Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History
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The true, declassified account of CIA operative Tony Mendez's daring rescue of American hostages from Iran that inspired the critically-acclaimed film directed by and starring Ben Affleck, and co-starring John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and Bryan Cranston.
On November 4, 1979, Iranian militants stormed the American embassy in Tehran and captured dozens of American hostages, sparking a 444-day ordeal and a quake in global politics still reverberating today. But there is a little-known drama connected to the crisis: six Americans escaped. And a top-level CIA officer named Antonio Mendez devised an ingenious yet incredibly risky plan to rescue them before they were detected.
Disguising himself as a Hollywood producer, and supported by a cast of expert forgers, deep cover CIA operatives, foreign agents, and Hollywood special effects artists, Mendez traveled to Tehran under the guise of scouting locations for a fake science fiction film called Argo. While pretending to find the perfect film backdrops, Mendez and a colleague succeeded in contacting the escapees, and smuggling them out of Iran.
Antonio Mendez finally details the extraordinarily complex and dangerous operation he led more than three decades ago. A riveting story of secret identities and international intrigue, Argo is the gripping account of the history-making collusion between Hollywood and high-stakes espionage.
event had become a media circus, with hundreds of journalists from all over the world descending on the U.S. embassy in Tehran to point their cameras and pontificate on the nightly news. It’s clear that early on the militants viewed the media as an ally and counted on them to beam their message into America’s living rooms. This, of course, led to an odd situation in which American journalists roamed freely about the city while sixty-six of their fellow countrymen were being held hostage. Most of
with Calloway and explained the cover story for the Hollywood location scouting party. He was immediately intrigued, and said he thought it could work. He agreed with me that the eccentricities of the people working in the film business were well known, probably even among Iranians. Even better, he said, Canada had a fairly robust film industry, so the cover would fit perfectly with the Canadian documentation. I then began thinking of how I was going to create a crack in which to drive a wedge
meet me at the check–in counter. Ideally, in an operation of this kind, if anything went wrong, we would have a couple of cars waiting outside in case we needed to bug out in a hurry. We had no such backup—no backup plan at all, in fact. Once we got inside the airport and into the teeth of their security, there would be no chance to turn back. All of the houseguests had been through the airport, but I wanted to make sure there were no surprises. Despite being almost like a chicken coop, the
was happy to see that despite this close call, no one had panicked. The line inched forward, stalling occasionally as arguments broke out between the passengers and the immigration officer. Several Iranians were trying to travel on false documents, and one woman was pulled into secondary when she refused to cooperate. A few weeks earlier, Cora had read an article in the local paper about a woman who had been caught trying to smuggle money in her vagina. As she watched the woman being pulled from
Memoirs of a President. New York: Bantam, 1982. Christopher, Warren, Harold Saunders, Gary Sick, and Paul H. Kreisberg. American Hostages in Iran: The Conduct of a Crisis. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985. Daugherty, William. In the Shadow of the Ayatollah: A CIA Hostage in Iran. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2001. Eisenhower, Dwight D. Mandate for Change. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1963. Gwertsman, Bernard. “6 American Diplomats, Hidden by Canada, Leave Iran,” New York