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