The novel Red Star Rogue is a novel about a particular submarine that served in the Soviet Pacific Fleet during the Cold War. The book follows the Golf Class submarine K-129 on her final mission which occurred in the spring of 1968. K-129 was a Soviet ballistic missile submarine whose purpose was to launch nuclear weapons at the United States in case of the commencement of hostilities between the two superpowers.
The author Kenneth Sewell, who is a former submarine officer (Hutchinson) does an outstanding job of not only describing the overall picture, but also breaking down not only the submarine, but also the men who served on her final mission. He provides personal information about everyone from the commanding officer all the way down to the junior enlisted sailors of K-129. As a former submariner, Mr. Sewell understands the strong bond that occurs between submariners. This bond may well have saved the world from nuclear destruction.
Mr. Sewell breaks his book into two different sections which helps the reader gain an understanding of K-129 but also the submarine’s second story. Near the end of the book, Mr. Sewell also suggests that the possibility of a revenge sinking of the USS Scorpion in May 1968. He hypothesizes that the Soviets trapped and sank the Scorpion in response to the loss of K-129. He goes on to elaborate that the Soviets believed that the USS Swordfish had rammed and sank their submarine, and were exacting revenge against a US vessel. The author breaks the book into two sections. To simplify the overall picture, I will break the novel into three sections.
The book opens with K-129 at a position of “24 degrees N and 163 degrees west,”(11) this places the submarine northwest of the US naval base at Pearl Harbor. The men in the submarine are at their battle stations and are preparing for missile launch. The mood is tense, and the men who are the best that the Soviet Navy has to offer are ready to do their duty. The men in control are going about their duty, while a significant number of the crew are locked in compartment 1. These men know what is happening, and yet there is nothing they can do to stop it. They wait in silence for the dreadful happening they know that is to come. The countdown begins in the command center of the submarine. Upon reaching “one,” there is a flash and then an explosion. Immediately following this flash, K-129 plunges to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and is never heard from again.
In this setting, Sewell describes the events of a missile launch of a submarine during the Cold War. Despite different nationalities, the protocols and procedures to missile launch are similar. Mr. Sewell would know this having served on several submarines during the War. His account presents a gripping situation, but is also flawed. The main flaw is that since K-129 was lost with all hands, and had possibly gone rogue there are no first-hand accounts of what actually happened. Did the men...