Frustration and anger at being taken hostage and allowed to remain captive in Iran for 14 1/2 months were said today to have led to critical questions and remarks by some excaptives to former president Carter during last night's emotional encounter here.
According to several accounts, the meeting inside the U.S. Air Force hospital at Wiesbaden between the former hostages and the man whose decisions were centrally involved in their capture and release led to a sense of confrontation.
But the criticism voiced appeared to be another facet of the mixed undercurrent of emotions being experienced by those who have just begun their search into why their release took so long.
State Department spokesman Jack Cannon told reporters today that the meeting "was conducted in a generally friendly atmosphere" but that "a number of persons" had "serious concerns about the past and so expressed those serious concerns."
"At some points," added Cannon, "there was tension." But as the former president explained his administration's intense effort to win freedom for the hostages, Cannon said the tension in the room "lessened greatly" and the meeting ended on a "friendly note."
Asked whether the former hostages may have voiced particular bitterness about the failed U.S. attempt to rescue them last April -- which they were said to have learned about while still in captivity -- Cannon said, "I imagine the case probably is yes," although he added that he had not received a full report on the hostages' views.
The former hostages' bitterness tended to go in two directions, with some blaming Carter for ignoring warnings that the embassy in Terhan was a target for hositle action while ohters were bitter about the perceived lack of forceful government actions against Iran following the seizure.
CBS News quoted Dr. and Mrs. Ernest Cooke of Memphis on saying they received a phone call from their son Donald in Wiesbaden last night just as Carter had arrived at the hospital. "asked if he wished to see Carter, Donald Cooke, a vice consul in Tehran, declined because he blamed him for not doing anything in the face of three warnings the embassy might be seized," CBS said.
Mrs. Cooke said some other hostages were as displeased as her son that Carter came to the hospital.
The Cookes told CBS that Carter joined their son while he was on the phone to Memphis, that Mrs. Cooke spoke briefly with the former president but that Dr. Cooke left the room.
The Detroit Free Press quoted Air Force Capt. Carmelo Scali, 32, medical service corpsman who was aboard the plane carrying the 52 American from Algiers to Wiesbadem. as saying that four hostages he spoke with "were pretty bitter" about the Carter administration's handling of the crisis.
Scalzi quoted one former hostages as saying he wished the United States had bombed Iran even if that meant his own death. "At least we would have done something," Scalzi quoted the young man as saying.
Scalzi also quoted a former captive as saying, "I don't think there are two people on this plane who would care if Carter is there [to greet us]."
Former presidential press secretary Jody Powell, reached by phone today in Plains, Ga., said he had not detected tension in the meeting between Carter and the former hostages. Told of Cannon's characterization of the encounter, Powell, who was present at the meeting, noted that Cannon was not.
When asked whether he thought there was tenison in the room, Powell said no, "but perhaps I have the disadvantage of having been there."
Powell said one ex-hostage had asked Carter to talk about the rescue mission and told the former president: I wish you had done it earlier."
In reply, Powell said Carter gave two reasons for waiting until he did to attempt the rescue: first, that it took time to plan; second, that the decision to make the effort came only after secret discussions had failed.
Another of the freed Americans was said by Powell to have questioned Carter on the decision to allow the late shah to enter the United States for medical care -- a decision that helped trigger the seizure of theStates U.S. Embassy in Iran on Nov. 4, 1979.
Powell said Carter answered by underlining Iran's formerly long history of friendship with the United States and the desperate medical condition of the shah at the time of the request was made for admission to a U.S hospital.
Former hostages Donald R. Hohman Jr. told the ABC News that Carter's visit last night had changed his mind about the man.
"I had some bitterness toward some of the things that president Carter did, but last night after listening to him I've changed my mind on a lot of things he did. I'll always respect that man for what he did last night, specically to come and speak with the hostages when he didn't have to . . . he came to us and gave us his honest answers."
Hohman added, apprently referring to critical questions directed at the former president, "And he took it like a man and I'll always respect him."
While still very much preoccupied with sorting out the past, the exhostages were scheduled tonight to ask questions aobut their future in a session with former secretary of state Cyrus Vance. Among the many things thought to be weighting on their minds are questions about additional compensation for the stress they and their families suffured and concerns about their future careers.
Still largely sheltered from most of the public and press, the 52, on their second day of freedom, began a comprehensive schedule of medical exams following a ripple of reports of mistreatmeant that had endured in captivity.
U.S. officials told reporters that each of the freed Americans will be following an independent program of medical checks and extensive talks with officials from a number of government agencies.
Hamilton Cubben, a psychologist from the University of Minnesota who spoke to several of the hostages today, said they were "very candid, very open" in relating their experiences to interviewers, which is something for which he said government authorities had hoped.
At the same time, there was one report that one of the older ex-hostages has refused to talk and was remaining confined in his hospital room.
Cubben said there was "some bitternness, latent anger" in some of the hostages regarding the time it took to free them. But he added that some of this appears to be lessening as they learn more about government and public concern for them while they were in captivity.
Cannon said that the freed Americans "have shown an intense interest in finding out what happened in the outside world during their period of captivity, particularly about the efforts to gain their release." Two closed-circuit television sets with video cassettes of specially prepared news clips covering the last 14 months of events were said to be in constant use by the former hostages.
While a large corps of uncreasingly frustrated journalists stayed camped outside the military hospital here where the ex-hostages are staying, most of the former captives continued to duck direct interviews with the press. m
Cannon reported that the group decided unanimously over breakfast today not to talk to reporters yet about their experiences in Iran. Government officials have stressed repeatedly the importance of privacy for the released Americans as they readjust to freedom, families and a world of publicity.
The initial reluctance on the hostages' part to meet the press has stricted reporters, photographers and television camera crews to shuttling along the hosptial's outer gate for a passing glance at the ex-captives as they occasionally emerge.
"The hostage watch" started today, for instance, at 8:30 a.m. with visits to the dentist. Periodically through the day, an ex-captive would leave the wing in which they all are living to walk across to a low white building for a dental check.
Along the way, each would pass about 50 yards from the main entrance to the hospital grounds, where a pack of chilled correspondents stood shouting and gesturing, urging the former hostages to come over for interviews which, for the most part, were politely declined.
Two young Marine guards who had been in Iran -- Steven Kirtley and Rodney Sickmann -- did stop briefly to say how well they are now being cared for. Barry Rosen, formerly the embassy's information officer, stopped to deliver a blast at his former Iranian captors.
A wide variety of other people were finding their way into the hospital and into contact with the ex-hostages who, U.S. officials observed, are free to see whomever they please. Most anyone, it seems, with a valid military base pass -- plus scores of children -- have been able to drift past the guards and into the hospital "lobby where many of the freed Americans wander through dressed in their light blue pajamas.
Cannon said the 52 are still expected to stay in Wiesbaden for at least the "next several days" before returning to the United States.