Tailships: The Hunt for Soviet Submarines in the Mediterranean, 1970-1973

Published on
Published on
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Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
John Rodgaard
Other Publication Information
Illustrators: Tom Cooper, Paul Hewitt, Anderson Subtil, and Mark Thompson
Product Size: Soft Square Bound; 8.3” x 11.8”, 84 pages
Product / Stock #
Company: Helion & Company - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Casemate Publishers - Website: Visit Site

Helion is a UK-based company that produces books on many aspects of Military History from the Late Medieval period through to the present day. Helion was established in 1996, and since then they have published over 1,200 books, with 100 or more new titles coming out every year, for readers around the world.

Captain John Rodgaard USN (Rtd) has over 41 years with the naval service of the United States, including 12 years as a petty officer and 29 years of commissioned service as a naval intelligence officer. Rodgaard holds an A.B. in History and Political Science, a M.A. in Political Science and is a 1994 Naval War College Graduate. He was the recipient of the Naval Institute's History Author of the Year award in 1999. He is chairman of The 1805 Club and is married to fellow Club member and co-editor of the Trafalgar Chronicle, Judith Pearson, PhD. He co-authored the biography about Commodore Charles Stewart, USN the most successful fighting captain of the USS Constitution, A Call To The Sea: Captain Charles Stewart of The USS Constitution, 2005. He published his second book in 2010, A Hard Fought Ship: The Story of HMS Venomous. His book, From Across the Sea: North Americans in Nelson’s Navy, was released in 2020 by Helion Publishers.

Helion’s latest book in the Europe @ War series is a square back soft cover that includes 84 gloss paper pages. The cover black and white photograph features DE-1021 USS Courtney. The USS Courtney was named for Marine Major Henry A. Courtney, Jr., who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroism in leading a night attack on Sugar Loaf Hill in the Battle of Okinawa. DE-1021 was launched on November 2, 1955 as a member of the Dealey-Class destroyer escorts. The USS Courtney was the only member of the Dealey-Class that was not modified to support the DASH helicopter system, however she was modified to be a squadron flagship with command and staff cabins aft of her funnel. The color side profile illustration by Anderson Subtil is of one of the Project 671 Yorsh [NATO Victor I] Russian nuclear powered attack submarines that served in the Mediterranean. The rear cover features a Anderson Subtil color side profile illustration of the DE-1021 USS Courtney. I counted 62 black and white photographs and no color photographs. There are also six naval color side profile illustrations from Anderson Subtil.Mark Thompson provides 10 black and white tactical maps and Paul Hewitt offers 17 black and white maps. You will also find one color and one black and white map by Tom Cooper.

John Rodgaard kicks this book with a background on the importance of the navy to the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. Page 09 depicts the USS Kearsarge (CVS-33) carrying Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) aircraft in the form of Grumman S-2 Trackers and Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King ASW helicopters. The USS Kearsarge was a long-hull variant of the 24 Essex-Class carriers completed after World War 2. After serving in the Korean War as an attack carrier (CVA) she was converted to the anti-submarine carrier [CVS] role in 1958. John has a special point of view as he served on the USS Courtney during the Tailship trials. The advent of nuclear armed missiles launching off of submarines created a fervent need to find where these undersea warriors were. One of the proposals was an experimental anti-submarine warfare sensor that the US Navy referred to as the Interim Towed Array Surveillance System (ITASS). Three of these systems were purchased. Three Dealey-Class destroyer escorts were chosen: the USS Hammerberg (DE-1015), the USS Courtney (DE-1021), and the USS Lester (DE-1022). A fourth destroyer escort was involved, Van Voorhis (DE-1028), as the USS Lester took longer to be configured properly.

After being refitted in Newport, the ITASS ships sailed to Naples, Italy, to begin testing the concept. Page 27 depicts their arrival in Naples where the ships were Med-moored. This meant to get to shore, you used a boat from your ship, or you utilized local boat taxis. The crew of the three ships were able to bring their families to Naples, if they could afford it, as John Rodgaard was able to do with his family.Some single sailors also managed to get apartments in Naples while others dealt with living on the ships. Chapters 7, 8, and 9 cover the actual operations of the three ITASS ships for 1970 through 1973. John Rodgaard provides a great analysis of the operations in conjunction with Paul Hewitt’s maps that detail the ITASS operations as shown the bottom of Page 55. The photograph at the top of the page features Project 658 K-19 [NATO name Hotel] disabled in the North Atlantic on February 29, 1972. This resulted in an all-hands-on-deck for the Soviets as ships from the Mediterranean were part of the rescue effort. The 1972 disaster ended up killing 28 sailors as the rescue operation lasted over 40 days and involved over 30 Soviet ships. K-19 had earned several nicknames, including ‘Hiroshima’ and ‘Widow Maker’ due to the many accidents associated with K-19. The first major disaster of the K-19 in April 1961 is chronicled in the 2002 movie starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, K-19: The Widowmaker.

Chapter 10, Continued Development, covers passive surveillance systems since 1973 when the three ITASS destroyer escorts were retired for being ‘worn out’. The photograph at the top of Page 67 shows a surfaced K-324 SSN [Victor III). The frigate USS McCloy [FF-1038] began working with its TASS in 1974, operating in the Mediterranean and in the western Atlantic Ocean. The crew of the USS McCloy earned a superb reputation finding Soviet submarines so it may not have been a surprise when it located the brand-new Victor III submarine in October 1983. The USS McCloy got so close to the K-324, that the submarine got tangled up in the TASS system causing it to surface with propeller damage.K-324 ended up being towed to Cuba for repairs. The commander of the Second Fleet, Vice Adm. Joe Metcalf, sent a message to wide distribution that said, ‘When McCloy gains contact, McCloy confirms contact. A new tail is on the way.’ The sections include:

  • Abbreviations
  • Author’s Introduction
  • Chapter 1: The Cold War at Sea [Page 09]
  • Chapter 2: The Unseen Struggle Takes a Turn
  • Chapter 3: Out of Newport
    • The Mediterranean and Naples Await
  • Chapter 4: The Bear and the Eagle: A Mediterranean Confrontation
    • The Physiographic and Hydrologic Characteristics of the Mediterranean Sea
    • Maritime and Naval Considerations
    • Soviet Fifth Eskadra Order of Battle 1971 [Table 1]
  • Chapter 5: Arrival: Sorting Things Out
    • Bella Napoli ! [Page 27]
    • US Navy Support of the Ships Homeported in Naples
    • Support of the Ship’s Companies in Naples
    • Modern Naples: What Awaited the Americans – Bella Napoli
  • Chapter 6: Operational Planning Considerations
    • Intelligence Situation
    • Climatic Considerations
    • Mediterranean Hydrodynamics
    • ITASS Operational Planning Process
    • Support to Sixth Fleet Units
  • Chapter 7: Special Hydrographic Operations: October – December 1970
    • A Near Disaster
    • Color Profiles [Page 40i]
    • Inside the ITASS Van: Equipment and Operations
  • Chapter 8: 1971: The First Full Year of ITASS Operations
    • Intelligence Situation
    • Off They Go
    • Soviet Submarines Assigned to the Fifth Eskadra in 1971 [Table 2]
  • Chapter 9: 1972 – 1973: From Zenith to Nadir
    • Intelligence Situation
    • Off They Go Again
    • Soviet Submarines Assigned to the Fifth Eskadra in 1972 [Table 3]
    • Courtney Verseus Leningrad[Page 55]
    • Soviet Submarines Assigned to the Fifth Eskadra in 1973 [Table 4]
    • Soviets Kicked Out of Egypt: Fifth Eskada Capability Degraded
    • 1973: Worn Out
    • Intelligence Situation
    • Off They Go For The Last Time
  • Chapter 10: Continued Development
    • TACTAS
    • TACTAS Evolved From The Towed Array Surveillance System – TASS [Page 67]
  • Chapter 11: Legacy
  • Bibliography
  • Notes

Modeling wise, the USS Courtney [DE-1021] is available from Iron Shipwrights in 1/350 scale. Niko Model offers a 1/700 scale USS Dealey Class destroyer escort released as the USS Cromwell [DE-1014]. The Soviet Foxtrot diesel submarines are available from OKB Grigorov and Admiralty Model Works in 1/700 scale while 1/350 scale has entries from MikroMir, Bilmodel, Ark Models, and Admiralty Model Works. OKB Grigorov has released a 1/700 scale Juliett Class submarine with Pit-Road and Polar Bear issuing kits in 1/350 scale. OKB Grigorov has also released a Charlie I class submarine in 1/700 with Polar Bear releasing it in 1/350 scale. Victor class submarines (I, II, and III) are available from OKB Grigorov in 1/700 along with Dragon releasing a Victor III. Polar Bear appears to be the only kit release of a Victor I and II in 1/350 scale. The Victor III is better populated in 1/350 with Polar Bear, OKB Grigorov, Modelist, Blue Water Navy, and HobbyBoss releasing kits.

I really enjoyed this book as I was not familiar with this subject previously. It is an easy read and I devoured it over two days. I really enjoyed John Rodgaard's inclusion of his personal perspective along with the other first person accounts.I found Paul Hewitt’s maps fascinating as they added to thedetail of ITASS operations covered by John Rodgaard. If you own one of the previous releases in the Europe @ War series, you know what you are getting. If this is your initial entry into this series, you will be quite pleased.

My thanks to Helion & Company, Casemate Publishing, and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.

Highly recommended!

Frank Landrus, IPMS# 35035


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