My first “fiction” work: Room 526 

Room 526004Although this is a work of fiction, much of it is based on fact, and on some forty years I spent in the intelligence services of the United States of America. The particular circumstance the book deals with, and expands upon, was the U.S. Navy’s interest—in the 1950s—in developing a highly advantageous titanium submarine hull. In learned Navy-associated journals, expert submarine structural engineers, and metallurgists praised the advantages of titanium hulls over the usual HY-80 (high yield) steel commonly used—but when it became apparent that the cost of a fleet of titanium submarines would exceed the entire Navy budget, articles on titanium became rare. In Soviet intelligence circles, this was taken to mean the U.S. Navy’s interest in titanium had gone “black;” in other words, had become highly classified.

I first heard of titanium submarines when I became a submarine analyst at the Naval Intelligence Support Center (NISC) at Suitland, Maryland. “Old timers” told wonderful stories— folklore—about the U.S. Navy’s interest in titanium. These stories encouraged me to write this fictional account of a highly classified clandestine operation, an operation ordered by the President of the United States, an operation intended to induce the Soviets to spend themselves into bankruptcy by themselves building titanium submarines. Actually, whether or not they could afford it, the Soviets did build six highly automated, modern, titanium submarines, but all were decommissioned after the Soviet Union’s collapse.

At NISC, I eventually became the project officer for Soviet attack submarines, including the ALFA Class SSN, a class of submarine built entirely of a titanium alloy.  In 1993, I had written an “After Action” account of an Intelligence collection – largely an effort by the Central Intelligence Agency – against Soviet Navy Projekt 705, the all-titanium nuclear-powered, fast attack submarine that carried the NATO designation ALFA Class SSN.  And on 19 January 1979, Naval Intelligence Support Center (NISC) received a letter from Commander, U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command, informing Naval Intelligence that CIA’S extraordinary collection, and Naval Intelligence’s timely analysis of the ALFA Class SSN threat, had saved the Navy $325 million in new torpedo designs.

I believe it was the first time in history that this type of intelligence collection and analysis had ever been officially credited with saving such a large sum of money.

The Agency accepted my After Action report, and on 30 June 1994, James Woolsey, Director of Central Intelligence, awarded me “The Studies in Intelligence Award in Recognition of an Outstanding Contribution to the Literature of Intelligence.”  For more than a decade this treatise remained classified. Found in Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 52, No. 3, pp. 17- 24, this treatise is entitled “The ALFA SSN: Challenging Paradigms, Finding New Truth, 1969-79.” It is available online at the CIA website. Or, believe it or not, as a download from Amazon. It was the declassification of the CIA article that gave me the needed “kick-start” to compose this manuscript.

There’s a second story line in the book. It’s about how the principal character, U.S. Special Agent Hans Reiter, came to break a cardinal rule of all clandestine intelligence services: Never become friends with your asset—the “asset” in this case being a Soviet Intelligence officer recruited by Reiter to spy for the U.S.

While this account is fiction, it is as close to fact as security rules permit.

Room 526 is available from The Saltmarsh Press (www.saltmarshpress.com) for $16.95.

 

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