USS Scorpion Lost: A Remembrance 2009
Each year in May Your Business Blogger(R) remembers the Cold War loss of submarine Scorpion. We are so lucky to have such brave men. And their families.
Our prayer is that our current Commander-in-Chief would know the culture of our warriors.
In Remembrance of
those in the
Submarine Service Some 40 Years ago the USS Scorpion was due in my hometown, Norfolk, VA. She never returned.
She is, as the veterans say, on Eternal Patrol.
Your Business Blogger(R) wrote an article for National Review Online about those left behind from 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….
Continue reading here.
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.
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.
Thank you (foot)notes:
Follow Jack and Charmaine on Twitter: @JackYoest and @CharmaineYoest
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 4 August 2009 from John Howland,
Sent: Tue, Aug 4, 2009 2:33 pm
Subject: [SCORPION-99] COMSUBLANT, N87 and the Proceedings
Bruce Rule sends —
As I may have mentioned previously to some, the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) finally acknowledged three weeks ago that, after 12-years, they terminated my contract as their Scientific and Technical Consultant on Acoustics in Nov 08 not because of a lack of funds (their excuse at the time) but because I would not give them the only good SCORPION tape so they could, by their own admission in Oct 08, classify the tape and control all analytical results.
Even though the analysis of that tape now has been widely disseminated in the public sector in the form of two letters written – without response – to OPNAV N87, COMSUBLANT (a thank you letter) and the Naval History and Heritage Command (no response), OPNAV N87’s desire to get the tape was still a lever to exert pressure on that activity to make a public statement on SCORPION.
Well, N87 now has a copy of the tape by apparently pressuring an activity that was providing processing support and has given the tape to ONI for analysis and comparison with the content of the two letters.
In his thank you letter of 11 May 2009, COMSUBLANT stated (quote) My point of contact is OPNAV N87. We continue to make significant progress and I appreciate your continued interest in this subject (SCORPION) (unquote).
What COMSUBLANT seems to be unaware of is that N87 is the problem, not the solution to the SCORPION issue. It also appears probable that the significant progress to which the Admiral refers will be (quote) another stack of paper with 50-percent backed out (unquote), that Erich stated in not the way to go.
Not only is not the way to go, It can only fuel the fires of speculation about SCORPION by providing the Sewells, Offleys and Preislers of the world with more information they do not understand but which they can distort to their own ends.
To effectively redact (black-out) SCORPION documents for public release, those assigned the task must know at least as much as those who wrote the documents. When the NOL and SAG Reports were redacted for public release (early 1990s?), those who did the sanitization were completely unqualified. I was able to reconstruct almost everything they sought to remove because they did not
understand the relationships among the values in the reports.
The classic example was their removal of the frequency values of the bubble-pulse signals produce by the collapse of the forward torpedo room and the two escape trunks when the USS STERLET (SS-392) was intentionally sunk. They left the period of these signals which were the reciprocals of the bubble-pulse frequencies.
COMSUBLANT8 0s on-going (as of 11 May 09) plan is to use reserves to sanitize additiona l SCORPION material. As of that date, the effort had required about 1000 manhours and was only one-fourth complete. So, here comes the stack of paper to which Erich referred. Forty-one years and the Navy has learned zero about their obligation to the SCORPION families and how to handle the issue.
On the positive side, the U.S. Naval Institute magazine PROCEEDINGS (USNIP) now has published two SCORPION analysis summaries I wrote in the COMMENT & DISCUSSION section of the July and August 2009 issues.
At last we have the results of the acoustic analysis published in a widely respected and widely read journal. I encourage those who subscribe to the USNIP to scan these items and post them on this site.
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 USS_Scorpion_SSNemail@example.com, “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
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
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
I suppose everyone is worried about getting a bit of career-stunting
mud on their dress whites.
Covered in Mud As Usual
Author of Silent Steel