When ADAK became operational in very late 1962, operational reports were sent
to Commander, Alaskan Sea Frontier (COMALSEAFRON) and NOT to the
Oceanographic Unit, San Francisco, the forerunner of COSP.
Not sure what to do with the Adak reports of submarine detections,
COMALSEAFRON shotgunned them up the chain of command where they came
to the attention of COMSUBPAC where the s..t hit the fan.
As now widely discussed in open literature, the US had been since at least
1957 (USS RAZORBACK, SS-394) conducting “gatekeeper” submarine operations
off Petropavlovsk. Project AZORIAN, The CIA and the Raising of the K-129 (pp. 16)
discusses such operations by the USS BARB (SSN-596) in 1968.
The ADAK reports to COMALSEAFRON included detections of US submarines
with positions as well as for Soviet units. Reporting procedures were immediately
modified to accommodate the sensitivity of US operations.
Post script. When the writer arrived at Adak in 1973 and made the usual
request to see recent data of interest, he was shown a collection of signatures
that had been sent to COSP and which would shortly be published by COSP at
the SECRET level as Soviet data.
When the writer suggested this was not advisable because all the detections
were of US submarines, that assertion was met with disbelief. It was suggested
the writer contact then-LT “Cliff” Clifton at COSP who was in charge of the effort.
Clifton's response was the same as that of the Adak personnel, and there the
impasse stood until a fortuitous event occurred: the “gatekeeper” came off
station for a med-evac at Adak. With “encouragement,” the NAVFAC sent two
analysts onboard to review the ship's deck log for speeds and positions. The
match was exact for the most recent detections classified as Soviet. That was
the end of the COSP plan to publish a document that would have had serious
repercussions. It also provided the opportunity for instruction on characteristics
useful for distinguishing “us” from “them.”
Sounds like a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing. Love these stories, keep em coming!
With reference to my earlier post (NAVFAC ADAK, Ancient History), Commander,
Alaskan Sea Frontier was not always a completely passive relay site for ADAK
reports. On occasion, they felt required to comment on the validity of those
reports, a dangerous approach as they were as likely to correctly assess
their validity as the next guy dragged in from the street – in Kodiak.
Within our work space - then Building 52 at the Naval Observatory in DC (we were
a tenant activity) - we posted a picture of the German Type IXC submarine U-505
(captured in the South Atlantic on 4 June 1944) now on display at the Museum of
Science and Industry in Chicago.
We added the following caption to the photo: “Classified Non-Sub by
COMALSEAFROM until it ran aground.” All well and good; it was a private in-house
joke until one day, unexpectedly, a LCDR from COMALSEAFRON stopped by to
discuss “issues.” The photo and caption upset him.
Did we apologize or remove the photo: certainly not. It sent the message we
wanted sent: “Don't mess with the ADAK reports.”