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Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  6,270 ratings  ·  383 reviews

For decades American submarines have roamed the depths in a dangerous battle for information and advantage in missions known only to a select few. Now, after six years of research, those missions are told in Blind Man's Bluff, a magnificent achievement in investigative reporting. It reads like a spy thriller -- except everything in it is true. This is an epic of adventure, ingen

Paperback, 432 pages
Published October 3rd 2000 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published October 19th 1998)
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Fred Shaw
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book if you want to know more about what subs do. I found it fascinating.
Apr 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is a fascinating look at the spy missions of American submarines during the Cold War. The authors did a phenomenal amount of research, to ascertain the true nature of the Navy's and the CIA's underwater spy missions. The book briefly describes some of the new technologies that were applied, and goes into depth (is this pun intended?) about the challenges, problems, accidents, and successes encountered during the secret missions. The book delves into problems of conscience, as the offic ...more
Dec 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
When released, this book was a revelation: the first peek into Soviet-American "hide-and-seek" among nucular-armed, nucular-powered "Boomer" submarines. Until Tom Clancy, it was Naval Institute Press's biggest seller. And according to a client, an ex diving officer on an Ohio Class, everything written here was top secret--and true.

And suspenseful as hell.
I find the story interesting having lived through some aspects of it long ago as a submariner. Nice to know what might have been going on in the forward section of the boat while I spent my time in the after section in engineering. However, I'm taking some of these stories with a grain of salt since it appears that some of them have been "peached" up according to some Amazon reviewers.
As to the fate of the Scorpion, the authors leave us baffled regarding the causes; first they relate a Nav
Apr 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: cold war/history/politics geeks
Shelves: non-fiction
So this one time I was watching The Hunt For Red October on TV, and marveling that this whole submarine espionage was kind of a silly thing. "Yeah?" my dad said. "You should read this book."

So I did. It turns out that it wasn't just silly, it was INSANE. The book isn't spectacularly well-written, and it's definitely the kind of thing that makes people look at you like a geek, but wow. This is how the Cold War was run, according to the confidential interviews and investigative journal
Jul 31, 2008 rated it it was ok
Where to start...

This isn't a history book, this is a New York Times Bestselling Anecdote book. The anecdotes are a collection of amusing, horrifying, blood pumping, low grade jingoist bar room stories. And taken as that, it is a very enjoyable read and why it doesn't get only one star.

I think that without the Prologue and Afterword I could taken the book for what it is. Unfortunately, the Prologue proclaims that after years and years of hard research the authors can fina
Dec 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I picked this book up as reading material for a Hawaiian cruise. What better place to read a book about drama on the high seas then on board a ship? In regard to ocean going drama, it did deliver to an extent - but The Hunt for Red October or Crimson Tide it was not. To be fair, it turned out to be a very different book, and I learned a lot from it. First an foremost, this is a book about real submarine warfare, not fiction. Also, it is not simply a history or glamorization of submarines, it is equal parts ...more
Jun 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Submarine story fans
Recommended to Will by: Big Al
The nonfiction rendering of the American Navy's submarine spying program of the Cold War years, 1950--1991. USS Cochino to USS Parche.

Growing up on the east coast I had been around both fast attack and SSBN submarine veterans almost my entire adult life. Of course, my two best subvet friends, an E-9 and a Captain, wouldn't tell me jack shit about any of the missions they had ever been on due to the 1000 year non-disclosure forms the Navy had them sign at the height of the cold war. W
Wayland Smith
Feb 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: popsugar2019
This is a very specifically focused history of American submarines as they are used in espionage. While there's some other history here and there, it's largely focused on the Cold War. Some of these stories I had heard or read parts of before, some were new to me.

What I give the authors huge credit for is that, while it would be easy to just talk about facts and figures and dates, they went the extra step. A lot of what is discussed, especially towards the end, is the toll that both the mission
Shane Phillips
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These are some amazing stories. Secretly placing a 6 ton recording device on a Russian underwater cable just off the coast of Russia that can record a years worth of Russian military communications is just crazy. But, it happened.
Mar 12, 2008 rated it liked it
Excellent narrative of submarine warfar with a Tom Clancy touch. An early sub, Cochino, that went down in ’49 from a fire from the batteries. 10 men were lost from Sub Tusk in rescue attempt. The sub world is filled with games of tag and chicken that were incredibly dangerous for the crews and world peace. In 1958, the first US sub Gudgeon was forced to surface from being caught by the soviets in their traditional areas. Much of the book is about the Navies tapping of Soviet communication cables ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
Nuclear submarines were a key part of cold war strategy. They guaranteed a credible deterrent for the policy of Mutual Assured Destruction. Hard to detect and carrying Hydrogen Bombs on ICBMs the Americans and the Soviets played a cat and mouse game with deadly seriousness. The crews of the U.S. nuclear subs risked and sometimes lost there lives in this cold war game. They were critical to U.S. strategy. They also in addition to there deterrent capability were needed to spy the Soviet's coastli ...more
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Dr. John Craven was Visiting Professor of Ocean Engineering at MIT during 1969-1971 between some of his U.S. Navy assignments. He arranged an interview for me after I got my OE Master's degree in 1971. As a result of that interview, my next nine years on active duty were the most thrilling of my life. This book relates only a fraction of the amazing ocean technology feats during those years.
Mar 28, 2014 added it
Very good! Never knew any of this. Well. I did know about the Glomar Explorer fiasco.
Lori Krause
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves true history written in the finest narrative. Several times I found myself lost in the pages, somewhere between paragraphs. I am somewhat biased since I love historical naval warfare. That said, it doesn't mean I can't spot a truly riveting recall of adventure and courage. Blind Man's Bluff is simply one of the best naval recounts I have read. The fact that it is true only adds to it's amazing, intrigue. One of my favorite recounts is during the a ...more
Mark Arbanasin
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining read of US submarines during the Cold War. Would recommend to any fans of Naval history. It's definitely a bit anecdotal and more in the realm of popular history given the subject matter, however the authors have obviously done a tremendous amount of research to compile the stories they tell.

It's always spectacular to understand the details of how these ships operate and grew in their ability to pull off daring feats so deep under our oceans' surface. In that regard this book reall
Tanner Nelson
Nov 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The authors masterfully detail the various tales of submarine espionage during the Cold War. Every individual story was as gripping as a Tom Clancy novel. This book is a masterpiece of journalism.
Oct 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book reinforces the belief that submariners are a different breed who put up with many things we mere mortals would find intolerable. We owe these brave men much.
Judy Dobles
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Exceptional and detailed account. Super reading.
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, history
4.5 Stars. The account of American cold-war submarine espionage highlights the historical developments by a series of Tom Clancy-esque stories around a particular submarine, incident, or project. As such, the book moves from personal details of some sailor's trips to broad policy discussions and U.S.-Soviet disarmament negotiations. It is incredibly well researched.

The authors do an exceptional job weaving the facts together into compelling stories that are both gripping and informat
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A great book about the many missions happening beneath the waves during the cold war. The balls of steel these guys had is without doubt. The lengths that they had to go to gather information is almost unheard of in these days of online espionage. The stories are funny, tense, and keep you on the edge of your seat. Definitely recommend!
Stephen Phillips
Many chapters of the Cold War were unseen and unknown to the general public. Among the most secret operations were those conducted undersea by the U.S. Navy’s submarine force. In Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage, Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew tell tales derived from interviewing submariners that include technological marvels and unparalleled courage.

Before reading this book, most have a perception of the submarine force consisting of two main missions, attack subs
Dec 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Non-fiction, very well researched. It is not dry and is a page turner. The book is able to explain the nature of the brotherhood of the submariners through stories where our submariners are caught up in the loss of Soviet subs... it matters not the politics, it matters that respected submariners are lost.

The development of the US and Soviet fleets is tracked as are the accidents, incidents, and tragedies. The researchers have done a phenomenol job of digging deeply into the stories t
David Griffiths
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I used to tease my brother that if submarines ever proved themselves, we would through a couple in the hanger bay (the deck below the flight deck on a carier). He would respond by telling me that I wouldn't be so cocky if I knew what submarines were really about. "So tell me," I would say.

"Can't. Classified. But, if you really want to know, read Blind Man's Bluff."

I read it, and I was stunned. I thought the flight deck was the most exciting and the most dangerous place a man could be. I was w
Michael Burnam-Fink
Sep 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012, war, history
There has to be something wrong with you if you don't like submarine movies. Hunt for Red October, Das Boot, Crimson Tide, even relatively schlock like K-19 is solid in my book. Take a bunch of men, cram then in a steel tube deep beneath the waves, throw in a nuclear reactor and a dozen ways to end the world, and you have instant drama.

Well, sometimes the truth surpasses fiction. Blind Man's Bluff covers some of the most harrowing intelligence battles of the Cold War from the point of vie
Jul 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Overall, a very good read. It gives a very good insight into the development of US Cold War submarine surveillance technology and tactics and how it played out in the broader spectrum of US Soviet relations - both detente and deterrent.

Whilst some of the narrative is overly dramatic and emotive, it does add that 'rollicking good naval fiction' feel, which may make it easier reading for the casual enthusiast.

Definitely a book that anyone with a naval or intelligence backgr
Oct 08, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Account of American spying on the Russians using nuclear armed submarines. This books outlines how close the two superpowers came to armed confrontations during the cold war. It is full of fantastical accounts of the CIA, NSA and other bodies trying to listen to Soviet communications. One of the most interesting is of course the attempt to raise a sunken Soviet submarine off the ocean floor using a specially built (by Howard Hughes) ship!
Anne Ward
Mar 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: naval-history
Blind Man's Bluff tells the stories of submarine warfare during the Cold War. Sontag makes the tight spaces and high tension of submarine warfare come to life. Sontag's ambition to sum up the Cold War into a neat package drags the conclusion and the book down.

Three Stars: Entertaining and worth reading, but dragged down by an ending that tries to do too much.
Sean Chick
Oct 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The harrowing and exciting tale of the Cold War from the perspective of American submarines. Much is devoted to the efforts to tap Soviet cables on the ocean floor. The parts on K-129 are of particular interest, revealing that much of the submarine was destroyed in the CIA's idiotic plan to raise the lost ship.
Stanley Cramer
Nov 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
As an ex-submariner serving on a SSBN missile boat during the time covered by this book, I finally know a lot more about what the attack boats were doing while we floated around who knows where. The book was a very interesting read but not riveting.
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