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It was a far more risky and noisy position than cruising under battery power at a deeper and safer depth, but Soviet sub captains were under orders to operate according to UDP protocols as much as possible-and a mission's success was in part judged by the percentage of time spent in this mode. The K cruised more or less in a straight line, with periodic zigs and zags to seek out and shake any American subs that might be trailing. Submarine warfare during the Cold War was a game of hide-and-seek. All captains of slower ballistic subs considered their vessels prey for attack subs and were trained to move evasively, making unpredictable course changes regularly.

A sub might ascend or descend suddenly and would occasionally shut down all engines so the crew could just sit silently and listen for any external sounds that would indicate American hunter-killers lurking nearby. At degrees longitude, the K was to turn again, toward the US coast.

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To prevent detection, especially considering the rising geopolitical tensions in the region, the K traveled as much as possible in silent mode, running on battery power. As far as anyone back at command was concerned, she was proceeding as directed. Vulnerable at snorkel depth, diesel-powered boats routinely and unavoidably traveled there. Golfs were the last generation of Soviet subs to have diesel power all later generations had nuclear power, which eliminated the necessity to surface , and those noisy engines cranked up when a sub surfaced to charge the electric batteries that made cruising silently underwater possible.

Ascend, charge, submerge. The pattern repeats over and over. Inside, there was no fresh air. The caustic, bitter smell of diesel fuel permeated every inch of the submarine, seeping into clothes, mattresses, and sheets. And there was precious little freshwater. Each crewman was allowed a single liter per day, and that had to cover drinking, bathing, and-very occasionally-laundry.

The entire crew shared three toilets and slept in bunks stacked so tightly that there was barely room for a man to lift his head. When a sub is on or near the surface, all personnel stand at the ready, with key officers manning the boat's two periscopes: the sky-search scope, which points straight up to spot sub-hunter planes; and the attack scope, which scans the ocean surface in search of foreign vessels. At prearranged times, the K would also use these opportunities to send word back to Kamchatka, in the form of encoded burst communications that told superiors back at base that the mission was continuing as planned and that no problems had arisen en route.

A submarine's most important attribute is stealth, and what made subs so important during the Cold War was that they enabled both sides to move nuclear missiles from land-where their fixed positions were easily located and, in theory, destroyed if a war were to break out-to sea, where on these silent, mobile launch platforms they would remain capable of striking and prolonging a war even if the homeland's nuclear arsenal had been eliminated. Locating Soviet subs, then, was a huge priority for the US Navy, which had an almost unlimited budget for intelligence and antisubmarine warfare tactics-a line item so important that it required no congressional oversight.

The Soviets were aware that any radio transmissions sent between the subs and the mainland were intercepted by a network of land-based installations. What frustrated US Naval Intelligence was that analysts could not unlock these communications-typically short bursts of code sent at prearranged times and from specific locations-so while they could hear when and from where a particular burst originated, analysts had no idea what specific information was being transmitted.

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Like any Soviet captain, Kobzar did not learn his official orders until the sub was in the open ocean. They were contained in a packet handed to him by his commander just before departure.

Mercenary by Paul Bennett

The envelope was marked with clear directions: "To be opened on the third day after leaving base. Josh Dean has a gift for unearthing remarkable stories lost to history, and in The Taking of K he has uncovered perhaps the most remarkable one of all—a story replete with spies and engineering marvels and a secret drama unfolding thousands of feet beneath the sea. Brilliantly researched and beautifully written, this is a book you can't put down.

David Grann, New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon An engrossing account of shadowy intrigue, precision engineering and ultra-deception, The Taking of K is a high-stakes espionage drama of operational boldness married with technical brilliance.


Told in fascinating detail, The Taking of K is nonfiction at its best because with every page I had to remind myself this actually happened. This non-fiction account of one of the most dangerous and daring missions of the Cold War is well-researched and reads like a Tom Clancy thriller. See All Customer Reviews. Shop Books. Read an excerpt of this book! Add to Wishlist. USD Buy Online, Pick up in Store is currently unavailable, but this item may be available for in-store purchase. Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Show More. Average Review. Write a Review. Anonymous 7 months ago Would have loved to be a part of this adventure.

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Anonymous More than 1 year ago Author did a great job on research and in explaining the technical problems for those of us who are not engineers. Would highly recommend.

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Anonymous More than 1 year ago Could not stop reading. CJH46 More than 1 year ago Oh, I wish I could rate this higher but the book is a bit cumbersome, too detailed, too long, etc. Certainly an interesting tale but at the end I was just glad to be done with it. For me there were three big take-aways: 1.

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Why haven't you done this before? It seems so obvious in retrospect. Your friends, critics, business partners soon, they'll all see. But somethings still missing You look up, startled.

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