The Cold War was the first major conflict between superpowers in which victory and defeat were unambiguously determined without the firing of a shot. Without the shield of a strong, silent deterrent or the intellectual sword of espionage beneath the sea, that war could not have been won.
John P. Craven was a key figure in the Cold War beneath the sea. As chief scientist of the Navy's Special Projects Office, which supervised the Polaris missile system, then later as head of the Deep Submergence Systems Project (DSSP) and the Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle program (DSRV), both of which engaged in a variety of clandestine undersea projects, he was intimately involved with planning and executing America's submarine-based nuclear deterrence and submarine-based espionage activities during the height of the Cold War. Craven was considered so important by the Soviets that they assigned a full-time KGB agent to spy on him.
Some of Craven's highly classified activities have been mentioned in such books as Blind Man's Bluff, but now he gives us his own insights into the deadly cat-and-mouse game that U.S. and Soviet forces played deep in the world's oceans. Craven tells riveting stories about the most treacherous years of the Cold War. In 1956 Nautilus, the world's first nuclear-powered submarine and the backbone of the Polaris ballistic missile system, was only days or even hours from sinking due to structural damage of unknown origin. Craven led a team of experts to diagnose the structural flaw that could have sent the sub to the bottom of the ocean, taking the Navy's missile program with it.
Craven offers insight into the rivalry between the advocates of deterrence (with whom he sided) and those military men and scientists, such as Edward Teller, who believed that the United States had to prepare to fight and win a nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union. He describes the argument that raged in the Navy over the reasons for the tragic loss of the submarine Thresher, and tells the astonishing story of the hunt for the rogue Soviet sub that became the model for The Hunt for Red October -- including the amazing discovery the Navy made when it eventually found the sunken sub.
Craven takes readers inside the highly secret DSSP and DSRV programs, both of which offered crucial cover for sophisticated intelligence operations. Both programs performed important salvage operations in addition to their secret espionage activities, notably the recovery of a nuclear bomb off Palomares, Spain. He describes how the Navy's success at deep-sea recovery operations led to the takeover of the entire program by the CIA during the Nixon administration.
A compelling tale of intrigue, both within our own government and between the U.S. and Soviet navies, The Silent War is an enthralling insider's account of how the submarine service kept the peace during the dangerous days of the Cold War.
In May 1968, submarine specialist John Craven, then chief scientist of the navy's special projects office, had just crossed into Virginia from Washington, D.C., on his way home from work when he heard an alarming news report on the radio. The USS Scorpion, a submarine, was missing in the ocean with 99 men on board. On hearing the news, Craven writes, "I immediately turned my car around and headed for the war room of the Pentagon." Amazingly, the loss of the Scorpion coincided with the disappearance of a Soviet submarine. How Craven spearheaded the search for the two ships a search that inspired The Hunt for Red October is the centerpiece of this fascinating series of set pieces that delve into the life-and-death mechanics of Cold War-era submarine service. Craven, who had previously been known as the head of the Polaris sub-based missile program, has surfaced mysteriously in the press over the years, most recently in the critically acclaimed Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage; here, he is forthright about much of his background and activities. Anecdote-based chapters include descriptions of repairs to a newly launched USS Nautilus, rough briefings to the press and to the chain of command on Polaris, diving into the transoceanic cable-tapping Man-in-the-Sea program and much more. Craven quotes Byron, Verne and others with feeling throughout, and his explanations of the complicated physics related to his various projects are clear if sometimes still classified making this is a distinctively well-crafted intelligence-community memoir. (Apr. 4) Forecast: As Russo-American relations over espionage heat up, this book should find a general audience primed for a re-examination of the intricacies of the Cold War. While not quite Red October, it should reach beyond the buff market. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-2 of the 2 most recent reviews
1 . Pat on the back
Posted February 04, 2011 by Jeffrey Fernandez , Los AngelesIf you want to read a book of 300 pages of the author patting himself on the back and telling you how great he was, this is the book for you. I also believe with the security clearance he had, he was involved in the massive cover up himself. After reading 6 books on the same subject, there are too many things that dont make sense to their story and points most certainly to the fact that the Russians really sank our Scorpion.
2 . Just not very interesting
Posted September 26, 2009 by Larry L , DetroitIf you have read "Blind Man's Bluff" dont bother with "Silent War"; Mr Craven is simply too encumbered by national security issues to provide any meaningful additions to the story of under sea espionage. This remains an intriguing story yet to be told.
Simon & Schuster
March 15, 2001
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Excerpt from The Silent War by John Pina Craven
Chapter One: In Peril Under the Sea
On the Nautilus men's hearts never fail them. No defects to be afraid of, for the double shell is as firm as iron, no rigging to attend to, no sails for the wind to carry away; no boilers to burst, no fire to fear, for the vessel is made of iron, not of wood; no coal to run short, for electricity is the only power; no collision to fear, for it alone swims in deep water; no tempest to brave, for when it dives below the water, it reaches absolute tranquillity. That is the perfection of vessels.
-- Jules Verne,
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1869)
In the bleak midwinter, the cold wind sweeps across Long Island Sound and funnels up the Connecticut valley of the Poquehanuck River, now called the Thames. Mariners know well the narrow channel that leads to the building yards of the Electric Boat Company and the Navy's submarine base in Groton, Connecticut, across the river from New London, where at pier after pier submarines make their preparations to go to sea. On one such day, in January of 1955, a great to-do of helicopters in the sky and ships in the channel gathered about the somber gray USS Nautilus. It was almost a year to the day since she had been launched, the traditional bottle of champagne broken on her bow. There was no ceremony or fanfare on this sullen winter day, but the media was out in force to cover the event -- the great submarine's moment of truth. Now, all lines cast off, she slipped away from her pier, making her way down the Thames toward Long Island Sound and then toward the open sea, as a lone quartermaster, manning the submarine's blinker, sent a message the world had never heard before: "Underway on nuclear power." Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, a unique figure, to put it mildly, in the long history of the United States Navy, had almost single-handedly led the successful struggle to introduce nuclear power to the fleet. USS Nautilus represented the first of his many victories over formidable opponents inside his own service, as well as throughout the nexus of the government and America's defense industries.
Rickover had not limited his responsibility to the design and operation of the reactor but had extended his influence over the entire system, exercising complete control over every nut and bolt. But a nuclear submarine is more than its power plant. It must unite that plant with hull and structure, with stability and control, with an environmentally sustainable life-support system and habitat, a skilled and trained crew, and a host of components that give it a mission, meaning, and being. And like the wonderful one-horse shay, it must last for more than a year and a day. In the years after World War II the importance of radically redesigning a new high-speed, long-endurance instrument of submarine warfare had been recognized by some, but budgets were limited and time was short. So the Nautilus that put to sea, apart from the glowing core of its reactor deep within its hull, was nearly indistinguishable from the most modern diesel submarines.