Project Jennifer

Target: K-129
"Jennifer" was the code name for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) project to recover the sunken Soviet submarine K-129, one of the Soviet Union's strategic ballistic missile submarines, from the Pacific Ocean floor in the summer of 1974.

The 1968 sinking of the K-129 occurred north and west of Hawaii, at a location still (2007) held highly classified by U.S. intelligence agencies. Project Jennifer was one of the most complex, expensive and secretive intelligence operations of the Cold War.
 
In April 1968, Soviet Pacific Fleet surface and air assets were observed conducting a surge deployment and involved in unusual operations in the North Pacific, which were evaluated by U.S. Navy Intelligence as possibly reactions to the loss of a Soviet submarine. Soviet surface ship searches were centered on a location associated with Soviet strategic ballistic missile diesel submarines.
 
The American SOSUS (Sea Spider) hydrophone network in the northern Pacific was tasked with reviewing its recordings in the hopes of detecting an implosion (or explosion) related to such a loss.
 
NavFac Point Sur, south of MontereyCalifornia, was able to isolate a sonic signature on its LOFAR recordings of an implosion event which had occurred on March 8th 1968 (for which they received a Meritorious Unit Commendation in 1969). Using NavFac Pt. Sur's date and time of the event, NavFac Adak and the U.S. west coast NavFacs were also able to isolate the acoustic event. With five SOSUS lines-of-bearing, Navy Intelligence was able to localize the site of the K-129 wreck as the vicinity of 40N-180W/E. After weeks of search the Soviets were unable to locate their sunken boat, and Soviet Pacific Fleet operations gradually returned to a normal level.
 
In July 1968, the U.S. Navy initiated "Operation Sand Dollar" with the deployment of USS Halibut (SSN-587) from Pearl Harbor to the wreck site. Sand Dollar's objective was to find and photograph the K-129. In 1965, USS Halibut had been configured to use deep submergence search equipment, the only such specially-equipped submarine then in U.S. inventory.
 
Despite a SOSUS-provided locus containing over 1200 square miles of search area, and a wreck located over 3 miles in depth, Halibut almost miraculously located the wreck after only three weeks of at-depth visual search utilizing robotic remote-controlled cameras. (Compare this to almost 5 months of open and unrestricted search required to locate the wreck of USS Scorpion (SSN-589) in the Atlantic, also in 1968).
 
Halibut is reported as having spent the next several weeks taking over 20,000 closeup photos of every aspect of the K-129 wreck, a feat for which Halibut received a special classified Presidential Unit Citation signed by Lyndon Johnson in 1968.
 
In 1970, based upon this photography, Defense Secretary Melvin Laird and Henry Kissinger, then National Security Advisor, proposed a clandestine plan to recover the wreckage so that the U.S. could study Soviet nuclear missile technology, as well as possibly recover cryptographic materials. 


The proposal was accepted by President Nixon and the CIA was tasked to attempt the recovery.
 
Sailing from Long Beach, California on June 19, 1974, Hughes Glomar Explorer arrived at the recovery site July 4 and conducted salvage operations for over a month. During this period, at least two Soviet intelligence-gathering ships visited the Glomar Explorer's worksite, the ocean going tug "SB-10", and the Soviet Missile Range Instrumentation Ship (SMRIS) "Chazma".
 
Published reports indicate that during operations on August 12, 1974, "Clementine" suffered a catastrophic failure when the Target Object was over half way up to the surface, causing the already damaged section to split in half, with all but the forward 38 feet or so of the bow section sinking back to the ocean floor. According to a Lockheed engineer on site, the recovered section did not contain nuclear missiles nor the cryptographic equipment or codebooks that would have been of such extraordinary value for U.S. military intelligence.
 
Thus many have characterized Project Jennifer as an intelligence failure. However, the recovered section did include two nuclear torpedoes, and thus Project Jennifer should be termed disappointing but not a total failure. The bodies of six crewmen were also recovered, and were subsequently given a memorial service and buried at sea with military honors.
 
While a disappointing intelligence operation, Project Jennifer remains a technological milestone, as the deepest salvage operation ever conducted.

Kemo D. (a.k.a. no.7)
 
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