Red Star Rogue

Red Star Rogue

by Kenneth Sewell, Clint Richmond


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476787879
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 04/12/2014
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 323,001
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.40(d)

About 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.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

In the dark hours of March 7, 1968, a lone submarine slowly prowled the surface in open waters of the North Pacific. The slender sub rolled easily in swells raised by a twenty-knot wind. Occasionally, the whitecaps racing ahead of wave crests broke over the low forward deck, sending foaming rivulets of seawater to hide the rust streaks weeping from the boat's aging welds.

A coast watcher might have mistaken the submarine for some naval relic with an oddly long fin emerging from the depths to fight a sea battle of the Second World War. Such identification would have been only partly right. This sub, despite its angular U-boat appearance, carried three atomic-age ballistic missiles snugly housed in tubes in its extended sail.

On the bridge, in the brisk wind, an officer quickly scanned the horizon through powerful naval binoculars, and then raised them to search all quadrants of the night sky.

A seaman in an ill-fitting sheepskin coat focused his attention closer to home, climbing to the highest point in the aft section of the bridge. The coat was much too large for his slight frame, and he was much too young to have attained the rank entitling him to wear the storm raglan coat, quilted pants, and expensive lined boots of a fleet officer.

From his new perch he examined the long, flat area of the conning tower behind the bridge. The faintest glow of starlight provided just enough illumination for the sailor to discern the outline of the three launch-tube doors. The doors appeared to be clear of any flotsam that might have been picked up during surfacing. Beneath the steel doors, like giant elongated eggs, were forty-two-foot-longballistic missiles. Each carried a one-megaton thermonuclear warhead.

The massive doors were tightly sealed, to keep salt water out of the missile tubes. The powerful hydraulic arms that opened them could be activated only from the missile control panel inside the submarine.

The officer gazing through his binoculars at the front of the bridge had seen no threat to their position--no running lights of surface ships, no antisubmarine warfare planes patrolling the sky. He acknowledged the other man's report that the missile doors were clear, then ducked back down the ladder and into the submarine.

As the boat broke through the swells at an almost leisurely two knots, the crewmen below eagerly breathed the fresh air rushing in through hatches opened to the conning tower. It was the first time the boat had been on the surface long enough to flush out the foul air that had accumulated in the living chambers during two weeks of submerged sailing. The cool sea air replacing oily diesel fumes created a slight draft in the control center as it flowed from compartments fore and aft.

The usual elation of the crew at finally being back in man's normal realm on the surface was suddenly cut short when they heard an order barked over the intercom. The order was for battle stations, missile launch. All compartments were to report ready when sealed. The order was followed by: "This is not a drill."

That harsh command, which may have startled even the few crewmen in the operating compartments who knew what to expect next, was more shocking for five dozen officers and sailors confined against their will in the forward two compartments of the submarine.

With an efficiency born of a thousand drills, all the steps to fulfill a missile submarine's ultimate purpose were methodically taken.

The officer who had just returned from lookout duty on the bridge entered the control room to assume the post of deputy commander. He reported that all was clear from his visual observations, and that the doors over the missile tubes were free of flotsam. Only the sailor in the bulky, foul-weather coat remained on the bridge in the open night air.

Another officer pronounced the stations manned and ready for live fire of the main missile batteries.

Before surfacing, several skilled seamen trained as missile technicians had worked feverishly for nearly an hour preparing for the next order. An inspection of the missile tubes through small hatches in compartment four revealed no fuel leaks or seepage of seawater that might hamper a launch. Now all preparations were complete. A small knot of anxious men in the control center waited for the commander to issue the final instructions to activate the emergency firing procedure for nuclear weapon release.

A missile officer standing at the launch console watched a warning light blink on. The door of number-one missile tube was open.

Atop the submarine, the sailor in the raglan coat visually confirmed that the missile door had opened properly. He closed the outer hatch in the floor of the bridge and knelt behind a steel protective shield. His job was to remain in this somewhat precarious spot -- the only person outside the hull -- to be available in the event of any last-minute problems.

Below the bridge in the action center, an officer peering through the periscope confirmed number-one missile hatch open and clear.

The commander provided a large cassette containing the computerized codes required to arm the missile warhead. Normally, the codes would have been locked inside the captain's safe, to be retrieved by the captain and the submarine's political officer only after orders were received from fleet headquarters. This time, the officer in charge simply handed the cassette to a young man, who turned and plugged the packet into the launch console.

Some of the crewmen waited to hear the procedure they had followed in dozens of simulated and live drills. The political officer should have announced that headquarters had confirmed launch authority. But this critical procedure was ignored. There had been no communication with headquarters in more than a week.

The officer in the action center directly above the control room made one last sweep of the horizon with the attack periscope. He checked again to make sure the missile door was completely deployed and shouted down to the control room that the missile was clear for launch.

At the launch control panel, an officer confirmed he had powered the number-one console.

An assistant navigation officer, a lieutenant, told the commander they were three minutes to launch position at latitude 24° north, longitude 163° west. Their course was east-southeast, at a speed of two knots.

The missile technician at the launch panel confirmed the target coordinates on a southeast heading from the boat: 21° 18' north, 157° west.

With that information, the commander, his deputy, and a third sailor stepped up to the launch panel. Each man inserted a key in the panel face. They turned the keys and stepped back to allow the missile officer to complete his task at the console.

The commander gave the order to proceed to activation of the warhead on number-one missile. He hurried up the ladder to the periscope in the action center, shouting to his deputy as he climbed to prepare for emergency dive after launch.

A small spotlight in the ceiling above the chart table in the control room threw a bright beam onto a naval chart. A penciled X, crudely drawn in the center of the chart, partially covered the name printed on the map. Just below the mark was another name: HONOLULU. The target was Pearl Harbor. But the explosive power of a one-megaton yield from the thermonuclear warhead would extend far beyond the military base to the civilian metropolitan area that adjoined it.

The sailor at the launch control panel announced the system ready for firing sequence.

The commander looked toward the man standing at the navigator's station. The man held a stopwatch in one hand and dividers in the other. "Two minutes to launch point on my mark...mark!"

Instantly, the commander activated his own stopwatch. The second hand swept one full turn around the face. He ordered missile one to be fired.

The man at the control panel complied, setting in motion the last step to launch missile one. Time to launch was sixty seconds.

Officers and seamen in the control room instinctively braced themselves for the jolt that would come when compressed air ejected the eighteen-ton missile out of the launch tube, just feet away from the command center.

At the control panel, a sailor pressed a black button, removing the last manual override of the system. It was fifteen seconds to launch.

The men locked in the forward compartments could hear each order in the launch sequence over the intercom. Any outcry they made was muffled by the watertight hatch separating them from the men giving the orders in the control center.

A young assistant missile officer, who by training would have known more than most crewmen about what was to happen next, curled up helpless in his bunk in one of the officers' cabins in compartment two. A small journal lay by his side.

It was ten seconds to launch.

Standing in front of the control panel, the officer commanding the submarine began the staccato countdown:

"Dyesyat, dyevyat, vosyem, syem..."

Copyright © 2005 by Kenneth Sewell and Clint Richmond

Table of Contents




Part One: The Incident

Part Two: The Intelligence

Part Three: The Cover-Up




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Red Star Rogue: The Untold Story of a Soviet Sumbarine's Nuclear Strike Attempt on the U.S. 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a non-stop read! The power we, the people, give our governments requires great trust. Sadly, those who fail to understand world events elect politocians who would fail this great Nation! The research of this subject is right up there akin to Blind Mans Bluff.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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 More than 1 year ago
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.
kamas716 More than 1 year ago
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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Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.