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Soviet Navy map depicting Foxtrot sub locations near Cuba, late October 1962. Submarine B-59's position is indicated by the bright red rectangle outside the map itself, at top center of the margin.

Source: Digital image by Svetlana Savranskaya

Photograph of Soviet submarine B-59 close-up with Soviet crew visible, taken by U.S. Navy photographers, circa 28-29 October, 1962

Source: U.S. National Archives, Still Pictures Branch, Record Group 428, Item 428-N-711201

Washington, DC, October 24, 2012 – Extreme temperatures, equipment breakdowns, and the reckless deployment of nuclear torpedoes aboard Soviet submarines near the quarantine line during the Cuban Missile Crisis 50 years ago this week elevated the already-high danger factor in the Crisis, according to Soviet and American documents and testimonies included in a new Web posting by the National Security Archive (www.nsarchive.org).

The underwater Cuban Missile Crisis received new attention this week with two PBS Television shows, one of which re-enacts as "overheated" docudrama (in the words of The New York Times reviewer) the confrontation between U.S. Navy sub-chasing units and the Soviet submarine B-59, commanded by Valentin Savitsky, on the most dangerous day of the Crisis, October 27, 1962.

The newly published documents in the posting include the original Soviet Navy map of the Caribbean showing the locations of the four "Foxtrot" diesel submarines that had deployed from the Kola peninsula northwest of Murmansk on October 1, 1962, bound for Mariel port in Cuba to establish a submarine base there. Unknown to the U.S. Navy, each of the subs carried a nuclear-tipped torpedo, with oral instructions to the captains to use them if attacked by the Americans and hulled either above or below the waterline.

The documents include the never-before-published after-action report prepared by Soviet Northern Fleet Headquarters after the four commanders' return to Murmansk in November 1962, describing the atrocious conditions aboard the subs, which were not designed for operations in tropical waters.

The posting also includes the U.S. Navy message on October 24, 1962, detailing the "Submarine Surfacing and Identification Procedures" to be followed by U.S. forces enforcing the quarantine of Cuba, including dropping "four or five harmless explosive sound signals" after which "Submerged submarines, on hearing this signal, should surface on Easterly course." The State Department communicated this procedure to "other Governments" including the Soviet Foreign Ministry, but the Soviet submarine commanders, in a series of interviews in recent years, report they never received the message.

A fascinating sub-plot of the underwater missile crisis involves U.S. efforts to locate the Soviet submarines. Since 27 September 1962, the U.S. Navy had been tracking the subs using listening posts that detected electronically-compressed "burst radio transmissions" between Soviet Navy command posts and the submarines themselves. The messages could not be deciphered but the location from where they were transmitted could be identified. While U.S. Navy analysts had assumed that the subs were on their way to the Barents Sea for exercises they discovered that they were in the North Atlantic on their way to Cuba. [1] Another high-tech method for tracking subs was the Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) that detected the noise made by submarine engines. [2] The Navy also used "mad contacts", referring to magnetic anomaly detection (MAD), and "Julie" and "Jezebel" sonobouys. [3]

The Archive's publication also makes available:


Anatoly Petrovich Andreyev, excerpts of diary entries, October 1962.
  • Photographic images of the evocative diary of submariner Anatoly Petrovich Andreyev, who wrote his account as a letter to his wife describing the equipment breakdowns, the elevated temperatures, the lack of ventilation or fresh water, skin rashes, 30-40% weight loss, and a crew stripped down to their skivvies to deal with the heat.
  • Video of Soviet signals intelligence officer Vadim Orlov from the historic 2002 40th anniversary conference on the Missile Crisis, in Havana, Cuba. Orlov served on the B-59 submarine and witnessed how close the sub's commander came to arming the nuclear torpedo aboard.
  • Video of Capt. John Peterson (USN retired) at the 2002 Havana conference, describing the hunt for Orlov's submarine, acknowledging that the "signaling depth charges" he and his crew dropped on the Soviets might have sounded very different to the Soviet sailors down below Peterson's destroyer.

Finally, today's posting includes the Navy cables, deck logs, Flag Plot charts, and photographs from the October 27 tracking and surfacing of B-59, excerpted from the Archive's previous publication which established the precise date and time of the confrontation with submarine B-59.

 


DOCUMENTS, MAPS & PHOTOS

 

New Evidence on the Soviet Submarines

1) Soviet Navy map depicting Foxtrot sub locations near Cuba, late October 1962.
Source: Digital image by Svetlana Savranskaya.

2) U.S. Navy Department, cable to CINCLANTFLT et al, forwarding State Department notice on Submarine Surfacing and Identification Procedures, 24 October 1962.
Source: National Archives, RG 330, Sensitive Records on Cuba, box 1, Cuba 381 (20-25 October 1962)

3) Soviet Northern Fleet Headquarters report, "About participation of submarines 'B-4,' 'B-36,' 'B-59,' 'B-130' of the 69th submarine brigade of the Northern Fleet in the Operation 'Anadyr' during the period of October-December, 1962," circa December 1962.
Source: Donation to Svetlana Savranskaya

4) Anatoly Petrovich Andreyev, excerpts of diary entries, October 1962 (followed by English translation).
Source: Digital image by Svetlana Savranskaya

5) Recent photo of Soviet submariner Anatoly Petrovich Andreyev.
Source: Photo by Svetlana Savranskaya

6) Recent photo of Ryurik Ketov, captain of Soviet submarine B-4.
Source: Photo by Svetlana Savranskaya

 

Vadim Orlov's and John Peterson's Recollections

7 ) Recollections of Vadim Orlov (USSR Submarine B-59), "We Will Sink Them All, But We Will Not Disgrace Our Navy," Orlov's account includes the controversial depiction of an order by Captain Valentin Savitsky to assemble the nuclear torpedo.
Source: Alexander Mozgovoi, The Cuban Samba of the Quartet of Foxtrots: Soviet Submarines in the Caribbean Crisis of 1962 (Moscow, Military Parade, 2002). Translated by Svetlana Savranskaya, National Security Archive.

8) Vadim Orlov, video excerpt from the conference, "The Cuban Missile Crisis: A Political Perspective after 40 Years," Havana, Cuba, 11-13 October 2002. Orlov provides an updated account of his unhappy experiences in submarine B-59.

 

9) Capt. John Peterson, video excerpt from the conference, "The Cuban Missile Crisis: A Political Perspective after 40 Years," Havana, Cuba, 11-13 October 2002. Peterson's recounting gives the American perspective on the U.S. Navy's attempts to surface Soviet subs.

 

Tracking the Submarines: 27-29 October 1962

10) CTG 81.1 (element of COMSAWFORLANT?) cable to CTF 81 (COMASWFORLANT), "Appreciation of SOSUS Activity in Western Atlantic from 23001Z to 273100Z," 27 October 1962, reports seven SOSUS contacts with conventional Soviet submarines, although noting the difficulty of using SOSUS to track submarines C-18 and C-19
Source: CHF, 21 (A) SS/ASW Contacts (Closed)-1

11) CINCLANT cable to JCS, "Summary of Soviet Submarine Activities in Western Atlantic to 271700Z," 27 October 1962, reporting various visual sightings and various technical intelligence contacts of Soviet submarines through radar, SOSUS, MAD, as well as Julie and Jezebel sonobuoys. (14)
Source: CHF, 21 (A) SS/ASW Contacts (Closed)-1

12) Deck Log Book [Excerpts] for U.S.S. Beale, DD 471, showing tracking and signaling operations, with use of practice depth charges (PDCs), and eventual surfacing of submarine C-19 on the evening of 27 October (local time). The Beale was part of the Randolph ASW Task Group 83.2.
Source: National Archives, Record Group 24, Records of Bureau of Naval Personnel (hereinafter cited as RG 24), Deck Logs 1962, box 74

13) Deck Log Book [Excerpts] for U.S.S. Cony, DD 508, also part of TG 83.2, showing its role in tracking, signaling, and surfacing submarine C-19.
Source: RG 24, Deck Logs 1962, box 178

14) Deck Log Book [Excerpts] for U.S.S. Bache, DD 470, which tracked C-19 (identified as PROSNABLAVST) on 28 October
Source: RG 24, Deck Logs 1962, box 57

15) Deck Log Book [Excerpts] for U.S.S. Barry, DD 933, which tracked C-19 (PROSNABLAVST) on 29 OctoberSource: RG 24

16) COMASWFORLANT cable to AIG 43, 29 October 1962, describing C-19 as "raising and lowering masts and snorkel indicating hydraulic difficulties and/or repairs."
Source: CHF, 21 (A) SS/ASW Contacts (Closed)-1

 

Flag Plot Charts of Naval Activity: 27 October 1962

17) Caribbean As of 27 October 1962 0600Q
Source: Washington Navy Yard, Naval Historical Center, Operational Archives, Flag Plot Cuba Missile Crisis 31-2, file: Misc. Information

18) Caribbean As of 27 October 1962 1200Q
Source: Washington Navy Yard, Naval Historical Center, Operational Archives, Flag Plot Cuba Missile Crisis 31-2, file: Misc. Information

19) Caribbean As of 27 October 1962 1800Q
Source: Washington Navy Yard, Naval Historical Center, Operational Archives, Flag Plot Cuba Missile Crisis 31-2, file: Misc. Information

20) Caribbean As of 27 October 1962 2400Q
Source: Washington Navy Yard, Naval Historical Center, Operational Archives, Flag Plot Cuba Missile Crisis 31-2, file: Misc. Information

 

What the Navy Saw: Photographs of B-59

21) Photograph of Soviet submarine B-59 close-up with Soviet crew visible, taken by U.S. Navy photographers, circa 28-29 October, 1962
Source: U.S. National Archives, Still Pictures Branch, Record Group 428, Item 428-N-711201

22) Photograph of Soviet submarine B-59 with U.S. Navy helicopter hovering above, taken by U.S. Navy photographers, circa 28-29 October, 1962
Source: U.S. National Archives, Still Pictures Branch, Record Group 428, Item 428-N-711199

23) Photograph of Soviet submarine B-59 with two U.S. destroyers visible in the distance, taken by U.S. Navy photographers, circa 28-29 October, 1962
Source: U.S. National Archives, Still Pictures Branch, Record Group 428, Item 428-N-711200

 


NOTES

[1] Michael Dobbs, One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War (New York, Knopf, 2008), 92. Other accounts were not aware of this detection capability via the interception of burst transmissions. See, for example, Peter Huchthausen, October Fury (New York: John Wiley & Sons. Inc., 2002), and the documentary "Secrets of the Dead: The Man Who Saved the World," PBS, 23 October 2012.

[2] Matthew Aid, The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency (New York: 2009), 74-75; Michael Dobbs, op. cit., 71, 141-142.

[3] Magnetic anomaly sensors "detect the natural and manmade differences in the Earth's magnetic field"; the passing of large ferrous objects such as ships and submarines through the earth's magnetic field produce detectable changes. To detect such a change or anomaly an ASW aircraft must be practically overhead or very close to a submarine's position. See Federation of American Scientists, Military Analysis Network, "Air Anti-Submarine Warfare," <http://www.fas.org/man/dod/-101/sys/ac/asw.htm>. Julie and Jezebell are types of sonobouys that use sonar technology to detect a submarine either actively (through reflected acoustical pulse), or passively, by detecting sound, for example, with hydrophones. Most sonobouys are small and cylindrical in shape and are distributed by aircraft or ships. Julie sonobouys release charges that explode at predetermined depths to provide echo-ranging data, while Jezebel sonobouys are airborne devices that detect low-frequency sounds originating from underwater sources of energy. See S. F. Tomajczk, Dictionary of the Modern United States Military (Jefferson, North Carolina, 1996).

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