Operation Ivy Bells: A submarine novel of covert diving and underwater espionage during the Cold War
A super-secret, off-the-books spy organization; a security-clearance starting at Top Secret and going up from there; an attack by giant squid during a thousand-foot dive while breathing an exotic gas; a cat's whisker escape from death during a three-day decompression – and that's just the first two chapters of "Operation Ivy Bells," before the action really gets underway.
In a fast-paced, personal narrative, J.R. "Mac" MacDowell details a breathtaking series of events during a super-secret intelligence gathering operation at the height of the Cold War. Riding the nuclear submarine "Halibut," Mac and his saturation diving team surreptitiously enter the Soviet-controlled Sea of Okhotsk on a proof-of-concept mission. They install a tap on an underwater communications cable at 400 feet, and narrowly escape death when a storm snaps "Halibut's" anchor cables. They retrieve missile parts from a Soviet missile-test splash-zone, getting caught in a sonar-web set by the crafty skipper of an old Soviet diesel submarine. Mac's divers temporarily disable the sub, and "Halibut" escapes to Guam, dogged by the sub Skipper.
Having proved the concept, they return in a "Halibut" outfitted with skids so she can sit on the bottom to attach a 12-thousand-pound pod to the cable for future retrieval. In the missile splash-zone, they lock in deadly underwater combat with Soviet divers. With the free world at stake, they capture one and kill the rest. "Halibut's" submariners and saturation divers finally return home without ever publicly revealing their crucial contribution to winning the Cold War, receiving an unpublicized Presidential Unit Citation.
Blending personal experience and real-world events in a fictional wrapping, "Operation Ivy Bells" offers a never-before-seen glimpse of these heroic men fearlessly facing death to gather the intel that tipped the scales to win the Cold War.
The author does a magnificent job of providing the clear details of how a U.S. submarine, U.S. Halibut and the sailors and saturation divers onboard accomplished a secret military mission that helped end the Cold War. The sub’s mission was to retrieve intel from the Soviet Union’s Navy. I don’t know a hawser from a fishing hook, but I enjoyed the opportunity to learn.
As the sailors note, being on submarine duty involves days of boredom interspersed with moments of panic and excitement. That is the best way to describe this book- pages of facts and details about manning a sub, followed by scenes of fascinating terror. I don’t know a hawser from a fishing hook, but I enjoyed the opportunity to learn.
All in all, the author created a work of enjoyment for the reader.
Here are examples from the book of the dryer parts:
Some water is heavy. Oceanographers can actually identify this distinct Mediterranean water in deep spots all over the world’s oceans.
Submariner’s use Archimedes’ Principle to operate beneath the water.
And here are some descriptions of the “edge of your seat” parts.
“If we find it…if we can attach the tap…if it works…we pick up some missile parts …and then we pack up and head for Guam.”
Diver Bill gave a frantic call “Help me guys! Get over here quick. I’m in trouble.”
Although this is a work of fiction, it is based up real events and real people. The USS Halibut is real, and what she accomplished is real. These heroics led to President Reagan challenging the Russian leader Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves the military, submarines U.S. history and attention to detail. I am glad I read this book. And thirty years after the covert events in this book, Russia is still a mysterious force in our world.