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  • Writer's pictureBrian Powers

Episode 38 - In Extravagantly Plain Sight

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

No lie, I love this story. It's hard to get into, but the Howard Hughes-ness of this thing, the heist planning aspect, the CIA pulling off a caper of this magnitude where everything go wrong in an instant... This needs the Big Hollywood treatment.

I don't know if I quite landed the moment, but if you're thinking that maaaaybe the CIA didn't lose half the submarine after all, that's probably where the smart money is at. I mean, the story was pretty much out at that point and the cover was blown, so why not fess up to a half-truth and keep the good intel intact, even at the risk of raising Congressional ire and getting mud on the agency's face publicly? In fact, those things would only sell the lie even more, right?

At any rate, one thing that I did forget to include is the fact that the CIA didn't want to publicly lie about the operation, but they didn't want to tell the truth, either. They came up with a phrase to respond to questions over it - "we can neither confirm nor deny..." This would become a very familiar phrase employed by the agency, but this was its genesis.

Maybe the coolest thing is the submersible barge - the entire roof opened up like it was the flippin' AstroDome when it was UNDERWATER. They could transfer massive payloads in and out of the Glomar Explorer without detection. Genius. Oh, and this wasn't the last time the HMB-1 (Hughes Mining Barge) would be used for clandestine operations. When the U.S. Navy wanted to develop a radical new design and capabilities for a stealth ship, guess where they built and housed it? The HMB-1 is still in use today as a covered drydock. It can no longer fully submerge, but it still gets plenty of use.

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