Former CIA officer portrayed in ‘Argo’ film dead at 78

Former CIA officer portrayed in ‘Argo’ film dead at 78

2019/01/21 | 20:20 - Source: Baghdad Post

(ThisDay | Iraq News Now)- A former CIA technical operations officer who helped rescue

six US diplomats from Iran in 1980 and was portrayed by Ben Affleck in the film

“Argo”, has died, AP reported.

He was 78.A family statement and his literary agent confirmed that

Antonio “Tony” Mendez died Saturday at an assisted-living center in Frederick,


He had suffered from Parkinson’s disease, according to the statement.Specializing in covert operations, Mendez helped devise the

plan under which six diplomats who were in hiding were disguised as a Canadian

film crew so they could board a flight and escape the country amid the Iran

hostage crisis.

The daring plot — for years a side note to the 52 people held

hostage for 444 days — captured the public’s attention in “Argo”, which won the

2013 Oscar for best picture.Mendez, who joined the CIA after getting recruited in 1965,

spent his 25-year career working undercover in Cold War battlegrounds,

including the Soviet Union.

Working as a “chief of disguise,” Mendez and his

workers helped secret agents remain secret through creating false documents and

disguises, according to a biography for his first book, “The Master of

Disguise; My Secret Life in the CIA”.“Tony Mendez was a true American hero.

He was a man of

extraordinary grace, decency, humility and kindness,” Affleck tweeted Saturday.

“He never sought the spotlight for his actions, he merely sought to serve his


I’m so proud to have worked for him and to have told one of his

stories.”The “Argo” screenplay, based on another Mendez memoir and

also an Oscar winner, was liberally embellished for the big screen.

The six

Americans’ passage through the Tehran airport and onto a plane was uneventful,

Mendez wrote.

But the movie portrayed a white-knuckle takeoff at the Tehran

airport, with Iranian assault teams racing behind the jet down the runway.Born in Nevada, Mendez moved to Colorado at age 14, attended

the University of Colorado and worked for Martin Marietta on the Titan

intercontinental missile, according to the online biography .

He was recruited

for the CIA in Denver through a blind ad.

In less than two years, the biography

says, he and his family had moved overseas while Mendez worked in South and

Southeast Asia.His wife, Jonna, is also a former chief of disguise in the

CIA’s Office of Technical Service.

The two wrote a book about their agency work

in Moscow in the final days of the Cold War and their romance, which led to

their marriage after he retired in 1990.

Mendez was also an accomplished

painter.His family says he will be buried in a private ceremony at

the family graveyard in Nevada.

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