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On this day in 1980: The 'Canadian Caper' story behind Argo

In 1980, Canadian Ambassador to Iran Ken Taylor orchestrated the rescue mission of American hostages. On this day in 1980, CBC's The National revealed the full details behind the "Canadian Caper."

The National revealed Canada's role in spriting U.S. hostages to safety

Canadian Caper helps Americans escape Tehran

43 years ago
Duration 2:38
Six Americans find refuge at Canadian Embassy during Iranian hostage crisis.

In American actor and filmmaker Ben Affleck's film, Argo, a C.I.A. agent played by Affleck is credited with saving six American diplomats stationed in Iran, who fled the U.S. embassy in 1980 during a hostage taking in the middle of the Iranian revolution.

In reality, it was Canadian Ambassador to Iran Ken Taylor who orchestrated the rescue mission, working with government officials in Ottawa to fabricate Canadian identities for the American escapees, complete with fake passports, credit cards, and manufactured receipts from real Toronto and Montreal restaurants. On this day in 1980, CBC's The National revealed the full details behind the "Canadian Caper":

Ben Affleck accepts the 2013 Academy Award for 'Best Picture' (Reuters/Marco Anzuoni)

Argo didn't exactly rob Canada of its credit. It's a fictionalized version of real events, which Ken Taylor himself acknowledged to the Toronto Star in 2012 has to "keep the audience on the edge of their seats." As Affleck explained to Macleans the film took "some dramatic license."  But when the opportunity came for Affleck to recognize Canada's role, he missed it. His hurried acceptance speech for Argo's 2013 Best Picture Oscar thanked C.I.A. agent Tony Mendez (who Affleck played in the film) for letting "us do his story" even though Mendez played a smaller role than Taylor. To his credit, Affleck said "I want to thank Canada." But, there wasn't much more than that.

Taylor was being super Canadian about it, but former U.S. President Jimmy Carter told CNN, "the main hero, in my opinion, was Ken Taylor." Hopefully, next time Canada comes to the rescue it won't take being written into Ben Affleck's acceptance speeches to get more shine. 

Visit the CBC Digital Archives for more throwbacks like this one.

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