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Boomers, Hunters, and Spies:

American Submarine Espionage in Cold War Military Policy

History 500

Professor Leavitt-Alcantara

December 7, 2009
List of Abbreviations

ASW Anti-Submarine Warfare

CIA Central Intelligence Agency

DIA Defense Intelligence Agency

DSSP Deep Submergence Systems Project

GIUK Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom oceanic bottleneck

ICBM Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile

MAD Mutually Assured Destruction

NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization

NAVINT Naval Intelligence

ONI Office of Naval Intelligence

PACFLT Soviet Pacific Fleet

SIGINT signals intelligence

SLBM Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile

SONAR sound navigation and ranging

SOSUS Sound Surveillance System

SSBN Ballistic Missile Submarine

SSN nuclear fast-attack submarine

USN United States Navy

U.S.S.R. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

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The Cold War is frequently described as a nuclear standoff between the only superpowers

left standing after WWII—the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist

Republics (U.S.S.R.). 1 Nuclear weapons loomed over every aspect of the Cold War, from peace

summits and periods of détente, to conflicts like the Berlin Crisis, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

At the time, both Soviet and American governments believed any direct confrontation between

the U.S. and U.S.S.R would necessarily result in a nuclear exchange. In response, American

strategists were compelled to find ways of combating the Soviet threat via indirect means. Of all

the methods they developed, no concept was more important than that of nuclear deterrence.

Nuclear deterrence was designed to discourage the Soviet Union from initiating an attack by

making the potential damage inflicted by a retaliatory American nuclear strike too catastrophic to

risk. 2 Responsibility for the American nuclear deterrence arsenal would be distributed among

land-based ICBM sites, intercontinental bomber fleets, and the United States Navy’s submarine

fleet in a structure known as the Nuclear Triad. 3

Of the three segments of the triad, only the submarine fleet would play an active role in

the strategic aspects of deterrence policy. Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBN) carried the

missiles that comprised the U.S. retaliatory, or second-strike, nuclear arsenal. These boats were

designed to disappear into the ocean and wait, undetected, until a first-strike nuclear attack

occurred and they were activated to retaliate. 4 Due to books like Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red

October and controversies over nuclear proliferation, the SSBN’s are considered the

Although European NATO member’s involvement in the Cold War was constant and invaluable in the war’s
outcome, this paper addresses the actions of only United States organizations and individuals; therefore, for the sake
of clarity, the United States will be the only entity addressed in terms of NATO action.
John Pina Craven, The Silent War: The Cold War Battle Beneath the Sea, New York, NY: Simon & Schuster,
2002, p. 53.
Atomic Archive. "Nuclear Deterrence." Exploring the History, Science, and Consequences of
the Atomic Bomb. (accessed November 3, 2009).
Submarines are traditionally referred to as boats rather than ships, potentially in homage to the first submarines,
which were as small as boats.

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quintessential Cold War submarine. Despite this, the true battle of the Cold War belonged to the

fast-attack submarine (SSN) fleet. The primary assignment of the SSN was to shadow Soviet

SSBN patrols, ensuring that, if war broke out, the Soviet missile fleet could be destroyed before

it could launch its missile arsenal. However, a frequently overlooked aspect of American

submarine activity is the fleet’s secondary special missions and espionage role. These special

missions activities included maneuvers designed to rob the Soviet military of the coastal and

fleet security necessary to launch a military offensive while other missions gathered information

on Soviet technology and tactics, enabling U.S. scientists and strategists to upgrade American

deterrence systems and strategies to neutralize Soviet advances. Ultimately, submarine

espionage would allow U.S. policymakers to penetrate Soviet naval strategy and neutralize the

Soviet naval threat. It is my goal to examine the ways in which the special missions program

contributed to winning the military portion of the Cold War through groundbreaking covert

programs designed specifically for the submarine’s unique capabilities.

The Submarine in Cold War Scholarship

Despite a wealth of academic research into the intricacies of the Cold War, one aspect of

its history that remains critically neglected is the special missions and intelligence-gathering role

played by the United States Navy (U.S.N.) submarine fleet in American Cold War strategy. This

is not to say detailed information regarding the role of American submarines in intelligence is

non-existent—in 1984, Tom Clancy’s novel, The Hunt for Red October galvanized the public’s

imagination with a glimpse of the constant game of cat-and-mouse being played by the

submarines of the Soviet Union and the United States. Later, in 1998, Blind Man’s Bluff, a non-

fiction collection of submarine espionage stories, triggered aspurt of public interest in Cold War

submarine activity. It is a strange reality that more has been published about submarine

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espionage in the realm of popular literature—newspapers, novels, and non-fiction books—than

in historical journals. Pertinent studies regarding the impact of submarines on Cold War strategy

appear in numerous military and scientific publications including Security Studies, Naval

Warfare Studies, International Security, and Social Studies of Science; however, even these

focus on the submarine’s relationship to nuclear policy as opposed to its special missions history.

Developing a deeper understanding of this subject required consultation with general

Cold War and submarine histories, of which Thomas Parrish’s The Submarine and Thomas S.

Burns’ The Secret War for the Ocean Depths provided the most information. In addition,

biographies of individuals involved in the special missions program and popular non-fiction

volumes mentioned elsewhere played a large role in this paper. By cross-referencing accounts

between general histories, military journals, and popular non-fiction, a clearer picture of the

submarine’s role was attained than was possible by relying solely on academic sources.

A potential reason for the lack of scholarship in this area may rest in the current

popularity of social histories in scholarly work. The study of social history gained acceptance in

the 1950s and 1960s and has continued to grow in popularity throughout the Cold War and into

the present day. 5 Since its acceptance by academia, political and military subjects like

submarine warfare have been eclipsed in favor of studying the social aspects of Cold War life.

Another definite factor contributing to the lack of research into submarine warfare is the

level of security at which most Cold War records remain classified. Many, even most, primary

sources regarding the escapades of American submarines were buried under mountains of gag

orders and secrecy. Despite this, certain facts have become part of public record by virtue of the

contradictory nature of intelligence policy. The character of Cold War politics was such that,

even when a technology or activity was known by both Soviet and American governments,
John Tosh, The Pursuit of History (4th Edition), 4 ed, New York: Longman, 2006, 131.

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neither side would admit to knowledge of said event, allowing a submarine crash off the coast of

Hawaii, and technologies including the SOSUS network to be known by both sides yet remain

officially unacknowledged. 6 Another byzantine feature of international intelligence is that there

exists a point at which certain activities may be tacitly acknowledged by the government simply

by their disinterest in suppressing leaks, yet the information will remain officially classified.

This allows popular fiction like Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October and non-fiction books

like Stalking the Red Bear and Blind Man’s Bluff, which rely heavily on technically classified

information, to be published without federal objections. 7 The necessary emphasis placed on

primary sources in scholarly research means interested scholars are unable to access verifiable

information regarding incidents like those detailed in popular literature. Cold War documents

are slowly being declassified; however, there is an estimated ten-year backlog of Freedom of

Information Act (FOIA) applications awaiting security inspection. Finally, in strategic terms, the

Cold War ended quite recently and the tactics and activities wielded against Soviet targets may

still be in use, preventing the government from safely disclosing historical details.

The Dawn of Modern Submarine Warfare

In 1914, the standards of maritime warfare were shattered when the German’s U-boat

fleet announced its entrance into World War I by sinking three British naval destroyers in a

matter of minutes and escaping unscathed. 8 This ability to operate undetected would become

their most valuable asset in future conflicts. When submarines first appeared, ASW technology

Christopher Drew and Sherry Sontag, Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage,
Brattleboro: Harper Paperbacks, 2000, p. 40; Richmond, Clint, and Kenneth Sewell. Red Star Rogue: The Untold
Story of a Soviet Submarine's Nuclear Strike Attempt on the U.S. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2005, p. 68-
9—SOSUS, or Sound Surveillance System, was a series of ultrasensitive hydrophone ‘nets’ that allowed land-based
sonar technicians to monitor submarine traffic. By the late 1960s, all major Russian submarine installations were
netted, as were Allied coastlines and waterways throughout the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Clancy, Tom. The Hunt for Red October (Jack Ryan Novels). New York: Berkley, 1992; Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff;
Peter Sasgen, Stalking the Red Bear: The True Story of a U.S. Cold War Submarine's Covert Operations Against the
Soviet Union. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2009.
Tom Parrish, The Submarine: A History, First Edition, ed. New York: Viking Adult, 2004, p. 60-61.

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and tactics were virtually non-existent. What little anti-submarine warfare (ASW) strategy

existed during WWI was developed as the Royal Navy sought to combat the U-boat blockade of

the British Isles and consisted of little more than surface ships designated as ‘sub-hunters,’

rudimentary depth charges, and crude directional hydrophones operated from fleet ships. 9 The

WWI hydrophones developed by the Royal Navy were little more than waterproof microphones

lowered from the aft of a stationary ship in hopes that a U-boat might be detected before it

surfaced to open fire. 10 Despite later developments by American scientists allowing it to filter

out more ambient ocean noise, during WWI, the hydrophone was useful only for determining the

general direction of an incoming U-boat, not its actual location. 11

Submarine Warfare Comes to the United States

During World War II, the Battle for the Atlantic was waged between the Allied surface

fleet and German U-boats whereas the Pacific conflict was between the Japanese Imperial

surface fleet and the U.S. Navy, specifically its submarine fleet. 12 In the Atlantic, maintaining

the shipping lanes connecting Britain and the United States was crucial to the downfall of Nazi

Germany. In contrast, the focus of the Pacific war was the quarantine of Japan and destruction

of the Japanese Imperial Navy. Due to the disparate demands of warfare in the Atlantic and

Pacific, WWII submarine strategy developed independently in the two theatres of battle, offering

two different sets of tactics to be incorporated into later Cold War strategy.

The Kriegsmarine, or War Navy of Nazi Germany, developed the infamous Rudeltaktik

or wolfpack strategy prior to the start of WWII in preparation for a repeat of the WWI blockade

Parrish, The Submarine, p. 148.
Anti-submarine warfare is an aspect of military strategy responsible for detecting and neutralizing an opposing
submarine fleet. During the Cold War, neutralization would require not the destruction of the submarine but the
ability to keep them from attacking the defender’s interests, a major contrast with submarine warfare prior to the
Cold War.
Parrish, The Submarine, p. 154.
Parrish, The Submarine, p. 305; Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, U.S. Navy at War 1941-1945: Official Reports to
the Secretary of the Navy. Washington, D.C.: United States Navy Department, 1946, 38.

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of naval traffic between the United States and the British Isles. 13 The wolfpack was a tactic of

encapsulation in which an arc of U-boats arrayed across a shipping convoy’s path, allowing the

convoy to sail into the arc before opening fire. 14 This same tactic would become the basis for

United States and Soviet maritime strategy throughout the early decades of the Cold War.

As during WWI, ASW formed a crucial facet of naval strategy in the Atlantic theatre.

Prior to the introduction of radio and telephone communication in 1900, military intelligence had

relied upon human intelligence (HUMINT) tools such as observations of fleet movement, and

intercepted messages for planning battles. As radio communication spread throughout Nazi and

Allied military forces, the British would develop the first Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) program

to monitor German radio communication. 15 Later, British and American intelligence

communities would develop a joint Operational Intelligence Department (OPINTEL), which

combined SIGINT, cryptology, and human intelligence (HUMINT), to create a comprehensive

system for identifying and tracking U-boat fleets. 16 During the Cold War, this organization

would form the basis of the United States’ system of tracking the Soviet submarine fleet, albeit

in a far more advanced iteration. Another major ASW technology developed during WWII was

the British sonar system. Ideally, sonar allowed ships to locate underwater objects including

submarines, and calculate their distance from the detecting ship. 17 However, like the WWI

hydrophone, early sonar technology was limited—initially, it was unable to detect objects further

than 1500 feet away from the sensor or distinguish between submarines and other underwater

Parrish, The Submarine, p. 231; Hughes, Terry, and John Costello. The Battle of the Atlantic. New York: The Dial
Press/James Wade, 1977, 30; King, U.S. Navy at War, p. 79.
Parrish, The Submarine, p. 231.
Randy Carol Balano, Christopher A. Ford, and David A. Rosenberg, The Admirals' Advantage: U.S. Navy
Operational Intelligence in World War II And the Cold War, Annapolis, MD.: Us Naval Institute Press, 2005, p. 6.
Balano, The Admirals Advantage, p. 11; Cote, Owen R. "The Third Battle: Innovation in the U.S. Navy's Silent
Cold War Struggle with Soviet Submarines." The U.S. Navy.
war-asw.html (accessed September 25, 2009), 11.
Parrish, The Submarine, p. 212-13; Balano, The Admirals Advantage, p. 11.

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features. 18 As the Pacific conflict progressed, U.S. military scientists would develop new radar

and sonar systems that mitigated much of this technology’s earlier weaknesses. 19

The true American submarine battle of WWII belonged to the Pacific Submarine Fleet

(PacSub), a circumstance brought about by the catastrophic attack on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl

Harbor on December 7, 1941 by the Japanese Imperial Navy. When Japanese fighter planes

attacked the US fleet, they annihilated the Pacific battleship force, yet left the submarine

installation across the harbor untouched. 20 This was understandable since, unlike battleships,

submarines had no great role in current naval strategy; however, this neglect left the advanced

PacSub ready for a counter-strike. 21 By destroying the U.S. surface fleet, the Japanese ensured

the first American ships sent after them would be the only ones they would never see coming.

Despite the necessity of using submarines as independent entities in the wake of Pearl

Harbor, U.S. naval strategists were unsure how to utilize the submarine’s unique capabilities

absent a sizeable surface fleet. 22 Early attempts to use submarines as fleet battleships proved a

miserable failure, dispelling the notion that submarine warfare was identical to surface warfare. 23

The submarine’s role began to develop as reports to Congress, written by Fleet Admiral Ernest J.

King in 1944, observed that, like Britain, Japan is an island nation dependent on imports for its

survival, an observation which led to the first comprehensive US submarine strategy. By

replicating the German wolfpack's blockade and using it against the Japanese archipelago, the

U.S. was able to choke Japan into submission instead of being forced to mount a bloody land

Parrish, The Submarine, p. 213; Hughes 31
King, U.S. Navy at War, p. 226; Samuel Eliot Morison, History of United States Naval Operations in World War
II: Victory in the Pacific, Boston: Little, Brown, & Co., 1960, p. 126.
Parrish, The Submarine, p. 307.
Ibid, p. 307.
Ibid, p. 319.
Ibid, p. 377.

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invasion. 24 Despite the similarities between the American and German submarine blockades,

American submarine strategy differed from its German inspiration in one crucial area. Unlike

the U-boats, whose effectiveness depended on constant communication with central command,

U.S. admirals chose to give submarine commanders basic orders, such as which convoy or area

to attack, and allowed the commanders to coordinate their missions as they saw fit. 25 This

decision laid another section of groundwork for later Cold War strategy, all of which placed a

premium on the submarine commander’s ability to display ingenuity and initiative within the

boundaries of their orders.

As declassified post-war reports revealed, the Pacific battles of 1944-45 first utilized the
submarine’s unique ‘special missions’ capabilities. Missions included rescuing shot-down

pilots, evacuating HUMINT personnel from Corregidor prior to its overrun, and resupplying

besieged land forces at Luzon. 27 The U.S.S. Barb went so far as to sail up to the coast of Honshu

and send sailors overland to blow up a railway trestle. 28

Fighting to Avoid War

In the aftermath of WWII, the U.S.S.R. engulfed Eastern Europe and Eurasia, creating

what Winston Churchill called the “Iron Curtain.” 29 The US Department of State would publish

U.S. Objectives with Respect to the USSR to Counter Soviet Threats to U.S. Security in 1947,

King, U.S. Navy at War, p. 77.
Parrish, The Submarine, p. 407:Morison ,Victory in the Pacific, p. 494.
Parrish, The Submarine, p. 343.
King, U.S. Navy at War, p. 203; Morison ,Victory in the Pacific, p. 296; Samuel Eliot Morison, The Two-Ocean
War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War. Boston: Little, Brown, & Co., 1963, p.
King, U.S. Navy at War, p. 202.
Churchill, Winston. "Modern History Sourcebook: Winston Churchill: The Iron Curtain,” (accessed December 7, 2009).

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analyzing the growing battle between the two superpowers. 30 The roots of the Cold War were

summed up in this report, saying:

Communist ideology and Soviet behavior clearly demonstrate that the ultimate
objective of the leaders of the USSR is the domination of the world. Soviet leaders hold
that the Soviet communist party is the militant vanguard of the world proletariat in its rise
to political power, and that the USSR, base of the world communist movement, will not
be safe until the non-communist nations have been so reduced in strength and numbers
that communist influence is domina nt throughout the world. The immediate goal of top
priority since the recent war has been the political conquest of Western Europe. The
resistance of the United States is recognized by the USSR as a major obstacle to the
attainment of these goals. 31

After the U.S.S.R. developed nuclear weapons in 1949, land-based warfare ceased to be a

feasible form of conflict between the Soviet Union and United States; however, some form of

warfare was necessary if the ideological ambitions of Soviet Russia were to be effectively

contained. 32 Western strategists chose to focus their attention on the world’s oceans where war

could be kept ‘cold’ by creating an overwhelming military presence that could locate and

neutralize threats if necessary, otherwise, staying quiet and overlooked—the submarine. 33

A major part of preventing nuclear warfare was a policy known as nuclear deterrence. In

the U.S., deterrence policy relied on a form of psychological conditioning that emphasized the

devastating outcome of nuclear warfare yet assured the American public that simply having the

ability to cause total nuclear destruction would be enough to prevent a Russian attack, thereby

"NSC-68, U.S. Objectives and Programs for National Security, April 1950." Mount Holyoke College Archives. (accessed September 9, 2009).
"U.S. Objectives with Respect to the USSR to Counter Soviet Threats to U.S. Security," NSC 20/4, 23 November
1948. Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts.
4.htm (accessed September 25, 2009).
Sasgen, Stalking the Red Bear, p. 3-- As we have learned since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, most Soviet
leaders did not want a nuclear war because they knew they could not win; however, they tended to project their
expansionist ambitions onto their opponents, leading to strident threats regarding their desire to wipe the U.S. out of
Burns, Thomas S. The secret war for the ocean depths: Soviet-American rivalry for mastery of the seas. 1st ed.
New York: Rawson Associates Publishers, 1978, xii.

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eliminating pressure for a pre-emptive strike. 34 Deterrence policy also encouraged the Soviets to

develop a nuclear arsenal roughly comparable to that of the U.S. in accord with a concept called

“weapons parity” which provided a rough assurance that no one side could do more damage than

their opponent could retaliate with, a policy known as MAD. 35

Theoretically, MAD should have been enough to avert nuclear warfare; however, due to

the ideological basis of Soviet Communism, the Soviets had a professed interest in anti-

American aggression equal to or greater than America’s desire to avoid a conflict.

Consequently, there was always a chance Soviet ideologues would decide the gains of a nuclear

attack outweighed the damage if the worst the United States could do was equal damage. Also,

military technology and strategy evolves and develops in an almost organic manner, creating a

constant shift in the balance of power, making it crucial for the American government to know

what technology and tactics the Soviets were employing in order to prevent an overwhelming

threat to U.S. national security. 36

It was in this atmosphere that special missions submarine activity would become a

critical tool of deterrence policy. 37 The submarine’s ability to plunge into the depths of the

ocean where it could travel unseen and unheard allowed it to poke into Soviet ports, ‘fingerprint’

Soviet missile submarines, study the wreckage of sunken ships, and turn secure phone lines into

a party line that allowed American policymakers to neutralize the entire Soviet Navy.

Calculated Risk: Strategic Coastal Invasion

Coastal invasion, the most self-explanatory form of Cold War special missions activity,

was a tactic in which U.S. submarines infiltrated locations along the Soviet coastline, including

Craven, The Silent War, p. 53.
Craven, The Silent War, p.53.
Craven, The Silent War, p.57.
Craven, The Silent War, p.110.

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ports and naval installations, to hover just beneath the water’s surface, gathering visual and

SIGINT data via the boat’s periscope and antennae arrays. 38 Despite the obvious dangers, in the

years prior to the Space Race, physically penetrating these locations was often the only way for

U.S. intelligence officials to observe Soviet naval installations, or look for signs that the military

was preparing an offensive against the U.S. or its NATO allies. At the same time, strategic

invasion allowed American SSN crews to hone the war-fighting skills necessary to navigate

blindly into heavily monitored locations, pause to gather intelligence, then retreat from the area

without the Soviets realizing their security had been breached. 39 Invasions were also an effective

way of keeping the Communist government and its military apparatus off-balance and insecure.

That U.S. submarines were able to cruise into the most valuable locations in the Soviet Navy

with such impunity indicated that, in the event of an active war, the U.S. would have the option

of launching a nuclear attack within close range of Soviet territory without the Soviet Navy

being able to stop, or even find them. 40

Especially in activities such as this, a submarine commander’s worth was determined by

the extent to which he embodied the “cowboy” ethos of the Cold War submarine fleet, which

encouraged initiative and ingenuity. 41 The rule was, “Drive close to Soviet craft, even closer to

Soviet shores. Take any risks. Don’t get caught.” 42 Most SSN commanders embraced this

charge with a will and plunged into a unique brand of Russian roulette, driving “straight into

Soviet territorial waters,” trading personal security for the triumph of obtaining those precious

pieces of information sought by American intelligence officials and policymakers. 43

Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 26.
Ibid, 26.
Ibid, 43.
Ibid, 43.
Ibid, 42.
Ibid, 43.

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In 1960, Commander William Behrens of the U.S.S. Skipjack (SSN-585) would

epitomize this ethos of initiative when he successfully navigated into the heart of the Northern
Fleet’s submarine installation in Murmansk, on the Barents’ Sea. To do so, Behrens

maneuvered the Skipjack miles down the channel leading into the base and navigated within

forty feet of the pier before raising his periscope to look around and capture images. Of course,

Skipjack officers had disabled one of the boat’s mechanical tracking devices prior to entering the

waterway, ensuring that, if Behrens failed and the Skipjack was captured, the Navy would have

the protection of plausible deniability in declaiming responsibility for Behrens’presence. 45

Another motive for coastal invasions tactics appeared in the late 1950s, as the Soviet

Navy developed submarine installations throughout their coastal territories. Some of these bases,

like Rybachiy on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the northern Pacific, were difficult, or impossible,

to monitor via aerial or surface ship methods. As the largest of the Pacific Submarine Fleet’s

(PACFLT) installations, Rybachiy could not be left unmonitored; therefore, the SSN fleet

became its watchdog. In the 1970s and 80s, this task would be critical as the Soviets developed a

wartime strategy involving a regional oceanic blockade absorbing the Sea of Japan, parts of

Southeast Asia, and threatening the Alaskan archipelago barely 500 miles from Rybachiy in the

process. 46

Fingerprinting the Soviet Fleet

In addition to gathering HUMINT & SIGINT during coastal invasions, American SSNs

were able to undermine the effectiveness of the Soviet submarine fleet by using sensitive

acoustic equipment and ultra-quiet propulsion systems to covertly monitor Soviet SSBN

locations. John Craven referred to this activity as “track-and-trail,” a tactic in which passive

Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 42.
Ibid, 42.
Richmond, Red Star Rogue, p. 15; Ford 387

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ASW systems like SOSUS provided an initial “trail” or location of a Soviet submarine to an

American SSN which would intercept and “trail” it through the ocean. 47 Track-and-trail’s

official purpose was to ensure there was no place in the ocean Russian submarines could go

where American submarines could not locate and destroy them. 48 This tactic’s effectiveness was

demonstrated during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when Soviet General Secretary Nikita

Khrushchev dispatched at least four Foxtrot SSBNs to break the U.S. naval blockade of Cuba.49

Each of boats was located and forced to retreat with days of the American fleet receiving orders

to intercept them. 50

In 1967, Admiral Sergey G. Gorshkov would present an aggressive new naval strategy

that involved deploying the Soviet Union’s submarine fleet deeper into international waters than

any previous Soviet submarine had ventured—sometimes, their missions even crossed into U.S.

territorial waters. 51 Gorshkov claimed that:

In the past our ships and naval aviation units have been operated primarily near
our coast, concerned mainly with operations and tactical coordination with ground troops.
Now, we must be prepared for broad offensive operations against sea and ground troops
of the imperialists on any point of the world’s oceans and adjacent territories. 52

This strategy, coupled with the deployment of the majority of the Soviet SSN and SSBN

fleets to Rybachiy submarine base, placed dozens of nuclear missiles in close range to American

domestic interests. 53 The Soviet military’s stated intent of creating a long-range offensive

Craven, The Silent War, p. 93; Richmond, Red Star Rogue, p. 30.
Richmond, Red Star Rogue, p. 70.
Richmond, Red Star Rogue, p. 23—Although the Soviet Navy had a system of identifying their submarines, it was
not publically released, leading NATO to assign random designations from the universal military phonetic alphabet
such as Foxtrot, Golf, and Yankee to Soviet submarine classes, easing recognition by NATO ASW forces.
Polmar, Norman. Soviet naval power: Challenge for the 1970s (Strategy papers). Revised ed. New York, NY:
Published By Crane, Russak For National Strategy Information Center, 1974, 41.
Richmond, Red Star Rogue, p. 20.
Richmond, Red Star Rogue, p. 20.
Richmond, Red Star Rogue, p. 20.

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submarine fleet made track-and-trail missions critical for U.S security in the face of this threat to

the nuclear balance.

As the U.S.S. Lapon’s (SSN-61) forty-two day trailing mission will illustrate, track-and-

trail played another role in maintaining the U.S. Navy’s ability to neutralize the Soviet missile

fleet. Certain track-and-trail missions sought to record technical data about new submarines

entering the Soviet fleet, including a form of SIGINT crucial to track-and-trail, called an acoustic

signature. This signature forms a submarine’s fingerprint and consists of noises made by the

submarine’s propulsion systems, turbines, flow-induced bubbles, and propeller cavitation

patterns. 54 Once recorded, these signatures were sent to NAVINT analysts for incorporation into

a central database of Soviet submarines. In future encounters, this signature database allowed

sonar technicians to identify the Soviet submarines they encountered—sometimes to a specific

class, other times to a single ship. 55 Submarine commanders assigned to these types of track-

and-trail assignments were given the freedom to fulfill their orders any way they could, so long

as they retrieved the intelligence necessary to ensure Soviet submarines could not escape

American detection. 56

In 1969, the first Yankee-class SSBN’s began to leave Soviet shipyards and enter active

duty. 57 American intelligence reports indicated that, in designing the Yankee, the Soviets had

somehow managed to clone the American Polaris SSBN. In addition, the Yankee was believed

to have a missile system capable of striking a target from over a thousand miles away. In

comparison, U.S. SSBNs would not attain this range until Trident I in 1972. 58 Equally, if the

Burns, The Secret War, p. 66-67; Cavitation: Each propeller produces a pattern of cavitation noises generated by
air bubbles that form and collapse at the tip of the propeller blades as they rotate in a unique beat.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 122; Burns, The Secret War, p. 64; Richmond, Red Star Rogue, p. 30.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 122.
Ibid, 121.
Polmar¸Soviet Naval Power, p. 50.

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Yankee’s propulsion systems were as quiet as Polaris’s, even the SOSUS nets might not be able

to detect its presence. 59 The U.S. government needed to know how accurate these assessments

were, so, if necessary, ASW equipment and strategy could be updated to bring the U.S. back into

parity with the Soviet Union.

In late 1969, Commander Chester M. Mack of the U.S.S. Lapon located one of the new

Yankees performing maneuvers in the Northern Fleet’s training area of the Barents’ Sea and set

out to trail it. 60 Lapon’s crew set out to track the Yankee as it submerged and began its patrol.

Herein rested their first challenge as NAVINT’s fears about the Yankee propulsion system were

borne out. The Yankee disappeared amid the oceanic noise of the Greenland shipping lanes,

successfully eluding SOSUS, ASW planes, and Lapon for days. Only when Mack adopted a

“close trail,” maintaining a traveling distance of less than 3,000 feet between the two boats at all

times, were Lapon sonar technicians able to consistently track the sounds accompanying the

Yankee’s motion. 61 Over the following days, Lapon technicians located flaws in the Yankee’s

propulsion system that enabled easier tracking, developed a method of monitoring its traveling

speed based on propeller cavitation and, crucially, the Yankee’s patrol pattern. 62 Mapping the

boat’s patrol pattern allowed NAVINT analysts to determine that the thousand-mile strike range

tentatively attributed to the Yankee missile system was accurate, and then disseminate this

information to ASW forces in the Yankee fleet’s patrol areas. 63

Ultimately, the Lapon would trail its Yankee target for 47 days, an entire Soviet SSBN

deployment. 64 By trailing the Yankee for such an extended period, not only was Lapon able to

Polmar¸Soviet Naval Power, p. 49; Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 121-122.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 121.
Ibid, 132.
Ibid, 134.
Ibid, 134.
Ibid, 127, 138.

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capture its audio signature, it also recorded physical quirks of Soviet SSBN patrols such as when

the boat maneuvered to check for intruders or surfaced to radio central command in Murmansk. 65

Another valuable nugget of intelligence discovered was that, however quiet the Yankee’s

propulsion system might be, the boat was nearly deaf. The Yankee’s sonar arrays were barely

half as effective as those aboard American Sturgeon-class SSN’s. 66 Despite leaks to the

American press which, by hinting at the Lapon’s presence, sent the Yankee into active ASW

maneuvers, the Lapon was able to maintain its close trail and follow the boat back to Murmansk

undetected. 67

Deep Ocean of Secrets: Ocean Floor Salvage and Surveillance

Beyond the rigid assignments of attack and missile submarines exists a unique genre of

boats nominally devoted to oceanographic research but truly designed for espionage projects. 68

Each of these boats, referred to as a “special projects” submarines, is modified from an existing

class of American submarine, sometimes a missile boat, more often an attack boat, to fulfill a

certain set of goals set by the NAVINT community. 69 Assignments for special projects boats

during the Cold War included technical espionage, oceanic exploration, and specialized SIGINT

retrieval missions—collectively referred to as ‘special missions.’

The first special projects submarine was the U.S.S. Halibut (SSGN-587), a nuclear-

powered missile boat originally designed for the short-lived Regulus system. When Regulus was

replaced by the Polaris missile system, Halibut was requisitioned by the chief scientist of the

Special Projects Office, and head of the U.S.N. Deep Submergence Systems Projects (DSSP),

Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 135.
Ibid, p.135.
Ibid, p.138.
Ibid, p.54.
Ibid, p.54, 211.

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John Piña Craven. 70 Craven took the Halibut and modified its Regulus missile hold and ballast

tanks into an onboard data-analysis center and launch bay for oceanic surveillance equipment. 71

Halibut’s modified form was dictated by an Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) file titled

“Operation Sand Dollar.” 72 Sand Dollar was the manifestation on the ONI’s long-standing

desire to retrieve Soviet military technology, including nuclear missiles and guidance systems,

from the ocean floor. 73 Their ambitions were being thwarted by the fact that many of these

objects rested beneath as much as 13,000 feet of water and no contemporary submarine could

descend beyond 1,500 feet. 74 Halibut would be adapted to hover over salvage sites, and use

deep-sea cameras to locate and mark objects for retrieval by deep-sea submersibles being

developed concurrently by DSSP. 75 In 1961, Halibut completed its first major retrieval mission

when it successfully located an American hydrogen bomb that had plunged into the ocean off the

coast of Palomares, Spain, when its B-52 carrier collided with a refueling plane. 76 Later, in

1971, Halibut would collect Soviet nuclear missile fragments including a radar altimeter and

parts of the missile’s infrared homing system, which U.S. scientists hoped would contribute to

the development of defense systems capable of neutralizing Soviet cruise missile attacks. 77

The reputation of the special missions submarine program was assured when, in 1968, the

Soviet Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) lost a Golf-class SSBN (K-129) somewhere between Rybachiy

naval base on the Kamchatka Peninsula and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. 78 K-129 had been tracked by

the usual Soviet radio checks and American SIGNIT networks—attack submarines, SOSUS, and

Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 53.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 61; Craven, The Silent War, p. 135; Richmond, Red Star Rogue, p. 127.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 52.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 51; Craven, The Silent War, p.130.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 48.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 60; Craven, The Silent War, p. 227; Richmond, Red Star Rogue, p. 128.
Craven, The Silent War, p. 162-175.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 174.
Ibid, 75.

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radio intercepts until it disappeared soon after crossing the International Date Line. 79 When K-

129’s absence came to their attention, the Soviet surface and submarine fleet flooded into the

Pacific Ocean, searching desperately for their rogue missile submarine. 80 This unusual activity

naturally garnered interest from NAVINT officials eager to find and search a Soviet missile

submarine for useful intelligence items. Craven and Captain James F. Bradley, Jr. of ONI used

SIGINT data including radio transmissions made by K-129 prior to its disappearance and a

“good-sized bang” noted by SOSUS analysts to conclude that the real site of K-129’s sinking

was nowhere near where the Soviets were searching. 81 Craven convinced the Navy to sink a

mothballed submarine so he could record the sounds of a sinking submarine and compare them

to records from the Pacific SOSUS network coinciding with the time of K-129’s disappearance.

Ultimately, Craven isolated K-129’s location to an area barely three hundred miles north-

northeast of Pearl Harbor. 82 This surprising analysis raised national security concerns among

many American intelligence officials. First, Soviet SSBN’s, which follow rigid patrol patterns,

rarely came so close to U.S. territories. Second, the Soviet Navy was searching for K-129 near

its assigned patrol area, which suggested the submarine had not been acting on official orders

when it sailed so close to Hawaii, leading to the question of what it was doing there. Finally, if

K-129’s deployment was intentional and the search was a cover-up, the U.S. needed to know

who sent the boat to Hawaii and why. 83

Once Craven’s team had located the K-129 where it lay on the ocean floor, they would

engage in nearly a month of examining various pieces of wreckage for clues as to its mission and

Richmond, Red Star Rogue, p. 80.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 75; Craven, The Silent War, p. 203; Richmond, Red Star Rogue, p. 107.
Craven, The Silent War, p. 206; Richmond, Red Star Rogue, p. 124.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 80; Craven, The Silent War, p. 212; Richmond, Red Star Rogue, p. 89, 124.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 80; Craven, The Silent War, p. 209.

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Genifer Snipes HIS500a

ultimate demise. 84 Soon after, the operation, which began as part of ONI’s Project Sand Dollar,

would be appropriated by the CIA, which would attempt an unprecedented salvage operation,

known as Project Jennifer, one of the most notorious CIA operations of the Cold War. 85 Today,

NAVINT and CIA reports regarding the K-129 operation remain among the most highly

classified records of Cold War espionage. 86 Despite this, eyewitness reports and records from

both Soviet and American archives have been uncovered and compiled in the book Red Star

Rogue which provides a dramatic hypothesis for why K-129 was so close to Pearl Harbor when it

sank. The author, Kenneth Sewell, posits that K-129 was on a KGB-run covert operation to

launch a thermonuclear attack on Pearl Harbor Naval Base and the city of Honolulu when it was

destroyed by a malfunction in the missile launch mechanism, a hypothesis Craven admitted in

his biography was considered plausible by intelligence officials during the mission. 87

The successful conclusion of the K-129 mission helped Craven and Bradley cement the

role of the submarine in Cold War espionage. 88 More importantly, albeit unknowingly, by

adapting submarines for ocean floor operations, Craven and Bradley were setting the stage for a

mission in the 1980s that would contribute to the transformation of American Cold War policy

and help bring about the ultimate neutralization of the Soviet naval threat.

Party Line: Tapping the Naval Communications Cables

Arguably, the submarine force’s greatest contribution to Cold War espionage was a top-

secret mission to record the conversations of Soviet naval officials sitting in Moscow,

Murmansk, and Vladivostok. The results of this mission would permeate the Reagan Maritime

Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 77; Craven, The Silent War, p. 213; Richmond, Red Star Rogue, p. 125, 131.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 51; Richmond, Red Star Rogue, p. 203; Craven, The Silent War, p. 222.
Richmond, Red Star Rogue, p. 123: New York Times, "Project Jennifer," March 20, 1975.
(accessed December 1, 2009); Seymour Hersh, "CIA Salvage Ship Brought Up Part of Soviet Sub Lost 1968; Failed
to Raise Atom Missiles.” New York Times, March 19, 1975. (accessed December 1, 2009).
Richmond, Red Star Rogue, p. 142-3, 146; Craven, The Silent War, p. 217.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 83.

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Doctrine of the early 1980s, a comprehensive naval strategy contributing to the ultimate end of

the Cold War military threat. 89

Inspiration for this groundbreaking endeavor was drawn from a childhood memory of

ONI director, James Bradley. 90 Growing up on the shores of the Mississippi River, Bradley

often traveled on the river where he saw warning signs marking points at which power and

communication cables ran across the riverbed. 91 Decades later, as ONI director, Bradley

reasoned equivalent signs must exist along the Soviet coastlines marking the location of hard-

line phone cables connecting remote Soviet submarine bases with command centers in

Vladivostok, Murmansk, and Moscow. 92 He postulated that, if he could use Halibut’s superb

ocean floor adaptations to locate and tap these cables, the resulting intelligence might offer

United States policymakers valuable insight into the realities of Soviet government, something

American analysts were just realizing was totally disconnected from western political behavior. 93

The Halibut was first sent to the Sea of Okhotsk in 1970, where it located a

communications cable connecting Rybachiy submarine base on the Kamchatka Peninsula and

PACFLT headquarters in Vladivostok and successfully deployed a team of U.S.N. saturation

divers to lay the initial tap. 94 Whatever data this first tap yielded remains classified as does its

impact on Cold War policy; however, everyone in the intelligence community knew their

accomplishments had been eclipsed by this mission. 95 Never before had so much data been

Balano, The Admirals Advantage, p. 107.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 158.
Ibid, 160.
Ibid, 158-9.
Ibid, 159.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 158-9; Craven, The Silent War, p. 137; Saturation Diving was tool pioneered by the
Sealab program and embraced by DSSP. It is a deep-sea diving technique that allows humans to work for extended
periods in up to 600 feet of water without physical damage. See Craven, The Silent War, Ch. 11 for further details.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 183.

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collected in a single intelligence operation, through either HUMINT or SIGINT. 96 Despite

Halibut’s successes, the pinnacle of the cable-tapping program would not come until the early


In 1973, as the Soviets began to commission new Delta-class SSBN’s for the Atlantic

Northern Fleet, NAVINT observers began to notice a change in their pattern of SSBN

deployment. Rather than engaging in open-water patrols as was customary for missile boats, the

Deltas, boats with the ability to strike American cities from 4,200 miles away, were being limited

to patrols within the Barents Sea, where they were shielded by a layer of Soviet SSN’s and

surface ships. 97 Some analysts, including Richard L. Haver of NAVINT, believed this action to

be a defensive strategy aimed at tipping the nuclear balance in favor of the Soviets, but no one

was positive. 98 Ultimately, the Navy’s method of closing this intelligence gap would be the

U.S.S. Parche (SSN-683), one of nine modified Sturgeon-class attack submarines, designed for

special missions assignments. 99

In 1979, the Parche would be sent after the El Dorado of intelligence resources, the

communications cable connecting the Northern Fleet’s Barents Sea naval installations with

command centers in Murmansk and Moscow. 100 Because the Northern Fleet was comprised of

the best ships in the Soviet Navy, its home waters in the Barents were heavily guarded against

submarine intrusion, making penetration of the area complex and dangerous. Ultimately, Parche

would depart from San Francisco, travel north past Alaska, where it would traverse the Bering

Strait before passing beneath the polar icecap and emerging into the Barents’ Sea some 5,500

Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 182.
Polmar¸ Soviet Naval Power, p. 50; Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 210; Owen R.Cote, "The Third Battle:
Innovation in the U.S. Navy's Silent Cold War Struggle with Soviet Submarines." The U.S. Navy. (accessed September 25, 2009). 63-64
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 210; Christopher Ford and David Rosenberg, "The Naval Intelligence Underpinnings
of Reagan's Maritime Strategy." Journal of Strategic Studies 28, no. 2 (2005): 379-409, p. 384.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 211.
Ibid, 211, 215.

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miles later. 101 Like the Halibut before it, the Parche successfully laid its tap; however, several

years would pass before the ultimate impact of the Parche’s feat became apparent.

Barely a year later, in 1980, Ronald W. Reagan was elected as the 40th President of the

United States of America on a platform of strong national defense, economic renewal, limited

domestic government, and anti-communism. 102 In support of his national defense agenda,

Reagan would appoint John F. Lehman as Secretary of State and task him with countering the

ongoing Soviet naval buildup and securing U.S. nuclear deterrent advantage. 103 By this time, the

Soviets had further developed their 1970s strategy of restricting SSBN movement, pulling their

SSBNs into even more defensible “bastions” including the Sea of Okhostk, the White Sea, and

waters beneath the polar icecaps—locations American SSN’s would be hard-pressed to penetrate

in the event of war, thereby robbing the U.S. of its ability to neutralize the Soviet missile

threat. 104 Haver and like-minded analysts continued to view this activity as a defensive strategy

meant to protect Soviet SSBN’s from the American SSNs that were omnipresent in open-water

patrols. 105 Despite hypothesis, the United States remained undeniably vulnerable to a Soviet first

strike attack from SSBNs beneath the polar icecap. 106 Concerns about Soviet military activity

were compounded by the rhetoric of General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev’s successor, Yuri V.

Andropov, a former KGB director known for brutal treatment of Soviet dissidents, and the events

of the Prague Spring. 107 Andropov adhered to an alarmist platform of "taking the fight to the

enemy," and was convinced that an American first-strike nuclear attack was imminent, claims

Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 215.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 221; Reagan, Ronald W. "Inaugural Address." Address, Inauguration of the
President of the United States of America from U.S.S, Washington, D.C., January 20, 1981.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 221.
Ibid p. 232.
Ford 384.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 232-3.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 241; Global “Yuri Andropov and the Kremlin's Aggressive Foreign
(accessed December 7, 2009).

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even fellow KGB officials felt were hyperbole. 108 Andropov died in 1984, leaving more rational

leaders in his place; however, U.S. officials were still baffled by what they interpreted as

unnecessary panic in Soviet responses to events like the Pershing Missile deployment and NATO

joint-maritime exercise Able Archer 83. 109

Finally, in 1984, Parche delivered the answer to these questions and so much more when

she returned from a records collections trip. The recordings retrieved on this mission included

copies of Soviet military official’s conversations from throughout the 1983 Able Archer

exercise, including insight into how the USSR would prepare for a nuclear war, their military

command structure, and, crucially, the motivations behind the bastion strategy. 110 These

recording offered such groundbreaking insight into Soviet military strategy, that some

intelligence and military officials would christen this collection “the crown jewels” of Cold War

espionage. 111 In 2005, Christopher Ford and David Rosenberg of ONI’s Maritime Strategy

Department emphasized the implications of this accomplishment, saying:

That new intelligence could be acquired is itself a remarkable tale that owes much
to the planning, foresight and willingness to take risks shown by the Navy’s senior
leadership [. . .] without which these vital ‘deep penetrations’ of the Soviet Union could
not have occurred. That the acquisition of such information could lead to wholesale
doctrinal revisions, however, is in some way an even more remarkable story. 112

The Parche’s intelligence confirmed that, in the event of nuclear war, the Soviet SSBN

fleet would withdraw into coastal bastions and beneath the polar icecap where they would be

held in reserve for a second-strike attack. 113 These reports also exposed the vulnerability of the

Soviet Navy, for whom the bastions offered their last hope of maintaining a viable SSBN force

Yuri Andropov; Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 241.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 243-4; Ford, Reagan Maritime Strategy, p. 383; “A Cold War Conundrum: The 1983
Soviet War Scare.” Central Intelligence Agency.
publications/books-and-monographs/a-cold-war-conundrum (accessed November 10, 2009).
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 245.
Ibid, 245.
Ford, Reagan Maritime Strategy, p. 390.
Ford, Reagan Maritime Strategy, p. 382, 385; Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 245.

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and protecting it from the American SSN’s who dogged their paths everywhere else in the

ocean. 114 While the first-strike implications of the bastions must have been taken into account

by Soviet strategists, defense was the Soviet Navy’s overriding motivation in the “bastion”

strategy. Despite this, for the U.S. to leave the bastions unchallenged would have ceded the

nuclear balance to the Soviets by allowing them to retain an untouchable nuclear strike force. 115

Additionally, although the bastions described in Soviet policy referred to the actual harbors and

inlets shielding the SSBN fleet, guaranteeing that U.S. vessels would be unable to reach these

sites meant the Soviets had to keep Americans ships away from all Soviet territorial waters in a

tactic called “sea denial.” 116 Soviet sea denial plans dictated that the Sea of Japan, Greenland,

and parts of the Northwest Pacific Basin would be blockaded to ensure the invulnerability of the

Soviet SSBN fleet. 117 This plan, which involved Soviet expansion into U.S. territory and that of

its allies, was unacceptable to American officials who set out to overthrow Soviet naval strategy.

American strategists would use Parche’s SIGINT data and other HUMINT sources to

create the first comprehensive naval doctrine shaped by concrete knowledge of Soviet military

planning and psychology, rather than second-hand hypotheses and projection of Western

values. 118 This plan would be known as the Reagan Maritime Doctrine. 119 Major objectives

underlying the Maritime Doctrine included nullifying Soviet naval strategy and minimizing the

U.S.S.R’s militaristic threat in order to push them into greater communication with NATO

countries while pressuring them to abandon the quest for nuclear dominance. 120 To that end, the

Maritime Doctrine as promulgated by Secretary Lehman included a strategy designed to render

Cote, Third Battle, p. 65.
Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 245.
Ford, Reagan Maritime Strategy, p. 386-7.
Ibid, 387.
Ibid, 382.
Ford, Reagan Maritime Strategy, p. 382; Cote, Third Battle, p. 77; Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff, p. 245.
Balano, The Admirals Advantage, p. 81.

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the Soviets SSBN bastions ineffective by neutralizing the SSN and surface fleets guarding them,

thereby stripping the SSBN’s of their shield, and neutralizing their second-strike potential. 121

Further, the new strategy suggested that if the U.S.N. were able to block the bulk of the Soviet

submarine fleets into a few physical cul-de-sacs, then ASW surface and SSN forces would be

able to isolate and destroy the hostile boats despite the lack of track-and-trail locating. 122

This new strategy led to increased activity within the U.S. submarine fleet as Naval

commanders sent their boats on aggressive missions to demonstrate penetration of the heavily

defended bastions was possible. In addition, U.S. and NATO surface fleets began running war

games designed to demonstrate that American and allied fleets could, and would, go anywhere in

the ocean they so chose—even into the heart of the Soviet-dominated northern seas, negating sea

denial in the process. 123 Mock sinkings, unofficial war-games, underwater “charges,” and polar

icecap operations formed the SSN fleet’s program of “perception management,” a tactic

designed to drill holes in Soviet naval defense and destroy the viability of their wartime

strategy. 124 In penetrating these last bastions of the Soviet Navy, the U.S.N. made it unlikely the

USSR would be able to launch a military attack without risking their entire SSBN second-strike

force. 125

Ultimately, Reagan Doctrine policies would reveal the weakness of the Soviet submarine

fleet and its inability to wage an effective naval war. Despite their aggressive nature, these

activities were designed to avoid nuclear war while demonstrating the weakness of Soviet

communism and its failure to crush the capitalist liberal-democracies of the West. The Soviet

Balano, The Admirals Advantage, p. 184.
Balano, The Admirals Advantage, p. 185.
Ford, Reagan Maritime Strategy, p. 393; Cote, Third Battle, p. 65.
Balano, The Admirals Advantage, p. 94; Cote, Third Battle, p. 75-76; Ford, Reagan Maritime Strategy, p. 398.
Balano, The Admirals Advantage, p. 95.

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Navy had been so far outstripped by American technological and intelligence advances that it

was neutralized as a significant strategic threat. 126

The Thaw: Conclusions

In conclusion, it is clear that while the USN’s missile submarine program played an

important part in discouraging a nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union, the clandestine special

missions carried out by fast attack and special missions submarines throughout the Cold Was

played an equally vital role in nuclear deterrence policy. Submarines, with their ability to remain

submerged for indefinite periods, and travel through the seas undetected, seem custom-made for

the unique demands of the combative non-confrontation that was the Cold War. Throughout the

war, special missions submarines would support U.S. deterrence policy as they sought to provide

American military and political figures with means of attaining technological and strategic

dominance over the Soviet Union and bring about a peaceful end to the nuclear standoff.

Submarines would contribute to the goal as they invaded Soviet waters prove it could be done

and to watch for military activity betraying a Soviet offensive that would need to be reported to

American diplomats and analysts. Their ability to function in water deeper than human divers

could descend allowed boats like Halibut to investigate Soviet and American wrecks or snatch

valuable bits of equipment from the sea floor for scientists and strategists to explore and

counteract. However, any of these missions could be discounted and the submarine would still

have caused the greatest shift twentieth-century American military policy. The Reagan Maritime

Strategy, fueled by SSN-gathered intelligence, borrowed Sun Tzu’s advice that “the highest

realization of warfare is to attack the enemy’s plans,” demonstrating to the Soviets that their

Balano, The Admirals Advantage, p. 107.

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military was without defense capabilities and ending the global threat posed by the Soviet

Navy. 127

Ford/Rosenberg 393

Page | 27
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