USS Scorpion Lost 40 Years On Eternal Patrol



In Remembrance of

those in the

Submarine Service 40 Years ago the USS Scorpion was due in Norfolk, VA. She never returned.

She is, as the veterans say, on Eternal Patrol.

John Howland at USNA-AT-LARGE has set up a group for the boat,

Dedicated to and in honor of the 99 U.S. Navy submariners who perished in the loss of SCORPION in May 1968. The 40th Anniversary of that tragedy …[is] (May 2008), yet the cause(s) of the loss remain a complete mystery.


USS Scorpion

40 Years on Eternal Patrol

This lack of clarity and closure has created a void into which charlatans now have full play in creating bogus theories for profit.

This unsatisfactory situation may result in the SCORPION 99 going into history forever at the mercy of the unscrupulous.

The solution that this group will work toward will be to encourage the U.S. Navy to, at the very least, put to rest the loss scenarios which have MINIMAL TO NO PROBABILITY of having actually occurred.

Your Business Blogger(R) wrote an article for National Review Online about those left behind from the loss of the USS Scorpion.

Five Days in May: The loss of the USS Scorpion.

By Jack Yoest

Yolanda Mazzuchi was about the prettiest girl in our school class. Our dads were in the Navy, often gone for months at a time. And they would be welcomed home at dockside with cheers and homemade signs. These gatherings at the D&S Piers at the Naval Base in Norfolk, Virginia, were a regular part of our lives growing up. Families often took children out of school to celebrate a ship’s homecoming.

At 1 in the afternoon on Monday, May 27, 1968, at the height of the Cold War the USS Scorpion was due in port.

Yolanda didn’t know it then, but her dad was already dead….


Thank you (foot)notes:

More from BubbleHead.

And read about the Loss of the Bonefish.

Your Business Blogger(R) of Management Training of DC, LLC, is a licensed agent for the William Oncken Corporation, presenters of Managing Management Time(TM) fondly known as Monkey Management.

Remember Me at the jump.

UPDATE 29 May 2008, John Howland reports on the background of the Scorpion loss — which deserves a wide audience:

USNA-At-Large, Stephen Johnson, the author of the ONLY legitimate recent book re the loss of SCORPION, elaborates on Robert Ballard’s trying to piggyback on the current 40th anniversary interest in SCORPION; note that apparently National Geographic has specials coming up on June 2 and 8 — watch your local listings —

In, “Stephen Johnson” wrote:

Recycling old stories is the favorite pastime of all forms of media.

Content is expensive so “re-gifting” is the order of the day.

I’ve been rather bemused by the recent excitement over Robert

Ballard’s desire to reignite interest in his “brand” by exploiting

his contractual work with the Navy on behalf of WHOI in overseeing

dives to the Scorpion and Thresher wreck sites that were actually

performed by Navy submersible pilots.

Everyone seems to be “discovering” for the third or fourth time

Ballard’s Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s assignment which was

originally revealed in 1993 when the Navy released tapes and still

images from the expedition. (This expedition was ostensibly done so

the Navy could conduct a radiological survey of the Scorpion and

Thresher wreck sites. No harmful radiation levels were found. It was

never designed as a full-blown wreck investigation.)

Ballard later told a scuba diving magazine the Navy had not yet

abandoned its dream of dumping reactors in the deep ocean and wanted

data to push this idea along — which everyone but the Navy

apparently thought was dead long ago, if Ballard’s comments are


I attempted to learn more, but Ballard decline to consent to an

interview during my efforts to research “Silent Steel,” asking

instead that I provide written questions beforehand before

saying “No” through an assistant.

Nevertheless, Ballard covers the details of the

Scorpion/Thresher/Titanic operations in his 1998 book “Explorations.”

Where is the beef, one might ask?

Given that National Geographic was uninterested in the disinterred

real facts on Scorpion, I am hardly surprised at this.

Ballard never personally dove on either the Scorpion or Thresher

sites. Since Ballard is a deep ocean geologist by training, I’m a bit

confused as to what role he could reliably play as an investigator

into the cause of the Scorpion’s loss since he was no more an expert

on its wreck than those of us who have seen the Navy video.

It should be pointed out that the images from the WHOI-run wreck

surveys were turned over to Submarine Structures chief Peter Palermo

in 1986 for analysis who reviewed them and saw nothing new except

some deformation on the open aft escape trunk hatch. (It would appear

that Woods Hole was not the organization selected for this task since

Palermo was one of the few with the credentials to view the data with

any hope of comprehending what he was looking at.) Palermo, of

course, was an original Court of Inquiry witness and the author of

the Phase II Structural Analysis Group report.

(One would think someone besides the ANT would have interviewed Mr.


It was my understanding that Ballard’s job was to serve as the

general supervisor of the effort which included building Jason Jr.

and assessing the system as a deep ocean intelligence asset. (Jason

Jr was built by WHOI.)

Mike DeLonga — a Navy ALVIN pilot and now a Navy physician — told

me the Jason Jr. swimming camera, used to photograph Scorpion and

Thresher, was designed to fit inside a 21-inch torpedo tube since at

least one shutter door and outer hatch door of the Scorpion were

(erroneously) believed to be open. (This false, and very expensive

misconception, was most likely generated by John Craven’s debunked

theory that Scorpion killed itself with its own MK-37 torpedo.)

Ballard has, in the past, quoted John Craven as the source

of “information” regarding the Scorpion. I thought it was Offley,

Preisler and Sewell.

I posted an image provided by DeLonga of the team above the Scorpion

wreck site in 1986. I include it below and believe Ballard is the

third person from the left, standing. The Navy pilots who dove on the

wrecks are in dark coveralls and uniforms. This is also posted on the

PHOTOS section at

The Jason Jr. system, soon overtaken by better and more refined

versions developed by the private sector, simply shot exterior images

of Scorpion and also made an unsuccessful attempt to enter the

Scorpion’s separated torpedo room but was blocked by plating crushed

by implosion forces that obstructed the watertight door in the


I can’t lay my hands on the book right now, but Ballard’s 10-year-old

book “Explorations” presents the basic facts behind the Scorpion and

Thresher survey efforts that were bookends to his discovery and

exploration of the RMS Titanic — a ship of no importance in terms of

the technical aspects of how it was lost. Ballard is rather upfront

about his desire to use the Navy’s technology to locate and

photograph Titanic.

In fact, Ballard narrated a National Geographic-funded documentary

project for Partisan Productions some years ago in which Scorpion

wreck finder Gordon Hamilton was interviewed. The video has the

Scorpion’s image on its cover. Hamilton was later informed “secrecy”

issues meant his interview wouldn’t be aired. I have no idea what

this means.

As always, it seems that any source familiar with the actual facts of

Scorpion’s loss and discovery is deleted from the mainstream media’s

view because Hamilton’s interview appears to be missing from this

documentary. (He is not thanked along with folks such as Norman

Polmar/Owen Cote and Peter Huchthausen). It was produced by Partisan

Pictures and information on the production entitled “SEA SPIES” can

be seen here:

As usual, there’s always a few extra details to the Scorpion story.

The latest National Geographic documentary will air 2 June.

I remain an amazed ANT who wonders when the general public will ever

break its hypnotic fixation on the unimportant and care about the

meaningful nuts-and-bolts of this tragedy.

Right now we have two fiction books Scorpion fighting for attention

while a one-time geologist is seeking TV airtime by recycling his

experiences as a contractor who ferried Navy dive pilots to the area

for surveys of the Scorpion and Thresher sites. Let’s not leave out

John Craven, of course.

One has to ask when the Navy’s four-star types are ever going to wake

up and go to bat for its reputation and for the legacy of the

Scorpion dead.

I suppose everyone is worried about getting a bit of career-stunting

mud on their dress whites.

Stephen Johnson

Covered in Mud As Usual

Author of Silent Steel


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3 Responses

  1. Chuck Kelly says:

    I was ‘out there’ when the Scorpion went down. I was a crew member of the USS John C. Calhoun SSBN 630 and remember well when we received the Sub Miss message concerning the Scorpion.

  2. Jack Yoest says:



    Sent: Tue, 12 May 2009 2:16 pm

    Subject: [SCORPION-99] Notification – USS Scorpion, SSN 589 Memorial Service

    An announcement from Art and MaryEtta Nolan:

    —–Original Message—–

    From: Art Nolan

    Sent: Tue, 12 May 2009 1:24 pm

    Subject: Notification – USS Scorpion, SSN 589 Memorial Service

    Dear Scorpion Family and Friends:

    MaryEtta and I have been notified by the Newport News, Virginia, Knights of Columbus, that they will be holding their annual USS Scorpion, SSN 589 Memorial Service on Sunday, May 24, 2009 at 2:00 PM next to the Virginia War Museum located in Newport News’ Huntington Park. This memorial service always includes the announcement and ringing of a ship’s bell for each of our lost loved ones. Representatives from the fast attack sub USS Norfolk will receive and commit the ceremonial wreath to sea.

    There will be a picnic at the memorial site to which all are invited immediately following the ceremony. If you are in the Norfolk/Newport News area during this time, please plan on attending this beautiful ceremony conducted for the 12th consecutive year by the Newport News Knights of Columbus. We are always grateful to Faithful Navigator John Edwards and his Knight of Columbus group for their patriotic remembrance to help ensure our lost crew is never forgotten.

    MaryEtta will be on her 2 weeks active duty at Portsmouth Navy Hospital during this time, so she will be attending. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call us at (518) 893-7695. We hope all our family and friends are doing well as Summertime approaches.


    Art & MaryEtta Nolan

    In honor of Wally Bishop, Chief of the Boat

  3. Ed WASHBURN says:

    I remember the SCORPION like it was yesterday. I can still see the skipper and crew on deck as they sent over their films via highline to our ship the USS BIGELOW (DD-942) the day before she went down. I was on the bridge of BIGELOW with our captain as I was his 1JV phone talker. I remember the two skippers waving to each other as the highline were pulled back aboard and SORPION slipped away from view.