|Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback||
Saturday Morning News
Declassified Cold War Submarine Mission Helped End ConflictAired March 3, 2001 - 8:18 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: It was a top secret mission that helped to end the Cold War. In 1978, a U.S. submarine followed a Soviet nuclear sub headed straight for the U.S. East Coast. Now, after 23 years of silence, the crew of the USS Batfish is finally speaking out.
With us today is the former commander of the Batfish, retired Admiral Thomas Evans. He's in Washington. Also joining us from D.C. is Thomas Allen. He's with the "Smithsonian" magazine and has written a story about the Batfish in the new March issue entitled, "Run Silent, Run Deep."
Gentlemen, thanks for joining us this morning.
REAR ADMIRAL THOMAS W. EVANS, U.S. NAVY (RETIRED): Good morning.
THOMAS ALLEN, AUTHOR, "RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP": Good morning.
PHILLIPS: Why don't we begin, Admiral, with you. Take us back to March 17th, 1978 and set the scene for us.
EVANS: Batfish had gotten underway from our home port of Charleston, South Carolina on the 2nd of March, proceeded up north to the upper end of the Norwegian Sea about 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, where we established a patrol zone and searched to look for the next Soviet ballistic missile submarine deploying from the Barent Sea (ph).
On March the 17th in the afternoon we got our initial contact on the Yankee class ballistic missile submarine and then proceeded to track and follow that submarine south through the Iceland Farrow Strait (ph) into the North Atlantic and down toward the east coast of the United States and then followed her through her entire patrol and back up into the Norwegian Sea as she headed back home into the Barents.
PHILLIPS: Tom, as you found out about this story and were able to meet with the Admiral, what did you find so amazing about this mission as a journalist and being able to tell about this story?
ALLEN: Well, I was amazed at the Navy releasing it in the first place because they call it the silent service and it really is, and getting the silent service to talk is quite an accomplishment. But the Navy provided me with the report which actually had been written by Admiral Evans and I needed to get it interpreted. And he and I became a dual in working on the story. I needed a translation of a lot of the material in the report.
What was gripping about it is that it's 50 days. This is 50 days of people in a long metal tube under the water. That was what was amazing to me, how routine everything was during a very exciting event.
PHILLIPS: And Admiral, what would have happened if the Batfish would not have located and tracked this Soviet sub?
EVANS: The Navy would probably have had to wait until the next Soviet submarine deployed along the same route to accomplish a mission of the same nature.
PHILLIPS: So by tracking this sub, how did this help you, the U.S. military, with regard to intel on Soviet operations and subs?
EVANS: Our joint ASW forces, Naval ASW forces working together, the sound surveillance system installed in the ocean floor in the North Atlantic, our Navy maritime submarine, anti-submarine patrol, aircraft and submarines worked together to track the Soviet submarines during the cold war period.
But it was important in this case, I understand from talking to the senior leaders who were in place at the time, that we needed to get a submarine in contact with the Soviet missile submarine and then track and follow that submarine for its entire patrol in order to find out everything we could about how they got to their patrol stations, their modes of operation, their procedures and their vulnerabilities and weaknesses, and that's what we did on this mission.
PHILLIPS: And Thomas, you wrote this story. How did the crew maintain tactical control and how did it remain undetected?
ALLEN: Well, it's a tricky game. They remain at a certain critical distance. It's what Admiral Evans calls getting tactical control. The critical distance is such that they can hear the Soviet submarine and the Soviet submarine could not under any circumstances hear them. So you're driving along the beltway with a mask over your windshield and somewhere ahead is the car that you're tracking. That's about what they were doing.
They couldn't, of course, see anything, but they could zero in on its sound and keep that sound going for 50 days.
PHILLIPS: And Admiral, it's written that this was a major factor in ending the cold war, this entire mission. How does that make you feel and do you agree with that?
EVANS: Many analysts believe that the Soviets' knowledge that we were tracking their ballistic missile submarines and their other submarines with, sometimes with impunity, led them to a massive design and construction program to silence their submarines through new designs and quieter designs that was extremely expensive, a budget buster, if you will. And many people believe that it contributed to the decline of the Soviet Union's military and defense forces through that budget drain.
We feel very proud to have contributed this kind of high quality intelligence information to the national defense effort during this very critical and tense period in our two nations' history.
PHILLIPS: Admiral Thomas Evans, congratulations on such a heroic mission.
EVANS: Thank you.
PHILLIPS: And also, Thomas Allen, once again, the article is in the "Smithsonian" magazine. You can pick it up now on newsstands. Also, check out the exhibit at the Smithsonian.
Gentlemen, thanks again for being with us.
EVANS: Thank you.
ALLEN: You're welcome.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com
|Back to the top|