How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History

Book - 2012
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This is a true story of secret identities and international intrigue; it is the gripping account of the history making collusion between Hollywood and high-stakes espionage. It relates the true account of the 1979 rescue of six American hostages from Iran. On November 4, 1979, Iranian militants stormed the American embassy in Tehran and captured dozens of American hostages, sparking a 444-day ordeal. But there is a little-known footnote to the crisis: six Americans escaped. A midlevel agent named Antonio Mendez devised an ingenious yet incredibly risky plan to rescue them. Armed with foreign film visas, Mendez and an unlikely team of CIA agents and Hollywood insiders, directors, producers, and actors, traveled to Tehran under the guise of scouting locations for a fake film called Argo. While pretending to find the ideal backdrops, the team succeeded in contacting the escapees and smuggling them out of Iran without a single shot being fired. Here the author finally details the extraordinarily complex and dangerous operation he led more than three decades ago.
Publisher: New York : Viking, 2012
ISBN: 9780670026227
Branch Call Number: 955.0542 M5383a 2012
Characteristics: viii, 310 pages ; 25 cm
Additional Contributors: Baglio, Matt


From Library Staff

The book that inspired the film, this is the true story of how a team of CIA agents and Hollywood insiders used the guise of filmmaking to rescue six Americans hiding in Iran after escaping the November 4, 1979 takeover of the American embassy.

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This story recalls the November 4, 1979 hostage taking at the American Embassy in Tehran. Not only is it a captivating account of the events, but authors Antonio J. Mendez and Matt Baglio give behind-the-scenes secrets into the CIA’s forgeries and disguise department. With the daring plan to get the hostages out of Tehran as a Hollywood film crew, and Canada’s brave role in assisting them, this book a must-read- or you can listen to it, like I did – fantastic stuff! (submitted by DH)

Aug 25, 2017

I watched the movie and was fascinated that a plan so outlandish actually worked. You wouldn't have believed it otherwise. The main story of getting the group at the Embassy out of Iran didn't happen until the last quarter of the book, I think the rescue shouldve been expanded more in the book so I'm only giving the book three stars.

One commentary below questioned the group at the Embassy drinking a lot, the Canadian Embassy had lots of liquer already there and they wanted to use it up before they left.
Also the group didn't have anything to do for weeks and weeks on end i could see drinking becoming a routine part of the day. Ten grand to rescue 6 hostages is money well spent even for that day.
Damn Obama gave Iran a lot more when he was in office.

Jan 06, 2015

On the whole, this was a great story about the CIA in the 1970's and the kind of fearless work undertaken not only by the CIA, but by those in the movie industry and in Canada itself to help with this operation. Highly recommended. Thanks, Canada!

Mar 25, 2014

The commenter below me, Franklin1, really nails this, it was a Canadian operation. More accurate than this book or movie, would be to research the presidential directive which Zbignew Brzezinksi claimed President Carter issued to destabilize the once-secular government of Afghanistan (together with Saudi Arabia they financed the relocation of Islamic Wahabist extremists to Afghanisan's northern border - - which had been populated with the moderate Sufi Islam believers - - that border being shared by the Soviet Union). Also, research how Kermit Roosevelt (and his cousin, Archibald Roosevelt) of the CIA led the overthrow of the democratically-elected Mossedegh back in 1953, because that Iranian prime minister wanted to nationalize the Iranian oil fields, i.e., use Iranian oil to enrich the Iranian people, not the multinationals! (Aramco, today known as BP, is half owned by the Rockefeller, Mellon and Rothschild families, and the other half ostensibly owned by the British government. Kermit Roosevelt would later go on be attain the position of Assistant CEO at Gulf Oil [Mellon-owned].)

Dec 02, 2013

I am actually old enough to remember this event in our Canadian political history and was very disappointed in Ben Afflek's initial attempts to tell a story so full of omissions.

It was only after he visited Canada that he was informed of how great his lack of due diligence was in telling this story accurately. Apparently, he accepted Mendez's account at face value. The more accurate account is in the movie itself.

At the time, when the depth of the Canadian contribution, plus the risk to all the embassy workers came to light It was a proud moment for Canadians. It is more than disappointingt o now, after all these years, see how Mendes/Afflec have
reinvented the historical truth.

thart May 23, 2013

I read this for the CLPL Real World Reads Book Club (non-fiction club) for May 2013. It was a really easy read and since I did not see the movie or any trailers for it I was not sullied by it before reading. I plan on getting the movie from the library now that I have read it to see if it is any good compared to the book. Apparently they are very different, as the actual rescue does not happen until the last 20 pages of the book, and I was told that the rescue itself is what the entire movie focuses on, so the film must be quite different in feel from the book. The book's author had a really nice writer's voice, it was not tense or scary, it was informative and fun, a pretty light read actually compared to other non-fiction books I have read. It was a quick read too, you kind of blink and you are halfway through the book. It was interesting to find out how makeup artists helped the CIA improve their disguise tactics over the years, and little details like making sure you have the right staple on a fake passport because a certain country uses cheap ones that rust on purpose. We also never find out the real name of the makeup artist who worked with the CIA for so many years, so I am curious if anybody has put all the little fact crumbs the author gives the reader together and has figured out who the makeup artist really was/is... I am still a little up in the air about how I feel about the government spending $10,000 in the late 1970s (must be an enormous amount in today's terms) to rescue only 6 people who were pretty safe in a nice mansion and hosted by the Canadian ambassador. They spent their time tanning, getting drunk, and playing scrabble, so the amount of money spent seems a bit excessive for people not in any kid of serious and immediate danger. I also could not believe how the rescue of the rest of the people held hostage in the U.S. embassy for 444 days went so terribly wrong and that the head honchos of the government agencies were not smart enough to try and use the cover story again in some way. Since I was extremely young when all this happened, it helped put the time period into context for me, and also why the U.S. tried to keep up diplomatic relations with Iran, how it overlapped with the USSR making their way into Afghanistan, and why this helped motivate people to not re-elect Jimmy Carter. Pretty slick timing on the part of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Definitely worth a read, it is interesting, informative, and a fairly light book considering it is a pretty heavy political topic and shares some working methods of the CIA. Their ability to find people who can look like multiple ethnicities, speak multiple languages, and go unnoticed as an average Joe makes me wonder how many times we have actually seen them in airports and just do not know it...

rdoug51 Apr 02, 2013

While not as well written as it could be, the book does give a more truthful account of what really happened in Argo and makes the climax of the escape just as exciting as the movie without all the drama and gunfire. A definite must read.

Feb 23, 2013

Is the book only making it seem like the Americans and CIA were the heroes? If so, I won't bother ... the real heroes were the Canadians, and the movie Argo disregards them completely as sidekicks.

Feb 18, 2013

After seeing the movie version of Argo twice, I wanted to read Antonio Mendez's account of the events. I'm so glad that I did! This is a very well-written book, and I gained a real appreciation for the work that Mendez and his colleagues at the CIA do in cases like this, even though they're putting themselves in great danger. I also enjoyed reading about the rescue as it really happened, since there are - of course - differences between the book and the movie. All in all, this is a very enjoyable book.

Jan 04, 2013

May be a good story, but not a good read. Gave up on it as it was poorly written

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Dimmu16 Dec 17, 2012

Frightening or Intense Scenes: Some intense scenes!

Dimmu16 Dec 17, 2012

Violence: Just really from the Iranian people.

Dimmu16 Dec 17, 2012

Coarse Language: Its all miled. Not big F bombs.


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Nov 17, 2012

If you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.

Nov 17, 2012

That the truth is not necessarily everyone's business, especially when your country is relying on you to keep its secrets.


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Dimmu16 Dec 17, 2012

Dimmu16 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over


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Dimmu16 Dec 17, 2012

How the CIA, Hollywood, and a lot of help from Canada (go us!) pulled off a incredible rescue! Bringing 6 Americains out of Iran in 1979!

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