Bill Todd -- Jones: A Novel of the Early Cold War
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 Chapter 44

The USS Leopard Shark

The outbreak of the Korean War solved a problem for both Went and Jones. It was easy to convince Barbara, and then Heike, that the mission was off. Went had already told Barbara that the drydock, with the submarine, was stuck on a sandbar in the Great Belt. Barbara had given him a slightly funny look, but, navy wife that she was, she had apparently given Heike the story. Jones thought that Heike was more likely to believe Barbara than either of the men, and so he said as little as possible to Heike concerning their plans, only confirming what Went was telling Barbara.

It was, at that point, a little iffy. Were the ladies really satisfied? With the war, however, it was much easier. One didn't visit an enemy's port on the eve of possibile hostilities. But, still, Went told Barbara, there was this submarine in an extremely awkward position, stuck on a Danish sandbar. Jones and Went had to go and see if it could be extricated. If so, they would sail it back to Britain. There was even talk of bringing both Barbara and Heike, at navy expense, to meet them in London.

Meanwhile, the discussions at JOAD were extended to CASP. Jones was selected to inform General Smith of the proposed operation.

By this time, the first elements of the American army deployed to Korea were being soundly thrashed by the army of a minor country many Americans had never heard of. Smith had already predicted such an outcome to Jones and Heike, and was hardly bothered. On the contrary, he was happy over his part in bringing about a high level decision not to launch an atomic attack on the Soviet Union, even if reverses were suffered in Korea. As he said to Jones,

"Miss Herrnstein's tutoring has put me in a position in which I can talk persuasively about computers to people who don't know anything about them. People like the joint chiefs. LeMay, too, for that matter. It's been very helpful."

"I'll tell her that, general."

"We just need to keep up the pressure in case there's a public panic over what might look like a major defeat on the ground."

Jones agreed, and then Smith asked,

"Now, what's this that the navy and JOAD have been up to?"

Jones told him, and Smith asked,

"Was this Admiral Benson's idea?"

"I don't think so. Probably Captain Stallman's. Went just recently told me about it and recruited me."

"What are you supposed to do?"

General Smith laughed when Jones told him, and replied,

"Old JOAD has been a lot more resourceful than I would ever have imagined. More power to them. If they can convince the Soviets that we have a sure-fire second-strike weapon that they can't attack in advance, that will make them more cautious in Korea and help the army."

"How do you see that happening, sir?"

"For a start, their new jet fighter, the MIG-15, is shooting down our planes. They're probably being flown by Russians, but, if we can scare the Russians a little, they may withdraw their pilots. That will make a significant difference."

"This operation was planned before the war occurred, but you think we should go ahead anyway?"

"Certainly. It could be particularly helpful just now. Even more than before. It may also be seen by the Soviets as a sort of subtle alternative to attacking them. That is, 'We can also get you in this other way, but we'd prefer not to for the moment.' There's a certain risk of an incident, but it's far outwieghed by the probable gain."

"Since JOAD and the navy want to go ahead, we'll do it unless we're countermanded from on high."

"There's one thing, though. You yourself can't go."


"You and I know that you know one of our nation's most sensitive secrets. There's just no question at all. I'm in the same position. Neither of us can go anywhere near Soviet territory. Even countries where we might be kidnapped. The same applies to Miss Herrnstein. I'll have to talk with Admiral Benson and insist on that point."

"Well, I'm disappointed in a way. It would have been interesting. I take it that this doesn't apply to Went."

"You haven't discussed our bomb supply with him?"


"Commander Thurmond's been around here, but I don't think that I'll object. If it's all right with Admiral Benson, he'll go."

"Admiral Benson doesn't think about things like that."

"Then, I'll bring it to his attention. There are lots of submarine captains who could do it, I suppose?"

"I'm sure there are."

When Jones got to JOAD, Went happened to be standing outside in the little garden with a cup of coffee. When Jones approached, he smiled and said,

"Yes for the mission, but no for both of us."

"I briefed General Smith on our plans and he said I couldn't go."

"When Captain Stallman was asked, he denied me permission."

"I can understand. General Smith doesn't know about the disinformation campaign involving you and Heike, but that's also a pretty deep dark secret."

"I know. The captain is to be a young man who's sub has missile tubes, who knows he isn't carrying any missiles at the moment, and who has no idea what the potential range of the missiles he might carry would be. He does know, however, that they might have atomic warheads. If he's tortured, that's what we want him to say."

"I see. Well, there are some people who'll be pleased that we're not going."

"They already are! I just told Heike, and I called Barbara, telling her that there were no plans for us to go anywhere."

"Do they know that we had plans to fool them?"

"Heike caught me in a contradiction. Barbara isn't one to inquire into such things."

When Jones appeared in Heike's office, she whispered,

"I've figured out everything, but I'm glad of the outcome. You and Went are like schoolboys sneaking off to the burlesque house."

"I realize it must seem that way. But the big thing, which complements your operation, is still going forward."

"Yes. I'm actually still worried about that, even if you're safe. An extremely ugly incident could result if they attack our sub."

"It's easy to imagine."

"How do you feel about not going?"

"It would certainly have been interesting, and, if it turns out well, I'll regret not having been a part of it. But I also don't want to continue to run the risks I accepted during the war. I even suspect that Went has his doubts. But we had to volunteer. Now, we wouldn't be allowed to go no matter how much fuss we made."

The USS Leopard Shark, commanded by Lt. Commander Wallace Wade, was quite an unusual submarine. Once the torpedo tubes and deck gun had been removed, she was so down by the stern that the missile tubes had to be located forward of the conning tower to balance her out. The so-called 'sail', the analogue of a ship's bridge, was then extended forward to encompass the tubes. These rose from the bottom of the pressure hull, went through the deck, and had their twin tops at just about the eye level of the captain.

Below deck, the missile tubes, which would have to contain a considerable explosion, had so much shielding and insulation that it was hard to get around them. It made life aboard even more awkward than usual, but Wade had been in command of a similarly converted sub when he was suddenly flown to Stockholm and ferried out at night to take command of the Leopard Shark.

Conning a sub out of a floating drydock at sea was an unusual, but not terribly difficult, operation. More difficult was trying to figure out what on earth was going on.

Wallace Wade had risen to be Wentworth Thurmond's second-in-command on his last patrol in the Pacific, and had, ever since, tried to do things exactly Went's way. They had had a chance to talk before Wade left, and Went had given him his official instructions.

Wade was used to the missile tubes. They had, indeed, fired some anti-aircraft missiles from his sub. The brief called for him to be ignorant of the range of these missiles, and, in truth, he had little idea of it. But he told Went frankly that he didn't believe atomic warheads could be made small enough to go into the tubes. Went had smiled in his old way and said that wonders would never cease. It was obvious enough to Wade. The whole thing was a bluff. Which was all right with him. If he ever got to Leningrad, he would make a point of being as arrogant as possible.

As instructed, they surfaced at exactly 0800 the next morning. Wade scrambled up the ladder into a beautiful summer day in the Gulf of Finland, and the Russian translator began calling for permission to visit. The people at the American Embassy, as well as the consulate, should already have put their requests some hours earlier.

They got no answering messages from anyone, so they continued up the gulf at nineteen knots. No shipping was in sight, nor were there any airplanes overhead. After passing a few small freighters headed for Talinn on the south shore of the gulf, a recon aircraft finally showed up and circled.

A bit later, there were reports from both the radar man and the lookout of aircraft low on the horizon, fine on the port bow. Wade had already seen them himself, little insects leaving smoke behind them.

In ordinary circumstances, they would have crash-dived. But, late in the war, Went had taken to challenging enemy aircraft on the surface with his AA armament. Indeed, one kamikaze had almost hit them. Wade could see that the aircraft coming at them were jets, probably fighters, and they wouldn't normally carry depth charges or bombs. It was too late now, in any case.

The danger, of course, was being strafed by cannon and machine guns. That caliber fire wouldn't sink the sub, but it might make it impossible for them to submerge. The men on the conning tower might, and probably would be, killed.

Went had always stood upright in the face of air attack, almost daring the enemy to hit him. Now, from the angle of the Soviet approach, most of Wade's body would be shielded by the tubes just in front of him. The probability of a hit on his head was negligible.

The first fighter came right at them. It was easy to think that it was almost touching the waves. But, when it came over with an indescribable scream at a good five hundred miles an hour, one realised that it was about forty feet up, just enough to clear their aerials. The buffeting was tremendous and knocked the man behind Wade down. But, holding on to the rail, he lost only his cap. The second and third fighters then came over, a little higher. It was a shame about his cap, his best one, which was just visible in their wake. The fighters didn't come by for a second pass, and the radio operator handed Wade a message that had just come in. They were granted permission to visit Leningrad. They were to proceed to the naval base at Kronstadt, where they would be instructed where to berth. The crew had all been told about the likelihood of frogmen and listening devices. They would say nothing of their armament, and would say only good things about Russians.

Back at CASP, General Smith treated Jones and Went with an amused tolerance. In fact, now that the Leopard Shark was peacefully moored at Kronstadt, he seemed to feel, with Heike, that the whole thing had been a bit of a schoolboy prank. He was, in fact, very pleased. But for a different reason.

The war in Korea was going badly, but not disastrously. In a way, it was just right. The US Army wasn't going to be thrown off the peninsula, but a major commitment was going to be required for the eventual victory. It was just the sort of thing that would add prestige to the army, promotions all around, and an increased level of funding.

Even more than these things, the sense of crisis had caused General George Catlett Marshall to be recalled and appointed Secretary of Defense. Not even Eisenhower or MacArthur had emerged from the previous war with as much solid respect in the defense community, and the appointment was meant, among other things, to boost the sagging morale of both the military and the public. The general would not actually take office for another month, but the news was out. Smith exulted,

"The present secretary, Louis Johnson is just a civilian bureacrat, but General Marshall will actually take command. No one else could give orders to MacArthur."

Jones asked,

"What about LeMay?"

"No problem at all. He takes direct orders, and he'll get them. There won't be any surprise nuclear attacks on our part. On the other hand, SAC is strong enough to deter an enemy surprise attack."

Went remarked,

"It's going to be a long hard slog through the mud for the army, and the submarine force will probably end up playing cat-and-mouse games with Soviet subs."

Smith smiled and replied,

"Which ought to be exactly your calling, commander."

"Yes, I suppose so. Much better than slogging through the mud."

"But that's what the army is trained to do. We'll probably be fighting inconclusive moderate-sized wars around the perimeter of the Soviet Union for decades to come. Until they eventually collapse politically and economically."

Jones then said,

"It looks as if it won't be necessary to slant our simulations in any direction at all."

"As of now, I consider that we're working for General Marshall. He will want the best and most objective results we can possibly provide."

Bill Todd -- Jones: A Novel of the Early Cold War
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