Blind Man’s Bluff

BBlind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage (ISBN 0-06-103004-X), published in 1998 by Sherry Sontag, Christopher Drew, and Annette Lawrence Drew, is a non-fiction book about U.S. Navy submarine operations during the Cold War.

“‘Most of the stories in Blind Man’s Bluff have never been told publicly,’ they write, ‘and none have ever been told in this level of detail.’ …. Blind Man’s Bluff is a compelling book about the courage, ingenuity, and patriotism of America’s underwater spies.” –John J. Miller

Our travel itinerary to the northeast included flights in and out of New York and driving through the New England states then up to Montreal, Canada. One of our stops was at the Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton, Connecticut. I wanted to tour the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine and the first to complete a submerged transit beneath the North Pole. I was never in the Navy. And I certainly was not a bubblehead (USN jargon for a submariner). However, I find the history and adventures of that maritime branch interesting. In this case, the world of undersea espionage and intrigue makes for a great page-turner.

Blind Man's Bluff coverThe museum was worth the stop and the tour of the Nautilus was wonderful. If you like that kind of stuff, I recommend it. I usually take time to visit gift shops at such touristy places. That was where I purchased Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage. I was motivated to read it by what I had seen in the museum and how I felt walking around on the submarine. I’ve had but one friend who was a bubblehead. He was stationed on a boomer (slang for a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine; the British say bomber) out of the Navy base at Groton. Those subs are different from the vessels in Blind Man’s Bluff, although boomers represented one leg of the US triad of nuclear defense during the same Cold War (still does).

I enjoyed reading the book and I recommend it. Readers interested in history, particularly of the military Cold War genre, should enjoy it as much as I did. I really like fiction – reading it and writing it. But truth is so amazing to me – especially in a book like this. Those submariners really hung it all out. They called them spooks, a reference to spies. The deeds they performed and the situations they found themselves in were awesome. Those people did a lot of crazy shite: willingly. Drama and intrigue are great in fiction, in movies, and even in verbal stories. But to know that people had the ‘nads and the smarts to do what they did in such a vulnerable position (inside a tin can bubble deep in enemy waters) is an awakening.submarine

This quote refers to the squids (sailors) and spooks (spies) working together. It makes me curious about the book, and I’ve already read it. Referring to the teaming of squids and spooks, an intelligence officer said they were “engaging in the world’s second oldest profession, one with even fewer morals than the first.”

The book has been out for a few years. Later versions have changes or corrections in them. I didn’t get too caught up in the details. Now I have even more respect for the people who proudly call themselves bubbleheads. I bought a tee-shirt at the museum. On the front it says, “There are two kinds of ships,” and on the back, “Submarines and targets.” I wear it often.

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12 thoughts on “Blind Man’s Bluff

  1. Looks like a great book, thanks for the review!

    I grew up spending time on the CT coastline near Groton/New London, the Sub Force Museum is fascinating isn’t it? So much history behind the marvels that are modern submarines.

    I loved being able to tour such a significant piece of history as the Nautilus.

    Laith (apx #1712) visiting for April A-Z from Laith’s Ramblings (http://laith.wordpress.com)

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  2. Adding this book to my reading list. If you’re interested in espionage, you should try to make it to the Spy Museum in D.C. Our family went last summer, and I’m hoping to go again this June while in town for other events. Aloha, Rhonda

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