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The Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History
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The Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,728 ratings  ·  205 reviews
An incredible true tale of espionage and engineering set at the height of the Cold War—a mix between The Hunt for Red October and Argo—about how the CIA, the U.S. Navy, and a crazy billionaire spent six years and nearly a billion dollars to steal the nuclear-armed Soviet submarine K-129 after it had sunk to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean; all while the Russians were watch ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by Dutton
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Start your review of The Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History
May 07, 2018 rated it liked it
“[Captain] Ramius made one last careful scan of the horizon. The sun was barely visible aft, the sky leaden, the sea black except for the splash of whitecaps. He wondered if he were saying goodbye to the world…”
- Tom Clancy, The Hunt for Red October

“[Russian] Pacific Fleet command expected to hear from all deployed subs at prearranged times, but K-129 was to travel in silent mode for the first two weeks at sea, so until March 8, there was no reason for anyone back in Kamchatka to worry. On the e
Rick Presley
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
For fans of the Silent Service and CIA shenanigans, this is a must read. It tells the story of a CIA-funded venture to recover a downed Russian sub from the floor of the Pacific and is as gripping as anything Tom Clancy has written. All the more so because it is true.

From my personal perspective it answers long-standing questions I've had since my childhood regarding deep ocean mining. I remember reading about the Glomar Explorer in school and all the excitement about underwater mining and have
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this a fascinating account. Even if you are skeptical, like me, and only believe half of it, or that only half was told, it's a good story. Think Mission Impossible on a tremendous scale.
This quote sums it up. "Imagine standing atop the Empire State Building with an 8-foot-wide grappling hook on a 1-inch-diameter steel rope. Your task is to lower the hook to the street below, snag a compact car full of gold, and lift the car back to the top of the building. On top of that, the job has t
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished, favorites
Thanks to DUTTON BOOKS for sending me this Goodreads give away. Fascinating information on behind the scenes government doings on country security and weapons. Author Josh Dean does a great job of bringing all the top secret ways of getting the job done. I really enjoyed the reading and recommend this book to all interested in our government way of working.
Bryan Brown
Mar 07, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: misc-books
This was a fascinating read. It tells the story of the most impressive marine engineering feat ever. In 1969 the Soviet navy lost a Golf II diesel-electric submarine. They were unable to find it and quietly just declared it missing in action. However, the United States had recently implemented monitoring system for undersea sounds and were able to triangulate the location of K-129's probable final resting place. It's location was later confirmed by a series of photographs taken by equipment on t ...more
Igor Ljubuncic
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a pretty solid book.

The premise is spy movie worthy: a Soviet sub sinks in the Pacific, the Americans go after it.

Thus begins an audacious moon-landing-quality secret program by the CIA of hauling a 3,000-ton submarine equipped with nuclear weapons off the bottom of the Pacific, roughly 5 km down. Needless to say, this takes some clever work.

The book covers a lot of interesting elements - the pure engineering effort behind it, the CIA games, the political masquerade and subterfuge, the c
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thanks so much to Dutton for the copy in exchange for my honest review!

Are you a fan of nonfiction? Espionage? Well, if you are, then you need to pick up Josh Dean's THE TAKING OF K-129. I personally LOVED this book. This is a topic that has always interested me. As a Political Science and International Relations major in college, this was what we focused on. My senior project was on espionage (specifically the Cuban Missile Crisis) and it always fascinates me to read about the lengths people w
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A very interesting read about a monumental challenge that the country rose to meet.

In 1968, the Russian nuclear submarine K-129 went down with all crew on board in 16,500 feet of water. So what did the US try to do? Salvage the sub in the hopes of discovering secret intelligence. Saucy! Provocative! And pretty damn amazing, considering that this would be the hardest engineering feat of all time, and has been analogized in the book like so:

"Imagine standing atop the Empire State Building with an
Gayla Marks
Dec 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review is for the audio version. The book is the result of extensive investigation into an absolutely amazing venture undertaken by the US government to raise a lost Soviet submarine, carrying nuclear-warhead missiles, from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The really amazing part of this book, in addition to the fantastic operation itself, is the technology involved in designing the recovery ship. The description of the challenges, design, and fabrication of the ship itself is absolutely te ...more
Shane Phillips
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is quite a story. So many people involved, so much $$. It's a miracle that it was kept secret so long. I have vague memories of the Howard Hughes cover story during the 1970's/1980's and of learning the real story. The details in this story seem almost too detailed for such a secret project. This book is a good companion with "Red Star Rogue: The Untold Story of a Soviet Submarine's Nuclear Strike Attempt on the U.S" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4... ...more
Lucy Meeker
A very good, informative book, thoroughly enjoyed it! Quick read, well told, and learned something new. A very interesting read and worth getting for any Cold War enthusiasts! I won a copy of this book in a goodreads giveaway.
Joe Faust
"Imagine standing atop the Empire State Building with an 8-foot-wide grappling hook on a 1-inch-diameter steel rope. Your task is to lower the hook to the street below, snag a compact car full of gold, and lift the car back to the top of the building. On top of that, the job has to be done without anyone noticing."
And nobody noticed. Not for six years, when inter-agency rivalries likely led to leaking the story of Project Azorian, a/k/a Operation Jennifer. That's how long it took to build and sa
May 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
In 1968, a Soviet submarine armed with nuclear missiles sank into the Pacific. The Soviets could not find it and basically covered it all up. The Americans, however, had an idea: not only could they probably find it, maybe they could even retrieve it for intelligence?

The Taking of K-129 is a non-fiction book tells a pretty incredible but true story on how the CIA went on a near-impossible mission to first find and then to retrieve an entire submarine from five kilometers below the surface. And n
Charles Fields
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you like history and don't mind a bit of engineering mixed in, you may like this.
If you like Clive Cussler and wish sometimes real life was more like his adventures, you may like this.
This is an amazing true (so far as I can tell) story that reads almost like fiction because it is so daring and such a technical leap from what everyone "knew" to be possible.
If you sometimes wonder why the government lies so much, this may give you a bit more sympathy for them.
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Astonishing true story of how the US secretly retrieved a sunken Soviet submarine that was almost 3 miles down in the North Pacific Ocean. Because the US had to keep the recovery secret, it required a myriad of cloak-and-dagger activities to hide what was really being accomplished on an enormous (and incredibly expensive) scale.
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Reads almost like a James Bond thriller. Does such a good job of bringing to life the stories of those who pulled this off and kept it secret for decades. One of the greatest achievements in ocean engineering, like sending people to the moon without anybody knowing about it.
Michael Allhands
Feb 10, 2021 rated it liked it
The ultimate dad book-spies and subs. An interesting story of a monumental engineer and espionage mission...but it bogs down with the vast number of characters we meet and the engineering details.
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it

“The fact that the US managed to build a ship of 60,000-tons displacement, to install equipment to sustain such a load, to make provision of how to accommodate the submarine under the ship and finally to lift it up—it seemed to us something unreal, fantastic,” he told a Russian news program. “I can compare it with a mission to the moon in regard to technology and invested money. And another point—the ship was built in two years and the disinformation was organized outstandingly.”

- Russian Admi
Cyndi Ballard
May 23, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This story absolutely blew my mind. Having worked around feats of engineering before, I was astounded at what these brilliant individuals designed and made, in such a short span of time. Not to mention under utmost secrecy! The complex cover story the CIA concocted and pulled off might be the best part of all. A really fascinating bit of history! Well worth the read.
Charles Moore
Dec 13, 2017 rated it liked it
If you're are old enough, like me, you might recall the saga of the Hughes Glomar Explorer and the raising of a sunken Soviet submarine in the 1970s. Dean's highly detailed and meticulous account of what it took to do this massive undertaking is very interesting reading. You do have to be patient with the plodding action but this is a remarkable story. Most of us, I dare say, even if we remember any of this, never had a clue.

There must be a cast of a thousand. Yet, not one word was leaked. The p
Rachel Parham
The devil is in the details, and never has that adage been proven more true than in Josh Dean's The Taking of K-129, the crazy true story of the CIA's dogged efforts to raise a sunken Soviet submarine in the middle of the Pacific during the Cold War... without anyone knowing they were attempting to do it.

Dean's comprehensive work covers every last step in the top-secret 5+ year operation, from the mysterious loss of the K-129 herself in February 1968 through the arrival of the Hughes Glomar Expl
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
The first 25% of this book was Fascinating, but then... major taper off. Then it got really tedious.

Spoilers ahead - beware
So the mission failed to get most of the sub. The claw picked up the entire sub, but like 3/4 of the way up, pressure / something snapped most of the sub off. And that cost $300 million. They couldn't go back down because they designed something with the propulsion feet to be a one time only thing, which just Enraged me. I'm a software engineer, & the idea that someone would
May 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
If you are old enough, you will remember the Glomar Explorer and the revelation that it raised a Soviet submarine off the Pacific floor. The whole story was shrouded in mystery (it included Howard Hughes) and cloaked in misinformation by the CIA. Exactly what was recovered and what did we learn from that submarine?

If you are younger and never heard of this story, here's your chance.

But, is the book any good? A long portion of the book goes into the backstory of the key players who became program
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing

This was fascinating! It is about the CIA's attempted mission in the late 60s/early 70s to raise the sunken Russian nuclear submarine, the K-129, from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean - and to do it in secret, kept from both the Russians and the U.S.

The Hughes Glomar Explorer, described as engineering marvel of a ship, was built to capture and raise the sub. And the cover-up story. Oh this was fun!

True? Who really knows, we're talking the CIA. Factual? Who cares - this was exciting. Taken w
Bernard Dy
Oct 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great history of the grand secret effort of the CIA to run an operation to recover a sunken Russian submarine. I enjoyed it very much as I suspect anyone that enjoys history might.

Looking over some of the other reviews however, I find I'm unable to disagree with the sentiment a few of them pass, that although the book is good, it might not have been as good as they were expecting. I kind of find it hard to explain that weirdly, yes, I can emotionally agree with that concern about the
Mar 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommended to me by a retired submarine commander, this book at times engrossed me and, occasionally, bored me with an excess of unessential (if not irrelevant) detail.

The story of the creation, development, and use of the Glomar Explorer to attempt to raise a lost Russian missile submarine sunk more than 3 miles in the Northern Pacific fascinated this reader even as he realized that five years after the sinking, anything recovered would probably be well out of date. Nonetheless, as with any bu
Ben Jeapes
Oct 25, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Being the full account of the CIA operation you’ve all probably heard of: to salvage a sunk Soviet submarine by building a specialised submarine-salvaging ship, the Glomar Explorer, and as they could scarcely keep the ship secret, pretending it was a mining ship designed to retrieve manganese nodules from the seabed and doing it all under the umbrella of the Howard Hughes corporation as no one would raise an eyebrow at Hughes doing something so obviously offbeat and costly.

The book goes all the
Byron Copeland
Apr 13, 2022 rated it it was amazing
In 1968, a Russian submarine armed with nuclear missiles disappeared while on patrol in the Pacific Ocean. It had suffered an unexplained catastrophe and was lost. Unbeknownst to the Russians, the Americans were able to locate the sunken sub at a depth of more than 3 miles. This is the true story of how the CIA engineered and executed a plan to raise the sub from the ocean floor.

There is much here to compliment the main plot line. The reader benefits from an early history of the CIA and insight
Scott Martin
Mar 15, 2022 rated it really liked it
An engaging tale of one of the more audacious actions during the Cold War, when the US managed to find and salvage part of a Soviet nuclear-sub, all while keeping the Soviets and most of America in the dark. Yet, the salvage itself was but a small part of the tale. To get to the full story, Dean goes back to the sinking and disappearance of K-129, how the US found out about the sub and how they came up with and were able to execute the plan to try to salvage the sub. They developed whole new tec ...more
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The K-129 was a Golf class Russian diesel submarine that carried nuclear missiles and a crew of almost a hundred. It was lost at sea about 1500 miles northeast of Oahu when it suffered some kind of explosion followed a couple of minutes later by a catastrophic hull failure. Its crew all died. The sub sank to a death of 16,000 feet.

The CIA and US Naval Intelligence was able to locate the site because the US had spread hundreds of hydrophones across the Pacific, and one of them registered two lou
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Josh Dean is a New York based journalist whose work has appeared in Popular Science, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, GQ, Men's Journal, Rolling Stone, Inc., Fast Company, ESPN the Magazine, and many others, covering subjects as diverse as pee wee go-kart racing, snowboarding in Iran, the byzantine world of small production watchmakers, and a start-up nuclear fission company. He is a correspondent for Outs ...more

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