Read Red Star Rogue Online

Authors: Kenneth Sewell

Red Star Rogue


Rockefeller Center

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New York, NY 10020

Copyright © 2005 by Kenneth Sewell and Clint Richmond

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Maps in Chapters
copyright © Jeffrey L. Ward

Designed by Karolina Harris

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available

ISBN-13: 978-0-7432-7465-4
ISBN-10: 0-7432-7465-2

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For the men and women of the United States military who served our

country with little or no recognition, at countless outposts guarding

land, sea, and sky during the long years of the Cold War


, my appreciation goes to fourteen men and women now living in the United States and the former Soviet Union who must remain unnamed, as exposing their contributions to this book might adversely affect their well-being. Without their willingness to share critical information concerning the events revealed here, the public might never have learned how close the Cold War world came to ending in an incalculable catastrophe rather than a victory for democracy.

Others, who can be named, were also devoted to lifting the veil of secrecy so that these truths could be shared with the public. Among these, my thanks go to David Hughes in America for his translation of Russian documents, Svetlana Stepanova [pseud.] and Eugene Soukharnikov for researching open files and conducting follow-up interviews in Russia, Nam Nguyen for research in Hawaii, D. D. Dacosta for research at the University of Hawaii, and Linda Chatfield for archival and technical research.

A special thanks to Captain Third Rank (Ret.) Igor Kolosov, current caretaker of the Foxtrot submarine B-427 on display at Queen Mary Attractions in Long Beach, California, for descriptions of the day-to-day life experienced by Soviet submariners during the Cold War era. Edward L. Blanton YNC USN (Ret.) and U.S. Navy Commander (Ret.) Paul Grandinetti provided valuable assistance in authenticating American naval defensive warfare techniques of that period. Andy Frank and Adam VonIns gave their time and expertise to examine and evaluate the book’s premises about how the mysterious incidents that occurred during this critical period of history were interrelated.

Thanks to Beth Green for photo restoration, Chris Haggy for technical illustrations, and Frank Parker for photography. The staff of the Operational Archives Branch of the Naval Historical Center, Washington Navy Yard, was especially helpful. And a special thanks to Judith Morison for creative manuscript rewrites that made often complex and technical information accessible to the widest possible reading audience.

Heartfelt appreciation to my literary agent, John Talbot of the John Talbot Agency, Inc., who was enthusiastic about the project from the start, and who shepherded this work from proposal, through drafts, to final manuscript with insightful and sensitive critique and patience. Thanks to Jim Hornfischer of Hornfischer Literary Management, L.P., for bringing Clint Richmond to the project, as well as his own valuable knowledge of the nonfiction military genre. I appreciate both agents for their professionalism and guidance, and for finding the perfect placement for this work.

Last, but not at all least, my sincere appreciation goes to my senior editor at Simon & Schuster, Robert Bender, for making the publication of this information possible. His unflagging dedication to seeing this story told, and the diligent work of his editorial assistant, Johanna Li, brought the project to life as a book. His gentle editing hand and respect for his writers made polishing the final work a pleasant, rather than a painful task. Others at Simon & Schuster who contributed to the project were Al Madocs and Sean Devlin in copyediting, Rachel Nagler in publicity, and Michael Accordino in the art department.

Kenneth Sewell
Columbus, Ohio
September 2005


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

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