Rising Tide: The Untold Story of The Russian Submarines That Fought the Cold War
By Gary E. Weir and Walter J. Boyne
Hardcover in dustjacket, 354 pages, photographs, appendices, notes, bibliography, and index
Published by Basic Books, October 2003
Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
The submarine service of any nation is generally cloaked in secrecy, and with good reason. The primary advantage of a submarine is stealth – leave port, pull the plug, and disappear. The submarine is then free to operate anywhere her speed and endurance can take her, and perform any task desired. But if a submarine is detected it is suddenly vulnerable.
Rising Tide pulls back the curtain on Soviet submarine operations during the Cold War. The authors base the book on interviews with several former Soviet submarine Captains. While not widely known outside of naval circles, the Soviet boats were notoriously unreliable and several of the anecdotes in the book deal with fires and accidents, a number of which resulted in loss of life and / or sinking of the submarine. There was a callousness towards the lives of the crews not seen in Western navies, and Soviet submarines employed technologies and design practices which would have not even been considered in other navies. Adding to the problems were substandard maintenance and training practices. These are illustrated by the deployment of several Foxtrot-class attack submarines during the Cuban Missile Crisis, none of which were completely operational after crossing the Atlantic. A second example is the loss of the Oscar II class submarine Kursk, which was attributed to an explosion of a practice torpedo. Subsequent investigation revealed the torpedo had not been properly maintained and that the crew had not actually fired a torpedo in years.
The book concludes with an analysis of Gorshkov’s History of the Soviet Navy and a brief comparison of American and Soviet submarines. Gorshkov’s writings are at times insightful, and at other times almost laughable. Overall, I found this book offered an interesting (though by necessity, incomplete) perspective on how the “other side” did things. Recommended.