K19 Widowmaker - Summary

In this story behind the movie, K-19 Widowmaker, learn the history of nuclear energy and how its use in submarines is crucial to their ability to stay under the water’s surface for long stretches of time.

On July 4, 1961, the K-19, the Soviet Union’s first nuclear-powered submarine has completed naval exercises in the North Atlantic. On her way home, K-19, Captain Nikolai Vladimirovich Zateyev (Captain Alexei Vostrikov [Harrison Ford]), discovers three fatal flaws in his ship.

Study Albert Einstein’s theory of energy and mass, and discover its potential for creating large amounts of energy from small amounts of matter. Get an initial lesson on nuclear physics, Einstein’s letter to FDR regarding Germany’s discovery of fission, and the creation of the Manhattan Project that results in atomic bomb detonations at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Examine the race between America and Russia to install nuclear reactors in submarines that begins ten years after WWII. See how the rush to build so many submarines in Russia leads to the failures in K-19.

In eyewitness and written accounts, read about the K-19 accident, how it affects the submarine and the sailors who work hard to avoid a nuclear meltdown at the expense of their lives. It takes a number of men – officers and midshipmen – to correct the issue; all suffer radiation poisoning and many die. Read about the symptoms of radiation sickness and how many rems it takes to create damage to human tissue.

Part of the story includes a lucky accident: Captain Zateyev has seen a report that lists where nearby Soviet submarines are located; he finds one and is able to transfer the sickest sailors to the S-270 submarine. Once back in Russia, the crew is not able to say what really happened on the K-19, it is not until 1991 during the era of Glasnost that the true story is revealed.


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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jul 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: Jul 13, 2017

To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"K19 Widowmaker" AwesomeStories.com. Jul 01, 2002. Jan 19, 2020.
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