Rafeeq O.'s Reviews > Hide and Seek: The Untold Story of Cold War Naval Espionage

Hide and Seek by Peter A. Huchthausen
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Peter A. Huchthausen and Alexandre Sheldon-Duplaix's 2009 Hide and Seek: The Untold Story of Cold War Navy Espionage is an an engaging history of the 3.5- to 4-star region, wide-ranging and approachable, yet not always particularly deep.

On the one hand, the book's authors probably do, as the Tom Clancy front cover blurb asserts, "know more about the Soviet navy than any other American and most Russians." From the suspicion and espionage between the Soviet Union and United States that occurred even during their uneasy alliance in the Second World War, through the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Gulf of Tonkin, USS Liberty and USS Pueblo, Operation Ivy Bells and Project Azorian, Robert Hanssen and the Walkers, to the secret psyops military and reconnaissance pressure under Reagan that primed the Soviets to down KAL Flight 007, and finally into the collapse of the once-mighty Soviet empire, Hide and Seek reveals six decades of Cold War naval tension.

The authors draw from archival research, interviews with former Soviet naval and intelligence officers, and even the firsthand accounts of Huchthausen, who served at sea during the Cuban blockade, did two naval tours in Vietnam, worked in intelligence in NATO, and finally served as naval attache to Yugoslavia, Romania, and the Soviet Union itself. Rather than being a gigantic text delving deeply into its subjects, the book clearly is designed as a more popular work, organized in small, clearly labelled and easily digestible chunks that containing a wealth of fascinating information and vignettes, with details garnered from interviews with former enemies and from Huchthausen's observations being particularly intriguing.

Strangely, though, the work occasionally has something of a sloppy feel, and this is what keeps it from being a solid 5-star piece. Now and then the writing is not always...well, pretty much flawless, which is what I expect from a book published by a major press. There are several instances, for example, where word choice simply is not correct, with a word being not just a bit infelicitous but actually misused. Every now and then there is a lack of crucial footnote, perhaps most noticeably in the assertion that "U.S.-trained dolphins" supposedly "killed fifty Vietcong swimmers and two Soviet spetsnatz" in Cam Rahn Bay during the Vietnam War (page 93). Similarly, the authors' treatments of Cold War investigations into unexplained aerial and naval phenomena often start with something being a report of witnesses but end with language seeming to accept the report as fact. Finally, the index is quite weak: no "dolphin," no "Hanssen," no "KAL Flight 007," "Liberty" and "Pueblo" found only with "USS" but not without, "Cam Rahn Bay" listing page 167 and 168 but not the 92 and 93 that assert dolphin warfare and active-duty Soviet casualties there, etc., etc., etc. Many things essentially are nested--with the KAL shootdown, for example, being found only as a topic under "Reagan, Ronald"--but an index must be laid out much more fully than this.

These occasional unfortunate failings notwithstanding, Huchthausen and Sheldon-Duplaix's Hide and Seek nevertheless provides a good overview and many interesting details of an exciting and dangerous six decades of superpower intelligence-gathering upon and beneath the sea, and in the supposedly secure halls of homeland agencies as well.

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Reading Progress

September 11, 2020 – Started Reading
September 24, 2020 – Finished Reading
September 26, 2020 – Shelved

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