WIESBADEN, Germany — The arrival of the 52 American hostages at the U.S. Air Force hospital here was expected to be the beginning of a pampered protective custody.

Air Force security policemen are stationed at every hospital gate to keep journalists and others outside. Guards with police dogs wander the corridors and grounds. Radio-equipped police command posts are at the ends of the wing set up for the freed Americans.

Despite the high security, the atmosphere in the hospital wing has been joyous. Tuesday afternoon, medical personnel in the hostage wing were taping up dozens of posters made by students at the Hainerberg Elementary School. The colorful posters, some in crayon, summed up Americans' feelings: "Welcome back to our world," read one banner. Another proclaimed: "Ya you're back," with no explanation of the "Ya. " Another was filled with smiling faces and still another sported drawings of German and American flags.

Letters written by the children also were taped to the walls.

On the way to their third-floor rooms the hostages must pass under a huge banner draped on the outside of the hospital proclaiming: "Free at last!!! Iran is past."

The hostages can see hundreds of yellow ribbons tied around trees and posts and on the hospital walls. Small American flags have been attached to the handrails outside the hospital.

The hostage rooms each contain two beds, night stands and a chair. Their view is of the hospital grounds, a stone and white-slat fence and nearby homes. Outside the fence newsmen wait, hoping for glimpses of them.

Two to a room

Air Force officials said two hostages are assigned to each room. The rooms are equipped with televisions. Toothbrushes, toothpaste and other toiletries have been placed in the rooms.

A State Department official said the hostages would be free to roam the hospital.

Measures to insulate the hostages extend beyond the hospital grounds. The Amelia Earhart Hotel next to the hospital is guarded by security police and the Army's military police. .

At the hospital, SPs check identification of everyone trying to enter. "We're on a closed-mouth policy," one SP said, giving a forceful tug on his police dog's leash.

Outside the hospital, one lane of Konrad Adenauer Strasse was closed to make room for news media cars and trucks.

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