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204. Memorandum to the Chairman of the 40 Committee1


  • Project MATADOR


  • –0188/75(R), Same Subject dated 19 May 19752

1. This memorandum requests 40 Committee direction on initiation of the Project MATADOR mission as stated below. It amplifies the information provided in the reference.

2. Mission Readiness. The HUGHES GLOMAR EXPLORER (HGE) should be ready to depart Long Beach, California, on or about 4 July 1975. Based on this departure date, arrival at the mission site would be about 18 July. On site duration is estimated to be about 30 days. Schedule details and mission track are shown in Tab I.3

3. Intelligence Value. The target of Project MATADOR is the [less than 1 line not declassified] section of the G–722 submarine hull. Assessment by the Ad Hoc Committee of the United States Intelligence Board is contained in Tab II.4 The Committee’s conclusions, dated 11 November 1974, are as follows:

“a. There are items of high intelligence value in the new debris field that are potentially recoverable.”

“b. [less than 1 line not declassified] likely to contain items of highest intelligence value including [less than 1 line not declassified]

“The Committee recommends that this section be accorded priority if recovery of either hull section is attempted.”

A non-concurring comment by the State Department member,5 questioning the overall gain from a second mission, is included in Tab II.

4. Mission. Salient aspects of the planning include:

a. Command and Control. As during the first mission, [4 lines not declassified] with authority for specific control of mission operations delegated to the Director, Program B of the Central Intelligence Agency [Page 918](CIA). The Mission Director is the senior U. S. Government command authority embarked in tactical command of operations. Avoidance of a confrontation with the Soviets is a basic instruction to the Mission Director. Secure communications exist between the MATADOR Command and Control Center [1 line not declassified] and the ship.

b. Contingencies. Contingency plans provide for a shift of ashore command and control to Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT), in concert with higher authority, should the situation warrant. Throughout the mission the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Joint Reconnaissance Center, in addition to CINCPACFLT, will be following mission progress closely. Contingency plans are set forth in Tabs III–A and III–B.6

c. Crew Remains. Handling and disposition of any crew remains found in the target will be dignified and generally as provided for in the 1949 Geneva Convention, following procedures similar to those of the first mission (see Tab IV).

d. [1 paragraph (8 lines) not declassified]

e. Selections from the Mission Operations Plan are in Tab V.

5. Cover Status. Media disclosures7 have detailed the previous mission, rendering the deep ocean mining cover transparent (Tab VI). The U. S. Government position of “no comment” on these disclosures has achieved the objective of not forcing an official Soviet reaction on this subject. Known unofficial responses are included in Tab VI, paragraph 3.b. Based on the lack of an official Soviet public protest to date, it is believed that maintenance of the DOMP facade is the most effective course of action for a second mission. Therefore, the mission is arranged to proceed again under the guise of tests of ocean mining equipment, with communications between ship and shore programmed accordingly. While the true nature of MATADOR recovery operations will not be physically obvious under normal surveillance, it must be recognized that the Soviets will no longer view the ship merely as an ocean mining vessel, but as a U.S. asset involved in covert salvage or diversionary operations. A Soviet tug has been on station in the recovery area since late March 1975. See Tab VI, paragraph 3.c.

6. Soviet Reaction to MATADOR. Analysis of potential reactions is given in Tab VII–A. It is believed probable the Soviets would go to great lengths to prevent a second mission, with reactions ranging from a private diplomatic approach to physical interference. Possible countermoves, including U.S. Navy presence, are also addressed.

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The HGE is vulnerable to physical harassment by another ship (Tab VII–B).

Since the MATADOR Project continues to be under press scrutiny, further provocative world-wide publicity could occur vis-à-vis a second mission attempt. This in itself may tend to harden Soviet resolve to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent recovery.

7. Since the MATADOR mission is expected to evoke Soviet protest or physical harassment, a decision is required on whether or not the mission should be undertaken.

8. Although the 1975 weather window would allow departure from Long Beach as late as 30 July, experience with weather holds suggests the prudence of getting as early a start as possible. If the Committee approves the MATADOR mission, departure on or about 4 July is a strong preference.

  1. Source: National Security Council Files, Ford Administration Intelligence Files, MATADOR, 1975. Top Secret; [codeword not declassified]; MATADOR.
  2. Document 203.
  3. Attached, but not printed.
  4. Document 191.
  5. See Document 192.
  6. Tabs III–V are attached, but not printed. Tabs VI and VII are printed as Document 202.
  7. See footnote 2, Document 197.