Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador who was the hero of the 1979 hostage crisis in Iran, died Thursday. He was 81.

Ken Taylor Dies

Taylor passed away following a two-month battle with colon cancer, reported CNN.

During what has been dubbed the “Canadian Caper,” Taylor helped the Canadian government and the CIA rescue six American diplomats after students and militants raided the U.S. Embassy on Nov. 4, 1979. More than 50 Americans were taken hostage, leaving only 12 who managed to escape. Taylor’s role was hiding six American envoys until safe transport could be arranged out of the country. He harbored them until January 1980.

Former President Jimmy Carter, who was in office at the time of the hostage crisis, lauded Taylor as “the main hero” of the covert operation. Not only did Taylor unquestioningly offer sanctuary to the American diplomats, he figured prominently in the escape plan, including obtaining Canadian passports and forged visas.

“He always liked to say that anybody else would have done exactly what he had done. On the other hand, he did it,” Taylor’s son, Douglas Taylor, told CBC News. “And I don’t think it was just simply a fact of his being there. It was, you know, a reflection of his character, and how he was able to handle an extremely difficult situation.”

Ben Affleck‘s Oscar-winning film Argo (2012) was loosely based on the real-life drama. In the film, Taylor was portrayed by Canadian film and TV star Victor Garber. 

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