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The Journal of Strategic Studies Vol. 28, No.

2, 217 231, April 2005


The Cuban Missile Crisis as Seen Through a Periscope

Captain 1st Rank, Russian Navy (retired) ABSTRACT This memoir, written by the captain of the sole Soviet Foxtrot-class submarine sent to the Caribbean during the Cuban Missile crisis that was not forced to surface by the US Navy, offers a rst-hand account of the maritime dimensions of the crisis. The author describes the immense obstacles that confronted the Soviet submariners, including equipment poorly adapted for operations in tropical waters, an inability to communicate effectively with Moscow and extremely intense US antisubmarine operations. However, this account also reveals some surprising successes for the Soviet Navy: for example, the allegedly effective exploitation of US Navy communications. Most signicant from a historical point of view are the descriptions of circumstances surrounding the last-minute placement of nuclear-tipped torpedoes on board the submarines. KEY WORDS: Cuban Missile Crisis, Foxtrot, memoir, SOSUS, antisubmarine warfare.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, Russian submariners perception of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the US was interfused with their understanding of a boats operational readiness, the development of operational schemes, the rallying of crews and the mastering of the new technology with which they entrusted. Increasingly modern dieselelectric submarine designs, as well as the rst generation of nuclearpowered boats, came into service in the Soviet Navy. As submariners developed new tactics in group and screen formations at sea, views in the Naval Staff shifted on how best to make use of the diesel units. By the time of the events in Cuba, I had already served on active duty in the Norwegian Sea as a commander of a Whiskey-class (project 613) medium-size diesel submarine. Having undergone the necessary
Correspondence Address: Ryurik A. Ketov, Ul. Zheni: Egorovoi, no. 3, Korpus 2, Apt. 170 194355, St. Petersburg, Russia.
ISSN 0140-2390 Print/ISSN 1743-937X Online/05/020217-15 # 2005 Taylor & Francis Group Ltd DOI: 10.1080/01402390500088304

218 Ryurik A. Ketov training, I was placed on the front lines aboard a Foxtrot-class (project 641) large diesel-electric submarine, a boat designed for anti-surface and antisubmarine warfare (ASW) operations in northern latitudes (see Table 1). Covert Sortie with a Special Weapon In mid-1962, the 20th Squadron (Eskadra) of diesel-electric submarines was created for permanent basing in Cuba. The squadron, to be based at Mariel, Cuba, consisted of the oating dock Dmitrii Galkin, a division of missile-carrying submarines, and one brigade of torpedocarrying submarines. As was typical, as the world political climate changed, so too did the views in the highest echelons of the government and navy regarding the shape and mission of this submarine force. Thus, the force was reduced from the original scheme described above to a brigade of torpedo-carrying boats supported by the Dmitrii Galkin, and nally on the eve of departure to a mere four Foxtrot submarines. The mission set before us changed accordingly from permanent basing in Mariel, to temporary basing on the Galkin oating dock, and a week before departure to simply a transfer to Cuba. It is notable that the initial arrangements were for the boats to undergo the passage openly on a designated route, but the nal operational orders called for the movement to be covert in nature. Additionally, each of the staffs departments demanded that all its new directives be followed. Thus, orders were given for each submarine to be equipped with all spare parts and accessories, including all basic supplies. All food stocks were to be replaced, a greater supply of fuel and oil was to be loaded on board, and most importantly, the boats were to be equipped with special-weapons i.e., nuclear torpedoes. All of these orders were a source of anxiety not so much for the staff ofcers of the brigade, as for the commanders of the submarines. This was strongly felt by the personnel aboard the boats when it became necessary
Table 1. Specications for Foxtrot-class (project 641) diesel-electric submarine Specications: Foxtrot-class (project 641) diesel-electric submarine Displacement Weapons Speed (maximum) Diving depth Range Autonomy 2,600 tons submerged 1,950 tons on surface 10 torpedo tubes stock of 22 torpedoes 16 knots submerged 15.5 knots on surface 300 meters 30,000 miles 90 days

The Cuban Missile Crisis as Seen Through a Periscope


to redirect the ofcers and to essentially re-educate them to execute the new tasks. While it is one thing to move ships openly proceeding to a new permanent area for subsequent duty while carrying out routine training exercises at sea it is quite another when ones boat is for unknown reasons loaded with atomic weapons and sent with vague objectives seemingly neither for a simple transfer, nor for active duty in Cuba. After all, before the mission became covert, even the ofcers families were kept informed and prepared for relocation to Cuba. For the sailors, this Cuban crisis started even before its beginning, since every aspect of the mission was to be done by the hands of the crews alone, with no support from squadron forces on shore. At that time, the mere presence of a special-weapons torpedo placed the submarine in a difcult position in all respects, requiring separate berthing, access to the pier by special pass only, and inspections of all supplies to be placed on the ship. This also meant fresh tests of loyalty for the crew and new reviews by all staffs. As the new tests and evaluations went underway, each sailor made an effort to exhibit his best work, in an attempt to enlist support from above. Crossing NATOS Outer ASW Barriers Having nally exhausted the crews, by the evening of 30 September we received ofcial orders from the Naval Commander-in-Chief, to covertly carry out the covert cruise to Cuba in screen formation. The basing point was designated as the port of Mariel, for which we were to depart on 1 October 1962. Details on our being met and escorted near the shores of Cuba were to be briefed to us en route to the Caribbean. Our quartet of submarines consisted of the B-130 commanded by Captain Nikolai Shumkov; the B-36 commanded by Captain Aleksei Dubivko; the B-59 commanded by Captain Valentin Savitskii; and the B-4 commanded by myself, Captain Ryurik Ketov. The Brigade Commander, Captain Vitalii Agafonov, spent the mission aboard the B-4/Chelyabinskii komsomolets, while the Brigade Chief of Staff, Captain Vasilii Arkhipov, was aboard the B-59. We were seen off by the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Navy, Admiral Vitalii A. Fokin, and the Northern Fleet Chief of Staff, Vice Admiral A.I. Rassokha. All the departing boats commanders were by then facing plenty of unclear and contradictory information. After a so-called oral brieng, the four of us had to meet and develop a tactical scheme for the joint passage. The main issues of speed and stealth were open to the submarine commanders discretion, while the use of special weapons was to be entered into the logbook on orders from the Fleets Chief of Staff. We decided to maintain communications with each other as needed in the area of tactical cooperation

220 Ryurik A. Ketov and, most importantly, to allow ourselves some leeway on the designated course. We naturally assumed that our departure would not go unnoticed by NATO forces, an assumption that became justied as soon as we crossed the rst barrier between Norways North Cape (Nordkapp) and Medvezhii Island. Norwegian and British antisubmarine warfare (ASW) forces tracked our speed of ten knots with enviable precision, and began to close the choke points. However, we had by that time enough leeway to evade these efforts. Of great help to us were the shing boats on the Faroe-Iceland Ridge, of which there were several hundred. Maneuvering between them, we were able to move on the surface at 15 knots. In those years, the Faroe-Iceland ASW line was of essentially secondary importance, but it also reminded us to stay on guard. In observing the ights of ASW aircraft overhead, listening to radio transmissions from surface ships on the line, as well as the shermen, we became convinced that any slip-up in terms of stealth could bring us great troubles. Moreover, any detection of a submarine would mean rewards for the plane crews or shermen and reprimands for us. The Atlantic was turbulent at this time of year. In order to maintain the average speed designated for the passage, we were forced to sail on the surface. The stormy weather continued for virtually the entire voyage. Of great nuisance was a strong current into the starboard, which caused the boat to roll as much as 4050 degrees. Meanwhile, the pitching forced us to reduce speed to 68 knots, since the height of the waves reached 1517 meters. Despite such difcult weather conditions, we steadily began to get a grip on the situation. Evading the planes and surface ships, we ran a hydrographic survey in an attempt to determine the sonic layers of seawater. The ocean is divided into horizontal layers in which sound speed is affected by various factors, primarily temperature and water pressure. Generally speaking, sound travels more slowly in lower temperatures and pressures. The ascertainment of these layers would later prove particularly helpful in aiding stealth tactics in the Sargasso Sea. Already up north, it became clear that we would not have homogeneous mass with water while sailing in the layers of the Gulf Stream, where there was no apparent liquid bottom and no sound channels above depths of 300 meters. However, the audibility of our hydro-acoustic stations was relatively low and was always a source of pressure on the submarines watch. On top of everything, as soon as we left the North Atlantic, we lost shortand medium-wave contact with Moscow, leaving us with just longwave channels of communication.

The Cuban Missile Crisis as Seen Through a Periscope The Command and Control Challenge


At that time in the Soviet Navys development, our Northern Fleet submarines carried out active duty and training missions in the Barents and Norwegian seas, and received virtually all their information on ultrashort-wave, short-wave and medium frequencies. Of course, during the winter, and also occasionally in the summer, the Arctic made its presence known through sporadic interference. In these high latitudes, the transmission of radio waves depended on many weather factors, but we had grown accustomed to these temporary delays, and there were no major bugs by the time of the given communications sessions. But all these magnetic storms and Northern Lights turned out to be a trie compared to what awaited us in the Northern Atlantic. Having passed the Faroe-Iceland ASW line, we found ourselves in what was, practically speaking, a radio vacuum: Moscow was reachable on neither short nor medium waves. Northern Fleet stations were completely blocked with radio interference, and the only audible voices were those of Murmansk shermen. For two days we sought out the clearest frequencies. We analyzed them at different parts of the day and adjusted to the new conditions for receiving and sending radiograms. We understood that earlier peaceful, individual excursions by our submarines to the Equator did not at all reect the real state of affairs in communications. We understood that the farther we went from our bases in the Northern Fleet, the more difcult communication would be. Early on, we tried to nd some way out of the situation. It was impossible not to take into account the capabilities of submarines to transmit communications to the Navy General Staff. The problem was that these communications could be kept only relatively secret with a low-power radio transmitter, since the 15-kilowatt apparatus, more specically its antenna, had to be dried off 1520 minutes before sending or receiving a transmission. This was time we simply did not have, since to spend so long on the surface amid the massive US ASW effort was an impossible option for the submarine. And thus we were forced to retransmit the same message 20 30 times, racing against the time that was not on our side. We ultimately found a solution that facilitated our receiving and sending communications in this shaky period of technical difculties. We adapted to the periods of cracks that jammed our radio frequencies, nding moments of clear air and sending our radiograms in those windows. This was especially benecial in the heat of the crisis on 2027 October in the Sargasso Sea, when the submarine captains were faced with the question of using the special weapons. Yet another means of gathering information was through radio intercepts. Each submarine had a radio intelligence group on board,

222 Ryurik A. Ketov which, upon discovering a NATO submarine at periscope depth, listened in on ultra-short-wave and short-wave frequencies, relaying all information to the captain. The US Navy at the time carried virtually all communications on radio via open text, especially shore-based ASW aircraft guided by coastal reference points. We were at rst skeptical about these transmissions, but as we started to listen to US radio stations, and compared their announcements with US ASW communique as well as with messages s, from home, we came to believe that these transmissions could be taken into account to determine where and when the ASW ships and planes would be located. Even such derived hypothetical locations of US carrier and search groups proved to be of great help to us. From these transmissions, especially those between ships in carrier groups and between aircraft and shore facilities, it was possible to ascertain much regarding the physical locations of search parties of surface ships, about their activities, about the discovery of submarines in the area and, most importantly, about specic orders given by US commanders. We were able to get a good sense of the situation unfolding in the Caribbean basin particularly between 27 October and 10 November, on the basis of the manner and content of US Navy communications, as compared with the words of US radio announcers. We also came to understand that efforts to discover us had not only persisted, but had even been redoubled on President John F. Kennedys order to intensify the patrols in the Sargasso Sea. And thus, exhausted by storms and efforts to evade aircraft, we arrived at the main ASW line, between Newfoundland and the Azores. This line was already straddled with a ne-tuned organization of shorebased ASW facilities and overights by ASW and long-range patrol aircraft. By the time of our approach, our radar operators had a full overight schedule for long-range reconnaissance aircraft and Neptuneclass ASW aircraft. Ultimately, the Americans moved too late in completely closing off this line. We were already far beyond the ridge of the ASW line when our radio intelligence intercepted communications from US commanders on shore, ordering the deployment of surface ships and submarines. Although this was the line of the US Navys most extensive ASW activities, we crossed it with relatively few problems. But we ran into another trap along the way a climatic one. Sweating it Out The unfamiliarity of submarine commanders with climate factors in this region of the Atlantic was very apparent. Perhaps somewhere in the

The Cuban Missile Crisis as Seen Through a Periscope


Soviet Navys hydrographical institutes these factors were indeed collected and taken into account, but this knowledge especially regarding the relevant procedures to be used at sea under such extreme conditions somehow did not lter through to the commanders of the submarine eet. Already on the approach to the Sargasso Sea, near Bermuda, we felt a change in climate. The storms chasing us in the North Atlantic were replaced by a calm and high outboard temperature. Even at depths of up to 250 meters the water temperature reached 83 degrees Fahrenheit. While at rst we were pleased with this change, our delight gradually faded and was replaced by a struggle against a blistering air temperature in the submarine and against the exhaustion of the crew. My men began fainting from heat stroke, and the increase in humidity started to affect the operating condition of the equipment. The average air temperature inside the submarine rose to 113 degrees Fahrenheit, and up to 144149 degrees in the engine compartment. We northerners, accustomed to working under low air temperatures and servicing equipment in trans-polar latitudes, were struck by this tropical heat suddenly and unpredictably. Submarines of this generation were not equipped with refrigerators for keeping the full supply of provisions cold through the entire duration of the mission. There was an insufcient supply of fresh water for the crew, no air conditioning in the compartments which would otherwise have facilitated the smooth operation of the boats machinery and most importantly, no one had experience in servicing equipment under such high temperatures. Even when the submarine was on the surface, to reduce such a temperature in one to two hours was impossible, even unthinkable, since the probability of the boats being discovered by ASW aircraft would have been 100 per cent. On the other hand, while submerged and snorkeling, the submarine simply didnt receive sufcient air to cool the rear compartments. All of these factors placed the submarine crews in a tough, if not catastrophic, position. It was necessary simultaneously to solve the climate issue, while constantly adapting to US ASW activities and, consistent with orders, nding a way to stay the course for Cuba. One makeshift solution consisted of ventilating the submarine while the personnel washed themselves off with rain water in areas of waterspouts. We were hiding in squalls, where streams of fresh water were expelled by storm clouds created by constant temperature changes in the ocean and the air above it. We started to make use of this effect, at intervals of about 1015 minutes. ASW Neptune aircraft could not enter these squalls, although they were evidently watching us on their radars. This gave us enough time for ten crew members to wash themselves and for the submarine to be ventilated. Thanks to the

224 Ryurik A. Ketov frequency with which this tactic was performed, all personnel had time to wash themselves down over a course of one to two days. Into the Cauldron By 20 October the state of affairs in the Cuban region had greatly intensied. Apart from Washingtons political threats and declarations to the Cuban Republic, US aircraft carriers had arrived in the theater, ready to deliver an aerial bombardment. Provocative overights of our transport vessels by US aircraft had begun, as well as efforts to stop them for inspections. Antisubmarine search groups led by the aircraft carriers USS Essex (CV-9), Wasp (CV-18) and Randolph (CV-15) entered the area of the Sargasso Sea. Shore-based ASW aircraft began a systematic search of the region. We learned through a radio intercept on 22 October that President Kennedy had made a speech, declaring that all transports headed for Cuba would be inspected, and that the US Navy would not permit the delivery of military shipments to its island neighbor. By this time we had already passed the Bahamas and were approaching the straits between the Greater Antilles Islands. With every hour, we heard the pressure from the ASW overights mount over our radio intercepts. During daylight, we didnt see an hour pass without the planes lighting up on our Nakat surface search radar screens. From 22 October on, virtually the entire Nakat frequency range was jammed with signals from surface ships and aircraft radars. Around then, we received an order from Moscow to change course and proceed to an area with a radius of 50 miles in the southwestern part of the Sargasso Sea, and await further instructions. We did not expect such a blow from the Navy General Staff. From our vantage point, such a move was fatal and this was when just one ASW carrier group was patrolling a strip of water 8090 miles wide. In the same area, we were to recharge our battery on the surface while dodging ASW surface ships and aircraft, which had by then covered this entire portion of the sea with a web of surveillance. The only thing that saved us was our knowledge of each others whereabouts, thanks to our having maintained communications in the area of tactical cooperation and thanks to the fact that the brigade command based on my submarine still had all the encryption documents. Having arrived in the specied area by 24 October, we began to better ascertain the unfolding situation, based on the areas of US naval activity and closer analysis of American radio reports. In connection with this, it would be impossible not to acknowledge the quality of information available to the US population about the events in Cuba including Kennedys speech, reports from US naval commanders and

The Cuban Missile Crisis as Seen Through a Periscope


the communications of naval air crews. Practically all of these were accurate and truthful. Of course, from our standpoint, the conclusions drawn from these statements and conversations were unfortunate ones regarding possibilities of the transports being stopped, of armed intervention in Cuba and especially regarding actions against our submarines. President Kennedy, speaking on the radio, categorically declared that he would not allow Russian submarines to operate in US coastal waters and would use any means necessary to drive them out to beyond the 60th meridian west longitude. We felt this threat immediately reected in the activities of the US Navy. ASW aircraft intensied their pursuit of submarine targets, testing any potential identication with the Jezebel sonobuoy system. Of course, once one had witnessed this system at work, experiencing rsthand what it was like on the receiving end of the depth charges, it was possible to somehow go about ones business with a good understanding of the situation. However, when this system is imposed for the rst time on someone with no practical knowledge of it, it is a different matter altogether. Even an experienced submarine commander who alone must asses a situation in a precious few minutes, even seconds, exhaust every option of evasion and make a decision on whether or not his submarine should attack cannot provide for every contingency. On top of everything we received orders to open a continuous communications channel with Moscow, which could only be understood at the time as presaging a fundamental change in mission, meaning a deployment of submarines to Cuba, or even the beginning of combat operations against the US Navy in the region. Detections and Provocations We learned about our rst misfortune through a radio intercept from ASW aircraft. One made a transmission regarding the discovery of one submarine. By the location we determined that it was Shumkov the commander of the B-130. Then communications began between the planes and the aircraft carrier Essex, directing it to the boat. A day after the B-130 was surfaced, we found out through its own dispatches that all the submarines diesel engines had broken down, and that the engines front sections had blown off. After surfacing, Shumkov put one engine back together and, having recharged the battery, attempted to evade the surface ships. Of course, with such a battery, sailing at only low speeds, one cannot get far. Nevertheless, he managed to hide himself for about a day. The fault, in this case, cannot be placed on the submarine commander. Rather, the Kolomenskii Shipyard is to blame for having allowed such a technical

226 Ryurik A. Ketov fault in the construction of the diesel engine. Also, the technical service managers in the Navy General Staff, not envisioning the breakdown of the diesels, didnt send us the correct spare parts for the engines repair. And thus Shumkov was forced to relieve his ship of participation in the mission, and headed back to the Northern Fleet base with the help of a tugboat. The B-59 and my own B-4 remained in the southwestern Sargasso Sea, while the B-36, acting on orders from Moscow, proceeded to the strait of Caicos, near the Greater Antilles Islands. Already on approach to the strait on 25 October, Dubivko, the B-36s commander, discovered a patrolling US Navy destroyer, which turned out to be USS Charles P. Cecil (DDR-835). This ship was carrying out surveillance duties, observing the boats passing through the strait. Alas, in this case the B-36s commander did make a mistake: during a dead calm at sea and clear weather, snorkeling in daylight, he came within 43 cable lengths of a destroyer. And this was when a mere trace of exhaust fumes from a diesel engine is visible across the horizon from a surface ship, not to mention the noise levels created by a snorkeling submarine. Moreover, the Charles P. Cecil had among its hydro-acoustic equipment a new type of sonar capable of scanning 360 degrees. Naturally, having spotted the submarine visually, and then on the sonar, the destroyer immediately called in ASW aircraft from the Wasp carrier. The planes sent to the region Tracker ASW aircraft made contact with the submarine and encircled it. Despite making all efforts to evade the surface ships and ASW craft, the B-36 was not able to escape its pursuers and, having exhausted its battery power to the limit, surfaced to recharge. Having recharged his battery and analyzed his attempts at evasion, Dubivko decided to break away from the hunt his own way. Since the aircraft and surface ships were working unremittingly against the B-36 in active mode, all counter-efforts had to have been designed to match that breakneck pace. After ventilating the boat, Dubivko submerged the submarine to a great depth, sent several transmissions in a circular regime on the Sviyaga GAS (hydro-acoustic station), set to the same frequency as that used by the acoustic stations of the surface ship, and began an escape from the ASW forces, jamming all signals sent from the destroyer. In 30 minutes the submarine had broken away from its pursuers and continued to carry out the mission as ordered by Moscow. It remained in the Sargasso Sea until 12 November, undiscovered by US ASW forces. Meanwhile, the B-59 submarine, commanded by Savitskii, encountered the aircraft carrier Randolph in its area of deployment. The encounter occurred in the morning. The search party was moving in extended order, carrying out a hydro-acoustic search in active mode.

The Cuban Missile Crisis as Seen Through a Periscope


All of the carriers escort ships, as well as Tracker ASW aircraft, were involved in the effort. This ASW group essentially bumped into the submarine on its own. Moving 180 degrees in a zig-zag pattern, the submarines commander had the good fortune to break away from the group. After having done so, he decided to rise to periscope depth and go into snorkel mode, but didnt account for the fact that in those days aircraft carriers were escorted by not only surface ships, but by ASW helicopter aviation as well. Thus, the submarine was spotted yet again by these very helicopters, which were monitoring the search groups rear. The aircraft carrier reversed course and, along with its escort ships, encircled the B-59 and began pursuit. The submarine commander spent all day trying to escape the ASW forces but, having run down the battery, was forced to surface to recharge. Surfacing at night comes with certain risks attached to it, and in this case the risk was ever more acute. The overall uncertainty of the situation (the state of relations between the USSR and US wasnt clear) and the tactical circumstances at sea (the closely coupled surface ships of the potential foe) placed the submarine in an especially difcult position. Already while surfacing, the submarine came under machine-gun re from Tracker aircraft. The re rounds landed either to the sides of the submarines hull or near the bow. All these provocative actions carried out by surface ships in immediate proximity and ASW aircraft ying some 1015 meters above the boat had a detrimental impact on the commander, prompting him to take extreme measures. Mere chance prevented Savitskii from resorting to the use of special weapons at this time. A delay in diving time and the prudence of the brigades Chief of Staff Vasilii Arkhipov who happened to be on board prevented the combat operations which the B-59 could have initiated. Savitskii sent a radiogram to the surface ships, demanding that all provocative actions be halted by ASW aircraft, and pointing out the boats allegiance to the USSR, after which the boat surfaced and began to recharge its battery. The Naval Staff headquarters was then informed via radio transmission of the US Navys provocations. In the morning, having recharged the battery, the submarines commander submerged to the deep and, having changed course and speed, broke away from the pursuers. He remained in the same region until 12 November, observing the activities of US forces. Command Crisis Aboard B-4 As for my own boat, the B-4, having received orders from Moscow to take up position in the aforementioned area after Kennedys 22 October address, I turned off the previous course like all the others and

228 Ryurik A. Ketov proceeded to the specied region. The B-4 had been on the westernmost edge of submarine screen passing to Cuba, and was the closest of the submarines to the US coast. We had sailed in the Newfoundland shing bank, then in the immediate proximity of the Bahamas, right through the US submarine training areas. At the time, we were the closest to the Greater Antilles Islands. Before we even reached the new area of deployment, we noticed a pattern in overights by shore-based ASW aircraft. During the day, as soon as we started snorkeling, an ASW plane would y overhead some 3040 minutes later. At rst we ascribed no meaning to this. But after 25 October, already in the area of deployment, we found a solution. After exchanging radio transmissions with Savitskiis B-59, we determined that no ASW planes approached us while we maintained communications at periscope depth, under the electric motors. Only one conclusion was possible to draw: when the diesels were not making a noise, no one heard us and ASW aircraft were not sent to investigate acoustic signals. This meant that we were located by seabed hydro-acoustic stations (SOSUS), which then dispatched the signal to shore-based command points, which in turn would send an ASW plane to verify the contact. And thus on one such ight, we were spotted by an ASW aircraft. At that time our boats were set to undergo a joint communications session, in which all the days radiograms were to be repeated for reception by the submarines. As a rule, we also recharged our batteries during communications sessions. The sea was calm, the visibility complete and the horizon clear. On our Nakat stations, a signal appeared that was classied as weak, but I decided to interrupt the recharging nevertheless and dive to the deep. Fifteen minutes remained before the joint communications session. When the signal rose to the level of a dangerous one, the submarine dove to a depth of 90 meters. Since we had not missed any communications sessions that day, and were reluctant to risk being spotted by a plane, I decided to skip the joint session and not surface. However, Brigade Commander Agafonov, who was aboard the boat, insisted on surfacing and, assuming command, brought the ship up to periscope depth, where she was immediately spotted by an ASW Neptune aircraft ying overhead. Under the Brigade Commanders command, the submarine spent three hours trying to evade the plane, doing everything according to ofcial Soviet Navy practice, but achieved no results. Retaking command of the boat, I decided to make use of the directives given by President Kennedy regarding the removal of Soviet submarines to beyond the 60th meridian western longitude. The boat set course to exit the Sargasso Sea and proceeding at the lowest speed sent a message to the US that it was following their instructions. An

The Cuban Missile Crisis as Seen Through a Periscope


hour had passed, and when only 90 minutes remained until darkness, the submarine sharply changed course, increased speed and submerged to a greater depth. By nightfall, we had broken away from the ASW aircraft in pursuit, and while snorkeling, began to recharge our battery. Over the course of the night, we were forced to interrupt the recharging many times to evade ASW planes searching for us from the air. Thus we reached yet another conclusion: recharging batteries under such circumstances could only take place under the cover of darkness. Moreover, to successfully avoid any strong sonar signal or capture by aircraft-mounted magnetometers, we had to submerge to sonic layer depths. Concurrently we came to realize that the area of deployment earlier specied by Moscow was far too small for normal submarine activities. Our further presence in the region was very tense and consisted of awaiting orders from the Navy Staff, regarding the use of weapons, the completion of the passage to Cuba or our homecoming. We did not know what Moscow would decide, and hoped that we would continue forward to the Cuban bases. In those days, as the question of peaceful coexistence between the two systems was being determined, when the smallest provocation could tip the scales in favor of war, we were also concerned with the matter of our own safety. Already having learned a thing or two, we avoided any bold moves in our area of deployment, and gave the American planes no occasion to discover us. The period of 28 October to 10 November was nerve-racking in terms of hiding the boats whereabouts, especially while recharging the batteries. However, it became clear that we could remain snorkeling at periscope depth until only a strong signal appeared on the Nakat, since ASW planes and helicopters began to employ a scheme of reduced output signals. In other words, they were relying more on visual means of detecting submarines. At night we were able to remain snorkeling for greater periods of time, and observed ASW forces not only on the Nakat receivers, but also visually through the periscope. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that many Tracker-type aircraft were sighted ying at very low altitudes, which gave us the impression that the search was carried out increasingly through aircraft magnetometers, as well as by gas analysis of exhaust from the submarines diesel engines. As we later found out, it was indeed possible to be in close proximity to ASW aircraft carrier groups at periscope depth, as long as one remained exceptionally cautious. And thus we remained in the area of deployment until 12 November, observing the ASW activities of the US, always prepared for combat operations.

230 Ryurik A. Ketov One More Challenge After 12 November, we all received orders to proceed to a new area of deployment, located 500 miles to the north. This new area happened to be on the main US Navy ASW line of Azores-Newfoundland. Evidently, the Navy Staff had decided to test our capabilities once more. And of course, we became convinced yet again that NATO knew of our activities, since President Kennedy declared on the radio that the US Navy would continue to surface all our submarines. We began to move to the new area, but having learned bitter lessons while underway in the Sargasso Sea, made a habit of moving under the electric motors during the day, and snorkeling at night. The weather also began to change for the better, from our standpoint. The complete calm of the sea was no more, and air temperature began to drop. Meanwhile, and as predicted, US ASW forces began to build up on the main ASW line, acting on presidential orders. In the air we began to notice not only long-range reconnaissance aircraft ying at high altitudes, but also Neptune ASW spy planes in pairs at low or medium altitudes. During the day time, we sometimes observed through radio intercepts up to three pairs of Neptunes at once. We were thus able to ascertain that new positions of ASW surface ships and submarines began to appear. All this forced us to use extreme caution with respect to speed of movement and to be on alert not only during the day, but at night as well. Of course, we were assisted not only by the weather. Having again entered the ow of the Gulf Stream, we were able to operate with more condence in our own activities. Already on approach to the area of deployment, I received an order to proceed to base. Having passed the main US ASW line, and nding ourselves in the stormy waters of the North Atlantic once again, we began to snorkel with increasing regularity, sometimes even moving on the surface. We had effectively caught up to our point of transit, that is to say assumed the pace of passage specied by the Navy Staffs orders. After having crossed the Faroe-Iceland Ridge, we again found ourselves in the shing area. Maneuvering on the surface at night among the shing boats, we slipped through into the Norwegian Sea, which greeted us with a severe storm and snow squalls that did not stop until our arrival at base. Dressed in tropical uniforms, the personnel began to freeze in the compartments. Only thanks to the brief duration of this leg of the journey did the crew remain more or less in good health. Finally, at the end of December we moored at our base, thus putting the Cuban cruise to a close for the B-4/Chelyabinskii komsomolets, the

The Cuban Missile Crisis as Seen Through a Periscope


B-36 and the B-59. The B-130, as one may recall, was forced to return to base earlier. Lessons for the Soviet Navy What lay ahead for the participants, particularly the submarine commanders, were uncompromising hearings and inquiries at the highest levels of the Soviet Armed Forces. Still, this cruise taught us commanders of all ranks a great deal. Four general observations could be made about submarine operations in the area of the Sargasso Sea. First, all detections of submarines in these regions were made by ASW aircraft while the boats were either snorkeling at periscope depth, or holding communications sessions while operating under electric motors. Second, all detections of submarines occurred during daylight hours. Third, the submarines were detected visually with the support of ASW airplanes or helicopters sent to the region from shore-based command points or surface ships. Finally, the submarines that were forced to come to the surface, submerged after having recharged their batteries and managed to break away from the US Navys ASW aircraft and surface ships in pursuit, after which they were not detected anew. As for submarine operations more generally, the following fundamental lessons were drawn from the experience of the Caribbean Crisis. First, diesel Foxtrot-class submarines should operate in the northern latitudes of the globe, and only as a last resort should be sent to the middle latitudes of the Atlantic. Second, without a thorough education in the geographical and meteorological conditions of areas of submarine operations, submarine ofcers should not be allowed to carry out the specied tasks. And perhaps most crucially, it is essential to thoroughly develop methods of evading surface ships and ASW aircraft. The situation could not be allowed to deteriorate, as it did, to the point of hydro-acoustic contact with the enemy. [Translated by Yuri M. Zhukov]