Fulton veteran recalls Cold War service

Served on nuclear submarine for surveillance missions

Many people in Fulton know Mike Speek as their kids’ former football or soccer coach, Callaway Nuclear Plant worker and Fastenal manager.

Less know him as EM1 (SS) Mike Speek, Cold War espionage agent for the Navy. During his tenure in the service, Speek served on a nuclear submarine tasked with keeping tabs on Soviet military activity.

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Mike Speek

The 61-year-old Fulton resident graduated from Kansas City’s Raytown South High School in 1969, and then joined ROTC at the University of Kansas at a time when Vietnam protests made military affiliation unpopular at colleges. The experience did not deter him from following his family’s footsteps in 1974.

“I was out for about 18 months, and I decided I wanted to get back in, because I felt a strong need,” he said. “My dad served for 41 years, and my grandfather and uncles all served as well, so it was something I felt like I wanted to do.”

Speek’s Navy training began in San Diego for boot camp and advanced electrical training before he went on to Mare Island near San Francisco and Idaho Falls, Idaho for instruction in nuclear reactor physics. Eventually he found himself in prototype training in an Idaho desert, learning how to run a live nuclear reactor. This experience led him to an assignment onboard the USS Bergall attack submarine in 1976.

Speek joined the Bergall’s crew at an exciting — and at times dangerous — time. The vessel soon deployed for Tunisia, where it received an assignment to tail a Soviet aircraft carrier that had just joined a fleet in the area.

The submarine was tasked with following the ship in its baffles — the wake of bubbles and turbulence behind a ship that would muffle the noise of the sub — and perform “under hull surveillance,” where a camera was attached to the Bergall’s periscope and used to monitor the ship’s speed and performance.

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