Academy Thesis Aided Bestseller

Research By Officer Used In 'Red October'

October 16, 1991|By Michael R. Driscoll | Michael R. Driscoll,Staff writer

It would seem that success can be measured in different ways.

When insurance agent-turned-author Tom Clancy wrote a story about the successful mutiny and defection of a Soviet missile submarine called "The Hunt for Red October" in 1984, it made him a highly popular author.

When Navy Lt. Gregory D. Young wrote a graduate thesis in 1982 onthe 1975 mutiny and attempted defection of a Soviet anti-submarine vessel that helped inspire Clancy, it earned him credit toward a master's degree in national security affairs.

While Clancy is famous for writing a string of bestsellers and the would-be owner of a future National Football League franchise in Baltimore, Young, now a commander, continues a 17-year Navy career that now has him teaching political science at the Naval Academy.

After a varied naval career that has taken him as far afield as the Philippines and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, Young acknowledges Clancy's skill in gathering documents to complete the "Red October" project -- including Young's thesisfrom the academy's library.

"He's obviously a first-rate researcher and an excellent writer and has the ability to know who to talk to, to get the information he needs," said Young, who advised Clancy onportions of another book, "Red Storm Rising."

Clancy, who has always credited Young as a valued source of information, described his discovery of the thesis as "really accidental. I found this monograph about the ship (during my research). I called the U.S. Naval Institute to ask about it, and my contact there, Marty Callahan, had a copy on his desk."

Clancy said his book was "always going to be about a submarine, but the concept (of Young's work) was based on the frigate, and that monograph was one of my best sources for information on the Soviet Navy."

Clancy described Young as "very knowledgeable and a hell of a nice guy."

The commander, based in the Philippines at the time the book was written, received a letter from Clancy, asking if he could use the material. Young was appreciative of the courtesy,noting his paper is in the public domain and not protected by copyright.

Coincidentally, Young served for a time as a flight officer with a detachment of P-3 Orion reconnaissance aircraft -- the kind that help hunt Soviet submarines -- based on Diego Garcia.

He remembers the experience fondly.

"The nice thing about the P-3s is that we were in the business of finding and tracking submarines, and the satisfying part is that we were able to do that," Young said. "It's notlike we were training for wartime -- we could go out and track Soviet submarines in peacetime."

Young wrote his "Red October" paper early in his career during a tour at the Naval postgraduate school. Hisintent was to "research problems in morale and dissent among the Soviet armed forces."

"At that time, there was a real move to measuremilitary capability, based on the things you could punch into a computer, and I felt there were other factors (such as) training and morale. I felt those things were much more important, and I began to lookat those non-quantifiable factors, but in doing so, I uncovered the mutiny."

Young found the story in 1981, during the preparation of his theses, in a collection of materials translated by a unit of the Navy that collects information of possible Naval interest from the foreign press. It was a brief article about the mutiny, written by a Swedish journalist.

Initially, Young said, "I had access to certain classified reports of this incident, but I decided that if my mother couldn't read it, what good was it. So I got rid of all that and worked from the emigre network to keep it unclassified."

By placing ads in several Russian-language newspapers, Young gradually managed to put most of the story together. Other sources included the Hoover Institute at Stanford University and various "underground documents."

The ship was the Storozhevoy, an anti-submarine destroyer of the Soviet Navy's Baltic Fleet. Young was intrigued with

the fact that the ship's political officer, Captain 3rd Rank V. M. Sablin, led the mutiny.

"This situation was probably very unique. You wonder how someone with his lack of commitment could get to that position. (But) hewas the son of an Army colonel and the descendant of a famous revolutionary from the Czarist times."

The mutiny took place in the midst of celebrations of the 58th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, when most of the crew was ashore. Sablin locked up the captain and others who did not wish to leave and headed for Sweden.

The Storozhevoy was fairly close to Swedish waters by the time a disbelieving Soviet military was able to intercept it. In the process, an estimated35 sailors on a similar-looking vessel in pursuit were killed when they were accidentally attacked by Soviet planes.

The ship was captured 30 miles from the Swedish island of Gotland. Sablin and several defectors were executed. The Storozhevoy was sent to the Pacific witha new crew.

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