On October 16, a great mushroom cloud had been spotted towering over the remote Chinese missile-testing range at Lop Nur.
Operation Hat began shortly after China's first nuclear bomb test in 1964. The US CIA, with the cooperation of the Indian government, planned an expedition to the Himalayas to plant a nuclear-powered monitoring station on the summit of 26,600-ft-high Nanda Devi, from where it would eavesdrop on the Chinese nuclear test program in over-the-border Xinjiang Province.
In 1962, China defeated Indian Army because of Indian Politicians who never understood China and foolishly ignored rising power of China and Development of Indian Arm Forces.
China was preparing and testing a nuclear device, which created fear in the minds of Indian intelligence agencies and American intelligence agencies.
After this India and USA decided to jointly keep watch on the china and signed a secret pact to work together and keep close watch on the activities of the China.
Operation Hat began shortly after China's first nuclear bomb test in LOP NUR Xinjiang Province.
Somewhere on this mountain, Nanda Devi, a CIA surveillance device is buried.
The result was Operation Hat - But Operation Hat Failed.
During 1965 to 1967, a second detecting device was successfully placed on a lower adjacent mountain, Nanda Kot mountain.
Nanda Devi is one of the tallest mountains of the imposing Himalayan mountain range.
It offers an unobstructed view of China’s distant test site.
Two villages, Lata and Reini, are the highest inhabited points on Lata Kharak; above them no human beings or tamed animals are to be found.
Further still lays the mighty Nanda Devi, India’s second highest peak, towering overhead at 7,816 metres above sea level.
The Agency recruited several top US civilian climbers who, together with four of India's best climbers from the 1962 Everest expedition, formed the cadre of the ill-fated Operation Hat. Far from succeeding in eavesdropping on the top-secret Lop Nor nuclear test site, Operation Hat was destined to threaten one of the world's great rivers with plutonium contamination.
The US climbers and their Indian colleagues set out up the south face of Nanda Devi in the autumn of 1965. A squad of porters carried the disassembled monitoring station, together with its SNAP power pack, on their backs. The SNAP - Space Nuclear Auxiliary Power - generator was a nuclear battery originally developed for the American civil and military space programs.Shaped like a cone, SNAP was fuelled by between one and eight pounds of plutonium, was small enough to be carried by one man, and would power the monitoring station until its task was completed. The CIA would then send a second expedition to retrieve the station, SNAP and all.
Operation Hat ran into the first of its many difficulties when the expedition encountered severe weather and rock conditions. 2,000 ft from Nanda Devi's summit, the climbers decided to turn back, but not before they'd cached the monitoring station which would await their return - when conditions improved.
The Operation Hat climbers ventured back up Nanda Devi in the spring of 1966, but were dumbfounded to discover that a winter avalanche had swept the spy station from the mountainside. The vital SNAP generator, and its plutonium, were now entombed under a mound of rock and snow the size of a Giza pyramid. The CIA and its Indian government partner were in a quandary. The southern slope of Nanda Devi, where SNAP lay buried, is a major source of headwater for the Ganges, the sacred river of 500 million Hindus. A holy bathing place for pilgrims was just a few km downstream from the SNAP site. If SNAP were to break open under the weight of the avalanche, there was a real risk that the hallowed waters of the Ganges would be polluted with deadly plutonium, and both the Agency and the Indian government would face the wrath of millions of people.
Over the next two years, expeditions to locate and recover SNAP returned empty-handed. Eventually, after water sampling of the Ganges revealed no contamination, the decision was made to abandon SNAP in the hope that it would remain intact and that Operation Hat would remain a secret.
The secret of the lost SNAP was kept until May 1978 when the US journalist Howard Kohn revealed the existence of Operation Hat in Outside magazine. In a masterly-worded nonstatement to the Indian Parliament, Prime Minister Morarji Desai tried to defuse the danger of SNAP: 'The indirect evidence so far is that the safety precautions built into the nuclear-fuelled power pack may be as effective as has been claimed and, if so, pollution effects may not take place in the future.'(The Times, 18.4.78.)
In 1967, Operation Hat finally scored a success. A second SNAP- powered spy station was placed on, and eventually retrieved from, the slopes of nearby Nanda Kot mountain. The first SNAP is still there, entombed under thousands of tons of rubble. Many nuclear experts disagree with Morarjii Desai. They say that the SNAP generator will eventually corrode and disintegrate, releasing plutonium into the headwaters of one of the world's great rivers.
Plutonium device included
1) A 17-kilogram nuclear assembly
2) Five kilograms of plutonium 238 and 239 that powered the nuclear device
Six Kilogram of Plutonium was used by the atomic bomb, which destroyed, which was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.
What was the mission –
The climbers would carry five loads to the summit of Kanchenjunga, the world’s third-highest peak at an elevation of 8,579 metres.
The cargo included the assemblies for a communication interpreter and an accompanying generator. Both would be installed at the peak.
Five Loads = 125 Pounds
The interpreter and the generator:
the sensor had four transceivers to relay information to a base station elsewhere in India, and a six-foot-tall antenna to collect data from the Chinese test site.
The generator, known as SNAP 19C—System for Nuclear Auxiliary Power—converted radioactive heat into electricity.
SNAP 19C was not a bomb , to explode a bomb needs trigger which was not present in the SNAP 19c.
But it was powered by radioactivity, radiation is toxic for humans as well as animals.
SNAP 19C had five elements:
1) A hot fuel block
2) Radioactive fuel capsules placed in its core
3) Thermoelectric generators mounted around it
4) Insulation material
5) The block’s outer casing
The only extant account of the device is found in the 94-page scientific study commissioned by Prime Minister Morarji Desai.
In the report, nine pages are spent describing the device:
The fuel, an alloy of Plutonium and Strontium—Pu-238, Pu-239, and Sr-90—was divided in seven capsules.
Each capsule had an inner cladding of tantalum (0.5mm thick) with sufficient void space for accumulation of helium gas, the gas emitted on radioactive decay.
The heavy-walled outer cladding of the capsule was of a 2.5 mm thick alloy—Haynes-25, which is composed of cobalt, nickel, chromium and tungsten, and possesses high temperature and corrosion resistant properties as well as high structural strength.
The fuel capsules were installed in a hexagonal graphite block along with other accessories like thermocouples, thermal insulation material etc.
Manmohan Singh Kohli, a Navy commander assigned to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), was the expedition’s leader.
With him were four officers from the IB:
1) Harish Rawat
2) Sonam Wangyal
3) Gurcharan Singh Bhangu
4) Sonam Gyats
all were well-trained mountaineers, and winners of the Arjuna award, India’s highest recognition in sports.
Bill McKniff a CIA officer was stationed at a base camp on Nanda Devi. Three American mountaineers were hired by the CIA to accompany the Indian team.
The two teams were formed consisting of
1) An army of porters and Sherpa’s
2) Twin teams of mountaineers
3) Nuclear experts
4) Intelligence officers
5) Signal experts
Thirty-three Bhotia men from Lata and Reini were hired for the expedition; nine Sherpa’s, members of a tribe of elite mountaineers, were brought from Sikkim for their expertise in climbing glaciers.
At that time, Rameshwar Nath Kao was the director of the Aviation Research Centre (ARC), a branch of the IB, and reported to Bhola Nath Mullik, the first director of the IB after Independence.
Mullik and his CIA counterparts supervised the expedition from Washington and New Delhi.
Later Rameshwar Nath Kao, become the founding director of India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
Manmohan Singh Kohli was in daily radio contact with Rameshwar Nath Kao.
Kao told Kohli about the secret mission.
After that Indian team went to America in a special plane, escorted by CIA agents conversant in Hindi and Punjabi.
Indian Team spent 40 days in America getting training in 40 days in the US the CIA men did not leave Indian team.
The Indian climbers were taken to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, where they were briefed on the mission and conducted mountaineering drills on Mount McKinley, the highest peak on US soil.
The leader of the American team in Alaska was none other than Barry Bishop
First, it was decided to put nuclear device on Kanchenjunga, the world’s third-highest peak at an elevation of 8,579 metres.
But later it was decided to put device on Nanda Devi.
Barry Bishop mapping with a theodolite Photo (c) Barry Bishop & The Bishop Collection
The western peak, the higher of the two, is known as Nanda Devi, while its shorter sibling is usually called Nanda Devi East.
The climb from Lata village to the summit of Nanda Devi stretches over about 125 kilometres, and the teams had divided the distance into seven intervals:
from the sanctuary to the base camp, on from there to four more intermediate camps, and finally to the summit.
The porters from Lata and Reini carried the rations—purchased locally—to the base camp, and brought the five loads into which the sensor had been divided up to camp two.
From there to the summit, the critical equipment would be in the hands of the Sherpas.
It was decided that From the Nanda Devi base camp, Kohli would stay in radio contact with Mullik and Kao in Delhi.
On the ground, he would direct the climbers, porters and Sherpas, and decide what each one of them was to do at particular points of time.
Since Kohli was the expedition leader, the American climbers were also placed under him.
Names of American climbers to the Nanda Devi expedition:
1) Lute Jerstard
2) Tom Frost
3) Sandy Bill
The first American team to ascend Everest, several of whom would go on to mountaineer for the CIA. Dave Dingman, kneeling on left, was one of them.
Gordon Sleeper, the technician who had demonstrated the nuclear generator in Alaska, set up a relay station nearby to transmit the information gathered by the sensor to New Delhi and Washington.
The climbers made slow but steady progress between 24 September and the second week of October.
The climbing season was nearing its end
As winter began to fall, they battled against time.
By 16 October, snow was falling at a steady pace: visibility was dwindling, and the danger of an avalanche was serious
An IAF Alouette takes off under the shadow of the majestic Nanda Devi. IAF was involved during extraction from the Sanctuary. October 21, 1965.
Kohli informed the situation to New Delhi and got permission to stop the mission and to secure the generator and the sensor at camp four, so they didn’t have to carry them all over again next year.
six Sherpas found a suitable rock cavity.
Half the loads were sheltered there and the rest secured to the rock with nylon ropes.
After a full winter’s rest and lots of planning, Kohli’s team returned to Nanda Devi in early May 1966.
The plan was to climb back to camp four, unburdened by the loads; the team would pick up the equipment where it had been secured the previous year, and simply take it on the final ascent to the summit.
When the team reached the camp four where the loads were hidden, the team got shocked The loads were missing, and the rock to which they had been secured was gone as well. It was clear that an avalanche had swept away the rock—and the equipment—during the winter, leaving behind no trace of the generator.
After that next 2 years American and Indian government tried to search the nuclear device but in vain. They never found that.
After numerous searches were unable to locate the lost device on Nanda Devi, Robert Schaller climbed in the Himalayas again to install a similar device on the neighboring peak of Nanda Kot. The device, like the lost one, contains pu239.
The last search operation was in 1966-68, when the Americans and Indians conducted a panic-driven survey of the area around Nanda Devi.
From Indian side still it is not clear who sanctioned the Operation Hat.
In Month of May 1964 Nehru died.
In 1978 the outside magazine published, wrote about Operation Hat and its failure and it came into public domain.
After that Jyotirmoy Bosu, a communist Indian Parliamentarian asked the questions about this and Parliament devoted an hour on 17 April 1978 to debating the Nanda Devi expedition.
After one hour debate in Indian Parliament Morarji Desai signed the order to form a six-member scientific committee to investigate the events of 1965.
It was led by
1) Dr Atma Ram, Principal Scientific Adviser to the prime minister,
2) Homi Sethna, the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission who spearheaded India’s first atomic tests in 1974;
3) Prof MGK Menon, the Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister Director General of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO);
4) Dr Raja Ramanna, the director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), who also designed and installed several of India’s nuclear reactors;
5) Dr V Ramalingaswami, the Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research;
6) Dr AK Saha of the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics.
They were the six best Indian scientists in the nuclear and public health fields in that era.
Their 94-page report deconstructed SNAP 19C, its individual components and their half-lives, hazardous effects and accident conditions.
The committee report suggested that the possibility of an accident involving the missing generator was minimal, based on the partial details about SNAP 19C that were made available to the committee by US agencies,
The committee recommended to Indian government following
1) to periodically monitor the environment near Nanda Devi to detect any radioactive radiation in the air, water and soil
2) to develop new techniques for locating the device
The GANGES one of the largest rivers in the subcontinent, has many headstreams. And one of them, the Rishi Ganga, originates from the Nanda Devi glacier, not far from the village of Reini, where it is fed by melting ice and rain from the Nanda Devi sanctuary.
In 1967, Operation Hat finally scored a success. a group of climbers planted one below the summit of Nanda Kot, a 22,510-foot mountain nearby. It was buried in snow three months later and stopped working, although having gleaned enough data from Chinese tests to indicate — at the time — that Beijing didn’t yet have a long-range nuclear warhead.
But still one nuclear device is missing which is dangerous for everyone.
One of device is still missing,is it capable of a future disaster.
Now everyone should be able to understand why US embargoed Pakistan in 1965 war and also it why didn't it came to help in 1971 in spite of the fact that Pak helped US against USSR.This is one operation known to us but there are many more surveillance ops by both countries against china which we don't know.Both countries are jointly doing ELINT and SIGNIT ops in Indian Ocean and on McMahon line.For us worrying thing is that US may be spying on us and exchanging information with Indian about china by providing Intel on Pakistan.Today US is using actively India to spy on china.Pakistan should monitor closely US activities in Pakistan.
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