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Project Azorian: The CIA and the Raising of K-129

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On July 21, 1974, despite incredible political, military and intelligence risks, and after six years of secret preparations, the CIA attempted to raise the sunken Soviet ballistic missile submarine, K-129, from the depths of the North Pacific Ocean. Using the cover of an undersea mining operation conducted by the Howard Hughes corporation’s Glomar Explorer, the CIA accomplished one the Cold War’s greatest acts of espionage, with this unprecedented achievement of undersea technology.

Project Azorian--part of the CIA’s larger Project Jennifer --was the code name for the most audacious ocean engineering endeavor ever attempted by man. Following the accidental sinking of a Soviet missile submarine in 1968, U.S. intelligence agencies were able to determine the precise location of the wreckage, develop a means of raising the hull from a depth of 16,560 feet, and raise a section of the submarine to the surface. Previously, the deepest salvage of a submarine had been accomplished at a depth of 245 feet. And, all previous (and subsequent) submarine salvage efforts had required divers to work on the hulk; at the time divers could not operate beyond a depth of a few hundred 1,000 feet.

The story of Project Azorian and the clandestine deep-sea mission was set in the technological era of the seventies. The remarkable Project Azorian salvage effort was accomplished after the Soviet government apparently had been warned that the U.S. government would attempt to salvage the submarine--which contained nuclear-armed torpedoes and missiles as well as crypto equipment. And, the salvage effort was conducted with Soviet naval ships a few hundred yards from, the lift ship, the Hughes Glomar Explorer.

Today, Azorian stands alone in the breath of its conception and engineering achievement, yet remains obscured by ongoing efforts of the U.S Government to deflect investigation and to deny access to the official record. The managers and engineers, who assembled themselves into a one-time CIA corporate team, accomplished an impossible mission within an improbable time frame at the height of the Cold War. This CIA undertaking can only be compared to the 1969 moon landing in its level of achievement.

Every step of Project Azorian, from the Air Force detection of the sinking of the K-129, through the salvage effort, and the cover story--that it was a seafloor mining venture--reads like fiction. Indeed, the cover story, that eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes was in the ocean mining business, led to the establishment of college classes in ocean engineering and to several major corporations investing funds to exploit the ocean's resources.

The authors, Norman Polmar and Michael White, have had unprecedented access to American and Soviet documents, have interviewed key participants involved in Azorian, and have acquired not-previously-available documents and photos. The book is based, in part, on Michael White's documentary Azorian: The Raising of the K-129.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591146902
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press
  • Publication date: 11/29/2010
  • Pages: 235
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Norman Polmar is an internationally known analyst, consultant, and author specializing in naval, aviation, and intelligence issues. Since June 2008 he has been the Senior Consultant for National Security Programs at Gryphon Technologies where he supports Navy ballistic missile defense, cyber operations, and shipbuilding programs. Until May 2008 he served as the senior policy advisor in the Center for Security Strategies & Operations (CSSO) within General Dynamics/Information Technology; he previously held that position with the Anteon and Techmatics firms prior to corporate buyouts.

From 1967 to 1977 Mr. Polmar was editor of the United States sections of JANE’S FIGHTING SHIPS , being completely responsible for almost one-third of that annual reference work. From 1982 to 1986 and from December 2002 until June 2008 he served as a member of the Secretary of the Navy's Research Advisory Committee (NRAC). He served as chairman of the NRAC panel established in 2005 to determine science and technology requirements for supporting the Navy and Marine Corps in the period 2015--2020. He also served on a sub-panel of the Defense Science Board’s study of transition to and from hostilities (2004) and was a member of a DARPA advisory panel looking at future warfare requirements (2007).

He served as the Ramsey Fellow at the National Air and Space Museum in 1998-1999. His awards include Outstanding Journalism Graduate (Sigma Delta Chi, 1965); Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Literary Achievement (Navy League, 1976); Author Award of Merit (Naval Institute, 1986); Rear Admiral Ernest M. Eller Prize (U.S. Naval History Center, 1996), shared with Thomas B. Allen; Admiral Arthur W. Radford Award (Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, 2004); and Grover Award (Naval Research Advisory Committee, 2008). He lives in Alexandria, VA

Michael White:
Michael White has worked in film, television and advertising industries for over 34 years. His career in special and visual effects began in 1976 at Pinewood Studios, on Superman the Movie. During the following years he worked his way up to become a senior technician and later completed work on some 16 international films.

In 1981 he went to work for Bernd Eichinger on the ‘Neverending Story” at Bavaria Studios in Germany. This move brought about a lifestyle change that better suited his ambitions in life at that time. After completing Wolfgang Petersons “Enemy Mine”also at Bavaria and “Lionhear” for Franklyn J.Schaffler in 1986, he became a highly respected special effects technician in Germany and decided to stay in Munich and work the up and coming German independent TV advertising market. During this time as special effects supervisor and consultant, he completed work with most of the top film productions in Germany. Soon the opportunity to move into directing presented itself in early 1988. Over the next few years his career expanded into directing over eighty commercials for television and cinema in Germany, Austria and other parts of Europe. In 1990 he moved to Vienna as a regular working place and home. Since his time there he has used it as a base to work around Europe as a director of well over fifty commercials and some twenty corporate films.

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