Red Star Rogue : The Untold Story of a Soviet Submarine's Nuclear Strike Attempt on the U.S.
One of the great secrets of the Cold War, hidden for decades, is revealed at last.
Early in 1968 a nuclear-armed Soviet submarine sank in the waters off Hawaii, hundreds of miles closer to American shores than it should have been. Compelling evidence, assembled here for the first time, strongly suggests that the sub, K-129, sank while attempting to fire a nuclear missile, most likely at the naval base at Pearl Harbor.
We now know that the Soviets had lost track of the sub; it had become a rogue. While the Soviets searched in vain for the boat, U.S. intelligence was able to pinpoint the site of the disaster. The new Nixon administration launched a clandestine, half-billion-dollar project to recover the sunken K-129. Contrary to years of deliberately misleading reports, the recovery operation was a great success. With the recovery of the sub, it became clear that the rogue was attempting to mimic a Chinese submarine, almost certainly with the intention of provoking a war between the U.S. and China. This was a carefully planned operation that, had it succeeded, would have had devastating consequences. During the successful recovery effort, the U.S. forged new relationships with the USSR and China. Could the information gleaned from the sunken sub have been a decisive factor shaping the new policies of détente between the Americans and the Soviets, and opening China to the West? And who in the USSR could have planned such a bold and potentially catastrophic operation?
Red Star Rogue reads like something straight out of a Tom Clancy novel, but it is all true. Today our greatest fear is that terrorists may someday acquire a nuclear weapon and use it against us. In fact, they have already tried.
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Simon & Schuster
September 30, 2005
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Excerpt from Red Star Rogue by Kenneth Sewell
In the dark hours of March 7, 1968, a lone submarine slowly prowled the surface in open waters of the North Pacific. The slender sub rolled easily in swells raised by a twenty-knot wind. Occasionally, the whitecaps racing ahead of wave crests broke over the low forward deck, sending foaming rivulets of seawater to hide the rust streaks weeping from the boat's aging welds.
A coast watcher might have mistaken the submarine for some naval relic with an oddly long fin emerging from the depths to fight a sea battle of the Second World War. Such identification would have been only partly right. This sub, despite its angular U-boat appearance, carried three atomic-age ballistic missiles snugly housed in tubes in its extended sail.
On the bridge, in the brisk wind, an officer quickly scanned the horizon through powerful naval binoculars, and then raised them to search all quadrants of the night sky.
A seaman in an ill-fitting sheepskin coat focused his attention closer to home, climbing to the highest point in the aft section of the bridge. The coat was much too large for his slight frame, and he was much too young to have attained the rank entitling him to wear the storm raglan coat, quilted pants, and expensive lined boots of a fleet officer.
From his new perch he examined the long, flat area of the conning tower behind the bridge. The faintest glow of starlight provided just enough illumination for the sailor to discern the outline of the three launch-tube doors. The doors appeared to be clear of any flotsam that might have been picked up during surfacing. Beneath the steel doors, like giant elongated eggs, were forty-two-foot-long ballistic missiles. Each carried a one-megaton thermonuclear warhead.
The massive doors were tightly sealed, to keep salt water out of the missile tubes. The powerful hydraulic arms that opened them could be activated only from the missile control panel inside the submarine.
The officer gazing through his binoculars at the front of the bridge had seen no threat to their position--no running lights of surface ships, no antisubmarine warfare planes patrolling the sky. He acknowledged the other man's report that the missile doors were clear, then ducked back down the ladder and into the submarine.