. Laingen was awarded the State Department's Award for Valor along with several other recognitions. The Library of Congress holds his correspondence [7] with Joel Hettger in their manuscript division.

Laingen's next position was that of Vice President of the National Defense University, a post traditionally held by a senior diplomat. He retired from the Foreign Service in 1987 after 38 years of service. Laingen previously served as the President of the American Academy of Diplomacy.



  1. ^ a b "Former Iranian Hostage, Ambassador Bruce Laingen Statement: Don't Hold Successful Diplomacy Hostage to History". Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-03-08.
  2. ^ "Diplomat's In Harm's Way – Bruce Laingen". The Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training.
  3. ^ a b "Tribute to Ambassador L. Bruce Laingen – U.S. Senate". Library of Congress. 2012-07-26.
  4. ^ "Interview with Ambassador L. Bruce Laingen" (PDF). The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project. 1993-01-09.
  5. ^ "How the Yellow Ribbon Became a National Folk Symbol".
  6. ^ USMA class of 1981 Graduation Banquet program and History, Darryl Wayne Peterson, MD Member, USMA Class of 1981
  7. ^ "Catalogue Search Results".

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Robert P. Smith
United States Ambassador to Malta
January 11, 1977 – January 20, 1979
Succeeded by
Joan Margaret Clark