39 years ago today, the U.S. was spared from nuclear attack by a small mistake.
A Soviet Golf II class ballistic Missile submarine exploded and sank between 350 and 1000 miles west north west of Pearl Harbour, which was the intended target. When they attempted to launch, the missile propellant exploded, and blew a hole through the double hull in the bottom of the submarine, and it sank quickly. From here, the information gets muddied.
The actual site of the sinking is a closely guarded CIA secret, but reports put the wreck in a box from 27:00.00N 180:00:00 to 23:00:00N 163:00:00W The reason for keeping the location secret in 1968 was to prevent a mass panic during the height of the Cold War, there is no real reason to hide this information from the public now. At the time, 27N 180 was outside the maximum range of the missile being used, while 23N163W was well inside the range. From the 23N163W location, it was also with the range of Chinese Ballistic submarines, which had to be at an exact crossroads of longitude and lattitude.
The information surrounding this event vary depending on who you talk to or believe.
In the early to mid 1970's, the CIA and navy worked together and built the Glomar Explorer, to try and raise the hulk from a distance of just over 15,000 feet. The official CIA version states that just over 10% of the sub was salvaged, because the claw used to raise the submarine was damaged, and broke apart as the submarine was being raised. Yet during the SALT talks (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) the US delegation, in a show of good faith and respect, returns the sub's bell to the Soviets. The bell was originally located behind the sail, which housed the missile tubes and therefore indicates more than 50% of the submarine was salvaged. Some informed sources say that 90-95% of the submarine was salvaged.
Some reports also state that once salvaged, 60 men were found crowded into compartments 1 and 2 (Torpedo and sonar rooms). If true, this indicates a hostile takeover of the sub, since under normal circumstances, there should have only been about a dozen men in these 2 rooms
There was also speculation that a collision with the US submarine Barb caused the sinking, and that the Soviets sank the USS Scorpion in the Atlantic a few weeks later in retaliation.
There is also speculation that a KGB or GRU special operations squad took control of the submarine and attempted the launch. It is known fact that just before sailing, 11 extra men arrived on board. These men were allegedly relpacement crew members, but the submarine was already over crewed (the normal compliment of a Golf II was 83, and the addition 11 brought the compliment to 98). As the Golf sailed on her patrol, she missed 2 crucial communications points. One when she crossed the International Date Line, and the other when she arrived on station for her patrol. Hence, when the Soviet navy came out flying with their Pacific fleet blasting the water with sonar, and filling the airwaves with demands for the submarine to comminicate, they headed for her patrol area, some 400 to 500 miles north of the northern most area of where the CIA says she sank.
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