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Old 02-08-2020, 08:34 PM   #1
Bob Ballew
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Me, Howard Hughes and the CIA

..It was back in the early 70's. I had been commercial abalone diving all day and walked over from Cat Harbor on Catalina islands' backside to the Reef bar on the frontside. Stepping in the door, I noted 4 shifty looking guys sitting at a table and also noted, they were looking me over. I stared back in my best imitation of Clint Eastwood in, "Hang Em High" and sat down at the bar. They didn't seem impressed....
...Over the next few weeks, the island frontside became loud and noisy underwater. After diving for abs, I would frequently dive Ship Rock at sunset to pick off a stray sea bass or yellowtail. Now, there was a loud pounding sound of machinery underwater that carried a long way. The gamefish had all disappeared...Growing more irritated at the loss of my gamefish hotspot; one day, I followed the noise out into deeper water and the pounding grew louder. Curious, I started zig-zagging the Radon and using my fish finder to try and find the source.
... Shortly, a non-descript boat pulled along side, and guess who? The same four from the bar...One asked me, "What are you doing here"? Not liking his tone, I asked the same question of them. Not amused, one flinty eyed guy said, "This is a government closed zone and you need to leave". Now, I was smart enough to know that there are some people in life you don't want to mess with and this was one of those times.... Without questioning their authority, I turned the boat and departed....For years, I wondered about the four and what the racket was all about.
...In the 80's, I was talking to an islander in an Avalon bar and the subject came up. With some note of knowledge, he informed me it was a CIA operation to recover a Soviet sub lost in the Pacific in 1968 in order to determine if nukes were on board and to examine their technology. Howard Hughes had designed a ship and an underwater barge with cables for CIA and the pounding was from pile drivers on all four corners of the barge to anchor it to the sea bottom. They were off the Isthmus in deep water testing the gear to see if it would work out in 16,800 foot depths where they had located the sub. The cover story was that Hughes had designed a ship intended for underwater mining of minerals....Titled, "Project Azorian", the CIA pulled off the ruse and the 650-foot ship, called the "Hughes Glomar Explorer" went down in history as one of the most complex, expensive and secret intelligence operations of the Cold War...
...Never did find out if there were nukes on board the sub, although, one evening at the El Galleon bar in Avalon town, some drunk Navy officers advised me that one-half of the Russian sub was brought to the surface....Even today, no one is talking about the nukes... Me? I still haven't mastered the, "Hang Em High" look...
...

Last edited by Bob Ballew; 02-09-2020 at 05:30 PM.
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Old 02-09-2020, 11:21 AM   #2
Marcus
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Re: Me, Howard Hughes and the CIA

Cool story, Bob.
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Old 02-09-2020, 11:24 AM   #3
32Juan
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Re: Me, Howard Hughes and the CIA

It's pretty neat to hear the older locals talk about this event that happened here in my front yard. There is a movie that's on Amazon Prime (for free!) about it. Really interesting stuff.
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