The Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History

The Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History

by Josh Dean


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An incredible true tale of espionage and engineering set at the height of the Cold War—a mix between The Hunt for Red October and Argo—about how the CIA, the U.S. Navy, and America’s most eccentric mogul spent six years and nearly a billion dollars to steal the nuclear-armed Soviet submarine K-129 after it had sunk to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean; all while the Russians were watching.

In the early hours of February 25, 1968, a Russian submarine armed with three nuclear ballistic missiles set sail from its base in Siberia on a routine combat patrol to Hawaii. Then it vanished.

As the Soviet Navy searched in vain for the lost vessel, a small, highly classified American operation using sophisticated deep-sea spy equipment found it—wrecked on the sea floor at a depth of 16,800 feet, far beyond the capabilities of any salvage that existed. But the potential intelligence assets onboard the ship—the nuclear warheads, battle orders, and cryptological machines—justified going to extreme lengths to find a way to raise the submarine.

So began Project Azorian, a top-secret mission that took six years, cost an estimated $800 million, and would become the largest and most daring covert operation in CIA history.

After the U.S. Navy declared retrieving the sub “impossible,” the mission fell to the CIA's burgeoning Directorate of Science and Technology, the little-known division responsible for the legendary U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird spy planes. Working with Global Marine Systems, the country's foremost maker of exotic, deep-sea drilling vessels, the CIA commissioned the most expensive ship ever built and told the world that it belonged to the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, who would use the mammoth ship to mine rare minerals from the ocean floor. In reality, a complex network of spies, scientists, and politicians attempted a project even crazier than Hughes’s reputation: raising the sub directly under the watchful eyes of the Russians.

The Taking of K-129
is a riveting, almost unbelievable true-life tale of military history, engineering genius, and high-stakes spy-craft set during the height of the Cold War, when nuclear annihilation was a constant fear, and the opportunity to gain even the slightest advantage over your enemy was worth massive risk.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101984437
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/05/2017
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 241,367
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Josh Dean is a correspondent for Outside; a regular contributor to many national magazines, including GQ, Bloomberg Businessweek, Fast Company, and Popular Science; and the author of Show Dog and The Life and Times of the Stopwatch Gang.

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Excerpted from "The Taking of K-129"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Josh Dean.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Josh Dean has a gift for unearthing remarkable stories lost to history, and in The Taking of K-129 he has uncovered perhaps the most remarkable one of all—a story replete with spies and engineering marvels and a secret drama unfolding thousands of feet beneath the sea. Brilliantly researched and beautifully written, this is a book you can't put down.
David Grann, New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon

An engrossing account of shadowy intrigue, precision engineering and ultra-deception, The Taking of K-129 is a high-stakes espionage drama of operational boldness married with technical brilliance.
Robert Wallace, author of Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs from Communism to al-Qaeda

A riveting account of the American intelligence community. Told in fascinating detail, The Taking of K-129 is nonfiction at its best because with every page I had to remind myself this actually happened.
Kevin Maurer, co-author of the #1 New York Times bestseller No Easy Day

As a former submariner and navy diver, I give Josh Dean an A+ for The Taking of K-129. This non-fiction account of one of the most dangerous and daring missions of the Cold War is well-researched and reads like a Tom Clancy thriller.
W. Craig Reed, New York Times bestselling author of Red November

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The Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous 10 days ago
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Anonymous 6 months ago
Author did a great job on research and in explaining the technical problems for those of us who are not engineers. Would highly recommend.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not stop reading
CJH46 More than 1 year ago
Oh, I wish I could rate this higher but the book is a bit cumbersome, too detailed, too long, etc. Certainly an interesting tale but at the end I was just glad to be done with it. For me there were three big take-aways: 1.) American technology and can-do spirit was incredible; 2.) There were a whole big bunch of folks involved in this scheme and at the end the names were a jumble and a blur; and 3.) During the Cold War and the Vietnam era almost any obscene amount of money could be thrown at a defense/security issue no matter how crazy the idea. Our tax dollars at work: $250 million to harvest outdated technology from the Soviet Union. I do not recommend this book unless you are REALLY interested in learning all the details.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
could have been a great back at 250-270 pages. as others have mentioned, way too much detail
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An amazing story that chronicles real American ingenuity and drive. Making the impossible possible against crazy odds. What the engineers designed and built in a short time, and that had limited testing but worked is amazing. Great book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read for history buffs.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very interesting book. Too many details. Too much description of all of the people mentioned in the book. Despite this I would recommend the book.
B-loNY More than 1 year ago
Painstakingly thorough.