Soviet submarine K-3 Leninsky Komsomol
К-3 was a project 627 "Кит" ("kit," meaning "whale
Whale is the common name for various marine mammals of the order Cetacea. The term whale sometimes refers to all cetaceans, but more often it excludes dolphins and porpoises, which belong to suborder Odontoceti . This suborder also includes the sperm whale, killer whale, pilot whale, and beluga...

"; NATO reporting name
NATO reporting name
NATO reporting names are classified code names for military equipment of the Eastern Bloc...

November class submarine
The Project 627 class submarine was the Soviet Union's first class of nuclear-powered submarines. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization used the standard radio communication phonetic alphabet to denote submarine classes...

") submarine of the Soviet Navy
Soviet Navy
The Soviet Navy was the naval arm of the Soviet Armed Forces. Often referred to as the Red Fleet, the Soviet Navy would have played an instrumental role in a Warsaw Pact war with NATO, where it would have attempted to prevent naval convoys from bringing reinforcements across the Atlantic Ocean...

's Northern Fleet, the first nuclear submarine of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. The vessel was prototyped in wood, with each of five segments scattered between five different locations about Leningrad
Leningrad is the former name of Saint Petersburg, Russia.Leningrad may also refer to:- Places :* Leningrad Oblast, a federal subject of Russia, around Saint Petersburg* Leningrad, Tajikistan, capital of Muminobod district in Khatlon Province...

, including the Astoria Hotel. She was built in Molotovsk, launched on August 9, 1957, commissioned in July 1958, and homeported at Zapadnaya Litsa
Zapadnaya Litsa
Zapadnaya Litsa is the largest and most important Russian naval base built for the Northern Fleet. The base is located far in the north of Russia, on the Litsa Fjord at the westernmost point of the Kola Peninsula...

 on the Kola Peninsula
Kola Peninsula
The Kola Peninsula is a peninsula in the far northwest of Russia. Constituting the bulk of the territory of Murmansk Oblast, it lies almost completely to the north of the Arctic Circle and is washed by the Barents Sea in the north and the White Sea in the east and southeast...

. K-3 was designed by Vladimir Peregoudov. Her initial captain was Leonid Osipenko, and the executive officer
Executive officer
An executive officer is generally a person responsible for running an organization, although the exact nature of the role varies depending on the organization.-Administrative law:...

 was Lev Zhiltsov
Lev Zhiltsov
Lev Mikhailovich Zhiltsov was a Soviet Navy submarine commander and Admiral of the Cold War...

, who had the important task of assembling the first crew.

Arctic voyage

On June 17, 1962, by this time under the command of Zhiltsov, К-3 reached the North Pole
North Pole
The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is, subject to the caveats explained below, defined as the point in the northern hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface...

 underwater, a feat performed nearly four years earlier by USS Nautilus
USS Nautilus (SSN-571)
USS Nautilus is the world's first operational nuclear-powered submarine. She was the first vessel to complete a submerged transit beneath the North Pole on August 3, 1958...

. For this feat, she was awarded the name Leninskiy Komsomol (Ленинский Комсомол) on October 9, 1962, and her crew, rather than training in military operations, began taking part in many congresses and conferences. This idle life continued until the summer of 1967 when a boat that had been scheduled for patrol in the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 was unavailable. К-3 was tasked with that patrol. She was assigned a new commander, Captain Second Rank Stepanov, and her executive officer arrived aboard only two hours before she put to sea. Whatever the initial material condition of the boat, the crew was not ready for sea. By the time they reached the Mediterranean, the air regeneration system had failed and the temperature on board was 35°-40°C (95°-104°F).

Once in the Mediterranean, К-3 was given the mission of following an American ballistic missile submarine, which she was unable to do. The boat was ordered to return to base.

1967 accident

On September 8, 1967, while transiting the Norwegian Sea
Norwegian Sea
The Norwegian Sea is a marginal sea in the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of Norway. It is located between the North Sea and the Greenland Sea and adjoins the North Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Barents Sea to the northeast. In the southwest, it is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a...

, a fire broke out in the submarine's hydraulic system, and crew members in the compartment when the fire broke out had to evacuate the compartment. The flames spread to other parts of the submarine. The automatic extinguishers were based on carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 gas, which killed the crew members who were in the first and second compartments in the submarine. When the dividing door in the bulkhead from the third compartment was opened to see what had happened to the people in the second compartment, the gas spread, and more people lost consciousness. The forward compartments were then completely sealed off, and the submarine surfaced. Four days later, К-3 returned to base. A total of 39 crew members died in the fire.

The subsequent investigation determined that the most probable cause of the fire was ignition of an explosive concentration of hydraulic oil, and that the reactions of the crew were prompt and correct. Numerous rewards were recommended for the crew, including seven nominations for Hero of Soviet Union -- four of them posthumous. A later commission from Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

, however, found a cigarette lighter in the torpedo compartment and found the position of a sailor's body suspicious. They ruled that the sailor's smoking had caused the fire and prohibited any award.

In 1991 a memorial was erected in Zapadnaya Litsa
Zapadnaya Litsa
Zapadnaya Litsa is the largest and most important Russian naval base built for the Northern Fleet. The base is located far in the north of Russia, on the Litsa Fjord at the westernmost point of the Kola Peninsula...

to the men lost aboard К-3.
In 2007 the Russian Awards Committee (Российский наградной комитет) issued the medal "For 50 Years Of The Submarine "Leninskiy Komsomol"".

External links

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