Since Argo won best picture on Sunday night’s Academy Awards, I’ve been thinking about Colonel Leland James Holland. He wasn’t rescued; he was one of the 52 held for 444 days in Tehran.
Col. Holland was a native of Scales Mound, Illinois, a town of less than 350 people. For anyone who regularly reads my posts, you may remember that my mother, maternal grandparents and great-grandparents also hail from Scales Mound. During the hostage crisis, I was in grade school at Platteville, Wisconsin; I remember the never-ending count of days which occurred on the news every night. Day 58… Day 96… Day 167…. Day 242… Day 312… Day 429… Every day until the hostages were released.
I have no idea if any of my relatives knew Col. Holland. My grandmother graduated in 1940, so perhaps she knew of him. Much more likely is that my grandparents knew the family, in general, since they were farmers.
Col. Holland was born 02 August 1927, and graduated from Scales Mound High School in 1945. He was one of 19 graduates that year. Holland enlisted in the Army, and became a career military officer with service in Korea and two tours in Vietnam. In 1978, he was assigned to the embassy in Tehran as army attaché. On 04 November 1979, Iranian militants stormed the embassy, and took hostages, 52 of whom weren’t released until Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President on 20 January 1981.
In an interview published in the Rockford Register Star (Rockford, IL) a year after he was freed, Col. Holland discussed his captivity. “There were threats – and threats – and more threats and more threats… The first time they put a gun to my head I was scared. But after the second, third and fourth times, I just told them to pull the trigger if they were going to and to leave me alone if they weren’t.” (1)
In the same interview, Col. Holland said “It has been a hectic year, dashing all over the country for guest appearances and reliving those days… I’ve shook the hands of two presidents, got season tickets to the baseball games, been on national television, talked to the national press, been offered free trips, free food and free booze. But the best thing that happened to me in all that time was last February when I finally made it back home. I’ll never forget the thousands of yellow ribbons and the cheering of the school kids as I came back to my hills. The way that little town [Scales Mound] welcomed me back means more than anything that’s happened to me. It’s my fondest memory. It’s the one thing I’ll never forget.” Read full Rockford Register Star interview (PDF).
Col. Holland was a husband and father of six children. Nine years after his release, Holland died of prostate cancer on 02 October 1990 in Washington D.C., with burial at Arlington National Cemetery. His military decorations included the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star.
ArlingtonCemetery.net interviewed his daughter, Barb Holland, in 2004, and she spoke of how the family was stunned when every surviving hostage attended his funeral. “One by one, they would come up to me and tell me how much he had meant to them while they were imprisoned. They’d say that he was their teacher, the one who taught them Morse code, taught them how to pass messages from cell to cell, taught them how to cope. They loved him.” (2)
Which takes me back to Argo. I haven’t seen the movie, but it’s on my list of movies to watch. And please remember that while Argo gets accolades, we mustn’t forget those that endured captivity and have never received reparations for their ordeal.
The National Journal has a very interesting article about the hostages, reparations, and how the ordeal affected families. (It starts with Leland’s son John remembering his father; scroll down the page to listen to John talk about his father’s ordeal.)
(1) Mooney, M. (1982, January 17). Former Iranian hostage marks a year of freedom. Rockford Register Star, pp. A1, A5.
(2) Arlington National Cemetery. (2004, October 30). Captive’s family recounts ordeal. Retrieved from http://arlingtoncemetery.net/ljholland.htm
19 Comments Add yours
I’ve seen the movie, and I must say that I was very disappointed! There was a very brief scene showing the true hostages that were being held in the basement! If they really wanted to do a movie concerning what truly happened in this situation perhaps they should of invested more time in the hostages that were held there! Grandmother of Clara Rose Holland, great-grandaughter of Colonel Leland Holland, Just one of the hostages held in Iran.
very good article! we must never forget….I was good friends with the Colonel’s son, Joe, who also recently passed. I only met Col.Holland a couple times. He must have been a great person, because I know his son was one of a kind friend. A great reflection of his father. They are both missed.
I enjoyed your post, being from Scales Mound myself I remember a school assembly honoring him after his passing and his wife talking to everyone telling of his story. There is a road dedicated to him that runs from Scales Mound to Elizabeth. Although Argo was a good movie they fail to honor the hostages that were held for so long.
Your last name is familiar to me. After my grandmother died, I inherited four nice pictures which included a Stadel. The majority aren’t identified because the pictures came from the Schoenhard side of the family (my grandfather’s aunt married a Schoenhard. Her husband’s half-sister married a Stadel). The only picture identified was Isola Lillian Stadel, daughter of Ernest Stadel and Lillian Caroline Schoenhard.
May he have the heavenly peace he so rightly earned. God Bless you sir!
He was a wonderful Commander at USASSD, Ft. Bragg, NC, Airborne, Russ Fuller
Occasionally I google my Dad’s name just to see what’s out there. This is the first I have heard of your site. It is wonderful to know that Dad will be remembered through the years to come. He loved Scales Mound, IL and now with the new Veteran’s Memorial, he will be remembered by all who visit. Thank you to Aunt Betty and Uncle Eddie Holland, may he rest in peace, and their family for keeping Dad’s memory alive in his hometown. Thank you for sharing your good memories. Sincerely, Rose (Holland) Brinkmann, his youngest daughter.
I had the great pleasure of meeting Col Holland in Vietnam in 1966, as he would visit our office occasionally. We had a lot of great conversations about our days growing up in Illinois. As others have noted, he had that magnetic personality that one never forgets. Although I was able to speak to him by the phone after his release, I regret that I was not able to see him and shake his hand once again. He was a great American whose spirit will never die. Bob Goldasich…..Carterville, Il
Dear Mr. Goldasich: What a great pleasure to hear your memories of our Dad. He did have a magnetic personality. He loved people and had the true Irish ‘gift o’ the gab’. We used to joke about him being a piper that brings people along. I know that if he were alive he would be on all the talk shows sharing his life and reminding people of the price of our freedoms and that we shouldn’t take anything for granted. He was proud of his rural roots and proud of the whole Holland Family. Thank you for remembering him and sharing your memories with us. Take care and God bless,
Rose Brinkmann (Holland)
I remember Colonel Holland from his days as Post Commander at Vint Hill Farms Station in Warrenton, VA. I believe that was his last assignment before he retired. During the hostage ordeal I watched the news every night, like all American’s did, worrying about each hostage and praying for their safe return. When Colonel Holland came to Vint Hill I was in awe of him and the extreme conditions he and the other hostages had to endure. He once spoke about his experiences at the post theater. I wish I could remember each of his words and each of his stories; for example, he told us how the hostages were constantly watched by the hostage takers – even when they went to the bathroom. Colonel Holland decided to do his business in such a way that they decided to stop watching the hostages when they were using the bathroom. That stoke of cunning and genius enabled the hostages to leave notes to each other hidden behind the toilet.)
To have heard about their experiences from one of the hostages was mind blowing. I was very proud to have known him. We at Vint Hill admired his bravery during such a scary time and appreciated him as an intelligent, kind, and genuinely sincere man. God bless Colonel Holland.
Dear Ms. Scogin,
Vint Hill Farms will always be special to our family. Dad loved the base and the folks of Warrenton. Last time we were there was when they decommissioned the base and turned it over to Warrenton, VA. It will always be a special place for our family.
I served under, then, Captain Holland, 1964 and 1965 with the 430th Intelligence Detachment, Verona, Italy. He was a great guy to work for and work with, and to just be around. He was very personable with a ready smile and laugh.
When it happened, I was shocked to find out that he was one of the Iranian hostages, and followed news accounts closely to learn anything about his condition. I remember the day the plane landed carrying the hostages; I was seated in front of a TV with about a dozen co-workers watching the slow procession of individuals exiting the plane. Upon spotting him, I yelled something like, “There he is” and the group of us let out a cheer.
It is serendipitous that I happened upon this site. I’m happy to learn more about his family and background, and I can well relate to the quote of Barb Holland, above, describing how his fellow hostages felt about him. While, of course, in my case the circumstances were much different, but in our unit he was very well admired, respected and liked. And I have only fond memories of him. It was an honor and pleasure to serve with him.
Mr. Chambers, Thank you for your kind words about our father, Col. Leland J. Holland. Memories of our time in Verona, Italy are often revisited at family gatherings. Dad was a great man.
I do have sad news that Ed Clark, who served with Dad in Verona, recently passed away. Ed & his wife, Lois, were constants in our lives, even after Italy. All throughout Dad’s captivity in Iran they kept watch over our family and especially our Mom, Mary Ann.
Ms. Brinkmann, Thanks for letting me know about Ed Clark; he was also a good man and I’m glad that he and his wife were there for you during your difficult times.
Verona also has a special place in my heart. I married a girl from a town north of the city, up in the mountains, and we have been back there many times over the years.
One day I shall return to have a grand tour. I would enjoy revisiting Verona and Vincenza, we lived in both places.
Just found this. I served with Col Holland at SSO XVIII Corp, Ft Bragg. Years later, after his release, he was out to the Intel school at Ft. Huachuca, and made a point of bragging me up to all when we met for a social afternoon in Tombstone. I was a brand new W1 at USCLSA.