A review of Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew’s Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage (1998)
(Rating 4 of 5)
Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew put together a great book telling previously untold stories of the heroes who defended the United States underwater during the Cold War. These sailors didn’t have their story told before for various reasons. First, the Cold War had no battles in the traditional sense there is no Yorktown or Gettysburg for people to make movies about. Their battles were espionage by cable taping and sub shadowing. Second, everything was classified. Their stories could not be told without endangering further operations. This book shows the good with the bad and the tragedy with the glory of the silent service.
The tragedy of course is the loss of life, when ships were lost at sea with all hands aboard. If a surface ship sinks there is a chance you might survive, however, if the submarine goes down you are already underwater and you are doomed. Unless of course you are on the Cochino, then you might survive.
One of the more interesting subjects to read about was the loss of the Scorpion. When the book talks about how Dr. John Craven’s investigation made conclusions about its loss it presents a most dramatic scene. That scene is the part of the investigation that placed Lt. Commander Fountain, the former executive officer of the Scorpion, to act as captain in the simulator.
“Chills shot through Craven when he saw the results. By now, he and several others attending this test were nearly certain they had replicated the Scorpion’s loss. No one told that to Fountain. No one told him he had just possibly enacted the circumstances that led to the deaths of the men he had once helped to command. Maybe nobody had to tell him. He left the simulator without asking any questions, without saying a word.” (p.146)
After a forty-five year Cold War American submarines had developed a whole culture of brinkmanship with the Soviets. Then the Soviet Union collapsed, which was great for the United States because we won the Cold War. However the submarine fleet was short of purpose. Of course this book ends in the 1990s I think in the last decade they probably have found a new purpose and mission.
There is also the tails of their many victories. The book is called Blind Man’s Bluff after a line in a ballad written by a submariner named Tommy Cox in honor of his captain. Captain Whitey Mack reminds me of a real life Captain Kirk, except he operated beneath the waves as oppose to up in space. This daring captain once shadowed a soviet sub for its entire cruise.
“In fact, everything about this thirty-seven-year-old commander was big. His towering, 240-pound frame didn’t quite fit though Lapon’s low hatches and narrow passageways, and he was almost always bent over in the control room, littered overhead with a maze of piping and wire. Submarines were just too small to contain Whitey Mack. He was a larger-than-life renegade, much like the heroes in the novels he devoured by the basketful. He saw himself as the hero in a story he was writing as he went along, a story ruled by his own tactics and sometimes by his own rules.” (p.174)”
|Captain Whitey Mack|
After a forty-five year Cold War, American submarines had developed a whole culture of brinkmanship with the Soviets. Then the Soviet Union collapsed, which was great for the United States because we won the Cold War. However the submarine fleet was left short of purpose. Of course this book ends in the 1990s, I think in the last decade they probably have found a new purpose and mission.