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Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story Of American Submarine Espionage
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Little is known--and less has been published--about American submarine espionage during the Cold War. These submerged sentinels silently monitored the Soviet Union's harbors, shadowed its subs, watched its missile tests, eavesdropped on its conversations, and even retrieved top-secret debris from the bottom of the sea. In an engaging mix of first-rate journalism and historical narrative, Sherry Sontag, Christopher Drew, and Annette Lawrence Drew describe what went on.

"Most of the stories in Blind Man's Bluff have never been told publicly," they write, "and none have ever been told in this level of detail." Among their revelations is the most complete accounting to date of the 1968 disappearance of the U.S.S. Scorpion; the story of how the Navy located a live hydrogen bomb lost by the Air Force; and a plot by the CIA and Howard Hughes to steal a Soviet sub. The most interesting chapter reveals how an American sub secretly tapped Soviet communications cables beneath the waves. Blind Man's Bluff is a compelling book about the courage, ingenuity, and patriotism of America's underwater spies. --John J. Miller

For decades American submarines have roamed the depths in a dangerous battle for information and advantage in missions known only to a select few. Now, after six years of research, those missions are told in Blind Man's Bluff, a magnificent achievement in investigative reporting. It reads like a spy thriller -- except everything in it is true. This is an epic of adventure, ingenuity, courage, and disaster beneath the sea, a story filled with unforgettable characters who engineered daring missions to tap the enemy's underwater communications cables and to shadow Soviet submarines. It is a story of heroes and spies, of bravery and tragedy.

Customer Reviews:

  • Imagine what we're doing NOW?
    The authors take you under the sea and under pressure, laying out America's secret efforts to track, analyze, and neutralize the Soviet Union's nuclear submarine capabilities during the "Cold War." We quickly learn it was less "Blind Man's Bluff" and more of a "Tag Your It" undersea game; a game with life-and-death stakes where neither side came out the true winner. This is a terrific foundation for those interested in military history, especially lovers of the Navy. The real question is, though the Cold War has warmed, what are our newest submarines doing about China?...more info
  • Blind Man's Bluff - Fidler
    Very well written, engrossing. Contained material I did not know prior to reading....more info
  • A Real Life Hunt For Red October
    We all knew what was going on (we spied on them, they spied on us), but to what extent was purely speculative. This book shows some of the exact measures we took to spy on the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The book also includes great US and Soviet Navy crewmen eyewitness accounts. Danger, secrets, undersea warfare. It's a real life "Hunt for Red October".
    ...more info
  • movie worthy
    Reads better than a dime novel. Exciting,gripping,moving and with true heroes, the men who go to sea with their ships. A read that leaves you dry mouthed and bleary eyed. A one sitting read....more info
  • Incredible read
    Much of these true life escapades should be an a Tom Clancy novel. I have purchased 3 copies of this book to give to friends. ...more info
  • Blind Man's Bluff
    What is happening, but, you really don't want to know. If you have ever had military family, a good read. Where's the movie?...more info
  • Anecdotal history of US submarine epionage
    This "history" of US submarine espionage since World War II reads more like a string of anecdotes and episodes. The stories are fascinating and a few of them are even historically important, but I'm not sure this is an "important" book as the New York Times Book Review is quoted on a cover blurb.

    Yet it is fun to read, holds your interest, and does present some new material not publicly documented elsewhere. For example, a central portion of the book is about the undersea cable tapping of Russian military telecommunications that began in the 70s and continued through the early 90s. These were buried cables visited just off the the Northern and far Eastern coasts of Russia where US subs anchored over the cable, placed taps on the line, and came back months later to collect the taps and tapes and leave new ones....more info
  • Well Done
    This book as a perfect example of espionage history. Well laid out, stories are well researched and portrayed in a manner that is honorous to all. Great job!!...more info
  • imprescindible
    is a classical between the books of submarines. The histories about spionage are great, all docomented.
    it is a book who teach you dive inside the history of the cold ward... a war without battles, but with victims....more info
  • An Excellent Account
    Having participated in the submarine service during the Cold War in the 1960's, I found this to be an accurate and excellent accounting of many of the things we experienced. This is a well researched and book of experiences that I didn't think I would ever see published in my lifetime....more info
  • Bluffing the Apocalypse
    As the American Eagle and the Russian Bear were noisily and publicly confronting each other's ideology on the surface of the earth, a silent and very dangerous game was being played beneath the waves. This cat and mouse game was more like the blind mice, tapping their way through the ocean depths with the white canes of sonar. Collisions were bound to happen.

    For this reviewer raised on torpedo launching war movies like "Run Silent/Run Deep" and the German "Das Boot", it required a bit of mental gear-shifting to understand that the major use of the subs was for spying and intelligence gathering. A U-2 spy plane shot out of the skies over Russia made for world headlines. A secret sinking of a secret spy sub in the silent depths usually remained known only to God, and personnel sworn to secrecy. How many were lost, where, and how? Even today, many a surviving family member, both American and Russian, peer over trackless oceans and a sea of classified files and are unable to plumb those depths for answers.

    This book in rather engagingly written, reading more like a spy novel than a factual document. The suspense, the terror, the triumphs and tragedies, remind one of the great sacrifices made for national defense. Much is owed these men who go down to the sea, go down under the sea, that we above may breath more freely.
    Kindle 2: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device (Latest Generation)...more info
  • Interesting
    Before reading this book, I was initially quite curious as to what could a submarine do as far as espionage was concerned. After all, a submarine normally is deep underwater hiding from everyone else not in an ideal position to gather intelligence unlike a plane that fly over your enemy's area or a spy that actually goes into the area.

    So I read what is a collection of stories, without a central theme, as many of these are not dealing with espionage at all. Often irrelevant details of the people involved are thrown into the story. Maybe the writers thought that it added colour to their stories yet to me, it was distracting.

    We are presented with some true stories of submarines tailing other Soviet submarines, searching for military equipment from both sides, why did the USS Scorpion sink, tapping into underwater cables etc. Many of these stories are quite interesting.

    In some stories, I am not clear why a submarine which is an extremely expensive equipment are used on missions where the rewards seem so minor. Cost/effective in other words. Sometimes I feel that as long as the US have a submarine swimming around doing nothing, maybe they made a mission or possibly some major details of the mission were missed.

    Also we are also treated to what the writers states was the strategic purpose behind the attack submarine program, which they go on in a rather long winded way. They claim that the US navy wanted to destroy the Russian second strike ability. I am not sure that this makes a lot of sense partly as the Russian land based missiles would still give the Russians such an ability. Its only very late in the cold war that missiles and planes started to gain the accuracy to destroy reliably missile silos. This was shown not to be an easy task in the recent wars in Iraq to destroy missiles on the ground before launch. There the best solution was to send in ground forces. Surely a simpler explanation is that by sinking Russian submarines, before they fire their nuclear missiles, many US lives could be saved.

    In any case, its clear that the Soviets wasted a great deal of money and resources trying to match the US in submarine warfare which they clearly lost. The US also spent a lot of money and resources too but unlike the Soviets, they could afford it.


    Anyway the stories are interesting.Overall the writer have spoken to many people and read up a bit....more info
  • Blind man's bluff
    I was involved with the design and integration of electrical systems on the USS Seawolf SSN 575 and the USS Parche SSN 683. The book struck a cord in me that was unbelieveble since I had worked on 2 of the boats in the early to mid 80's Sherry mentions in her book. This book is a must read for any sub fanatic's. I can tell you that after talking to her about the book, life can now go on...It was hard to live life when your in total secrecy with your job and what you did. Especially since it was part of history. Great book.......more info
  • Much better than a TDU weight
    I like the effort put forth by the authors given source material constraints, but anyone who served knows that only the 'surface' was scratched. "Bluff" is a good overview with enough details about specific espionage operations to keep the reader interested. There simply isn't enough room in a single book to cover all of the engineering, communications, navigation, weapons systems, sonar, radar, analysis, etc. for those wishing for more nuts and bolts.

    But far more important than the technology were the skill and dedication of the crews, and this book does not give enough depth or credit to the enlisted men that stood the watches and maintained the gear that supported stick rider and spook operations. Sometimes their only reward was periscope liberty and a lawyer with divorce papers waiting at the pier....more info

  • Excellent Reading!
    This book is a real eye opener. If you are interested in military books, particularly NAVY material, this is a must read. I have family in the NAVY and they'll tell you, this is the real deal. Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage...more info
  • Tremendously gripping
    Superb!

    The other reviews handle the content well, but i re-read this book twice after purchasing it when it was new, and what a thriller! For non-fiction, it reads like fiction, the tension is heightened when it dawns on one that this is factual history. The incredible sacrifices, the near-catastrophies, the cat and mouse, the espionage, all were insights into the cold war's tense competitive chess match.

    Lying on the sea bed, tapping communication lines, sneaking into harbors, its all there. This book is a vital read for anyone remotely interested in espionage, submarine warfare and the Cold War. Bravo to the authors for thorough research and superb storytelling....more info
  • Tastes Great, Less Filling
    Blind Man's Bluff is an engrossing look at U.S. submarine operations during the cold war, but ultimately lacks any real breadth or depth. In order to compress a large subject into a few pages, the authors present a series of anecdotes about single missions that illustrate various periods and themes. The result is that everyone comes off looking as either the hero or the goat.

    History buffs will be turned off by the lack of citations. Most of the book is based on interviews, the other sources are lumped into an appendix with no indication of how they apply to the text. There's also nothing new or exciting to find. Famous escapades such as the Glomar Explorer boondogle populate the pages. In fact, a significant amount of sources cited are metropolitan newspapers.

    As light reading, however, it's hard to beat. The stories are entertaining, making for easy reading. And although the coverage is light and biased in places, there are alot of solid facts to be found. My personal favorite is the appendix of known and suspected collisions.

    The bottom line: This is a collection of entertaining yarns to tell at dinner parties, but serious sub fanatics will want a bit more meat on their bones....more info

  • Well researched and facinating account of sub espionage
    This book is well researched and provides rich detail about submarine espionage over a long period of time. It also reveals the political intrigue surrounding the decisions that put our service men at great risk and the incredibly stupid things that those in charge sometimes did or failed to do. This includes some insightful discussion of how misguided some of our Presidents were. This book is much more than just a spy thriller. It is also a factual account of the role of some great leaders and some who were mediocre at best...more info
  • Doesn't stand up
    Ten years after publication, this book doesn't stand up to other books on the topic. It's poorly researched, cleaves to the government line, and relies too heavily on the work of other journalists. After the first 100 pages, I skimmed the rest of the chapters. Mutual respect for the dead moves the book. Yet answers are incomplete. The living deserve the respect of the governments that still hold so many of the secrets behind the events described in this book....more info
  • Good book - audible.com failed
    The book is a great even if parts are inaccurate or fictionalized (I have no way of knowing for sure, but I would be surprised if everything happened exactly as presented. Have you ever experienced an event and then read an account of the same event in the newspaper?).
    My complain is with audible.com. I thought I could download the book instead of buying the CDs or cassettes. I wanted to listen to it as I was exercising or travelling. I thought the file would be MP3, WMA, or something I could transfer to my MP3 player. No, the file is in a proprietary format (.aa) that requires the AudibleManager software. That would not be a problem except that the software kept crashing with the message "AudibleManager Application Executable has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience." I was never able to play the audiobook. To their credit, audible refunded my money but only after I wasted hours trying to make it work. Again, the book is great, but be aware that audible downloads may not play....more info
  • Deep Secrets
    Blind Man's Bluff provides a captivating portrait of the most important era in submarine warfare. Stunningly, mission after mission took place in the years after WWII with no public fanfare, no established command and no commendations. The submarine service during this era was one of silence; silence expected from sailors while between missions and silence expected from the boat while at sea.

    It is amazing to read of how much activity was actually taking place on both sides during the Cold War period. Not only was the Navy sending out mission after mission to listen for missile landings, scan the ocean for debris and track Soviet subs, but the Navy was also commissioning the preparation of more and more advanced submarines and recovery devices to further our knowledge of Soviet capability. The crown jewel of all of these missions was the tapping of an undersea communications cable that allowed Intelligence officials to listen directly to conversations between Soviet sub commanders. In addition to these great stories, the book also provides a cool summary of nuclear disarmament discussions between Reagan and Gorbachev.

    This book is very enjoyable for anyone interested in secret service, intelligence operations and cool warfare engineering. There are some amazing stories here about committed sailors, ingenious engineers and ridiculously brazen sub commanders who combined to fight one of the longest and active wars in history with which almost no one is familiar....more info
  • A Fascintating Read for Fiction or Non Fiction Devotees
    This fascinating book has it all. True history, science fiction [the workings of modern subs is out of science fiction], war thriller, spy/espionage thriller, etc..
    The declassificaition of secret military and govt. documents made this book possible.
    It contains engrossing descriptions of modern atomic submarine technology and capability, the war of nerves and mutual distrust between the US and USSR, true accounts of Russian and American Subs stalking, at great depths, within yards of each other, electronics keeping them from colliding. True accounts of a lost Russian atomic sub in the Pacific and the attempts by the US govt., [contracting with Howard Hughs], to recover them. True accounts of daring sub spy missions into Russian waters, that had they been detected, would likely have lead to missile launches against the US.
    Whatever the realms of your interests, military history, US history, politics, submarines/technology, or govt. espionage, your sure to find this book to be a winner....more info
  • Interesting reading , brought back some memories
    Being a former crew member or the USS Seawolf & USS Parche, I can't comment on how accurate the tales are on the book. But I will say that it brought back alot of memories of the "things" us Submariners did who were attached to Submarine Development Group One. I'm glad the public finally knows what some of our servicemen go through to defend our freedom and country, whether it was aboard a submarine, or sitting in a fox-hole in the middle of Iraq. Us Veteran's all deserve a bit more respect....more info
  • Great book !!
    A great account of how the U.S. Navy subs played a secret "game" of "tag' with the Russians for all those Cold War years....more info
  • Fascinating reading
    This book tells alot of interesting stories about the submarine service. It is by no means a comprehensive history of cold war submarine operations, or even of submarine intelligence work. It focuses on a few interesting stories out of more than 50 years worth of similar untold tales.

    John Craven comes off as a genius. He seems to have figured out exactly what happened to Scorpion. To this day, the navy officially disputes his solution, but if he was wrong, why was he able to predict the exact location on the sea floor (within an 1/8th of a mile) where Scorpion's wreckage would be found? James Bradley also appears to have been a genius, coming up with the remarkable idea of tapping the soviets' undersea telephone cables, somthing that was done for over 20 years.

    Admiral Hyman Rickover comes off as abusive and dictatorial. As many previous reviewers have noted, the authors do not make much of an attempt to balance Rickover's character flaws against his remarkable accomplishments. The CIA comes off looking terrible, wasting over 500 million dollars on crazy scheme to lift a sunken Soviet submarine off the bottom of the ocean in one piece. The sub and its missiles were already obsolete by several generations, so, even if the operation had been successful, there could have been no intelligence payoff to compensate for the money spent.

    The authors' politics don't come into play until late in the book, when they are discussing Ronald Reagan. Then they betray the reflexive leftism and contempt for Reagan that must be a prerequisite for employment at the New York Times. Also, the general tone of the book is that the U.S. was wrong to pursue intelligence so aggressively. They write very approvingly of the mid-1970s backlash against the intelligence services led by such as Senator Frank Church. On the whole, however, the authors' New York leftism does not detract much from what is generally excellent storytelling....more info

  • "After we left station . . . Whiskey-a-go-go"
    After being silent for so many years, "Blind Man's Bluff" opened the door for us submariners to share some of our experiences. After one of our longest dives, and a narrow escape from people that wanted to do us harm, this book filled me in on the "boat" that took over our station. Evidently, the folks on the surface learned something after we got away, and "caught" our replacement . . . so I focused on "Chapter Two". Many times, I listened on the passive Sonar to a Whiskey Class submarine passing directly overhead . . . out every morning, back into port every evening. "They" didn't know we were there. Even among submariners (pronounced sub-ma-RIN-ers), little is shared between "boats", so we appreciate the information finally shared in this book. The silent service is a young man's game and life changing. This book gives an excellent look at a small corner of the life that we experienced, a life saturated with the smell of diesel oil, no sunlight, and sixty days without showers. Recommended to all those who love submarines and wish to look behind the curtain during that transition between our "diesel boats" and the nuclear age. . . a time when we risked our lives, and loved our work, without the bravado of a "hot" war....more info
  • A very engaging read
    The book is well done. It tells a story pieced together by people involved in submarine service, but not given to talking about it. It shows a lot of what our submarines do is not just tracking enemies or being "on station" in case trouble breaks out. Much of what they do is good old fashioned espionage. I suppose I expected more episodes to be related in the book. A handful of important events are detailed. One of the more fascinating is planting eavesdropping pods over Soviet communications cables on the ocean bottom. The book instills in the reader a sense of loss and tragedy over people like John Walker, Aldrich Ames, and others who betrayed our nation's secrets and cost the lives of dedicated people in the service of our government for only a few thousand dollars. The last sections of the book give a lot of information about specific boats, crews, and voyages that will be lost on the average reader. ...more info