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Hostile Waters - The Death of Soviet Submarine K219

Hostile Waters - The Death of Soviet Submarine K219

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Published by: laksmana on Mar 27, 2009
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11/14/2012

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the secretary of defense. They knew the code words. They were ready

for something big.

"A Soviet submarine exploded off our shores yesterday evening.

Preliminary evidence makes it look like one of her missiles went up

in smoke. The force of the explosion was very great."

The reporters erupted.

"What about casualties?"

"Is there radiation leakage?"

"What caused the explosion?"

"How do we know it was a missile?"

"One at a time, gentlemen," said Weinberger. "We know some

details thanks to a U.S. unit near the scene of the accident."

"What kind of unit?" someone shouted.

"What kind?" said Weinberger. "She's one of our submarines. You

know I can't say more."

He didn't have to.

"Was it involved in the incident?"

"Trailing operations are always risky," said Weinberger. That was

true. "We train our commanders to be very aggressive."

"Are you suggesting there was a collision, Mr. Secretary?"

Weinberger knew he had them now. He didn't need to say anything

more. "Our sub was the one who heard the explosion and reported it.

It's normal for us to trail them when they come so close to our shores.

But I really can't go into that any further. You know how the sub-

marine people are about details like that," said Weinberger with a

straight face. That was also true. "Anyway, the word is it looks like

Chernobyl out there. I'll keep you all advised as I hear more." He

waited one beat, then two.

The reporters lunged for their assigned telephones right on cue.

Cap Weinberger didn't have a personal interest in heating up the

simmering pot of the cold war, although he knew that what he had

just done might be seen that way. He just thought that giving your

184

HUCHTHAUSEN, KURDIN & WHITE

umbrella to a smooth-talking Communist who promises it will never

rain wasn't such a good idea, either.

K-219

Gennady Kapitulsky went up to the exposed bridge with an armful

of blankets gathered from a locker in compartment three, and a fresh

OBA canister for his mask. The propulsion engineer knew that it

wasn't Gadzhievo up on top, but to an injured, perhaps unconscious

man passed out on the cold steel decking, sea spray and wind could

still be lethal.

The sun was intense, tropical, and not at all like the pale, weak

object that hung in the winter skies of Russia.

Executive Officer Vladmirov was already up there with a pair of

binoculars. He had his blue coveralls opened down to his chest. Kap-

itulsky stood next to him, feeling the strange heat of the sun on his

own back.

"Well, this has been a hell of a first patrol for you," the propulsion

engineer said. The air up here wasn't too bad as long as the wind

drove the smoke away. Sometimes it didn't, and then he felt the poi-

son's burn.

"Look." Vladmirov handed the binoculars to Kapitulsky and

pointed.

Gennady took them and trained them to the east. At first the image

was poor, but it sharpened as he adjusted the focus.

A mottled gray tube barely cut the surface of the sea half a kilo-

meter distant. It appeared, then disappeared, as the waves rolled over

it. "A periscope?"

"Not only that. I think the bastard hit us."

Kapitulsky turned away and looked at the gaping hole where the

muzzle hatch had once been. Long silver grooves freshly cut into the

steel hull scratched aft. It could be the hatch peeling back, or it could

HOSTILE WATERS

185

be something else, too. Kapitulsky looked once more at the periscope,

then swung the glasses to the north.

The dark gray bulk of the Fyodor Bredtyn filled the lenses. She was

starting to slow, to back down to keep from running over the smok-

ing sub.

He looked aft.

Behind, all the way at the submarine's stern, a crowd of men had

gathered. Some stood, some paced nervously, some did not move at

all. A few had stripped their uniforms off to bask in the bright sun.

"I'm going back to see what I can find out. You'd better tell the

captain about that periscope."

Kapitulsky waited for the wind to blow the worst of the smoke

away, then clambered down the ladder and stepped out onto the

missile deck itself. The seas were running broadside to the immobi-

lized sub. They were drifting north in the Gulf Stream's steady cur-

rent. He couldn't see the periscope but he did spot the gray

superstructure of a second freighter to the northeast; you could tell

by her bow wave she was coming on fast. A four-engine plane

roared back and forth, no doubt photographing him. On its next

pass, he raised a fist and extended his middle finger. Some languages,

he thought, are universal.

The wind shifted and the smoke surrounded him. He held his

breath. He wanted to save his OBA mask for an inspection tour down

below decks. He knew it was dangerous to linger here, staring, as it

were, into the mouth of the volcano. He hurried around the damaged

section and made his way over the intact muzzle hatches, through the

crowd of anxious men, and found Pshenichny.

The security officer was on his knees over the still figure of Dr.

Kochergin. A sheet was drawn up over most of the doctor's body, but

his face still showed. It was a frightening shade of yellow, with green

and red flecks at the corners of his mouth and beneath his nose.

Pshenichny was shaking, the effects of delayed shock now making

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