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Argo - Story

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Canadian Caper

On November 4, 1979, Islamist militants invaded the American Embassy in Tehran, taking 66 American hostages. Six Americans who managed to escape were hidden by Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor and Canadian Immigration Officer John Sheardown in their homes. The rescue mission that resulted from the combined efforts of the Canadian government and the C.I.A. would go down in history as the "Canadian Caper."

The hostages remained in hiding for weeks, fearing capture and execution. With military helicopters passing overhead and Revolutionary Guards patrolling the streets—not to mention an anonymous caller who phoned the Taylor residence asking for two of the hidden Americans by name before hanging up—the situation seemed bleak.

Then, CIA exfiltration specialist Tony Mendez was enlisted to get them out. He set up a fake Hollywood production company, planning to disguise the hostages and pass them off as a Canadian film crew scouting the Middle East for filming locations for an "upcoming" Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster called Argo. With the government out of options, the absurd plan moved forward as a last-ditch effort to rescue the diplomats.

Prime Minister Joe Clark held an emergency, secret session at Parliament—the first since the second World War. Permission was granted to issue falsified Canadian passports for the six Americans, hoping that it would help them escape detection long enough to return home safely. The effort worked and Ken Taylor was applauded for his participation. He was appointed Canadian Consul-General to New York City and in 1980, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal.


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