John Sheardown, Canadian Who Sheltered Americans in Tehran, Dies at 88
When militant radicals seized the United States Embassy in Iran in November 1979, they intended to take all its employees hostage. But five were elsewhere in the embassy compound and escaped capture. After six tense days of furtively moving around Tehran, one of them, Robert Anders, placed a call to a Canadian diplomat with whom he played tennis, and asked for help.
“Hell, yes, of course,” the diplomat, John Sheardown, answered. “Count on us.”
The five employees had by then been joined by a sixth. Four ended up being hidden for nearly three months in the home of Mr. Sheardown, the Canadian Embassy’s No. 2 official, who died on Sunday at 88. The other two found refuge with the Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor.
The episode, which came to be known as the “Canadian caper,” was a footnote to the Iranian hostage crisis, in which young Iranian revolutionaries seized the American Embassy and held 52 people hostage for 444 days to try to force the United States to return the deposed shah from New York, where he was being treated for cancer. After the shah died in July 1980 in Egypt and war erupted between Iran and Iraq, negotiations with the United States led to the release of the hostages in January 1981.
The concealment and extrication of the American diplomats by the Canadian government and the Central Intelligence Agency inspired the recent movie “Argo.” Though Mr. Sheardown is not mentioned in it — public recognition always gravitated to Mr. Taylor, who is portrayed in the film as a hero — his role was nevertheless consequential.