The incredible true story of the most outlandish and expensive American covert operation since the Manhattan Project
TO HELL IN HIGH WATER
by Josh Dean
Dutton, Fall 2017
Proposal available. Manuscript due May 2017
In late February of 1968, a Russian submarine, K-129, holding a battery of three ballistic missiles with enough nuclear material to create an explosion 50 times greater than Hiroshima, disappeared in the Pacific Ocean. Starting March 8th of that year, the Soviet Navy—using ships, subs, and planes—carried out an enormous search over 854,000 square miles of open ocean, in stormy seas, where the depth ranged up to 18,000 feet. They failed to locate the sub. They were looking in the wrong place.
The U.S. Navy, meanwhile, had been watching all of this transpire. Intelligence officials were aware that the sub had been lost within days and, as the Russians searched in vain, a secret American operation began to locate the missing sub first. And once they found it, they somehow needed to retrieve it from the ocean floor. Working with Global Marine, the country’s foremost shipbuilder, as well as Hughes Tool and Lockheed, two other manufacturing companies, the CIA commissioned the most expensive ship ever built, a technological marvel that, as far as the public—and especially the Russians—were concerned, was built to mine rare minerals from the ocean floor. Because of the program’s outlandish costs, and the incredible complexity of the ship and its tools, the CIA needed a believable cover story, and it found one in Howard Hughes, the reclusive billionaire, business tycoon, investor, aviator, aerospace engineer, inventor, filmmaker and philanthropist, who considered no challenge too big or expensive.
So began an incredible top-secret operation that took six years, cost nearly $600 million (many times that in current dollars) and would become the largest and most expensive covert operation in the history of the CIA. Its name: Project Azorian. Its objective: to retrieve the sunken submarine and its contents, lying at a depth of 16,800 feet, infinitely deeper than the deepest submarine salvage to that date.
Josh Dean’s first book, SHOW DOG, was published by HarperCollins/IT Books in February of 2012, and more recently, his article/ebook, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE STOPWATCH GANG, was published by The Atavist. He has written for dozens of national magazines including Rolling Stone, Men’s Journal, GQ and Cosmopolitan, and is a former editor at various magazines, most recently Men’s Journal, where he was deputy editor.