Monday, December 5, 2011

Looking for Soviet Subs

  it was not a game...

Soviet Missile Ship Moskva at sea in the Mediterranean, ca. 1976
The Navy ordered me to Naples, Italy to coordinate the search and tracking of Russian submarines operating in the Mediterranean Sea.  It was 1975 and the Cold War was in full swing.
The Mediterranean Sea was a seven-ring circus for the United States Navy, because the whole war of threats and counter-threats between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States played out here, every day. 

I was going to a job conducting around the clock airborne surveillance of the Mediterranean Sea.  At the time, the Israelis and all the Arab countries around them were in a state of tension.  Pretty much like today, except in those days, the Soviet Union backed the Arab States, most African states, Albania, Yugoslavia and the United States, as a part of NATO, had bases in Italy, Greece, Spain, Turkey and Iran. Like today, we backed Israel in their confrontation with their Arab neighbors, and the Soviets. There were many more little alignments, but always with the Russians taking one side and the Americans the other.     
We were a part of the Sixth Fleet, operating in the Mediterranean.  That force included two aircraft carriers, numerous destroyers, cruisers, patrol craft, ammunition and fueling ships, land-based air patrol craft, and submarines.
The Soviets also deployed a fleet of missile cruisers, destroyers and submarines in the Mediterranean
Today, with the benefit of hind-sight, it is hard to imagine the tension between all these ships and aircraft operating here, but when you consider that both sides went to sea loaded with all kinds of nuclear and conventional weapons, and even a small misunderstanding between forces of the USSR or the USA could have disastrous consequences. And--  all those client states were continually cooking up minor and major incidents that could drag the whole world into war.
            My job was to use my experience in submarines and destroyers to work with naval aviators in searching for Russian submarines.  We employed land-based maritime aircraft and airborne early warning planes, and we coordinated with the antisubmarine elements aboard the carriers, and their escorting destroyers.  We shared our headquarters with the staff that coordinated American and NATO submarine operations.
            Often I would fly out to Rota, Spain, or to Sigonella, Sicily, where our aircraft were based, and join them on one of their 12-hour missions.  Sometimes I’d be taken on a COD (carrier onboard delivery) plane to land on one of our carriers, to take part in a coordinated antisubmarine warfare operation, which involved Sixth fleet carrier aircraft, our land-based patrol aircraft, as well as destroyers and submarines, all tracking a Soviet submarine, with or without the interference of the Soviet surface warships in the area.
Our submarine crews became quite skilled at picking up a Soviet submarine out in the Atlantic and trailing him into the Mediterranean.  Sometimes we’d organize a squadron of destroyers with sophisticated towed sonars aboard, and they would coordinate with our submarines and aircraft to track the Russian. 
At times Soviet surface warships would show up and get right in the middle of our tracking operation.
One day we were conducting a large operation that used carrier-based air, destroyers and land-based air to track a Soviet nuclear missile submarine. This type of submarine carried anti-ship missiles, and the Soviets positioned them to attack our aircraft carriers.
 We had tracked him to the Central Mediterranean, just west of Crete and south of western Greece.   One of our towed array frigates, USS Voge (FF-1047) was tracking him closely when sailors on the frigate noticed that the submarine had popped up and was behaving like a porpoise, speeding, still submerged, but with her periscope sticking up, and then part of her sail.  She was heading right at the frigate!
USS Voge displaced about 2600 tons, but this submerged monster displaced as much as 5700 tons, and she was traveling at a speed of about 18 knots.
Here’s a photo someone aboard Voge shot, just before the submarine collided:
Photo taken from deck of USS Voge as Soviet submarine
collides at sea off Greece, Aug. 28, 1976

Soviet Photo of nuclear submarine K-22
after collision with USS Voge 8-28-76

            You can see considerable damage to the sail of the Russian submarine, and there was also damage to the hull of Voge, so she had to go into drydock in Toulon, France shortly afterward.  One sailor aboard Voge was injured.

            Some fine people will read the foregoing here in the year 2011, and say, “how stupid you all were to be playing with the lives of all of us like that!”   Since the Cold War began right after World War II ended, up until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, we lived in a world of continual tension.
            The Soviets tried very hard to grab up as much territory as they could as World War II ended, and countries that they couldn’t swallow up then they worked hard with elements in those countries to create Communist regimes. 
We had just defeated Germany, Japan and Italy to keep ourselves from being swallowed up by fascist forces, and now the Communists wanted to take over the world.
            They had a lot of successes, and if we had ever “relaxed” and let the Russians, the Red Chinese, and the communist states in Czechoslovakia, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Albania, Rumania, Cuba, Poland and elsewhere have their way, they might have succeeded.
            We weren’t “playing”, and neither were the Russians.

Here are some books and papers that The Personal Navigator would like to offer you:

Abdul Buhl: The Chronicles of Abdul Buhl by Leslie F. Deacon, Illustrations by Polly Hill ca. 1948.  These are the timeless adventures of Abdul Buhl the terrible, and Morbhid Dhung, his man, told in verse.  Charmingly illustrated by Polly Hill, Adul and Morbhid cross a desert, go out to sea, meet some Amazons, including Sweet Ahlmad Buhl, from Abdul's clan. They encounter Whirling Dervishes, Attila's Huns, sail back over the sea to Araby the Fair.  [Author believed to be the same L.F. Deacon b. 1913 who served in the RAF in World War II and taught at Tanglin in Singapore after the war, then moved to Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and then South Africa.] 23 pp.           13.5 x 23.8 cm. Green suede leather cover, text block loose from binding, poor. (8200)   $39.00. Poetry

Russo-Japanese War Commemorative Post Cards, 1905

Portsmouth Navy Yard Peace Conference 1905-- Set of five post cards commemorating Russo-Japanese War Peace Conference 1905          Portsmouth, NH: First National Bank. Set of five postal cards commemorate the Russo-Japanese War Peace Conference sponsored by President Theodore Roosevelt. Two cards show participants: Sato, Takahira, Komura, Otchai and Adachi for Japan, and Korostovetz, Navohoff, Witte, DeRosen and Plancon for Russia. Another card shows inset pictures of Czar Nicholas, the Mikado and President Roosevelt.         5 cards 13.7 x 8.7 cm.   Four photographic post cards and one printed post card, all very good. (8202) $45.00. History

Art Metal Steel Office Furniture and Filing Supplies, 1915 No. 757 1915 Jamestown, NY: Art Metal Construction Co.            All the modern business needs--the best steel office equipment in the world, according to E. St. Elmo Lewis, General Manager.  Photo of Art Metal Engineering Department. Fire resistance of Art Metal. Cast Bronze Hardware. Features of Art Metal Files--why they excel. File Drawers, Upright Units, Vertical file units, Suggestions for voluminous correspondence, vertical file guides, file folders; card record units, tabulating card units, sections for folded documents, depositi slips, checks and vouchers, private lock drawer sections, unit record-card desks, bond boxes, plan files, waste baskets, shelving, desks, tables, typewriter stands, safes, vault equipment.            80 pp.   20 x 27.5 cm.    Paper booklet, cellophane tape repairs to spine, good.            (8199) $28.00. Advertising

Boston Weekly Journal, Boston, Mass., Thursday Morning, February 25, 1869    Boston, MA: Charles O. Rogers, 120 Washington St. Dispatch from St. Louis reports that all of the Kiowas except four or five lodges have come in to make peace, and will at once be assigned reservations. Kiowas have been the most troublesome and hostile of the frontier tribes. Part of the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes have also presented themselves at the Government headquarters for assignment ot reservations. Gen. Cushing met with success in negotiations with the Government of Colombia for the right to construct an inter-oceanic canal across the Isthmus of Darien. Discussion about the way that the President-elect, General Grant, is going about forming his Cabinet.  Meager information from Cuba indicates that troubles there are daily becoming more serious, and both the Spanish government and Gen. Dulce have misapprehended the extent and true nature of the outbreak.  Bands of insurgents are making their appearance in every part of the island.        4 pp.     52 x 68 cm. Newspaper, worn, dampstained, good. (8197) $25.00 Newspapers/History

Vermont Journal, Brattleboro, Saturday, April 9, 1881 Brattleboro, VT:  The Journal Company. The sacredness of the Sabbath is not always observed by politicians.  Last Saturday Senators Conkling and Platt, Governor Cornell, Vice President Arthur and Postmaster-General James  did not get through comparing notes until Sunday. Four years ago Conkling engaged in a power struggle with President Hayes.  "The Hero of Gettysburg" was not General Hancock, recently defeated in the national election by Garfield, but General Meade.  There are at least a dozen Senators who may be called millionaires, led by Sen. Fair of Nevada, probably worth as much as all the others put together.  Next is Davis of Illinois who has gathered millions, as well as 375 pounds avoirdupois. Sawyer of Wisconsin, who was a poor Vermont boy, is next.   The Story Teller:  "Poor Miss Brackenthorpe" --what was revealed after she died. Illustrated ads for Perry Davis' Pain Killer, The "Only" Lung Pad, Madame Griswold's Skirt-supporting Corsets. 8 pp.           40 x 58 cm.       Newspapers, numerous tiny tears in creases, paper unopened, fair. (8198) $24.00. Newspapers/History

London: The Canadian's Guide Book to London 1937 1937 London, England: High Commissioner, Canada House. Guide book for the Coronation, May 12 and all other events in 1937. Includes colored folding map of Central London, showing the Coronation Parade route. 65 pp. 12.2 x 15.1 cm. Paper booklet, owner name written on inside front cover. Inside front hinge slightly loose. Good. (8201) $24.00. Travel

Shipmate, The Eyes and Ears of the Navy; Publication of the United States Naval Academy Alumni Association, September 1945         1945 England, Harry W., Managing Editor. Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association. Victory and Industrial Issue: End of World War II came as a surprise to editorial staff, so they rushed to include "The Sinking of the Rising Sun" by Lt. S.L. Freeland. "a concise and vivid report of how U.S. Navy made Japs wish they had never thought of Pearl Harbor." Story of new USNA Superintendent, first Naval Aviator to take post, Vice Admiral Aubrey W. Fitch, '06, by Comdr. Louis J. Gulliver, '07. "Ships from the Texas Plains" story of ships built by newcomers to shipbuilding in Houston. These ships passed the "final examination" when they survived the horrible typhoon off Luzon in December 1944, that caused sinking of three other destroyers. "How the Seabees Transformed Tinian" as base for Superforts bombing Japan. "P.H. to Okinawa"-- "’The Big E’, carrier Enterprise, fought the whole bloody war, and came out asking for more”. "What's the Dope" news of alumni, first entry is from Col. Harry Hawthorne, Class of 1882.  Names of naval officers mentioned in this issue is an honor roll of naval heroes of World War II and afterward. 104 pp. 21.7 x 29.3 cm. Magazine, moderate wear, good. (6229) $35.00. World War II/Naval                                  

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