“Blind Man’s Bluff”, subtitled “The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage”, is written by both Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew. The audiobook edition is performed by George Wilson. The book has become a New York Times Bestseller upon its release and let me say that I can understand why after listening. If you are someone who grew up during the Cold War, or if you enjoy books with submarines, or if you are a person who likes a good Clancy spy novel, you will want to pick up a copy of this audiobook; it is fascinating. Consisting of nearly sixteen hours of action-packed and factual events from history, this book is well worth the Audible credit and your listening time. I have heard rumors and bits of many of these various submarine missions, but the authors of the book bring history to life and fill in many of the gaps in stories available elsewhere. Nowhere have I found a book that covers so much of what was kept secret for such a long period of time; much of it is still classified as Top Secret. Things we will never know and may never want to know.
What I found intriguing was all the amazing men (the Navy’s submariner program was mostly men during this time in history) who risked their lives to collect intelligence on our perceived enemy threats. I was also amazed how much the program expanded from not only leveraging this technology against the Russians, but also other countries we felt were hostile to the United States; and even a few of our allies. It was interesting to see how quickly a program could be developed and that it took so long for people to realize the potential of these “tin cans of death” under the cover of the seas. Not only did we want to build bigger, faster, and quieter submarine technology, we also wanted vessels that could be used to tap underwater communication cables without the other side knowing. All of this clandestine activity needed to be done via the highest level of secrecy while also attempting to build defenses around our own infrastructure preventing others from doing the same to us.
All of the technology and missions were what captivated me the most about this book, yet there was also such well researched material around the various programs, funding, and quite a bit of internal feuding to ultimately see who would get the credit when all of this rolled up to the higher-ups in government. The authors did an exceptional job of not just telling us about the missions, or what could be the more interesting parts, but instead gave us the whole story even when some of it was not all that pretty and people lost their lives. The book goes beyond covering the cable wire taping program that many are familiar with, it also dives into the many cat and mouse games played between the Russians and Americans at the heat of the cold war. It covers the multitude of near misses while the two countries played these games with one another. And, as most have been told by their mothers while young, it is all fun until some gets hurt. This book details what might have been at the heart of the loss of the USS Scorpion which failed to return to port at its assigned time.
The ability of the authors to research and catalogue so much about this program from papers requested via the freedom of information act, interviewing people who were there on the missions, and also from records found from the other side which gave a very different view of what we believe happened. I feel the book only exposes the tip of the iceberg, yet there is so much we will never know about this program.
For me, the book’s narration by George Wilson could have been more professionally recorded or edited prior to being made available on Audible. Overall the narration was decent, yet there were a few times where there were some noticeable volume inconstancies and a few times I could hear background noise. Nothing that would keep me from listening and being engaged with such a powerful story. The narration was not terrible, yet for those who like their narration and audio error free, just be aware there are a few spots if you pick up this book.
For parents and younger readers. This book does have a few places where profanity is used but is only used when the authors are quoting someone. It could have been beeped out, but the authors instead decided to leave quotes unedited, so be aware that there are a few places strong language is used and quite heavy at times. Being this book is a military piece of non-fiction, there are also some quite graphic events covered in the material, however these are factual events and the book does not contain anything that excessive.
In summary, the book was a fascinating piece that brought me into the historic events of cold war and the importance of information during these times. One needs to remember, this was pre-Internet and government hacking. All of these missions required men and women to put their lives as risk in the hope that the information gathered would keep you and I safe from future attack. If you are looking for a piece of engrossing non-fiction and you like to see the world of spies and submarines, I highly recommend you pick up “Blind Man’s Bluff” and give it a listen.