Spying and CIA in Redwood City – Historical Thursday
When I used to drive to San Francisco in 1970 you could look out at the San Francisco Bay and in Redwood City you’d see a big barge next to the mountain of white salt, which was a local landmark in Redwood City real estate for many years. This large submersible barge was known as part of the Glomar Explorer . Locally we called it, that black barge on the bay. Howard Hughes owned the Glomar Explorer with his company the Hughes Mining Barge (HMB-1)
I can remember all the secrecy surrounding the barge and how no one could get close to it. Sometimes you would see the doors opened but that was always in the early evening hours. Everyone had their own story about the barge and how Howard Hughes was the CIA.
Some nights you would see the submersible barge on the bay, the next morning it would be gone. It was the CIA at its best here right in Redwood City. Howard Hughes was on the last stage of his life so intrigue was high.
The CIA has declassified the “Project Azorian” or code name “Jennifer” recently. President Richard Nixon ordered the project to go ahead full steam after his trip to Moscow on July 3, 1974.
On July 4th The Glomar Explorer started its role as the world’s first re-claiming a Soviet Golf-class ballistic missile submarine that had sunk on April 11, 1968 in 7,000 feet of the Pacific Ocean some 750 miles northwest of Hawaii. This had never been done before by any government or Navy. Even the Soviets couldn’t bring up their own submarine from its 7000 foot grave. Spying and CIA in Redwood City – Historical Thursday
The Glomar Explorer already knew where they could find the Russian submarine and began to raise it once the President gave the go ahead. The Glomar Explorer use pipes tether together like a net slipped over the submarine. It took 8 day to raise the submarine using the special winches and platforms constructed on the deck of the Glomar Explorer.
The Azorian Project had its heartbreak too. When the Russian submarine almost reached the surface it broke in two and the rear half fell back to the floor’s bottom and disintegrated. The parts they were able to recover included two nuclear-tipped torpedoes, various cipher code equipment, as well as eight dead Russian sailors.
During the 8 day of recovery there were two Soviet vessels watching what the Glomar Explorer. CIA Director Helms ordered wooden crates placed on the helicopter pads because he feared an assault by helicopter by the Soviets. The crew was never issued any guns. They had standing orders to destroy any classified document if something did happen.
Because this project was a Navy’s secret “black budget” with costs overran in excess of $200,000,000 and ties to Howard Hughes the CIA stated when asked about the operation. The CIA denies any knowledge of the operation, or that any of the CIA people involvement. The CIA could neither confirm nor deny any questions on the subject. Spying and CIA in Redwood City – Historical Thursday
We all knew what happened. We all saw for a few years the coming and goings of the “Jennifer” project. It was exciting and conversational for us here in Redwood City. And, as with any CIA operation it’s here today and gone to Maui.