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The Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History

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An incredible true tale of espionage and engineering set at the height of the Cold War—a mix between The Hunt for Red October and Argo—about how the CIA, the U.S. Navy, and a crazy billionaire spent six years and nearly a billion dollars to steal the nuclear-armed Soviet submarine K-129 after it had sunk to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean; all while the Russians were watch An incredible true tale of espionage and engineering set at the height of the Cold War—a mix between The Hunt for Red October and Argo—about how the CIA, the U.S. Navy, and a crazy billionaire spent six years and nearly a billion dollars to steal the nuclear-armed Soviet submarine K-129 after it had sunk to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean; all while the Russians were watching. In the early hours of February 25, 1968, a Russian submarine armed with three nuclear ballistic missiles set sail from its base in Siberia on a routine combat patrol to Hawaii. It never arrived. As the Soviet Navy searched in vain for the lost vessel, a top-secret American operation using sophisticated deep-sea spy equipment found it—wrecked on the sea floor at a depth of 16,800 feet, far beyond the capabilities of any salvage that existed. But the potential intelligence assets onboard the ship—the nuclear warheads, battle orders, and cryptological machines—justified going to extreme lengths to find a way to raise the submarine. 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 CIA history. After the U.S. Navy declared retrieving the sub “impossible,” the mission fell to the CIA's burgeoning Directorate of Science and Technology, the little-known division responsible for the legendary U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird spy planes. Working with Global Marine Systems, the country's foremost maker of exotic, deep-sea drill ships, the CIA commissioned the most expensive ship ever built 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 complex network of spies, scientists, and politicians attempted a project even crazier than Hughes’s reputation: raising the sub directly under the watchful eyes of the Russians. The Taking of K-129 is a riveting, almost unbelievable true-life tale of military history, engineering genius, and high-stakes spy-craft set during the height of the Cold War, when nuclear annihilation was a constant fear, and the opportunity to gain even the slightest advantage over your enemy was worth massive risk.


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An incredible true tale of espionage and engineering set at the height of the Cold War—a mix between The Hunt for Red October and Argo—about how the CIA, the U.S. Navy, and a crazy billionaire spent six years and nearly a billion dollars to steal the nuclear-armed Soviet submarine K-129 after it had sunk to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean; all while the Russians were watch An incredible true tale of espionage and engineering set at the height of the Cold War—a mix between The Hunt for Red October and Argo—about how the CIA, the U.S. Navy, and a crazy billionaire spent six years and nearly a billion dollars to steal the nuclear-armed Soviet submarine K-129 after it had sunk to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean; all while the Russians were watching. In the early hours of February 25, 1968, a Russian submarine armed with three nuclear ballistic missiles set sail from its base in Siberia on a routine combat patrol to Hawaii. It never arrived. As the Soviet Navy searched in vain for the lost vessel, a top-secret American operation using sophisticated deep-sea spy equipment found it—wrecked on the sea floor at a depth of 16,800 feet, far beyond the capabilities of any salvage that existed. But the potential intelligence assets onboard the ship—the nuclear warheads, battle orders, and cryptological machines—justified going to extreme lengths to find a way to raise the submarine. 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 CIA history. After the U.S. Navy declared retrieving the sub “impossible,” the mission fell to the CIA's burgeoning Directorate of Science and Technology, the little-known division responsible for the legendary U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird spy planes. Working with Global Marine Systems, the country's foremost maker of exotic, deep-sea drill ships, the CIA commissioned the most expensive ship ever built 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 complex network of spies, scientists, and politicians attempted a project even crazier than Hughes’s reputation: raising the sub directly under the watchful eyes of the Russians. The Taking of K-129 is a riveting, almost unbelievable true-life tale of military history, engineering genius, and high-stakes spy-craft set during the height of the Cold War, when nuclear annihilation was a constant fear, and the opportunity to gain even the slightest advantage over your enemy was worth massive risk.

30 review for The Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    “[Captain] Ramius made one last careful scan of the horizon. The sun was barely visible aft, the sky leaden, the sea black except for the splash of whitecaps. He wondered if he were saying goodbye to the world…” - Tom Clancy, The Hunt for Red October “[Russian] Pacific Fleet command expected to hear from all deployed subs at prearranged times, but K-129 was to travel in silent mode for the first two weeks at sea, so until March 8, there was no reason for anyone back in Kamchatka to worry. On the e “[Captain] Ramius made one last careful scan of the horizon. The sun was barely visible aft, the sky leaden, the sea black except for the splash of whitecaps. He wondered if he were saying goodbye to the world…” - Tom Clancy, The Hunt for Red October “[Russian] Pacific Fleet command expected to hear from all deployed subs at prearranged times, but K-129 was to travel in silent mode for the first two weeks at sea, so until March 8, there was no reason for anyone back in Kamchatka to worry. On the eighth, however, a watch officer at Soviet Navy Central Command noticed that the sub failed to transit a radio message as scheduled, and he brought the matter to his superiors. An alert was declared…Rear Admiral Dyaglo was at the home of one of his captains that night when the phone rang at ten o’clock. The squadron commander wanted to see Dyaglo immediately…There has been no communication from the K-129 [Admiral Dyaglo was told]. The fleet commander was already on a plane from Moscow and would be at headquarters in the morning expecting a full report with explanations for the apparent disappearance of a submarine carrying ninety-eight men and three ballistic nuclear missiles…” - Josh Dean, The Taking of K-129 This is a book that should have been a slam dunk. It should have been a Michael-Jordan-in-his-prime-dunking-on-me-right-now sort of slam dunk. On February 25, 1968, a Russian submarine armed with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, disappeared while on routine patrol in the area of Hawaii. Despite frantic attempts by the USSR to locate the vessel, she was lost to the known world. Six years later, a top-secret CIA mission codenamed Project Azorian found the sub three miles beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean, and then tried to lift her up with a giant claw, as though the salvage operation were a titanic arcade game. The ship doing the clawing was called the Hughes Glomar Explorer, a U.S. Government vessel masquerading as a mining ship owned by the corporation run by nutty ol’ Howard Hughes. Crazy story. And it’s all true. Like I said, this should have been a slam dunk. A dramatic goldmine. An uncut, unflawed, truth-is-stranger-than-fiction diamond. The surprising thing is how far from a slam dunk this turned out to be. It’s a me-right-now-trying-to-dunk-on-Michael-Jordan-in-his-prime kind of disappointment. Maybe that’s putting it too harshly. But I can’t muster much enthusiasm. Josh Dean’s The Taking of K-129 is slickly written, mainly enjoyable, and fast-paced. It’s just that it should have been so much more. There are really good popular historians out there, and these men and women have proven that wide audiences will respond to good writing, even if the tale is complex. The Taking of K-129 is certainly pop history; unfortunately, it’s pop history at the lowest level. Or, if we’re being charitable, at its most accessible. It has a breeziness to it that borders on the superficial. At 404 pages of text, this is not exactly short. (The endnotes are on a website, Dean explains. He says this is for space reasons. I tend to believe it’s for not-scaring-people-off reasons). Despite the length, this reads short, mainly because it is divided into dozens and dozens of “chapters,” some of which are only a page-and-a-half long. This is great, I suppose, if you want to dip in and out of the story. To me, though, it spoke of an attention span issue. Ironically for a book about a submarine, The Taking of K-129 stays right near the surface. Things I wanted to learn more about were glossed over in true Seinfeld-ian fashion (“yada, yada, yada”). For instance, the building of the Hughes Glomar Explorer was a great feat of science, engineering, and imagination. At times, it literally required the invention of new technology. Dean undercuts the coolness of these advancements by refusing to explain them. He will distill an epochal technological leap into a single detail-light paragraph. Now, I’m no engineer. Heck, when it comes to mathematics, I’m barely a third grader. I’m not asking for a treatise. Still, I really wanted to know how this ship was built, rather than simply told that it was. More than that, there are weird narrative dead ends. The Taking of K-129 starts in the right place, telling the story of the men who went to sea in that doomed tube of metal, as well as of the people waiting for them back home. Once the boat is lost, though, that aspect disappears. Dean never, not once, even attempts an explanation as to what might have happened to the K-129. He doesn’t even bother with a hypothetical. I find it hard to believe he consulted with sunken-sub master Norman Polmar, as he claims, without ever once having the topic come up. Meanwhile, he devotes something like three or four chapters on the saga of the Hughes Glomar Explorer’s tax issues. That’s right, taxes! (The saga of California tax commissioner Philip Watson is a well that is returned to many times. The worst part about it: Dean just lets the thread drop. Instead providing a final explanation, Dean closes this exceedingly boring digression by saying that one of the CIA’s lawyers “got Watson off of [the CIA’s] back.” Argh! The only thing more frustrating than getting told a stupid story, is not being told how it actually ends). The prose, too, left me wanting more. Dean is a journalist, and this is written in a journalistic, fly-on-the-wall fashion. It’s totally fine. But the storyline never drew me in. It never put me on the ship, on the tossing and turning ocean. More than that, it never took me to the bottom of the deepest part of the ocean. This is a book that should’ve filled me with a sense of mysticism and awe, by contrasting the vast, unimaginable scale of the undersea world, against the puny strength and piercing intellect of the tiny human protagonists. Maybe the biggest issue I had with The Taking of K-129 isn’t Dean’s fault at all. In truth, the story of this expedition isn’t as wonderful as it seems at first glance. Indeed, the mission to “take” the Russian sub was kind of a huge failure. Some $800 million was spent to retrieve Soviet technology that was already 6 years old. The actual results, what was physically retrieved, remains classified, though it can’t have changed the world too much. It might have been an interesting thought experiment, to analyze the need for this kind of daring covert op, but Dean has no interest in that. He seems almost to assume its utility. On the other hand, I finished, and my first thought was: That’s it? The notion of the CIA using Howard Hughes as cover for a secretive oceangoing raid is not really that far-fetched, despite the hyperbolic copy on the front cover. The discoverer of the RMS Titanic, Dr. Robert Ballard, actually used the Titanic expedition as cover to visit the Cold War wrecks of two U.S. subs: the Thresher and the Scorpion. The U.S. Navy wanted Ballard to investigate the sunken vessels to see if the Russians had attempted to salvage them (for good reason, obviously). As an incentive, the Navy allowed him to use any surplus time to take a shot at locating the lost luxury liner. As a Titanic junkie, I’m a huge Ballard fanboy. I’ve watched every lecture or documentary of his that I can find on the web. Ballard combines scientific knowledge, an ageless passion for the ocean, and a certain amount of pomposity into lectures good enough that I tried to make my six year-old watch with me. (Didn't work, but I'll try again). It occurred to me, as I finished The Taking of K-129, that it wasn’t nearly as entertaining, intelligent, or thoughtful as 45 minutes of listening to Ballard speak. Part of my feelings, then, come from the gap between expectations and execution. Maybe this works better for you than it does for me. The kindest thing I can say, though, is that this is fine. Unfortunately, fine isn’t good enough with material like this.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rick Presley

    For fans of the Silent Service and CIA shenanigans, this is a must read. It tells the story of a CIA-funded venture to recover a downed Russian sub from the floor of the Pacific and is as gripping as anything Tom Clancy has written. All the more so because it is true. From my personal perspective it answers long-standing questions I've had since my childhood regarding deep ocean mining. I remember reading about the Glomar Explorer in school and all the excitement about underwater mining and have For fans of the Silent Service and CIA shenanigans, this is a must read. It tells the story of a CIA-funded venture to recover a downed Russian sub from the floor of the Pacific and is as gripping as anything Tom Clancy has written. All the more so because it is true. From my personal perspective it answers long-standing questions I've had since my childhood regarding deep ocean mining. I remember reading about the Glomar Explorer in school and all the excitement about underwater mining and have often wondered what became of that as a viable enterprise. This book answers the question, but not in the expected way. It was surprising to me to hear that the whole enterprise of deep ocean mining was a hoax and never intended to be the Glomar Explorer's objective. One of the things fans of CIA stories hear often is that the Agency never publicizes its successes. For obvious reasons. Even as the book closes, they are cagey about whether or not the endeavor was worth the amount of money expended. In the bigger picture of the Soviet Union's eventual collapse, maybe it was. But we may never know if it was as successful as the CIA hoped. I would highly recommend this delightful and sometimes puckish account of one of the greatest Hide-In-Plain-Sight operations the CIA has ever pulled off. It won't answer all your questions, but it will certainly provide you hours of gripping non-fiction that will thrill anyone with an interest in naval history, engineering, or the CIA.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I found this a fascinating account. Even if you are skeptical, like me, and only believe half of it, or that only half was told, it's a good story. Think Mission Impossible on a tremendous scale. This quote sums it up. "Imagine standing atop the Empire State Building with an 8-foot-wide grappling hook on a 1-inch-diameter steel rope. Your task is to lower the hook to the street below, snag a compact car full of gold, and lift the car back to the top of the building. On top of that, the job has t I found this a fascinating account. Even if you are skeptical, like me, and only believe half of it, or that only half was told, it's a good story. Think Mission Impossible on a tremendous scale. This quote sums it up. "Imagine standing atop the Empire State Building with an 8-foot-wide grappling hook on a 1-inch-diameter steel rope. Your task is to lower the hook to the street below, snag a compact car full of gold, and lift the car back to the top of the building. On top of that, the job has to be done without anyone noticing. That, essentially,describes what the CIA did in Project AZORIAN, a highly secret six-year effort to retrieve a sunken Soviet submarine from the Pacific Ocean floor during the Cold War." Lots of technical stuff, and it's even more amazing is that many of the calculations were done with paper and slide rule. Another quote "The simulator, like all of the major systems, ran on the most sophisticated computers available at that time. For the capture vehicle, that meant two redundant Honeywell 316s, each worth twenty-five thousand dollars and carrying sixteen kilobytes of hardwired memory in four thousand eight-bit boards."

  4. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Thanks to DUTTON BOOKS for sending me this Goodreads give away. Fascinating information on behind the scenes government doings on country security and weapons. Author Josh Dean does a great job of bringing all the top secret ways of getting the job done. I really enjoyed the reading and recommend this book to all interested in our government way of working.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Igor Ljubuncic

    This is a pretty solid book. The premise is spy movie worthy: a Soviet sub sinks in the Pacific, the Americans go after it. Thus begins an audacious moon-landing-quality secret program by the CIA of hauling a 3,000-ton submarine equipped with nuclear weapons off the bottom of the Pacific, roughly 5 km down. Needless to say, this takes some clever work. The book covers a lot of interesting elements - the pure engineering effort behind it, the CIA games, the political masquerade and subterfuge, the c This is a pretty solid book. The premise is spy movie worthy: a Soviet sub sinks in the Pacific, the Americans go after it. Thus begins an audacious moon-landing-quality secret program by the CIA of hauling a 3,000-ton submarine equipped with nuclear weapons off the bottom of the Pacific, roughly 5 km down. Needless to say, this takes some clever work. The book covers a lot of interesting elements - the pure engineering effort behind it, the CIA games, the political masquerade and subterfuge, the crazy eccentrics who ran the programs, the Average Joe drill workers who got to share the experience with the top scientists, and then of course, the deed itself. Josh Dean does a good job of giving all these details the right dose of attention and flair. And let's not forget the name of the ship that went after the sub - Global Marine Explorer - GloMar. Now this is the stuff Ian Fleming would have dreamed of putting in his novels. The first 2/3rds of the book read like a blockbuster. Toward the end, the energy tapers off a bit, and I won't spoil what happens with the sub. But the last part could have been stitched together ever so slightly better. However, it's still a darn interesting book by all means. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to work with or under the likes of Lockheed's Skunk Works Kelly Johnson. Some of the most impressive feats of engineering happened in the 60s and 70s, but we also have the glamor of time to gloss over some of the grittier bits. Still. Overall, solid. 4.5/5.0. Much recommended to anyone who loves bigass toys! Igor

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Thanks so much to Dutton for the copy in exchange for my honest review! Are you a fan of nonfiction? Espionage? Well, if you are, then you need to pick up Josh Dean's THE TAKING OF K-129. I personally LOVED this book. This is a topic that has always interested me. As a Political Science and International Relations major in college, this was what we focused on. My senior project was on espionage (specifically the Cuban Missile Crisis) and it always fascinates me to read about the lengths people w Thanks so much to Dutton for the copy in exchange for my honest review! Are you a fan of nonfiction? Espionage? Well, if you are, then you need to pick up Josh Dean's THE TAKING OF K-129. I personally LOVED this book. This is a topic that has always interested me. As a Political Science and International Relations major in college, this was what we focused on. My senior project was on espionage (specifically the Cuban Missile Crisis) and it always fascinates me to read about the lengths people would go to in order to complete a mission without detection. On February 25, 1968, there was a Russian submarine armed with nuclear ballistic missiles that was on a routine combat patrol to Hawaii from Siberia. That submarine never arrived to its destination. The Soviet Navy searched for the lost vessel with no luck, meanwhile, a highly classified and top secret American operation found it (with the help of highly sophisticated deep-sea spy equipment). Wrecked on the ocean floor at a depth of 16,800 feet, the CIA was determined to recover the vessel because it contained valuable information in the form of nuclear warheads, battle orders, and Russian cryptological machines. This was the birth of the Project Azorian - a top-secret mission that took over six years, cost around $800 million, and was the largest and most daring operation in CIA history. While this quickly became apparent that the CIA would have to go outside of the military to retrieve this sub (as the Navy deemed the mission to be impossible) they sought out the help of the Directorate of Science and Technology. They soon commissioned the most expensive ship ever built with Global Marine Systems. How were they going to covertly conceal this? Simple. The CIA said that it belonged to the eccentric and reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes. Why would he need this monstrosity? To mine rare minerals from the ocean floor, of course. This is definitely reminiscent of Argo. It will always amaze me the planning and attention to detail that goes into these types of missions. You never truly understand how many people are involved either - spies, scientists, politicians, and even Howard Hughes. The fact they were able to do this under the careful watch of the Soviets blows my mind. Overall, if you want to read about a great piece of American history, and espionage piques your interest, then you need to pick this one up! Remember, it is nonfiction, so it's very factual and not written like a suspense novel would. There is, however, lots of suspense. I give this 5/5 stars!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    A very interesting read about a monumental challenge that the country rose to meet. In 1968, the Russian nuclear submarine K-129 went down with all crew on board in 16,500 feet of water. So what did the US try to do? Salvage the sub in the hopes of discovering secret intelligence. Saucy! Provocative! And pretty damn amazing, considering that this would be the hardest engineering feat of all time, and has been analogized in the book like so: "Imagine standing atop the Empire State Building with an A very interesting read about a monumental challenge that the country rose to meet. In 1968, the Russian nuclear submarine K-129 went down with all crew on board in 16,500 feet of water. So what did the US try to do? Salvage the sub in the hopes of discovering secret intelligence. Saucy! Provocative! And pretty damn amazing, considering that this would be the hardest engineering feat of all time, and has been analogized in the book like so: "Imagine standing atop the Empire State Building with an 8-foot-wide grappling hook on a 1-inch-diameter steel rope. Your task is to lower the hook to the street below, snag a compact car full of gold, and lift the car back to the top of the building. On top of that, the job has to be done without anyone noticing." The brilliant lengths the CIA went to to keep this mission secret, as well as the incredible engineering and espionage/counter-intelligence involved to raise 15 million pounds more than 3 miles below the ocean's surface, was fascinating.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gayla Marks

    This review is for the audio version. The book is the result of extensive investigation into an absolutely amazing venture undertaken by the US government to raise a lost Soviet submarine, carrying nuclear-warhead missiles, from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The really amazing part of this book, in addition to the fantastic operation itself, is the technology involved in designing the recovery ship. The description of the challenges, design, and fabrication of the ship itself is absolutely te This review is for the audio version. The book is the result of extensive investigation into an absolutely amazing venture undertaken by the US government to raise a lost Soviet submarine, carrying nuclear-warhead missiles, from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The really amazing part of this book, in addition to the fantastic operation itself, is the technology involved in designing the recovery ship. The description of the challenges, design, and fabrication of the ship itself is absolutely terrific, albeit some readers may not be terribly enamored with those parts. The author seems to have covered every aspect imaginable relating to this incident: rivalry among various arms of the government relating to who would have oversight, who would work on the project, how people were vetted before getting to work on the operation, etc. All of it was tremendously interesting. I especially enjoyed the information on how the story was kept secret for so long, how the Soviets reacted upon finding out about it, and how the US, at the highest levels, crafted relevant responses to satisfy all the 'inquiring minds'. Truly a great read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Shane Phillips

    This is quite a story. So many people involved, so much $$. It's a miracle that it was kept secret so long. I have vague memories of the Howard Hughes cover story during the 1970's/1980's and of learning the real story. The details in this story seem almost too detailed for such a secret project. This book is a good companion with "Red Star Rogue: The Untold Story of a Soviet Submarine's Nuclear Strike Attempt on the U.S" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4... This is quite a story. So many people involved, so much $$. It's a miracle that it was kept secret so long. I have vague memories of the Howard Hughes cover story during the 1970's/1980's and of learning the real story. The details in this story seem almost too detailed for such a secret project. This book is a good companion with "Red Star Rogue: The Untold Story of a Soviet Submarine's Nuclear Strike Attempt on the U.S" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Meeker

    A very good, informative book, thoroughly enjoyed it! Quick read, well told, and learned something new. A very interesting read and worth getting for any Cold War enthusiasts! I won a copy of this book in a goodreads giveaway.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joe Faust

    "Imagine standing atop the Empire State Building with an 8-foot-wide grappling hook on a 1-inch-diameter steel rope. Your task is to lower the hook to the street below, snag a compact car full of gold, and lift the car back to the top of the building. On top of that, the job has to be done without anyone noticing." And nobody noticed. Not for six years, when inter-agency rivalries likely led to leaking the story of Project Azorian, a/k/a Operation Jennifer. That's how long it took to build and sa "Imagine standing atop the Empire State Building with an 8-foot-wide grappling hook on a 1-inch-diameter steel rope. Your task is to lower the hook to the street below, snag a compact car full of gold, and lift the car back to the top of the building. On top of that, the job has to be done without anyone noticing." And nobody noticed. Not for six years, when inter-agency rivalries likely led to leaking the story of Project Azorian, a/k/a Operation Jennifer. That's how long it took to build and sail the Glomar Explorer to raise a Soviet missile sub from three miles beneath the surface of the ocean. I don't know which story is more compelling in this book - the design of the ship to do something that had never been done before, or the incredible cover story involving eccentric recluse Howard Hughes, and how the CIA managed to keep a lid on it for those six long years. Read this and you will understand why I don't read thrillers or espionage novels. The real stuff is so much more incredible.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Charles Fields

    If you like history and don't mind a bit of engineering mixed in, you may like this. If you like Clive Cussler and wish sometimes real life was more like his adventures, you may like this. This is an amazing true (so far as I can tell) story that reads almost like fiction because it is so daring and such a technical leap from what everyone "knew" to be possible. If you sometimes wonder why the government lies so much, this may give you a bit more sympathy for them.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Walt

    Astonishing true story of how the US secretly retrieved a sunken Soviet submarine that was almost 3 miles down in the North Pacific Ocean. Because the US had to keep the recovery secret, it required a myriad of cloak-and-dagger activities to hide what was really being accomplished on an enormous (and incredibly expensive) scale.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

    Reads almost like a James Bond thriller. Does such a good job of bringing to life the stories of those who pulled this off and kept it secret for decades. One of the greatest achievements in ocean engineering, like sending people to the moon without anybody knowing about it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jared

    “The fact that the US managed to build a ship of 60,000-tons displacement, to install equipment to sustain such a load, to make provision of how to accommodate the submarine under the ship and finally to lift it up—it seemed to us something unreal, fantastic,” he told a Russian news program. “I can compare it with a mission to the moon in regard to technology and invested money. And another point—the ship was built in two years and the disinformation was organized outstandingly.” - Russian Admi “The fact that the US managed to build a ship of 60,000-tons displacement, to install equipment to sustain such a load, to make provision of how to accommodate the submarine under the ship and finally to lift it up—it seemed to us something unreal, fantastic,” he told a Russian news program. “I can compare it with a mission to the moon in regard to technology and invested money. And another point—the ship was built in two years and the disinformation was organized outstandingly.” - Russian Admiral Dygalo (Soviet officer in command of K-129's sub fleet at time of accident) WHAT HAPPENED TO THE K-129? (NOT QUITE SURE) - The K-129, on the other hand, appeared to have exploded while on the surface, - There was no second large blip in the data, which some expected to see when the crippled sub passed through its crush depth. Most likely K-129 had sunk with its hatches open and the sub had been flooded with water that equalized the pressure and prevented an implosion. In theory, this meant the wreck would be more intact, and would have gone basically straight down from the coordinates where it was last identified. WHAT MADE THE K-129 WORTH THE EFFORTS FOR THE AMERICANS? - Intelligence to be gained: - Cryptographic machines and materials - Nuclear warheads and related documents, which “would provide important new insight into Soviet nuclear technology, weapon design concepts, and related operational procedures” - The SS-N-5 missile, which “although not in itself the major SLBM threat, would provide important information on technologies relevant to the SS-N-6, and possibly to some aspects of the SS-N-8” - Navigation and fire control systems, especially “equipment and documentation in the missile fire control category,” as well as “instruction books, internal circuit diagrams, spare parts, and related documentation” that could “add significantly to our technical understanding of the GOLF-II strategic weapon system” - Sonar and other naval equipment, though in this case the board acknowledged that most sonar and antisubmarine warfare equipment would probably be obsolete based on the kinds actually in use by the Soviet Navy in 1974 - He said that as much as Soviet weaponry might have changed since the K-129 sank, the Pentagon still had no idea how Soviet missile systems work, nor had they ever come into possession of an actual intact warhead. - Reverse engineering the key components—guidance, telemetry, detonators—would be an enormous boon to US missile defense, and the country’s nuclear scientists had a long list of questions that could likely be answered. - In particular, the level of uranium enrichment the Soviets were achieving, the isotopic composition of plutonium in their weapons, and - especially the control and security features on Soviet missiles—command and control of nuclear weaponry being a problem all designers struggled with. RUSSIANS NOT SURE WHERE TO LOOK - The biggest problem was that the Soviets didn’t actually know where to look; - The initial search zone was vast, more than eight hundred thousand square miles, and got bigger as the search failed to locate any signs of the sub, growing to 1 million square miles...In that area of the Pacific, the bottom was nearly four miles below, US KNEW WHERE TO LOOK - Starting in the early 1950s, the US Navy began installing a system of underwater hydrophones, anchored to the seafloor, designed to listen for the telltale sounds of enemy submarines. - because they knew the speed at which sound travels through that area of the ocean—they could triangulate the signal and pinpoint its origin, with some precision. SAD LOSS OF LIFE - He was the first into an officer’s berthing compartment, where he got on his knees and swept under a bunk with his arm until he felt some resistance—an object. With a little push, it came loose and he pulled it out, recoiling in shock at the sight of an entire human head, still largely intact. It had flesh and hair and a nose, but no eyes or ears, both of which had likely been eaten away by the large blind crabs that were crawling throughout the wreck. - On a later shift, the man stumbled upon the exploitation crew’s most important discovery yet—a two-inch-thick journal, remarkably intact, in a berth where its owner, a young officer, had apparently been curled up asleep at the time of the accident. His body was still in the bunk, in good enough condition that he could be positively identified, and the book, filled with handwritten eight-by-ten-inch pages, was, remarkably, in extraordinary shape. - One item that Pasho found would forever haunt him. It was an undeveloped roll of film he handed over to the photo analysts, who took it to the darkroom lab for processing. The film was badly damaged, pockmarked from the salt and water, but some images were still clearly visible and there was a series there that squashed Pasho’s enthusiasm for the job: photographs of a Russian sailor, at the dock, with his family, just before shipping out. - On March 7, 1998, on the thirtieth anniversary of the disaster, the Russian government posthumously awarded Medals of Courage to all of the K-129’ s crew members. It was, according to Zhuravina, an empty gesture. - She told a Russian TV show that the mother of twenty-year-old Yurii Dubov was ruined by the sub’s loss. “For thirty years his mother lived with the hope that he was alive,” Zhuravina said. “She couldn’t believe that her son was dead. She lived, and waited, and hoped.” - Officers from each submariner’s native region delivered those medals to the families, and it wasn’t until Dubov’s mother got hers that she finally accepted his death. And the next day, March 8, she died. “Just like her son,” Zhuravina said. “Her heart gave out.” (OTHER PROJECTS DONE BY CIA BEFORE AZORIAN): #1 - U-2 - A U-2 pilot had to maintain speed within a very small and specific range. If he dropped below 98 knots, the plane would stall and fall out of the sky; if he went over 102 knots, it was in danger of breaking apart. So, Ben Rich wrote, “the slowest it could safely go was right next to the fastest it could go.” - The U-2 showed the earth to be slightly oblong and not a perfect sphere, meaning that the targets assigned to all of the US ICBMs were each about twenty miles off. Had war broken out, every missile would have missed. - When the Soviets accepted that no plane was going to reach a U-2, they adopted a new tactic. Entire squadrons of jets flew in tight formation fifteen thousand feet under the spy planes to try to obscure their view of the ground—a tactic the CIA jokingly called “aluminum clouds.” - According to one early pilot, the Soviets even tried to ram the plane with MiG-21s stripped down to become, in essence, piloted missiles. “They flew straight up at top speed, arcing up to 68,000 feet before flaming out and falling back to Earth,” he recalled. #2 - A-12 OXCART (BLACKBIRD) - When the supersonic planes returned to base, pilots and mechanics puzzled over the tiny black dots that pitted the windshields. Test samples came back as organic material. The source: insects that had been sucked up into the stratosphere during Russian and Chinese nuclear tests and were just winging around the earth in the jet stream, seventy-five thousand feet up. - Once operational, the Blackbird proved its worth again and again. The primary detachment of CIA pilots and crew was based on Okinawa, outside of the town of Kadena. #3 - CORONA (SPY SATELLITE) - Between the U-2 and the A-12, Parangosky had been assigned to a very different task devised with the same goal in mind: to capture high-quality photographic intelligence of the Soviet military complex without being detected. The loss of the U-2 in 1960 caused Eisenhower to push for something that could replace it: What he wanted was a spy satellite. - Ike agreed, and the CIA satellite project was code-named Corona. - That single day of surveillance produced more photo coverage than all of the U-2 flights combined—more than 1 million square miles, albeit with lower resolution. - Corona came about when Lloyd was sitting in an office with the satellite program’s contracting officer, George Kucera, puzzling over what to call the program. Kucera, looking at the typewriter on his desk, noticed the label: Smith Corona. “How about Corona?” he said. CIA MAN WHO OVERSAW U-2, A-12, AND CORONA IN CHARGE OF SUB RECOVERY - A top secret CIA task force assigned to the submarine recovery was formed on July 1, 1969, with Parangosky in charge. HOW HARD WOULD IT BE TO RAISE THE K-129? - Here was a group of men, only two of whom had any experience working in the oceans, tasked with solving perhaps the single largest engineering challenge in intelligence and maritime history: How to retrieve a 3-million-pound submarine from 16,700 feet under the Pacific Ocean— - trying to envision a complex system to achieve something never before attempted—a system that would have to work the first time it ran. WHAT COULD GO WRONG? - “What could go wrong?” Kissinger asked. Colby and Deputy Defense Secretary William Clements answered this one simultaneously: “Lots of things.” - Soviet ships could arrive and intervene. Best case, they would just harass the Explorer, causing delays and distractions. - Worst case, they could send divers into the water after the recovery had begun and would see the claw rising through the water with the sub in its grasp. - They could also decide to board the ship without provocation. - And then there were operational risks—most prominent among them the possibility that the recovery itself would fail. It was, after all, one of the most mechanically complex operations ever mounted by the United States—and there was no real way to put the systems, working in unison, to the test until it was time to do it for real. SUB RECOVERY WOULD REQUIRE UNPRECEDENTED TECH - What really got the Azorian team’s attention was the Challenger’s new, automated dynamic positioning system that enabled the four-hundred-foot ship to maintain station over a specific point within a radius of one hundred feet or less. - It was also the first commercial ship with satellite navigation. LOTS OF PRESSURE AT WORK WHILE RAISING THE SUB - As the sub rose, one-inch-diameter steel bolts began to strain and hiss and eventually pop loose, firing across the deck like bullets. - Up in the pump room, probably the single most dangerous place on the ship, no one had ever seen pressures like the ones being experienced during the lift, as pump units handling three thousand pounds per square inch sprang leaks, causing streams of seawater to jet out with such force that they could cut off a man’s hand. MISSION DONE WITH A HARASSING RUSSIAN SHIP ON-SCENE - The tug blasted its horn three times, turned toward Russia, and sailed away. Within an hour, it had vanished from radar and was cruising at full speed toward home, having spent thirteen days and sixteen hours observing a pretend mining ship that was really stealing a Soviet submarine. SUCCESS OR FAILURE? - Several of Clementine’s tines had broken during the ascent, and a chunk of the submarine, at least half and maybe more, had fallen back into the sea. - Two-thirds of the submarine had been lost—everything from the conning tower back, which included both the missile tubes and the code room. - “They say, ‘You didn’t get anything good! What a failure!’” He smirked. “The Soviets didn’t know what we got. That’s just as valuable.” - “If nothing else, the whole thing was worth it—whatever it cost,” he said, “for the sheer fact of the embarrassment it caused the Soviet Union.” WAS THE K-129 ALL THAT HIGH TECH? - The Soviet submarine program was thought at that time to be more advanced than the US program, but what they saw of the K-129 was shocking. The steel hull plates were inconsistent, with varying thicknesses and irregular welds. They found two-by-four boards reinforcing some sections of the hull and hundreds of lead weights that they determined had been brought on board to adjust the submarine’s trim manually as needed. WHAT ELEMENTS DID THE PROJECT REQUIRE? - The plan would require four primary pieces: - First, an enormous ship built around a moon pool large enough to hold the wrecked sub, - Second, a mechanical grabber or claw at the end of the drill string to grab and hold the sub while it was raised. - Third, the pipe-string system, which would be the largest and toughest ever built. - And finally, a submersible barge/ dry dock that would serve two purposes. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED - “If, by any chance, you should suffer a puncture wound and what punctures you is contaminated with plutonium, you will die. You will be buried at sea and it will be recorded as an industrial accident.” DON'T NEED A PERFECT PLAN - Parangosky was always focused on progress and on the schedule, and he understood that if you give technical people too much time to contemplate a problem, they’ll always take it. Those same people are capable of working much more quickly, and often you don’t need a perfect solution. You can always iterate. POSITIVE OUTLOOK - “The difficult we do tomorrow; the impossible might take a little longer.” US PLANNED TO GO BACK OUT AND GRAB MORE SUB, BUT COVER BLOWN - With little more to go on than that rumor, Farr and Cohen spent several months on the investigation and managed, by February, to piece together a story with a basic premise juicy enough to occupy nearly the entire front page—even though beyond the CIA–Hughes connection, there was virtually no actual detail on the mission or its target. - Everywhere he went, the director ran into reporters and editors whose skepticism of the US government, and especially the CIA, was at an all-time high. The ripples of Watergate were still sweeping through Washington, and Colby’s own revelations about the “family jewels” had made distrust of the CIA even worse. - “It was the reluctant, but unanimous, conclusion of the Committee that the risk of a Soviet reaction was too great to warrant a second recovery attempt. BEST TO NOT SAY ANYTHING AT ALL - The lesson Colby learned from this was that while you might sometimes get caught spying on your adversary in unexpected and potentially very upsetting ways, it was worse to then add embarrassment by rubbing your opponent’s face in it publicly. BLACK EYE FOR THE RUSSIANS - “It is becoming clearer that they want to avoid the subject if possible,” LEGACY, END STORY OF EXPLORER (SHIP) - The Explorer left a legacy, too. It introduced a host of new systems and also helped prove that a variety of technologies actually worked in deep water. It showed that a ship could handle tremendously heavy loads and that dynamic positioning really did work. - What about the ship itself? In September 2015, Transocean announced that, because of plummeting oil prices, it would be selling the GSF Explorer to an unknown buyer for scrap. After forty years of operation, John Graham’s masterpiece would be cut to pieces in a Malaysian port. - 'GLOMAR RESPONSE' (FOIA) - The first big job Warner handed Lloyd was the FOIA problem. - “With all of your experience in this goddamn program,” said Warner, who never loved Azorian, “you go down there and figure out how we should be answering the public.” - When someone asks a federal agency a question about what it’s been doing, it has to answer, by law. On the flip side, the director of Central Intelligence is responsible for protecting intelligence sources and methods. Both are federal laws. - Basically, then, they couldn’t confirm it without revealing an intelligence method. They also couldn’t deny it, by law, without lying. “So we can neither confirm nor can we deny,” - Thus was born the Glomar response. COMING CLEAN WITH THE RUSSIANS (1992) - Gates was the first CIA director ever to visit Moscow, - “As a gesture of intent, a symbol of a new era, I arrived with the Soviet naval flag that had shrouded the coffins of the half dozen Soviet sailors whose remains the Glomar Explorer had recovered - “I also was taking to Yeltsin a videotape of their burial at sea - Note: See bonus content below for link to actual CIA video - Gates also handed over a few items that had been kept from the K-129—most notably, the ship’s bell, with its dented top—and gave Yeltsin the precise coordinates of the burial site, ninety miles southwest of Hawaii’s Big Island, so that any family members of the lost crewmen who wanted to visit the site would now be able to do so. FACTOIDS - Two major events occurred on the morning of August 9. The first was that the Hughes Glomar Explorer completed the recovery phase of Project Azorian. The second was that President Richard Nixon resigned and left the White House in shame, swearing even to his closest aides that he was not a crook. HAHA - For years afterward, engineers traded Savage stories, one favorite being the time a captain, working in the office as a civilian, pulled him aside to point out what he considered a lack of respect. “Perhaps you don’t know this, son, but I’m a naval officer,” the man said, and Savage nodded glumly. “I know that,” he replied. “I noticed the Navy ring when you were picking your nose.” - the way to get audacious projects through Congress was to low-ball the cost and complexity, and then—once work was under way—there was little choice but to approve the budget changes. More pointedly, he said: “We give ’em the tree and fuck ’em on the lights.” - But two divers volunteered. One was Tony Acero, famous among the crew for his comfort with chaos and for the tattoo on his butt; there was a single M on each cheek, each one part of the setup for an elaborate joke that made no sense until he did a nude handstand, at which point the punch line was revealed. - The tug moved around to the stern, as its entire crew crowded onto the deck, turned their backs to the Explorer, and dropped their pants, exposing a row of extremely pale Russian butts. The men on the Explorer’s deck howled with laughter, and a few of them, including Hank Van Calcar, returned the favor, which caused more clapping and laughing and waving. “Mooning the Russians,” he would later say, “was one of the highlights of my career.” *** BONUS - Short video about K-129: https://youtu.be/dVlpJJWzQK0 - Vintage video about science (deep sea mining) that helped reinforce Glomar Explorer cover story: https://youtu.be/Wm-cMqUd97A - Diesel submarine engines, air and batteries: http://youtu.be/wNdFhZMoITc - What is a ‘saturation diver’?: https://youtu.be/slq9lkHWs0I - A-12 Oxcart (SR-71 Blackbird): http://youtu.be/IF6pTqakX8s - CIA video (1974) of burial at sea for 6 Soviet sailors from K-129: https://youtu.be/aJAJUJ41PBI - Howard Hughes' 'Mormon Mafia': https://www.history.com/shows/10-thin... - Navy sub NR-1: https://youtu.be/LOsQSdntsKc - Global Marine promo video (1976) on the Explorer hosted by Richard Anderson of ‘Six Million Dollar Man’ fame: https://youtu.be/XT0GUhjMmf4 - Author website with more info: https://www.thetakingofk129.com - Documentary: Azorian: The Raising of the K-129 (2011)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Charles Moore

    If you're are old enough, like me, you might recall the saga of the Hughes Glomar Explorer and the raising of a sunken Soviet submarine in the 1970s. Dean's highly detailed and meticulous account of what it took to do this massive undertaking is very interesting reading. You do have to be patient with the plodding action but this is a remarkable story. Most of us, I dare say, even if we remember any of this, never had a clue. There must be a cast of a thousand. Yet, not one word was leaked. The p If you're are old enough, like me, you might recall the saga of the Hughes Glomar Explorer and the raising of a sunken Soviet submarine in the 1970s. Dean's highly detailed and meticulous account of what it took to do this massive undertaking is very interesting reading. You do have to be patient with the plodding action but this is a remarkable story. Most of us, I dare say, even if we remember any of this, never had a clue. There must be a cast of a thousand. Yet, not one word was leaked. The place and task were at first insurmountable for either the Russians or the Navy. But with luck, pluck, and a boatload of money, the CIA did it. (Hughes probably had very little to do with except his persona gave the project and the book a lot of go-juice.) The task was to recover a sunken submarine over 16,000 feet down in the notoriously wild north Pacific. And do it without out the other guy realizing it ever happened. Not until the early 1990s was the "truth" known and even then the theories and speculations still abound. This is better than a fictional spy story. Tom Clancy could not have made up a better story! Amazing. ###

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Parham

    The devil is in the details, and never has that adage been proven more true than in Josh Dean's The Taking of K-129, the crazy true story of the CIA's dogged efforts to raise a sunken Soviet submarine in the middle of the Pacific during the Cold War... without anyone knowing they were attempting to do it. Dean's comprehensive work covers every last step in the top-secret 5+ year operation, from the mysterious loss of the K-129 herself in February 1968 through the arrival of the Hughes Glomar Expl The devil is in the details, and never has that adage been proven more true than in Josh Dean's The Taking of K-129, the crazy true story of the CIA's dogged efforts to raise a sunken Soviet submarine in the middle of the Pacific during the Cold War... without anyone knowing they were attempting to do it. Dean's comprehensive work covers every last step in the top-secret 5+ year operation, from the mysterious loss of the K-129 herself in February 1968 through the arrival of the Hughes Glomar Explorer - the cutting-edge recovery ship designed to pull K-129 off the ocean floor under the mantle of deep ocean mining - in port in September 1974 with her find. Over those years, we bump into obstacle after obstacle, including a revolution in Chile that could prevent the Glomar Explorer from even starting her mission, union strikes on the docks that draw too much attention to the ship's real purpose, tenacious tax lawyers that won't let this mysterious vessel go anywhere without paying its due, and brand new technology that has never been tested before, and could be deadly if it fails. All of this against a backdrop of government espionage in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Americans and Soviets were watching each other's moves with cold calculation, ready to start World War III without blinking. And the Americans were banking on the Soviets buying a story - a brand new industry of deep ocean mining - they could barely believe themselves. It is a gripping story throughout, made all the more so by the fact there is so much detail to consider when managing an operation this complex for this long. And how one memo or one phone call could have brought it all crashing down... and, in fact, almost did.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shauna

    The first 25% of this book was Fascinating, but then... major taper off. Then it got really tedious. Spoilers ahead - beware So the mission failed to get most of the sub. The claw picked up the entire sub, but like 3/4 of the way up, pressure / something snapped most of the sub off. And that cost $300 million. They couldn't go back down because they designed something with the propulsion feet to be a one time only thing, which just Enraged me. I'm a software engineer, & the idea that someone would The first 25% of this book was Fascinating, but then... major taper off. Then it got really tedious. Spoilers ahead - beware So the mission failed to get most of the sub. The claw picked up the entire sub, but like 3/4 of the way up, pressure / something snapped most of the sub off. And that cost $300 million. They couldn't go back down because they designed something with the propulsion feet to be a one time only thing, which just Enraged me. I'm a software engineer, & the idea that someone would engineer something that cost $300 million in the 70's to be a one shot or nothing situation just enrages me. So, fast forward - they came back, & were going to go out for Round 2 (I as so happy) when the cover on the entire project was blown by the press. So Depressing! Oh, even better, the damn $300 million ship (probably $1 billion today) sat in storage for over a Decade with no other uses because it cost, at that time, $22 - $30 million / year to operate the experimental ship. Really depressing.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    K-129 This was fascinating! It is about the CIA's attempted mission in the late 60s/early 70s to raise the sunken Russian nuclear submarine, the K-129, from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean - and to do it in secret, kept from both the Russians and the U.S. The Hughes Glomar Explorer, described as engineering marvel of a ship, was built to capture and raise the sub. And the cover-up story. Oh this was fun! True? Who really knows, we're talking the CIA. Factual? Who cares - this was exciting. Taken w K-129 This was fascinating! It is about the CIA's attempted mission in the late 60s/early 70s to raise the sunken Russian nuclear submarine, the K-129, from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean - and to do it in secret, kept from both the Russians and the U.S. The Hughes Glomar Explorer, described as engineering marvel of a ship, was built to capture and raise the sub. And the cover-up story. Oh this was fun! True? Who really knows, we're talking the CIA. Factual? Who cares - this was exciting. Taken with a grain of salt, this was one great read. Although it was a bit dry and very detailed, I found it exciting and thrilling as well as providing a good feel of that time in history. A lot of research went into this book and it has to be appreciated. If you have an interest in this kind of stuff, this one is worth the read. And I learned a lot.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Recommended to me by a retired submarine commander, this book at times engrossed me and, occasionally, bored me with an excess of unessential (if not irrelevant) detail. The story of the creation, development, and use of the Glomar Explorer to attempt to raise a lost Russian missile submarine sunk more than 3 miles in the Northern Pacific fascinated this reader even as he realized that five years after the sinking, anything recovered would probably be well out of date. Nonetheless, as with any bu Recommended to me by a retired submarine commander, this book at times engrossed me and, occasionally, bored me with an excess of unessential (if not irrelevant) detail. The story of the creation, development, and use of the Glomar Explorer to attempt to raise a lost Russian missile submarine sunk more than 3 miles in the Northern Pacific fascinated this reader even as he realized that five years after the sinking, anything recovered would probably be well out of date. Nonetheless, as with any bureaucratic project, once begun (at great expense), it would continue. . . . And, even after the initial attempt to raise the sub was only partially successful, there was momentum enough to plan on sending the ship back to complete the task. In any case, the intricacies of the project, the complications of creating a completely new ship in design and capability, and doing this under a cover story that had to be maintained for at least a year (it lasted for five) was riveting. The genius of the operation was the naval architect John Graham who worked out the specs for the ship and the enormous pressures that it had to survive, standing still above the target, and lifting it off the sea bottom, pulling it up into the pool in the hull of the boat, surely was a feat on a level with the moon landing. According to the author, all that design engineering was done with slide rules and paper, pre-computer days (one wonders about this, given ARPA, then DARPA, and the advances of technology in government hands). The writing style here enjoys a conversational smoothness and simplicity which allows the reader to follow the story easily. I certainly would recommend this to anyone interested in the Cold War, submarines, technological advancement, or just a rattling good story (and this one of the few successes the CIA has managed). I know my father would have enjoyed this immensely as a major quality control engineer at the old Hawthorne Works outside Chicago and a frequent visitor to NORAD. I am sending the book on to an old friend, a mathematician, who, a half-century ago, was charged with working on the problem of turbulence with submarines, looking for a means to make them truly "run silent, run deep."

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cropredy

    If you are old enough, you will remember the Glomar Explorer and the revelation that it raised a Soviet submarine off the Pacific floor. The whole story was shrouded in mystery (it included Howard Hughes) and cloaked in misinformation by the CIA. Exactly what was recovered and what did we learn from that submarine? If you are younger and never heard of this story, here's your chance. But, is the book any good? A long portion of the book goes into the backstory of the key players who became program If you are old enough, you will remember the Glomar Explorer and the revelation that it raised a Soviet submarine off the Pacific floor. The whole story was shrouded in mystery (it included Howard Hughes) and cloaked in misinformation by the CIA. Exactly what was recovered and what did we learn from that submarine? If you are younger and never heard of this story, here's your chance. But, is the book any good? A long portion of the book goes into the backstory of the key players who became program directors, program managers, and lead engineers. You also get a long, six-year dose of contracting decisions, recruiting, proofs of concept, and security regimens. Half way through the book you can't wait for the author to get the ship sailing and the recovery effort to start. It is at that point when the book gets much more interesting. I won't spoil your read by describing the results of the recovery. You'll have to read till the end. A lot of this book is about engineering - how the ship was designed to raise the sub. A lot of prose goes into describing the construction and operation. BUT THERE ARE NO PICTURES OR DIAGRAMS. Furthermore, although by now both the Russians and of course the Americans know exactly where the submarine sank, THERE IS NO MAP SHOWING YOU THIS. What was the author thinking? Three stars for the tedium of the 6 year design/construction/management history that consumes over 100 pages. Let's just say it was a lot of white guys with buzz cuts.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Larry

    The K-129 was a Golf class Russian diesel submarine that carried nuclear missiles and a crew of almost a hundred. It was lost at sea about 1500 miles northeast of Oahu when it suffered some kind of explosion followed a couple of minutes later by a catastrophic hull failure. Its crew all died. The sub sank to a death of 16,000 feet. The CIA and US Naval Intelligence was able to locate the site because the US had spread hundreds of hydrophones across the Pacific, and one of them registered two lou The K-129 was a Golf class Russian diesel submarine that carried nuclear missiles and a crew of almost a hundred. It was lost at sea about 1500 miles northeast of Oahu when it suffered some kind of explosion followed a couple of minutes later by a catastrophic hull failure. Its crew all died. The sub sank to a death of 16,000 feet. The CIA and US Naval Intelligence was able to locate the site because the US had spread hundreds of hydrophones across the Pacific, and one of them registered two loud sounds that preceded or were part of the loss. Since getting access to a Soviet submarine had not been possible, the CIA entered into an agreement with the Hunt Corporation to build a deepwater oceanic discovery vessel (to the tune of $220,000,000) that could retrieve the sub while appearing to be on a civilian scientific mission to explore the ocean. The ship was called the Glomar Explorer. Dean has done a prodigious amount of research among a deeply protected set of sources, has discovered a lot of new sources (newly discovered, that is), and has made some reasonable conjectures. The result is a fascinating look at something out of a Clive Cussler novel, only better thought out and better written.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Mauch

    The basic premise here is that we built one of the largest and most technically advanced boats ever made with a great cover story involving Howard Hughes and found a way to go out and grab a Russian nuclear submarine off the ocean floor from over 3 miles deep, during the cold war without Russia even having a clue what we were doing. How crazy is that? The technology alone was on par with the advances we were making in the space race. Then throw in that it was all done covertly with hundred of pe The basic premise here is that we built one of the largest and most technically advanced boats ever made with a great cover story involving Howard Hughes and found a way to go out and grab a Russian nuclear submarine off the ocean floor from over 3 miles deep, during the cold war without Russia even having a clue what we were doing. How crazy is that? The technology alone was on par with the advances we were making in the space race. Then throw in that it was all done covertly with hundred of people in on the secret...its just nuts. I'm really on a roll lately with grabbing some really good books off the "to-read" list. There's just something about massive stories of espionage that are told years later that really interests me. It's really incredible what our country can pull off under our noses and the noses of the world, when it really wants to, though it's very apparent that this would be almost possible during this day and age of technology. I fully realize small parts of this story are still classified even today, but it's been told by so many of those involved (and hundred of people were involved) that it's fairly well put together and researched at this point.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    Spellbinding. Scoring major points with creativity, cloak-and-dagger escalations, and a storytelling style all his own, Josh Dean paints a thrilling picture of mind, men, and machine attempting the impossible: stealing a Golf-II class ICBM sub at the crest of the cold war. I had no prior exposure to Project Azorian before this book, and was electrified to learn the tale. The Taking of the K-129 strikes a shocking balance between cold war government, technological evolution, and raw human emotion Spellbinding. Scoring major points with creativity, cloak-and-dagger escalations, and a storytelling style all his own, Josh Dean paints a thrilling picture of mind, men, and machine attempting the impossible: stealing a Golf-II class ICBM sub at the crest of the cold war. I had no prior exposure to Project Azorian before this book, and was electrified to learn the tale. The Taking of the K-129 strikes a shocking balance between cold war government, technological evolution, and raw human emotion. Those latter two shine the most. The concept to construction of the Glomar Explorer is perhaps the finest engineering/espionage achievement ever actualized, and the men behind her keel, John Grahm, Curtis Crooke, Manfred Krutein, John Parangosky, Dave Pasho, and so many more have etched a legacy on the immortal walls of time. This book also pays homage to those beyond, the crew of the HGE and K-129 crew, conveying the somber realities of spy craft and the silent service with dignity and heart. If you’re seeking adventure, innovation, and truth stranger than fiction, set against a cast both revered and relatable, I cannot recommend this masterpiece enough.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dan Morris

    It's easy to see the title and assume this is a spy/war story, but it doesn't read that way at all. There are a few interesting anecdotes about cover stories and politics, but this is primarily a story of a lean engineering team doing incredible work to solve a nearly-impossible problem. I can't think of a perfect analogy... the Manhattan Project, the Normandy Landings, and the Apollo 11 landing come to mind as history's most incredible feats of logistics and engineering, but all of those were m It's easy to see the title and assume this is a spy/war story, but it doesn't read that way at all. There are a few interesting anecdotes about cover stories and politics, but this is primarily a story of a lean engineering team doing incredible work to solve a nearly-impossible problem. I can't think of a perfect analogy... the Manhattan Project, the Normandy Landings, and the Apollo 11 landing come to mind as history's most incredible feats of logistics and engineering, but all of those were massively larger in scale, so it's hard to see them inspiring individuals or small teams the way the K-129 operation can. It's amazing how untold this story is; I had never heard of K-129 before this book. How have I heard of Google putting WiFi on kites or balloons or whatever, but I've never heard of a giant claw picking up a submarine from the bottom of the ocean and putting it inside a giant boat? I had to skim a few sections that gave what I found to be excessive background on the people involved, but overall, this was an incredible story of focused engineering at its best.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    An engaging story about a CIA-sponsored effort using Howard Hughes' Summa Corporation as cover to raise a Russian sub with nuclear ICBMs that sank in over three miles of water in the late '60s. I remember hearing decades ago about the massive Glomar Explorer, ostensibly built to engage in deep-water mining, but, until now, hadn't connected that massive, highly advanced ship with the surreptitious raising of a submarine thought to have been lost. That it was accomplished over a period of about fi An engaging story about a CIA-sponsored effort using Howard Hughes' Summa Corporation as cover to raise a Russian sub with nuclear ICBMs that sank in over three miles of water in the late '60s. I remember hearing decades ago about the massive Glomar Explorer, ostensibly built to engage in deep-water mining, but, until now, hadn't connected that massive, highly advanced ship with the surreptitious raising of a submarine thought to have been lost. That it was accomplished over a period of about five years without detection was remarkable in and of itself. The book will be of particular interest to engineers or anyone with a scientific or technical bent, as it goes into great detail about the ship's and its specialized components' construction. I'd guess roughly two-thirds of the book concerns the construction and top-secret cover-up activities and the balance the actual raising and examination of the sub. Note: The narrator of the Audible version is a bit hard to take, but I did get used to him and didn't find him a distraction after about the first hour.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gunnar Esiason

    The Taking of K-129 is the kind of story that is almost too good to be true. Josh Dean presents a well researched and even better articulated account of one of the CIA’s most daring covert operations. Dean is detail oriented, and provides valuable perspective from both the engineers who developed the ship to conduct the operation and the security agency who created a cover story on a scale of global proportions. Although it did take me awhile to read ‘The Taking of K-129’ it wasn’t because it wa The Taking of K-129 is the kind of story that is almost too good to be true. Josh Dean presents a well researched and even better articulated account of one of the CIA’s most daring covert operations. Dean is detail oriented, and provides valuable perspective from both the engineers who developed the ship to conduct the operation and the security agency who created a cover story on a scale of global proportions. Although it did take me awhile to read ‘The Taking of K-129’ it wasn’t because it was boring or too long, rather I wanted to spend as much time as I could learning about the complex details of the project. The build up to the actual operation encompasses most of the book, because that’s really what project is remember for, and what changed the world of deep sea mining. I thoroughly enjoyed it this book, but the one down side was that it was challenging for me to sometimes conceptualize the topics Dean was describing. If you’re into real life spy stories, ‘The Taking of K-129’ is for you!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bill Conrad

    This book popped up on my non-fiction reading list, and it seemed interesting. It is about the CIA recovering a Russian submarine that sunk off the coast of Hawaii. This is a complex and classified story, which I am sure took a lot of effort to research. Josh did an impressive job uncovering the details and presented them in an easy to comprehend format. This is a fascinating story, and despite recently watching a documentary about the subject, I learned a lot. Josh revealed many little tidbits This book popped up on my non-fiction reading list, and it seemed interesting. It is about the CIA recovering a Russian submarine that sunk off the coast of Hawaii. This is a complex and classified story, which I am sure took a lot of effort to research. Josh did an impressive job uncovering the details and presented them in an easy to comprehend format. This is a fascinating story, and despite recently watching a documentary about the subject, I learned a lot. Josh revealed many little tidbits of information that added a lot to my understanding of the event. I enjoyed reading about the details surrounding Howard Hughes the best. What a character. I cannot imagine how the people involved kept this colossal project a secret with so many people involved. They were the absolute best at what they did, and their success is an unapparelled accomplishment. This book is a fantastic read, and I enjoyed every page. In many ways, it reads better than Hunt For the Red October by Tom Clancy because it is a far more outrageous (but true) story.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Naomi

    The work it took just to put this book together is almost as amazing as the story itself! The idea to raise a sunken Russian sub, starting in 1960, and gather its secrets, took 6 years to bring to fruition and 300 million of your tax dollars to pay for it. The engineering problems solved, were done by slide rule and with no computers at that time, was a miracle itself. Only 1800 people knew the secrets of the Glomar Explorer keeping it all from any enemies and the American people themselves. Wit The work it took just to put this book together is almost as amazing as the story itself! The idea to raise a sunken Russian sub, starting in 1960, and gather its secrets, took 6 years to bring to fruition and 300 million of your tax dollars to pay for it. The engineering problems solved, were done by slide rule and with no computers at that time, was a miracle itself. Only 1800 people knew the secrets of the Glomar Explorer keeping it all from any enemies and the American people themselves. With the help of Howard Hughes agreeing to the use of his company's name, the CIA and other government agencies brought the Glomar to accomplish the stated goal. This novel really should have 5 stars but it was so very technical that it was easy to skip over that information and just get to see how it all turned out. Nevertheless, it really holds the readers interest.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Roger Neyman

    A well written history of the covert CIA operation to recover a sunk Soviet submarine. The book successfully weaves together telling the tale, and telling enough of the context and background to breathe a lot of life in to the primary tale. I listened to the audiobook, but think this would be a good read as well. The shortcoming lies, perhaps, more in the genre than in this particuar author, but I will share it anyway. The telling scrupulously avoids questioning the values and ethics of espionag A well written history of the covert CIA operation to recover a sunk Soviet submarine. The book successfully weaves together telling the tale, and telling enough of the context and background to breathe a lot of life in to the primary tale. I listened to the audiobook, but think this would be a good read as well. The shortcoming lies, perhaps, more in the genre than in this particuar author, but I will share it anyway. The telling scrupulously avoids questioning the values and ethics of espionage. By the end of the book, you gain some insight into why. The author has clearly established some relationships among the participants in the history and doesn't want to burn all the bridges he built.

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