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Former hostage speaks survival at Rock Island Arsenal

ROCK ISLAND - A former captive during the IranianĀ  hostage crisis says he relied on God, family, and country to survive his 444 days locked up in the Embassy in Tehran.

Dr. Paul Needham said he was placed in solitary confinement much of the time during the ordeal. To fill his day and stay sane, he exercised and did math problems.

"I joke about how I used to do 1,000 pushups and 1,000 sit ups a day. You could do ten, then take a break. You had 24 hours to do it.I would sit in the corner sometimes and I would do calculus problems," he said.

"We went through mock firing squads where they lined us up against the wall. You learn about the resiliency you have within yourself," he said.

Dr. Needham was a 28-year-old Air Force captain when he was among those taken hostage on November 4, 1979 during the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran.

He was on a temporary duty assignment at the time.

Speaking today at the Rock Island Arsenal on the topic of resiliency, he received a standing ovation at the start and end of his one hour presentation.

He teared up talking about the failed 1980 mission named Operation Eagle Claw to try and rescue Needham and the others.

"Eight men died, they're buried in Arlington Cemetery, Section 46,"he said.

The hostages were released on January 20, 1981, the day of Ronald Reagan's inauguration. And his, mother's birthday.

"I celebrate that day. And, I got to say Happy Birthday to my mom. It was pretty special," he said.