“Zero! The North Pole, 6:59:10 p.m.,” sounded in the compartments. K-3, the first Soviet submarine reached the upper point of the planet. It happened forty years ago, on July 17, 1962.
The Arctic was always very attractive for military men with a view of under-ice navigation. American Admiral Grenfell once said that the conquest of the Arctic was one of the top-priority tasks; submarines were to fulfill the task. As soon as nuclear subs appeared, the Arctic zone was announced a as new potential theater for military operations. The USA was the first to start a so-called Polar race. Nautilus crossed the Pole on August 3, 1958, thus breaking a substantial breach in the USSR’s defence. The whole of Soviet north, and not only north, became vulnerable to missiles launched from any American submarine standing under the Arctic. All surface anti-submarine facilities are ineffective in those ice-bound latitudes.
Man always wanted to reach the pole, and one of his intentions was to reach it in submarines. The first enthusiasts of under-ice navigation faced lots of failures and disappointments, but many curious inventions appeared in this connection. For example, a project was developed to equip a submarine with a longitudinal skid that was to be adjusted to the upper part of the sub for better sliding along the reverse side of the ice. The invention collapsed when people saw ice from under the water; the ice was not even, but covered with cavities and scales.
The K-3 submarine was picked out from the ten nuclear subs that were at that time in the arsenal of the Soviet Navy. It is to be added that the sub was not in its best technical condition. Captain of the sub Zhiltsov said that the sub was seriously damaged after numerous trainings and manoeuvres. However, the crew was the best trained and highly experienced. The sub headed for the North Pole on July 11, 1962, and the submariners were to face many unexpected surprises on the way.
When the sub returned, the submariners were met by government officials and Navy commanders headed by Nikita Khrushchev. All participants of the expedition were awarded with medals.
The West slightly believed that the Soviet Union held a nuclear submarine fleet of its own; moreover, nobody expected that Russian nuclear subs would reach the North Pole. Then-Director of the CIA Allen Dalles was fired for the fact that he had missed the Russian northern expedition. The unforgettable expedition demonstrated to the world that the Soviet Union owned the most modern and strongest submarine fleet in the world, as was said by US deputy director of marine operations Clarne in 1970. Nowadays, in 2002, forty years after the legendary expedition, nobody is likely to say the same neither in Russia nor in the USA.
Vitaly Bratkov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/07/17/44283.html