Canadian hostage crisis hero Sheardown, 88, celebrated


First aired on All In A Day (03/01/13)

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John Sheardown, a Canadian hero during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, died late December at 88 years old. After Ben Affleck's blockbuster flick Argo left Sheardown's story out of its screenplay, one of the men Sheardown helped rescue, Mark Lijek, wrote a book to celebrate Sheardown's often overshadowed heroism.

"We would never have survived long enough to be rescued by the CIA if it had not been for John," Lijek told CBC's All in a Day.


Lijek's book, The Houseguests: a Story of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery, tells the story of then 27-year-old Lijek and five other Americans sheltered by Sheardown for three months after escaping from the U.S. embassy in Tehran until they were secretly shuttled out of the country in a CIA-masterminded plan.


"He never let us feel that we were imposing, despite the fact we were eating all his food and drinking all his whisky," said Lijek. "He was the perfect host."

Sheardown, who Lijek describes as very likable, decent and genuine, became almost a father-figure to Lijek during that time.


houseguests-lijek-120.jpgSheardown and his wife worked hard to conceal their houseguests. Sheardown shopped at different stores to avoid buying huge quantities of groceries at single locations and took out the garbage in the middle of the night. His wife ensured visitors and the couple's gardener, who was a member of the local revolutionary committee, did not get suspicious.


Lijek wrote the book because he wanted the Canadians to get the credit he feels they deserve, after being mainly ignored by mainstream media and Argo.


"I realized it was a now-or-never moment for me," said Lijek, referring to how he felt after reading initial Argo screenplay drafts, which omitted Sheardown's story.


Although Lijek appreciates the CIA's role in the group's rescue, he said he feels that the primary rescue happen on Nov. 10 -- the day they marched into Sheardown's house.


"Of all the people that I talk about in my book as heroes," he said, "if I had to pick one, it would be John."

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