Huchthausen, Peter 1939-
HUCHTHAUSEN, Peter 1939-
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Viking Press, 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014.
(With Nguyen Thi Lung) Echoes of the Mekong, Nautical and Aviation Publishing Co. of America (Baltimore, MD), 1996.
(With Igor Kurdin and R. Alan White) Hostile Waters, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Frye Island: Maine's Newest Town, a History, 1748-1998, Heritage Books (Bowie, MD), 1998.
K-19: The Widowmaker: The Secret Story of the Soviet Nuclear Submarine, National Geographic Books (Washington, DC), 2002.
October Fury, John Wiley & Sons (Hoboken, NJ), 2002.
America's "Splendid" Little Wars: A Short History of U.S. Military Engagements, 1975-2000, Viking (New York, NY), 2003.
A retired naval officer and Vietnam veteran, Peter Huchthausen also served as an attaché in various East European capitals, where he met a number of his Russian counterparts in one of the most dramatic Soviet-American confrontations, the Cuban Missile Crisis. Since retirement from the navy, he has drawn on his military and diplomatic experiences to write about some dramatic incidents in Cold War history, including the sinking of the Soviet submarine, K-19.
Five years after graduating from the Naval Academy, Huchthausen found himself commanding a riverboat on the Mekong in Vietnam. On one patrol he and his crew rescued a wounded ten-year-old girl, Nguyen Thi Lung. The crew adopted her, paying for her health care and then her schooling, but eventually they lost touch with her. Many years later, Nguyen was able to get in touch with Huchthausen and, under his sponsorship, arrange to immigrate to the U.S. The two collaborated on Echoes of the Mekong, "a small gem of a dual memoir in which [Huchthausen and Lung] tell amazing, intersecting tales of war and peace," in the words of a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Huchthausen took part in some of the most fearsome fighting, including the American response to the catastrophic Tet Offensive. Lung survived the war, only to face constant threats from vengeful North Vietnamese eager to hunt down an American "collaborator." "The key to this book's freshness is the respective naiveté of its main characters. In the end, the two seem to have retained something of their innocence despite all their fearful experiences—a characteristic somewhat unusual in personal narratives about this tragic war," noted Naval War College Review contributor Robert Shenk.
Huchthausen followed up with another interesting collaboration, this time with Soviet naval officer Igor Kurdin and thriller writer R. Alan White. They tell the story of K-219 in Hostile Waters, "a riveting account … of a hell-and-high-water incident toward the Cold War's end, in which a missile-bearing Soviet submarine sank within a few hundred miles of North Carolina," in the words of a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Suffering the usual bad maintenance of late-Soviet-era, the nuclear submarine K-219 still patrolled the Atlantic coast of the U.S. After one of the missile silos springs a leak, Soviet Captain Igor Britanov faces lethal gas, the loss of both of his reactors, and a fire belowdecks. Moscow wants him to salvage the sub, risking an explosion that would have flooded the East Coast with deadly radiation. Instead, he scuttles his sub, under the watchful eyes of the U.S. Navy. Drawing on interviews, declassified documents, and their own naval experiences, the authors tell the story of this dramatic incident, and the subsequent court martial of the officers. "Captain Britanov and the men of K-219 emerge from these exciting, occasionally melodramatic, pages as legitimate heroes in a real-life struggle with the sea, their superiors, and their system," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. The book became the basis for an HBO movie in the summer of 1997.
A few years later, Peter Huchthausen served as technical advisor on K-19: The Widowmaker, a major motion picture depicting the tale of another doomed Soviet submarine, this one at the height of the Cold War in 1961. Huchthausen's companion book, K-19: The Widowmaker: The Secret Story of the Soviet Nuclear Submarine, again tells the dramatic tale of submarine crew struggling to fend off a meltdown that could set off a world war, in the face of dangerous interference from Moscow. "This well-researched and-written book tells a captivating story that could not have been told a few years ago," wrote Library Journal reviewer Mark Ellis.
Huchthausen has established a reputation as a careful researcher and interviewer in bringing to life two Soviet submarine accidents that might have set off a world war. But he himself was a participant in one of the Cold War's most dramatic, and dangerous, incidents—the Cuban Missile Crisis. While a great deal has been written about the Kennedy-Kruschev standoff, most of these accounts focus on the politicians and the diplomats. October Fury tells the story of the actual participants in Kennedy's blockade of Cuba—the sailors. Based on an antisubmarine destroyer, Huchthausen experienced and recounts all the tension of a force trying to prevent the Russians from getting through, while avoiding any incident that would set off open war. And once again, he draws on the recollections of Soviet submariners to provide a view from below the waves, including Soviet officers who were authorized to launch nuclear-tipped missiles if necessary. "Huchthausen succeeds admirably in portraying sympathetically the sailors who would have been the first to die if war had been declared," concluded Library Journal reviewer Karl Helicher.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 2003, Roland Green, review of America's "Splendid" Little Wars: A Short History of U.S. Military Engagements, 1975-2000, p. 1859.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 1995, review of Echoes of the Mekong, p. 1683, June 15, 1997, review of Hostile Waters, p. 928; May 15, 2003, review of America's "Splendid" Little Wars, p. 729.
Library Journal, September 15, 2002, Mark Ellis, review of K-19: The Widowmaker, p. 76, September 15, 2002, Karl Helicher, review of October Fury, p. 76; July, 2003, Mark E. Ellis, review of America's "Splendid" Little Wars, p. 103.
Naval War College Review, autumn, 1998, Robert Shenk, review of Echoes of the Mekong, pp. 138-139.
Publishers Weekly, July 14, 1997, review of Hostile Waters, p. 76; May 26, 2003, review of America's "Splendid" Little Wars, p. 63.*