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Red Star Rogue: The Untold Story of a Soviet Sumbarine's Nuclear Strike Attempt on the U.S.

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March 7, 1968: Several hundred miles northwest of Hawaii, the nuclear-armed K-129 surfaces and then sinks; all of its crewmen and officers perish at sea. Who was commanding the rogue Russian sub? What was its target? How did it infiltrate American waters undetected? Navy veteran Kenneth Sewell, drawing from newly declassified documents and extensive confidential interviews, exposes the stunning truth behind an operation calculated to provoke war between the U.S. and China ? a nightmare scenario averted by only ...

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Red Star Rogue: The Untold Story of a Soviet Submarine's Nuclear Strike Attempt on the U.S.

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Overview

March 7, 1968: Several hundred miles northwest of Hawaii, the nuclear-armed K-129 surfaces and then sinks; all of its crewmen and officers perish at sea. Who was commanding the rogue Russian sub? What was its target? How did it infiltrate American waters undetected? Navy veteran Kenneth Sewell, drawing from newly declassified documents and extensive confidential interviews, exposes the stunning truth behind an operation calculated to provoke war between the U.S. and China — a nightmare scenario averted by only seconds. In full, authoritative detail, Red Star Rogue illuminates this history-shaping event — and rings with chilling relevance in light of today's terrorist threat.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Reads like the latest Tom Clancy thriller....Fascinating...frightening."
The Flint Journal

"Frightening....As exciting as any novel."
The Associated Press

"A remarkable account [from] a veteran submariner."
Bookspan

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416527336
  • Publisher: Pocket Star
  • Publication date: 9/26/2006
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 4.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Kenneth R. Sewell is a nuclear engineer and a U.S. Navy veteran who spent five years aboard the USS Parche, a fast attack submarine that was the Navy's most decorated ship. Parche conducted a number of special operations, some of which were revealed in Blind Man's Bluff. Since leaving the Navy, Mr. Sewell has held both Department of Defense and Department of Energy security clearances. In researching Red Star Rogue, Mr. Sewell had access to recently declassified intelligence files in the U.S. and Soviet military archives that were opened after 1991, among other sources. A New York Times bestseller, Red Star Rogue has been optioned for film by Warner Brothers.

Clint Richmond is a veteran journalist and author based in Austin, Texas. His book Selena!, about the murder of the legendary Tejana singer, was a #1 bestseller.

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Read an Excerpt

Foreword

Shortly after the opening of trade relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC) in the early 1980s, I was assigned to work with Chinese engineers at the Beijing research facility of the Ministry of Aeronautics Industry. It was, for me, the first of many memorable trips to this once-secluded country. It was likewise memorable for my Chinese hosts, because I was the first American they had ever met.

The scientists and engineers I worked with were well educated in the basic technical skills of their fields. But they were completely ignorant of what the world was like outside China. The leadership had only recently permitted peasant farmers to sell their excess produce in the cities, though many Chinese had not yet learned to cook since leaving their communes. This was years before the Tiananmen Square massacre, and everywhere there was a feeling of optimistic uncertainty.

Like most visitors to China in those days, I had been assigned a "government watcher." One day as we ate lunch, he was called away, leaving me alone with a group of engineers I had come to know fairly well. They were nervously glancing around to see if anyone was watching. A man was placed at the entrance, obviously as a lookout.

With a great show of courtesy and some embarrassment, the young engineer who spoke the best English began by asking me, "Mr. Sewell, may we inquire about an incident that we heard of some time ago?"

The question took me by surprise, and I must admit to feeling a twinge of fear. It had been only a few years since I had served on the crew of an American submarine under the command of a highly classified organization. Maybe I was being paranoid, but I did have information that could compromise intelligence operations critical to American security, and I had no idea how much these people knew about my past.

"Here it comes," I told myself, preparing for the third degree. So I was stunned when my chief inquisitor timidly asked his question.

"We have heard rumors for some time now, that American spacemen have landed on the moon," the young engineer whispered, with a grave look on his face. "Is this correct?" He quickly produced a Western trade magazine and pointed to an article. Over half the magazine had been censored, blacked out; but in one obscure paragraph was a reference to the American Apollo moon missions of the 1960s and 1970s.

I stood dumbfounded for several seconds. These highly trained engineers, the finest of Red China's aeronautical specialists, were surely joshing me. But they all leaned closer to hear my answer. They were not kidding.

During the remainder of our lunch break, the Chinese engineers pressed me for the details of the U.S. astronauts' seven moon landings. When the commissar — my minder — returned, the enlightenment abruptly ended.

Mao had warned his comrades, "When you open windows, you let in the flies." In this case, I was proud to be one of the first flies. The Chinese government was so repressive, their society so closed and secretive, that information about one of the greatest engineering and scientific accomplishments in human history had been withheld from the country's best technical minds.

Years later, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, this memory came back to me. What haven't we been told?

No one knows better than an American submariner the need to protect our military and technological secrets for the security of our nation. But archiving old secrets long after the crisis has passed deprives us of knowledge that free people need to make enlightened choices. Burying our history beneath layers of cover stories, security classifications, and deliberate deceit for the purpose of protecting mistakes or reputations of bygone leaders is a violation of a free people's rights. In the military, the highest restriction placed on a document is called a "need to know" classification. But at some point, after a crisis has passed, there is a higher authorization that we Americans must be granted — and that is the "right to know."

If our democratic way of life and the self-rule of free people everywhere are to survive, then those we elect to lead us are not entitled to keep vital information from us forever.

On September 11, we learned that Islamist fanatics would resort to any and all means to achieve their goal, the destruction of the United States of America and the freedom it represents. It has long been reported that these terrorists have actively sought to obtain nuclear weapons. There is no doubt, now, that they would use them if given the chance.

This is why I have written Red Star Rogue. For some time I have known about a horrifying incident, perhaps the darkest secret of the Cold War era. It involved a failed attempt by a lone Soviet submarine, a rogue, to launch a nuclear missile against a sleeping American city. Yet, for no reason of national security, this three-decades-old secret remains buried in mystery, rumor, and purposefully leaked disinformation.

In 1968, in a desperate bid to win the Cold War, a small group of radical Stalinists came within seconds of a sneak attack that would have killed a half-million Americans.

After spending years searching for answers to satisfy my own concerns about this incident, I submitted a detailed outline of my research to one of the few people still living who knew the entire story. Because of this person's impeccable credentials and integrity, I was sure if my conclusions were wrong, this man would tell me.

A few days later he responded, "You have made a great start in developing the credible and probable scenarios that have had that effect on history that we call the end of the Cold War (it is not over yet)."

As I dug deeper, it became increasingly difficult to have in the clear contact with my covert mentor, and my inquiries exposed me to those whose job it is to keep these things secret. Because of the classified nature of his former career and his lifetime commitment of confidentiality, my contact was unable to go public. But I still managed to update him on my findings. Near the conclusion of my research I again asked him to review my work. His last response was, "So go, man, go. They do not yet suspect that you have an important message for the American people."

The public not only has a right to know, but now they have a need to know. In the current climate of perpetual war against terrorism, we can only hope that lessons learned from this Cold War incident will provide insights that can help us make the right choices in this increasingly dangerous, post-9/11 era.

Kenneth Sewell

Copyright © 2005 by Kenneth Sewell and Clint Richmond

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Table of Contents

Contents

Foreword

Prologue

Part One: The Incident

Part Two: The Intelligence

Part Three: The Cover-Up

Epilogue

Notes

Index

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 22 )
Rating Distribution

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(11)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2012

    Interesting read

    I founx this an interesting read. A lot of good information I was not previously aware of on the K-129. The author became repetative on some of the narrative in the book though.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2012

    History buffs, this is a must.

    I found that this book filled in a lot of blanks of what happened and why it happened. Power can corrupt and checks and balances are part of our heritage. It makes one wonder what else is hidden from us.

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  • Posted March 20, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    This is the (purported) true story of the sinking and salvage of

    This is the (purported) true story of the sinking and salvage of a Soviet missile sub. Having read A Matter Of Risk: The Incredible Inside Story Of The Cia's Hughes Glomar Explorer Mission To Raise A Russian Submarine many years ago, and also having read about it in Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage I was interested in this story. I remember seeing promo's about the Hughes Glomar Explorer in science class when I was a kid and we talked about deep sea mining. The fact that it was all just a cover up for a secret salvage operation just makes the story all the more tantalizing. The information presented here is EXTREMELY interesting, and he makes a good case for his version of events. Unfortunately, I don't know if we'll ever get the full story of exactly what happened with that sub. Did it try to launch a nuclear missile at Hawaii, and draw the US into a war by framing China for it? Was the whole submarine brought to the surface? How much actual information was able to be gleaned from the salvage?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2006

    Utterly implausible explanation for cold-war disaster

    At first a compelling but soon unbelievable account of K-129, the Soviet sub whose 1968 loss spurred ¿Project Jennifer¿ salvage endeavor involving ¿Glomar Explorer¿. The authors claim 1) K-129 had been commandeered on the orders of high-ranking Kremlin ideologues to launch her missiles against Hawaii and trigger an American-Chinese war and 2)contrary to reports that ¿Jennifer¿ salvaged only part of K-129, the project was completely successful. ¿Rogue¿ appears well-documented, but few-if-any sources corroborate the authors¿ points ¿ the authors actually spend more time repudiating others claims than substantiating their own, which are themselves nonsensical. The authors base their ¿hijack/attack¿ theory on the presence of about 11 extra men whose existence the authors never corroborate (and given that these men were supposed to have been placed by Politburo, the authors have a built-in explanation that any corroborative records could have easily been altered or destroyed.) The authors claim that the plot was intended to frame Red China, but that would require that the attack appear to be the work of the Chinese. Red China lacked any real SLBM capability until (at the earliest) the 1980¿s, and certainly none of their weapons had the megaton-yield of the warheads on K-129. The authors offer nothing that would have led anybody to believe that K-129 was anything other than a Soviet sub, with a Soviet crew and uniquely identifiable Soviet weapons. The authors claim that K-129 was sunk when the hijacking crewmen incorrectly bypassed launch safeguards and exploded one of the ship¿s missiles - but also suggest that the hijackers were special KGB troops who had access to nuclear weapons, raising the question of why such hijackers would need to bypass anything, or why such a possibility (with its risk of exposure) hadn¿t been factored into by the plotters. While making a good case for a missile explosion, the author¿s leap to missile-launch isn¿t supported ¿ undermined by the Soviet record of missile disasters. (A 1961 missile accident killed about 100 people include a red army Marshal, the Soviet moon-landing effort was routinely hamstrung by missile failure Submarine K-219 in 1986 sunk after a fire traced to a missile tube, but is never considered here.) The authors insist that America succeeded in raising the entire hulk of -129, desperate to have some bargaining chip against the Soviets. However, according to the authors, the Americans then desperately and inexplicably hide their prize ¿ likely cutting the sub up for scrap, as if the US had suddenly decided they were more scared to admit they found the sub than the Soviets were to have lost it. These are only the main sticking points of a book that puts about as many demands on your suspension of disbelief as ¿The Philadelphia Experiment¿, one that seems to gain ground mostly on the eagerness of readers to instinctively disbelieve whatever is official or accepted or mainstream, no matter how unreasonable the alternative is.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2005

    Fascinating account of events and history!

    Having retired from the Navy several years ago, I found the book to be absolutely fascinating. It put several things into clearer perspective and is invaluable as we continue to learn from history and chart our future for world peace.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2005

    Essential Cold War history

    For students of Cold War history, the tale of sub K-129 told in Sewell's Red Star Rogue should be required reading. The fallout from the K-129's final mission heavily influenced both Eastern and Western foreign policy and international relations for decades. Sewell goes beyond explaining the K-129's chilling story to further describe how Soviet and U.S. leaders fit the K-129 into the bigger picture of Cold War intrigue. While many TV documentaries and other books refer to the not-so-secret mission of the Hughes Glomar Explorer - none of these sources ever spent any time explaining the significance of the Russian sub that functioned as the ship's target. Sewell's book finally provides a worthy description of why the sub at the center of that mission was so critical to U.S. interests.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2005

    Excellent Book

    I really enjoyed this book. It helps make sense out of many events taking place at the time. If true, this planet was way too close to nuclear destruction.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2005

    A Chilling Account - And The Puzzle Pieces Fit!

    Extraordinary account and if true (it probably is) this has major implications for today's understanding of and the proper response to the issue of nuclear proliferation in the context of the current multilateral negotiations with Iran and North Korea. The civilized nations of the world simply cannot permit this sort of crime to ever happen again.

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