The Taking of K-129

The Taking of K-129

How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal A Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History

Book - 2017
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"In the early hours of February 25, 1968, Russian nuclear-armed submarine K-129 left Siberia on a routine combat patrol to Hawaii. Then it vanished. As the Soviet Navy searched in vain for the lost vessel, a small, highly classified American operation found it--wrecked at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The sub lay three miles down, but the potential intelligence assets on board--the nuclear warheads, battle orders, and cryptological machines--presented an extraordinary opportunity. So began Project Azorian, a top secret mission that took six years, cost an estimated $800 million, and would become the largest and most daring covert operation in history. After the US Navy declared retrieving the sub "impossible," the mission fell to the CIA's burgeoning Directorate of Science and Technology, which commissioned the most expensive ship ever built [the Hughes Glomar Explorer] and told the world that it belonged to the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, who would use the mammoth vessel to mine rare minerals from the ocean floor. In reality, a vast network of spies, scientists, and engineers attempted a project even crazier than Hughes's reputation: raising the sub directly under the watchful eyes of the Russians, at a time when nuclear annihilation was a constant fear and the opportunity to gain even the slightest advantage over one's enemy was worth massive risk."--Jacket.
Publisher: New York, New York :, Dutton,, [2017]
ISBN: 9781101984437
Characteristics: 431 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm

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mammothhawk229e
Mar 13, 2018

Sure it was risky for US government & CIA to use untested technology to get a sub out of ocean floor at insane timeframe from only one company who could do it or mission may not be successful. US navy say no way. Soviet Union didn't even to a rescue mission.
However, the potential intelligence was too irresistible. How the submarine was made. See an actual nuclear warhead (Soviet used dummy warhead in tests to save money). How nuclear torpedo worked. Did the crew inadvertently left any intelligence nuggets (oh, yes). What types of isotopes within ballistic missiles. How cryptography gear were made & read. In theory NSA could read all the chatter.
Soviet Union lost a massive face because they were fooled for five years by CIA despite having access to naval cables thanks to one traitorous John Walker.
CIA biggest problem was settling wrongful death from alcohol fueled party & one persistent investigative reporter on sniffing at "deep sea mining" cover story.
Yes, event caused CIA to start saying "we cannot confirm or deny"
How the Soviet Navy treated the widows & families on their deceased naval crew was shameful & a huge black mark.
Funny how Detente forced both sides to stay quiet until end of cold war...
Not totally surprised US Navy covertly killed Matador (second attempt to get rest of submarine) by alleged leak to media because Navy brass saw how CIA took over A-12 program from the air-force or that CIA taking over their turf.

s
stedder
Jan 01, 2018

The Soviets knew the alleged Hughes ship was hanging around where they suspected their wreck might be. You can be sure it didn't take them long to change their plans and codes aboard the ship. And we already knew how to build superior missiles and bombs. So it's hard to see what we might have gained from this expensive venture.

m
mhharley
Dec 30, 2017

Disregard review by "wolfman", great book throughout---was an operation by the CIA so a reference glossary would be foolish. Explains the great engineering that went into the project without becoming dull. Great read

w
wolfman_0
Dec 06, 2017

Title misleading--sub never recovered; only pieces. Major flaw in book is that the costs of project had to be unreal but at no time is there a ledger showing costs for government agencies or contractors of which there were many.

Book would benefit from a glossary of people's names and initials used to reference various organizations.

Richard Milbrodt

f
fjvalentin
Oct 10, 2017

I found this to be a very enjoyable non-fiction read. Josh Dean turns a real-life event into a thriller. He gives a good description of management styles in a vast government/private industry project. He goes into a little of history to develop the relationships between managers who had worked together on previous projects and how that benefited their current challenge. It also goes into depth about security measures in a project highly critical during the cold war.

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