NAVFAC ADAK, Ancient History
By Bruce Rule - November 13, 2013
When ADAK became operational in very late 1962, operational reports were sent to Commander, Alaskan Sea Frontier (COMALSEAFRON) and NOT to the Oceanographic Unit, San Francisco, the forerunner of COSP.
Not sure what to do with the Adak reports of submarine detections, COMALSEAFRON shotgunned them up the chain of command where they came to the attention of COMSUBPAC where the s..t hit the fan.
As now widely discussed in open literature, the US had been since at least 1957 (USS RAZORBACK, SS-394) conducting “gatekeeper” submarine operations off Petropavlovsk. Project AZORIAN, The CIA and the Raising of the K-129 (pp. 16) discusses such operations by the USS BARB (SSN-596) in 1968.
The ADAK reports to COMALSEAFRON included detections of US submarines with positions as well as for Soviet units. Reporting procedures were immediately modified to accommodate the sensitivity of US operations.
Post script. When the writer arrived at Adak in 1973 and made the usual request to see recent data of interest, he was shown a collection of signatures that had been sent to COSP and which would shortly be published by COSP at the SECRET level as Soviet data.
When the writer suggested this was not advisable because all the detections were of US submarines, that assertion was met with disbelief. It was suggested the writer contact then-LT “Cliff” Clifton at COSP who was in charge of the effort.
Clifton's response was the same as that of the Adak personnel, and there the impasse stood until a fortuitous event occurred: the “gatekeeper” came off station for a med-evac at Adak. With “encouragement,” the NAVFAC sent two analysts onboard to review the ship's deck log for speeds and positions. The match was exact for the most recent detections classified as Soviet. That was the end of the COSP plan to publish a document that would have had serious repercussions. It also provided the opportunity for instruction on characteristics useful for distinguishing “us” from “them.”