US Hands Over Info on Sunken Soviet Sub

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It kind of reminds me of that embarrassing scene in the Hunt for Red October where the Soviet ambassador to the U.S. asks an American official for help finding another missing sub.

Well, Cold War memories die hard. So I thought you history buffs out there might get a kick out of an article we posted on Military.com this morning about that old K-129 sub that sank back in 1968. American officials handed over log books and video tapes to Russian naval officials related to the search for, and attempted salvage of, the diesel-electric submarine.

From the AP:

MOSCOW - U.S. military officials on Monday gave Russia a videotape and other archival materials on the Soviet K-129 submarine, whose sinking in 1968 is one of the lingering mysteries of the Cold War.

At a ceremony in the Far Eastern port of Vladivostok, Russia's Pacific Fleet archive and museum received copies of formerly classified documents, including two ship logs related to the K-129 incident and to U.S. efforts to salvage the sub from the sea floor in the central Pacific.

Also turned over was a videotape of a secret burial at sea for six Soviet sailors whose bodies were recovered when the United States tried to salvage the sub.

"We have a debt to servicemen. If I were to go missing, I would want someone to work - like what I am doing - to communicate to my mother and father what exactly happened with me," Lt. Col. Michael O'Hara said in comments shown on Russia's NTV television.

O'Hara works with the U.S.-Russian Joint Commission on POW/MIAs, which was created 15 years ago to help account for U.S. military personnel who disappeared during the Cold War.

Roger Schumacher, the Washington-based deputy director supporting the commission, said much of the material donated Monday had been handed over previously to Russian defense, government or intelligence experts.

Other items related to the K-129 sinking that were turned over earlier included the sub's bell and a camera apparently used by a sailor on the vessel, he said. U.S. underwater photographs of the sunken sub have not been given to the Russians, despite repeated requests.

It was unclear whether the ceremony would help assuage the persistent suspicions that Russian naval officials and relatives have had about the fate of the K-129 - a Golf-II class, diesel-electric submarine armed with nuclear missiles that had 98 seamen aboard when it sank in 16,000 feet of water northwest of the Hawaiian island of Oahu on March 11, 1968.

Russian officials long have suspected that the K-129 was struck by an American submarine, the USS Swordfish. But the U.S. Navy says the vessel suffered a catastrophic internal explosion.

Retired Capt. 1st Rank Pavel Dementiev said the sub's captain, Vladimir Kobzar, and his commanding officer, Rear Adm. Viktor A. Dygalo, were both experienced and talented naval officers.

"There is just one version - that (K-129) collided with an American submarine," he said in televised comments.

Russian doubts about the U.S. explanation re-emerged in 2000 with the sinking of the nuclear submarine Kursk. Many military officials suspected the Kursk collided with an American or British submarine. U.S. and British officials denied the allegations, but U.S. officials acknowledged that two U.S. submarines were close enough to record the sound of enormous explosions aboard the Kursk.

Russian suspicions about the Swordfish were based on records indicating it underwent nighttime repair of a bent periscope at Yokosuka, Japan, on March 17 - six days after the K-129 sank - and Moscow has requested the Swordfish's deck logs to trace its movements. The Pentagon has explained the repairs in Japan by saying the vessel had collided with an ice pack and was 2,000 miles away from the Soviet sub when it sank.

Russian officials also say he U.S. salvage operations in 1968 and 1974 removed sensitive equipment - possibly including nuclear warheads. In the 1974 efforts, the CIA-financed Glomar Explorer salvage ship tried raising the sub, but it broke apart and only some sections were recovered.

Schumacher said excerpts from the deck logs of the Swordfish and the USS Halibut, a nuclear submarine that was in the area at the time of the sinking, were turned over to Russian officials in 1995.

U.S. officials had earlier provided the burial at sea videotape for the six crew members whose remains were recovered in 1974. The videotape, parts of which were broadcast by Russian TV on Monday, had reportedly been shown to relatives of crew members at an earlier date.

Also turned over to Russian officials Monday was a list of nine U.S. reconnaissance aircraft lost and believed shot down by Soviet forces in and near the Russian Far East between 1951 and 1956, Schumacher said. U.S. officials hope Russia will help provide details as to the whereabouts of the crashes and the fate of the 77 crew members.

-- Christian

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