Synopses & Reviews
Artic Mission recounts two concurrent Navy Department penetrations of the Arctic, in 1958: one an unclassified project, the other absolutely secret. The Cold War posed alarm and threat; amid its urgencies, the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58 was underway. Sputnik had opened the Space Age--for Americans, a national humiliation. The White House needed a success. Sailing under the direct orders of the Commander in Chief, the nuclear submarine Nautilus (SSN-571) would---if successful--reaffirm U.S. technological prowess with a stupendous demonstration: an under-ice transit of the Arctic Basin via the North Pole.
The airship's unclassified mission was an Office of Naval Research project. Objective: to assess the suitability of non-rigid airships (blimps) for support of field parties deployed throughout the North, ashore and afloat. That IGY August, BUNO 126719 crossed the Arctic Circle--the sole military airship ever to do so--en route to rendezvous with a U.S. Air Force ice-rafted camp (drifting station) in the Arctic Ocean. As "719" (delayed) pressed north, Nautilus pierced the geographic pole then without changing course logged the first-ever transit of the deep-ocean Arctic, Pacific to Atlantic.
Based on interviews and correspondence with dozens of participants, and on Navy Department reports, the work presents first-hand material throughout--a distinct contribution to the naval literature. Indeed, Arctic Mission may be the first in-depth (non-popular) account of the boat's epic cruise to 90° N. Further, the ONR expedition across Arctic Canada to IGY BRAVO (ice island T-3) is a singular unknown--even to naval aviators.
"This book is well-written and at times reads like an adventure story...Also of note is the author's ability to refer to both the absurdities and paranoia, as well as the achievements, of the Cold War era; his references to Russian research successes and achievements in the Arctic are even-handed and informative. This is a fascinating narrative, thoroughly recommended."
-- Naval Books of the Year column in Warship, 2013
To help salve the sting of orbiting Sputniks, the United States needed a dramatic demonstration of technological prowess; early in 1958, the White House ordered a top secret under-ice transit of the Arctic Ocean--Pacific to Atlantic--via the North Pole. And that spring, the Office of Naval Research initiated a unique project: to assess whether non-rigid airships (blimps) could support field parties deployed in the Arctic. This book recounts two successful missions. In August, the nuclear submarine Nautilus (SSN 571) reached 90 North and, continuing under ice, logged the first deep-ocean transit of the basin. En route to rendezvous with an IGY drifting station on T-3, an ice island, U.S. Navy airship BUNO 126719 became the sole military airship to cross the Arctic Circle. This work is based on first-hand accounts, including journal excerpts from Dr. Waldo Lyon a force behind U.S. under-ice submarine development
About the Author
William F. Althoff, an environmental geologist by profession, has published extensively in technical and in history-related journals. During 1999-2000, he was Ramsey Fellow in Naval Aviation History at the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
The author several books on airships, including Forgotten Weapon: U.S. Navy Airships and the U-Boat War