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Jul 3, 2018, 10 tweets

CIA #Museum AotW: Flag that Flew Above the Glomar Explorer

This flag would have witnessed the stand-off of 3 Soviet vessels encircling the Glomar Explorer as they tried to discern why the American ship was anchored in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

March 1968: Soviet sub K-129, armed with nuclear ballistic missiles, sinks.
May 1968: US located sub about 1,500 miles NW of Hawaii.
Recognizing the value of the intel on Soviet strategic capabilities that would be gained if the sub were recovered, CIA agreed to lead recovery.

CIA’s mission: recover the 1,750-ton, 132-foot-long wrecked sub from more than 3 miles below the ocean surface… in total secrecy.

1970: CIA engineers & contractors concluded the only solution was to use a large mechanical claw to grab the sub & lift it.

The cover story: Glomar Explorer, a commercial deep-sea mining vessel "built" & "owned" by billionaire Howard Hughes was conducting marine research at extreme ocean depths & mining manganese nodules.

Glomar would conduct entire recovery under water with specially built capture vehicle, Clementine, in complete secrecy. Clementine would be positioned to straddle the sub, & its powerful jaws would grab the sub’s hull.

Sailing from Long Beach, CA, the Glomar Explorer arrived over the recovery site on Independence Day, 4 July 1974 & conducted salvage operations for more than two months under total secrecy—despite much of the time being monitored by nearby Soviet ships curious about its mission.

July 31, 1974: Clementine touched down on the ocean floor, sending up a cloud of mud that obscured visibility for half an hour.

Aug. 1, 1974: Clementine & a 132-foot sub hull section, weighing as much as a WWII-era destroyer, began a more than 3-mile ascent.

During the lift, when the sub was a third of the way up, it broke apart, & a section plunged back to the ocean bottom.

Much of what was retrieved is still classified; however 2 nuclear torpedoes were found in the recovered part of the Soviet sub.

Among the contents in the recovered section of K-129 were the bodies of six Soviet submariners. They were given formal military burial at sea & DCI Robert Gates presented a film of the burial ceremony to Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1992.

In the late 1990s, a US petroleum company restored Glomar & used it for actual deep-sea oil drilling and exploration.

Project AZORIAN remains an engineering marvel, greatly advancing deep-ocean mining and heavy-lift technology.

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