How the CIA Stole a Submarine from the Soviets in 1974 –

The North American film industry from time to time throws us a battery of war films, time and time again Vietnam War, Attack on Pearl Harbor, Korea, etc. An event that occurred in the midst of the cold war, at the end of the 1960s, resulted in the Azorean Project, a plan devised by the CIA and that until its recent declassification, had been practically unknown. It has all the necessary ingredients for a movie, Soviet submarine K-129, an emergency message and the CIA. In this article we will know what happened to the K-129, what was the Azorian Project about and how the conflict was resolvedserve as a clue the title “How the CIA stole a submarine from the Soviets in 1974”.

The K-129

In the spring 1968the US Naval Intelligence Service, detected an unusual display of the fleet that the Soviet Union had in the Pacific. In 1968 we are in full cold Warespionage and counterespionage between the US and the Soviet Union were at their peak.

Observing the movements, the US intelligence services became suspicious when they saw how Soviet ships were concentrated in an area frequented by soviet diesel submarinesloaded with ballistic missiles. Given this situation, suspicions that the Soviet fleet was looking for a submarine that seemed lost, became a reality.

It was a submarine Soviet GOLF II SSB, registered as K-129a submarine that sank in the Pacific at a distance of 2,500 kilometers from the coast of Hawaii and at a depth of about 5,000 m.

The K-129 it was a submarine loaded with three nuclear missiles in his turret. These submarines used to be located at a sufficient distance so that said missiles could hit if necessary, on the coast of the United States.

Due to the importance of the submarine’s cargo, the Soviets were scrambling to find their sunken ship, while the United Statesusing your network hydrophones (microphones placed on the seafloor), tracked down any recorded sound that might sound like a implosion and that justified such an exhaustive search.

In the LOFAR sound files, On March 8, 1968, an implosion appears south of Monterey in California.. With the date and time of the located sound and using the recordings of different hydrophones placed in the area, it was possible to locate the place of the wreck of the K-129 a 40º north latitude and 180º longitude.

the remains

The Soviets kept trying to locate the submarine, but without success and little by little the area began to be cleared, the fleet sSoviet Union ended up returning to their usual positionsIn the summer of 1968, no Soviet ships remained in the area.

In July of that same year, the United States Navy, sent the submarine USS Halibut, based in Pearl Harbor, to the place where the Intelligence Services had marked as a possible site of the shipwreck, in an operation called Operation Sand Dollar (Dollar in the sand). The objective of the Sand Dollar operation was locate and photograph K-129.

The USS Halibut was a submarine built in 1965 and gifted with search teams in very deep water, it was the only submarine of this type that the US Navy had and it was the one used in the search. With the data provided, the search radius was 3,100 km² and the depth of about 4,500-5,000 meters deep. The USS Halibut managed to locate K-129 in just 3 weeks.

More than 20,000 photos were taken where even the smallest details of both the sinister submarine and the shipwreck could be appreciated.

After analyzing all the photographs in 1970, and at the request of the US Secretary of Defense and then National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, it was proposed to design a plan that would allow the submarine to be recovered sunk and so power study Soviet nuclear missile technology and maybe be able to find documents or crypto systems that would place them in a more advantageous position in the US arms race.

The proposal was accepted by President Nixon and the CIA was commissioned to design the plan for the recovery of the submarine, a project that would receive the name of Azorean project.

The Azorean Project

To carry out this undertaking, the company Global Marine Development Inc., business dedicated to deep drilling operations. The project required the construction of a ship with special characteristics, this ship was built in Philadelphia and received the name Hughes Glomar Explorer.

Now that you had the ship, the US Government, I needed a solid excuse so as not to arouse suspicion among the Soviet intelligence services. For this, an old acquaintance of the United States government was hiredyes, Howard Hugh, This millionaire and businessman was the owner of a series of companies that often signed secret contracts with the government in arms matters.

The deception consisted in making believe that the Hughes Glomar Explorer was a mining drilling ship on the seabed. But really Hughes, the only thing he did was lend his name and image to the Project, without participating in anything else.

The project was very ambitious. the K-129 It was found at a depth of about 4,900 m, a depth that had never been worked on before. On November 1, construction work began on the Hughes Glomar Explorer.

The rescue

The Hughes Glomar Explorer or HGEwas endowed with a huge mechanical clamp designed to reach the seabed, go around a section of the Soviet submarine and raise it from 4,900 meters deep.

The challenge of this project was to be able to lower a giant clamp to the bottom of the ocean without losing the horizontality of the floating base of the ship. Using the same system that was used for oil extraction in the drilling process, the clamp was lowered from the center of the boat.

Once the clamp clamped the section correctly, it began to operate in the opposite direction, thus lifting the clamped load. Via a hatch in the bottom of the ship, These sections that the clamp was raising were deposited inside the ship, inside a large compartment called Moon Poo.l.

with this system all work would be done underwatervisually it would be a ship that does some prospecting, but really it was a hollow base with a large compartment where the different sections of the submarine K-129 would be deposited, out of sight of both satellites, planes or other ships.

When HGE arrived at the indicated place on July 4, the rescue operations began, these lasted for a whole month. Various Russian ships approached the area on a reconnaissance mission, never suspecting what was really happening.

But at one point the caliper lift system failed and with the failure 2/3 of the submarine that was already practically raised, it fell back to the bottom.


But luckily, the only section that could be recovered contained what the US government was looking for, two nuclear torpedoes. The Azorean Project failed to salvage the entire submarine but if the nuclear torpedoes succeeded, documents were also recovered, naval charts, code books, etc. and the most important, 6 bodies belonging to the crew of K-129 were recovered Soviets, who received military honors and later return them to the sea in a funeral celebration.

So far all this is what we know about the rescue of the Soviet submarine K-129, the secret files of the CIA that have not yet been declassifiedThey hide the rest of the story. But one thing was clear, the Azorean Project It was a great technological advance, the deepest rescue ever carried out.

It was a failure?, depending on how you look at it, the US, got the information what they needed and Regarding the technical partsupposed a big tech pushopening other ways to develop for research.

Due to the great importance of this Project, the rescue operation was filmed by a group of CIA agents, but the film is also classified as TOP SECRET. In 1992 a small piece of recording showing the recovery and burial of the bodies of the 6 sailors was handed over to the Russian government.

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