On February 25, 1968, Soviet submarine K-129, a diesel boat carrying three 755-nautical-mile-range ballistic missiles each armed with a 1-megaton thermonuclear warhead, sailed from its base on the Kamchatka Peninsula bound for its patrol station on a 60-day mission. The 324-foot, 3,610-ton submarine never made it. On March 11, the K-129 sank in the northern Pacific Ocean in 16,400 feet of water, about 1,600 nautical miles northwest of Hawai'i. All 98 men aboard perished. For months, Soviet Navy search teams looked for the wreckage, but never even came close to finding it. The U.S., on the other hand, had sophisticated undersea acoustical monitoring equipment that the Soviets lacked, and knew exactly where the K-129 went down. The CIA soon hatched an audacious plan that would give America an incalculable intelligence coup--a plan to raise the K-129 from the ocean floor.
The PBS DVD "Azorian: The Raising of the K-129" tells the full, almost unbelievable story of the boldest American clandestine operation of the Cold War (at least of those the public knows about). In the summer of 1974, the operation secretly attempted to salvage the forward 136 feet of the K-129 (which had broken off from the stern section). The U.S. stood to gain enormously valuable insights into Soviet naval equipment, capabilities and operational procedures. CIA intelligence analysts drooled at the thought of the information they expected the K-129 to yield--cryptographic hardware, code manuals, communications systems, torpedoes and one or more missiles with their thermonuclear warheads. The operation would be scandalously expensive, technically challenging, unprecedentedly complex, extremely risky, probably illegal and not at all certain to succeed. But if it did...
"Azorian: The Raising of the K-129" covers the operation in great detail, and a fascinating story it is. Project Azorian cost about as much as an Apollo mission to the moon, and involved equipment and hardware that to this day remain marvels of innovative marine engineering. With cost practically no object, the CIA, through a series of "front" companies including Lockheed, Hughes and Honeywell, built the huge salvage ship "Hughes Glomar Explorer," a remote-controlled "claw" to pick up the K-129 and an enormous barge to conceal parts of the operation from observation. Using interviews with surviving participants, including the ex-Soviet Navy officer who dispatched the K-129, archival photos and motion picture footage and, especially, stunning computer graphics, "Azorian" reveals the whole story in exceptional detail. CGI animations of the design and operation of the hardware are extremely well-done, and make all parts of the operation very clear to the viewer.
This DVD is a must-have for anyone interested in Cold War history, ocean engineering, Howard Hughes, intelligence operations or many other subjects. Even if you have the latest book on the subject, "Project Azorian: The CIA and the Raising of K-129," by Norman Polmar and Michael White, you should still buy this DVD. This stunning visual record of the project complements the book perfectly. Still photos and text descriptions simply can't equal the impact of seeing the project unfold in motion picture form. I recommend "Azorian: The Raising of the K-129" most highly.