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True tale of Cold War terror - Account of 1969 sinking of Soviet sub has lessons for today
Flint Journal ^ | December 18, 2005 | Doug Allyn

Posted on 12/18/2005 6:56:53 PM PST by Tailgunner Joe

One unforeseen blessing of the collapse of the Soviet Union has been the easing of security restrictions in former Iron Curtain nations. Since the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Western journalists have been able to access to classified documents that would have gotten them shot a few years before.

That's a scary thought - but not nearly as chilling as some of the secrets they've uncovered.

In "Red Star Rogue," author Kenneth Sewell takes us inside the once top-secret Soviet nuclear navy to reveal the explosive facts about one of best-kept secrets of the Cold War, the sinking of Soviet sub K -129. The incident could have ended the world as we know it. And very nearly did.

Sewell is no dilettante. A nuclear engineer and U.S. Navy veteran, Sewell served five years aboard America's most decorated fast attack submarine, the USS Parche. During his time in the Navy, he heard rumors of a disaster at sea during the late '60s that had been hushed up by both sides. But as Sewell probed deeper to ferret out the details, he uncovered a story more shocking than he ever imagined.

Some of the facts are straightforward. In March 1968, the K-129, a Soviet nuclear submarine, exploded and sank with all hands in the Pacific Ocean roughly 300 miles from Pearl Harbor.

From the beginning, the tragedy was shrouded in mystery. Despite the fact that K-129 was carrying atomic missiles, neither the U.S. nor Soviet navies reported an explosion. The Russians simply announced that the sub was missing and launched a massive sea and air search to locate it.

Finding it could have been easy. The K-129 had been photographed from space by American spy satellites, and we knew exactly where it sank. Unfortunately, informing the Soviets of K-129's location would have compromised the capabilities of our satellite surveillance systems, a breach of national security. So we left the Russians to their own.

What happened next was even more surprising. The Russians began looking for K-129 in the wrong place. They were combing the seabed nearly 400 miles from where the sub actually sank.

No military unit on the planet is as closely monitored as a nuclear submarine. Why didn't the Russians know the location of their own sub?

In rechecking its radio-intercept files, U.S. Navy intelligence determined that K-129 hadn't filed a position report for at least four days, a incredible breach of Soviet security procedures. If the Russians were searching for K-129 in the area where it was supposed to be, why had the sub moved so much closer to Pearl Harbor?

From the satellite photos, it was clear that K-129 had surfaced shortly before the blast. There were only two reasons why it would have done so. If it had been in desperate trouble, K -129 might have surfaced. But, if so, the sub would have radioed for help immediately. It didn't.

The second reason was far more chilling. The sub would have had to surface in order to launch its nuclear missiles at Pearl Harbor. And from all appearances, that's exactly what K-129 was trying to do when it blew up. But if the Russians were planning a nuclear war, why would they attack Pearl Harbor? From a strategic standpoint, it made no sense.

The truth of the incident was 3,000 feet below the surface at the bottom of the Pacific. At the time, the US Navy had no means of recovering a wreck from that depth. Only one man might be able to do it: An eccentric billionaire named Howard Hughes who owned a gigantic deep water research vessel called the Glomar Explorer.

"Red Star Rogue" reads like the latest Tom Clancy thriller, with twists and turns that are positively breathtaking. The truth is like that sometimes. But Sewell spent nearly a decade researching the story of K-129, and his scholarship is impeccable.

This tale is as fascinating as it is frightening, and it has a timely message. Are terrorists capable of launching a nuclear attack on an American city? You bet. In 1968, it nearly happened.


TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Russia
KEYWORDS: almostblewhawaii; blowupgoboom; coldwar; hawaii; k129; sovietnuke; sovietnukesinks; sovietsub; sub; thatsinkingfeeling; zaq
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1 posted on 12/18/2005 6:56:56 PM PST by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe

I believe it was speculated that the sub's captain had decided to wage W.W. 3 on his own...(?)


2 posted on 12/18/2005 7:02:30 PM PST by SteveMcKing ("No empire collapses because of technical reasons. They collapse because they are unnatural.")
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To: Tailgunner Joe
I thought that sub was found from triangulating the noise from the implosion?

Any way Why didn't the Russians know the location of their own sub?

Usually they did. They just looked for P-3s circling overhead...

3 posted on 12/18/2005 7:07:33 PM PST by Calvin Locke
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To: Tailgunner Joe

bfl


4 posted on 12/18/2005 7:14:46 PM PST by gridlock (eliminate perverse incentives)
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Wasn't there a special on the History Channel or the Discovery Channel about this some years ago? I recall watching something that sounds real familiar to this. Wasn't the Glomar Explorer created for this? IIRC, the govt' actually brought up some of the wreckage and it seemed that it all just kind of disappeared or faded into the woodwork. It seems to me that the ending of the whole affair was very vague.


5 posted on 12/18/2005 7:20:27 PM PST by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: gridlock

From what I saw in an ad, it appears the sub wanted to bomb Pearl Harbor, but give the credit to the Chinese.
That way the US and China would fight a war (destroying China, which was one goal of Russia) and probably leaving China divded between the the USA and the USSR along east-west lines.
But I doubt the sub capt. could have acted on his own;
a much larger Soviet plot may have been involved.


6 posted on 12/18/2005 7:22:33 PM PST by CondorFlight
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Three bits of evidence here make me question this WW3 stuff.

1) No radio contact for 4 days
2) No radio contact upon surfacing.
3) The sub exploded.

The facts could be explained by a massive electrical surge as the result of a nuke containment failure...which isn't too absurd a guess given Soviet-era quality control. Not that the doomsday scenario isn't possible--just that it seems a more unlikely reason for those facts. Anyone know if the explosion was radioactive beyond simply reactor leaks after a sub sinking?


7 posted on 12/18/2005 7:22:42 PM PST by LibertarianInExile (Cowards cut and run. Marines never do. Murtha can ESAD, that cowardly, no-longer-a-Marine, traitor.)
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To: metmom

If this is the one I am thinking of, the US eventually either turned some bodies over to the Russians, or turned over photos of a burial at sea of the bodies that came up with the wreckage.


8 posted on 12/18/2005 7:31:02 PM PST by PAR35
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To: Tailgunner Joe

bump


9 posted on 12/18/2005 7:32:43 PM PST by wildcatf4f3 (admittedly too unstable for public office)
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Spring 1968.

"Prague spring".
Paris riots.
Tet.

Soviets might have thought something daring was worth a try.


10 posted on 12/18/2005 7:32:59 PM PST by 1066AD
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Not buying that scenario at all.


11 posted on 12/18/2005 7:36:47 PM PST by cynicom
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To: metmom

Glomar Explorer was built (by Howard Hughes for the CIA) to recover a lost Russian sub and did recover at least part of it with bodies inside ...........I saw film of a burial at sea(Discovery Channel I think) .........not sure if this is the same sub but it sounds like it...........original cover story for Glomar Explorer was "mining of the ocean floor" ........I remember an article to that effect in the Weekly Reader in high school


12 posted on 12/18/2005 7:37:26 PM PST by shooter223 (the government should fear the citizens......not the other way around)
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To: LibertarianInExile
The facts could be explained by a massive electrical surge as the result of a nuke containment failure.

Except that it appears to have been a diesel - electric boat (Golf), which would fairly definitively rule out a reactor failure.

13 posted on 12/18/2005 7:37:59 PM PST by PAR35
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To: Calvin Locke

" Usually they did. They just looked for P-3s circling overhead..."

I was an aviation machinists mate in an ASW squadron based at NAS Alameda from 69-70. The Russians were off the coast all the time and we were on them like white on rice. The general public didn't have a clue about what was going on just a few miles from them.


14 posted on 12/18/2005 7:40:11 PM PST by dljordan
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To: Tailgunner Joe
But if the Russians were planning a nuclear war, why would they attack Pearl Harbor? From a strategic standpoint, it made no sense.

But from a psychological standpoint it would have been a devastating, iconoclasmic blow to the "greatest generation" who held the reigns of American government and industry.

Exactly the sort of attacks that AQ plans and executes.

15 posted on 12/18/2005 7:40:36 PM PST by lightman (The Office of the Keys should be exercised as some ministry needs to be exorcised.)
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To: PAR35

curiosity having gotten the better of me,I found thishttp://w3.the-kgb.com/dante/military/mission.html ..............or just goooooooogle "Glomar Explorer"


16 posted on 12/18/2005 7:42:29 PM PST by shooter223 (the government should fear the citizens......not the other way around)
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To: PAR35; metmom

Film/photos of the burial at sea of a half dozen bodies that were recovered.


17 posted on 12/18/2005 7:43:11 PM PST by PAR35
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To: dljordan

That was a paraphrase of a statement by a Soviet Admiral.


18 posted on 12/18/2005 7:43:28 PM PST by Calvin Locke
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To: Calvin Locke

LOL!


19 posted on 12/18/2005 7:43:50 PM PST by Atchafalaya (When you're there, that's the best!!)
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Finding it could have been easy. The K-129 had been photographed from space by American spy satellites ...

American spy satellites in March 1968? The technology was in its infancy at that point ... not likely.

20 posted on 12/18/2005 7:44:50 PM PST by BluH2o
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To: Calvin Locke
>>>"Usually they did. They just looked for P-3s circling overhead"<<<

Or H-3s, SH-3s

(But in the late 60's I think it was P-2s)
21 posted on 12/18/2005 7:46:49 PM PST by TexasTransplant (NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSET)
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To: dljordan

What were the ASW platforms of 69 70 era P-2s?

BTW
Thanks for your Service


22 posted on 12/18/2005 7:49:40 PM PST by TexasTransplant (NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSET)
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To: cynicom

The Russians apparently blamed it on a collision with an American sub. The Americans denied that the US sub was within a couple of thousand miles at the time, and the US sub went back into service after some minor emergency repairs in Japan 9 days after the Soviet boat sank.


23 posted on 12/18/2005 7:50:10 PM PST by PAR35
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To: shooter223
I remember the reason they gave for it being built was mining also but it was just a cover. Boy do I wish that we could get JUST a couple cable channels instead of buying the whole package.

There was also another special that I'm sure was on the History Channel about the nuclear race and Japan and Germany's collusion to nuke the US in LA or San Francisco just before Hiroshima. Apparently, it was the info that the government uncovered that was what really prompted the decision to use the bombs. IIRC, Japan had already set a date for the bombing and it was just 3-6 weeks after the dates that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed. I wonder how many other times we've been close to this.

24 posted on 12/18/2005 7:57:14 PM PST by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: Atchafalaya
I think it was in a book called Blind Man's Bluff, about sub operations and stories during the cold war.
25 posted on 12/18/2005 8:05:20 PM PST by Calvin Locke
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Image hosted by Photobucket.com read Blind Mans Bluff...
26 posted on 12/18/2005 8:06:08 PM PST by Chode (American Hedonist )
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To: metmom

fairly common knowlege that Germany & Japan were working on nuke bombs but I don't recall ever hearing that they got close to having one that worked


27 posted on 12/18/2005 8:12:05 PM PST by shooter223 (the government should fear the citizens......not the other way around)
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To: Calvin Locke

Blind Man's Bluff http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/006103004X/002-3392510-9627230?v=glance&n=283155


28 posted on 12/18/2005 8:17:05 PM PST by shooter223 (the government should fear the citizens......not the other way around)
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To: TexasTransplant

Yep P2's and a bunch of crazy guys flying them. We used to go out with these guys every now and then and they were totally nuts. The helicopter crews were worse if that's possible.


29 posted on 12/18/2005 8:23:15 PM PST by dljordan
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To: Calvin Locke
"I thought that sub was found from triangulating the noise from the implosion?"-Calvin Locke

Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS)

"1968 - In May, the USS SCORPION submarine sank southwest of the Azores. In this same year, a Soviet Golf class SSB sank north of Hawaii. SOSUS played a key role in locating the sites of both disasters."

About SOSUS at globalsecurity.org/

The CIA operation to raise the Soviet Golf class sub, was code-named JENNIFER.

30 posted on 12/18/2005 8:38:05 PM PST by Daaave ("If you print that, I will deny it.")
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To: metmom
Japan never got past the "we think a nuclear weapon is possible" stage before WW2 ended. They had neither the resources or industrial capacity to even begin basic research.

Germany had begun research but never was able to achieve a chain reaction as their only atomic laboratory in Berlin was bombed and destroyed in 1943.

They ceased development in 1944.

31 posted on 12/18/2005 8:39:25 PM PST by spectre
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To: dljordan
I'd believe you, my Navy days started in '73 (USS G.K. MacKenzie DD 836) but I didn't go Brownshoe until '82 to H-3s and then transitioned into P-3s until '87.

I used to fly with an H-3 Pilot (HC-1 out of San Diego) that transitioned from Fighters that swore that he could Barrel Roll an H-3, I am thankful that he never proved it while I was flying with him.

Great Memories

Merry Christmas

TT
32 posted on 12/18/2005 8:52:42 PM PST by TexasTransplant (NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSET)
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To: shooter223

In the book : The German Atom Bomb : it was found after the war that the german atomic program never got further than a university project, uranium cubes hung on strings in a bavarian cave. Hitler didn't like the U235 fission bomb idea because it had been developed in part by JEWS; plus Heisenberg steered nuc-development toward power generation, not bombs. All he could think of, as a bomb, was to fly the entire 1/2 a million pound reactor w/control rods in a plane and drop it over london, pulling all the control rods at once. Nazi Germany never developed an airplane capable of lifting 500,000 # of course... But as to a rogue sub commander trying to start WWIII it just might have been possible. Do you remember that in the Cuban Missile Crisis the local russian commanders had total control of their own nucs? Thus if Kennedy HAD ordered air strikes on the cuban nuc bases, say in retaliation for the shooting down of the US spy plane, IT could have happened right then and there as the USSR missiles already in cuba had a 1000 mile range. Thus one could argue the case for a rogue sub commander in the 1960's and someone else on the sub, knowing what this all meant, could have sabotaged the sub to prevent WWIII. What was the name of that russian spy that fed the british and US intelligence guys the actual facts on the USSR's nuclear forces and capabilities? With that info Kennedy called Khruschev's bluff. Might not there have been a similar russian patriot on the K-129 sub? Maybe one could make a might-have-been sub movie out of that...a noble man who saw thru the communist LIES and sacrificed himself for ALL of us...an un-sung hero of the cold war...plot then : deep submersible hunting thru the 2/3rds of K-129 still down there, trying to find(as undersea detectives)who, where and how it was sabotaged...


33 posted on 12/18/2005 9:03:11 PM PST by timer
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To: PAR35

"Except that it appears to have been a diesel - electric boat (Golf), which would fairly definitively rule out a reactor failure."

Yeah, that could present some obstacles to that possibility. 8) No mention of Golf-class in the article, though 'nuclear sub' was rampant. Nuclear MISSILE sub would have been more accurate.

Others on this thread have floated the idea of a US/Soviet sub crash. One would assume that one sub tracking/being tracked by another would maintain radio silence. It fits the facts pretty well, too. That would be another decent scenario, one I'd still think more likely than the "mad Russian cap'n" scenario,


34 posted on 12/18/2005 9:07:17 PM PST by LibertarianInExile (Cowards cut and run. Marines never do. Murtha can ESAD, that cowardly, no-longer-a-Marine, traitor.)
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To: Daaave
Again from Blind Man's Bluff, IIRC, the third sound recording from one of those accidents came from a non-SOSUS source,
which is why I didn't mention SOSUS.

With the Golf SSB, and the Glomar relevation, the Soviets thought the US had something to do with the sinking, since
we were able to find it, and they weren't.

The US sub and/or crew that actually found the Golf got a commendation. The commander and exec were about the only
two to know why they got the commendation. And the camera guys.

35 posted on 12/18/2005 9:13:53 PM PST by Calvin Locke
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To: Tailgunner Joe

More grist for the mill...the link to the amazon.com website for the book:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0743261127/qid=1134969449/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/102-6019060-5440133?s=books&v=glance&n=283155

Heck, even has Chapter 1 on the website...


36 posted on 12/18/2005 9:22:17 PM PST by VOA
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To: LibertarianInExile

what is the possibility of a torpedo malfunction?
a malfunction of the warheard, or a fuel handling
accident?


37 posted on 12/18/2005 9:34:05 PM PST by rahbert
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To: Tailgunner Joe

I remember that there science books that used the Glomar Explorer as an example of mining the sea floor. I had one of those books in school!!!


38 posted on 12/18/2005 9:57:55 PM PST by GeronL (1678 computer infections and still Freeping!!!)
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To: shooter223; spectre

What this special, which I saw twice, stated was that Germany had the fissionable materials that Japan lacked. Japan had gotten as far as they could with the technology and a German sub was on it's way to Japan with that material when Germany surrendered. They radioed the sub but the sub commander thought it was a trick and kept on going. I don't remember how the event was finally resolved but the material did not fall into Japanese hands. I'll have to look on the History Channel's website. I think that all the episodes they run can be purchased on video or DVD.


39 posted on 12/18/2005 10:01:24 PM PST by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: Calvin Locke

The government got Hughes to build the Glomar Explorer under the guise of undersea mining (fact). They grabbed the entire sub and started the lift. According to what I've seen on the tube they got the sub 1/3 +/- up and the forward section of the grab assembly broke. The aft 1/3 was salvaged, seamen were buried at sea, and ...! The Glomar Explorer is fact (Hughes Tool could do anything), the rest...???


40 posted on 12/18/2005 10:01:40 PM PST by Atchafalaya (When you're there, that's the best!!)
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To: Tailgunner Joe
The Russians were paranoid about loosing control of their nucs as they almost did during the Cuban Missile Crises. They rigged their boomer missiles to blow up if launched without the proper permissive action codes. The people manning the subs did not know this.

The K129 was a case where their paranoia was correct and their safeguards worked.

This is verified fact.

41 posted on 12/18/2005 10:56:08 PM PST by Jeff Gordon (Lt. Gen. Russel Honore to MSM: "You are stuck on stupid. Over.")
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To: BluH2o
The technology was in its infancy at that point ... not likely.

True. The K129's approximate location was plotted by SOUS microphones which recorded the explosion. The exact location of K129 was found by the crew of the Navy's NR1 submarine.

42 posted on 12/18/2005 11:02:14 PM PST by Jeff Gordon (Lt. Gen. Russel Honore to MSM: "You are stuck on stupid. Over.")
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To: shooter223
Blind Man's Bluff...

Even better...

The Silent War: The Cold War Battle Beneath the Sea.

43 posted on 12/18/2005 11:09:10 PM PST by Jeff Gordon (Lt. Gen. Russel Honore to MSM: "You are stuck on stupid. Over.")
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To: Tailgunner Joe

But as John Craven said in his book...

The secret within the secret. Is the one that should be told. And that remains intact.

So I don’t think ?? it was going to send a nuke to Pearl.


John P. Craven
http://www.aloha.com/~craven/spook.html


44 posted on 12/19/2005 1:58:24 AM PST by quietolong
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To: TexasTransplant

The main sub hunter was at that time (and still is) the P-3 But there were P-2s & P-5Ms still flying.

VPNavy
http://www.vpnavy.com/


45 posted on 12/19/2005 2:04:03 AM PST by quietolong
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To: BluH2o
American spy satellites in March 1968? The technology was in its infancy at that point ... not likely.

In 1961, Sports Illustrated published a photo taken by a SAMOS satellite. It clearly showed a golf ball sitting on a golf green. SAMOS was public knowledge, but I have no idea how the magazine got hold of a photo from such a sensitive program.

46 posted on 12/19/2005 2:26:50 AM PST by JoeGar
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To: Jeff Gordon
Not the NR-1, but the USS Halibut. The book explains very thoroughly how the K-129 was found. The satellite tracking wasn't by reconnaissance sats, but rather by the MIDAS sats that gave early warning of missile launch. Apparently they detected the ignition of the fuel, but since they didn't detect an actual launch, (missile movement) no serious alarms were raised. A university research ship down wind of the explosion retrieved samples of radioactive rocket fuel. They reason the author believes the sub was trying to simulate a Chinese Golf I is that it was positioned far inside the launch rage of the Missile carried by the Russian Golf II, (K-129). But right at the range of the older Golf I missiles carried by the Chinese Golfs. The retrofitted Russian Golf IIs could launch submerged, but the older Chinese models had to surface to launch. K-129 was attempting a surface launch when the missile exploded. To clarify one other point. Red Star Rogue posits that a rogue element of the KGB planned and carried out this mission. A fairly large contingent of non-submariner types reported aboard just before the ship left port. The majority of the crew was found locked in the first compartment. There's a lot more. The best thing to do is read the book.
47 posted on 12/19/2005 2:52:41 AM PST by 75thOVI (Navy son, Navy vet, Navy husband........Marine dad. What's up with that?)
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To: 75thOVI
The best thing to do is read the book.

If it is in a book, it must be true.

48 posted on 12/19/2005 3:26:20 AM PST by Jeff Gordon (Lt. Gen. Russel Honore to MSM: "You are stuck on stupid. Over.")
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To: Jeff Gordon
Not necessarily. I spent 10 years driving subs, including 6 SSBN patrols, and was interested in "Project Jennifer" long before that. I have no direct knowledge of the circumstances of the loss and discovery of K-129. But there is nothing in the book that contradicts anything I do have knowledge of. Red Star Rogue also answers several questions I've always had about the "cover story" that has come down to us over the years. For instance, according to the official story, the boat was intact on the bottom, and was grappled and partially raised with the intention of being brought whole into the "Moon Pool" of the Glomar Explorer. However the doors of both the recovery barge, HMB-1 and the bay doors of the Moon Pool were too small to admit an entire Golf II hull. Therefore the story of an intact grapple that fell apart within a few hundred feet of the surface, seems to be Bravo Sierra on it's face. RSR puts together a much more compelling scenario. Is it therefore correct. Maybe, but it makes more sense than what has gone before.
49 posted on 12/19/2005 4:47:29 AM PST by 75thOVI (Navy son, Navy vet, Navy husband........Marine dad. What's up with that?)
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To: JoeGar
In 1961, Sports Illustrated published a photo taken by a SAMOS satellite. It clearly showed a golf ball sitting on a golf green.

Sports Illustrated? Maybe ... but spy satellites were not tracking Russian submarines in March 1968. There were undoubtedly spy satellites aloft, however, they were few and far between ... and most of those were Russian.

50 posted on 12/19/2005 7:13:40 AM PST by BluH2o
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