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Old 05-22-2013, 08:47 AM
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45 years after the loss of the USS Scorpion 45 years after the loss of the USS Scorpion 45 years after the loss of the USS Scorpion 45 years after the loss of the USS Scorpion 45 years after the loss of the USS Scorpion  
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Default 45 years after the loss of the USS Scorpion

Today marks forty-five years since the loss of the USS Scorpion, a Skipjack class fast attack nuclear powered submarine with it's ninety nine brave crew members aboard. When I was in the USN, '69-'72, the scuttlebutt was she sank herself with a hot running torpedo in the tube. The truth is far worse.

At 1859 GMT (UTC), a Soviet Ka-25 ASW helo dropped an AT-2 (active sonar homing) ASW torpedo. It quickly acquired the Scorpion - and within a minute, detonated its 330lb warhead at the after edge of the sail/hull area. The wreckage displays this as a 'bite' taken there. In less than two minutes, the Scorpion was on the bottom of the ocean. This was to repay our supposed involvement in the loss of their diesel electric missle sub K-129 off the Hawaiian islands. In reality, a missle lit off in a silo, causing a fire and subsequent explosions that sank the K-129 with all hands. It's thermal print was noted by a NORAD satelite as it happened. Some days later, the Soviets noted another fast attack, USS Swordfish, with bent periscope, etc, entering Yokosuka for repairs. They assumed that it hit the K-129. In reality, it struck pack ice en route to N. Korea to surveil for info re the USS Pueblo (It was a busy year!). So - retribution was demanded.

How did the Soviets know where the Scorpion was? Good ASW work? Not necessary... the infamous treasonous then enlisted man, member of the Submariners himself, John A. Walker had sold code machine manuals and codes to the Soviets. Finally caught in 1985, he is still alive serving his life sentence. Why he was allowed to live is beyond me.

So, take a moment today and think of the brave crew of the USS Scorpion, still on patrol.

John

Edited to add: A great read with lots of info on the Scorpion's loss is the book, "All Hands Down" by Sewell & Preisler (2008 Simon & Schuster).

Last edited by Stainz; 05-22-2013 at 08:55 AM.
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Old 05-22-2013, 10:33 AM
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Back in '68, my uncle was in the Navy,serving, USS Columbus. I remember him telling me at the time that that the scuttlebutt he heard was that a Russian submarine sank the Scorpion.

I saw noting in "All Hands Down" that changed my mind. Good read.

USS Scorpion...Still on patrol...

Rip.
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Old 05-22-2013, 10:53 AM
Stephanie B Stephanie B is offline
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Do you know that the investigation on the sinking, which was originally highly classified, has been released?

Take a look at finding of fact #50-53 (pages 43 and 44 of the PDF). No Soviet surface ships were within 200 miles of the Scorpion.
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Old 05-22-2013, 01:59 PM
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That morning, the Scorpion reported the Soviet surface fleet was 150 miles distant. The Scorpion would close that distance as the day went on. The Ka-25 helicopter, in ASW use, has a 250 mile range and carries two AT-2 torpedoes - and can carry two additional aux tanks of fuel. According to the retired Soviet admiral used as a reference in "All Hands Down", the helo took off from one warship and returned to another warship, where the absence of a second torpedo would likely go unnoticed. Johnson had Vietnam - and the Pueblo - he wasn't going to war over the loss of ninety-nine men. It wouldn't have been the first cover-up - certainly, not the last.

Additionally, the latest date on the referenced declassified report predates the manned observations/photographs of the deep-sea diving Trieste by months. It would be 1985-86 before Dr. Paul Ballard would view it from his diver - Alvin. Of course, he was supposedly searching for RMS Titanic, which he subsequently found. It is assumed that he may have been charged with salvaging her nuclear warheads, but that is still classified. Also, the remains are at 35N 35W, hundreds of mile SW of the Azores - and no where near the Canary Islands, as had been suggested. In fact, Norfolk, it's home port, is a straight westerly track from there. Sad.

Stainz
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Old 05-22-2013, 05:58 PM
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I also checked up on the story in the OP. I came away wondering about the crush depth of a tinfoil hat.

The loss of the Scorpion was tragedy for the US Navy and the families of the crew. There is little doubt that the Soviets were being fed information from the Walker gang on USN communications and it is possible that using the compromised codes the sub's location was compromised.

However, breaking an enemy's codes is a BIG secret. You don't use that information willy-nilly for fear of revealing what you have done. The handling of ULTRA information during WWII is a good example. At worst the Soviets would have played "ping the sub" and made it clear to the Scorpion that they had been found and just made a nuisance of themselves. I do not buy them attacking the sub for one minute.
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Old 05-22-2013, 07:35 PM
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Sounds reasonable, Steve, but this is a interesting discussion, so I hope the to and fro continues!
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Old 05-23-2013, 12:04 AM
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Conspiracy Theory thinking works like this: ""They" say that 2 + 2 = 4, but I don't like 4, and besides, I don't trust "Them", so I'm going to say that 2 + 2 really = 5. I'm sure I can find somebody on the internet, or who wants to sell a book, who will be glad to come up with a story about the great secret program to promote the wrong idea that 2 + 2 allegedly equals 4." This is no different than the "The Navy shot down that 747 with a submarine-launched missile off New York", or "NASA faked the moon landings". THINK, people, before you buy into one of these stories. Does it make sense? I spent my Navy career monitoring the Soviet Navy. Why in the world would the Soviets sink a U.S. submarine, using surface assets over a big chunk of ocean? Maybe, just maybe, if they caught one deep inside Peter The Great Bay and thought they could force it to surface, they might try something. Anything else is 2 + 2 = 5. I suppose I could try and tell you that I never heard anything about this theory during my career, but that would make me one of "Them", wouldn't it?

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Old 05-23-2013, 08:04 AM
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AHD suggests that the Soviets blamed the USN sub service for the loss of their K-129 missle boat March 7 some 400 miles NW of Pearl Harbor. For proof, they witnessed the USS Swordfish limping into Yokosuka, Japan on March 17th, her periscope up and bent, as well as showing damaged raised antennas and it's sail, too. Said damage occured when it was headed to station off North Korea to surveil the Pueblo and hit a chunk of glacial ice. The Pueblo had a state of the current art KW-7 code machine aboard her - you can bet it was en route to Moscow within hours of Pueblo's capture. Walker provided coding info and manuals - it is understandable - how the Soviet navy could have sought their revenge on a single USN submarine. AHD's scenario is plausible. If it's fiction, it's good fiction! Of course, we'll never know...

Conspiracies? I believe Sam Giancana had Marilyn Monroe & JFK murdered as a message to AG RFK to lay off the Mafia, ultimately killing RFK, too (Giancana was murdered in '75!). I know we landed on the moon. I don't believe in Santa Claus, but the Easter Bunny is another matter altogether!

My main impetus was to recall the brave souls, the crew of the USS Scorpion, who are still on patrol.

Stainz
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Old 05-23-2013, 11:15 AM
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No matter what happened, Rest Peacefully Shipmates.

CW
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Old 05-23-2013, 01:19 PM
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Interesting thread here.
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Old 05-23-2013, 03:54 PM
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Around the end of April 1968, I was doing my two weeks active duty at NOB Norfolk. Our destroyer, USS Henley, DD762, a reserve destroyer, was on ASW maneuvers with USS John Marshall, SSBN611. About two hours into the exercise, our sonar operators picked up a second set of signals, which turned out to be a Soviet submarine. John Marshall broke off from our exercise, and we chased this Russian for about two days, and lived at GQ most of the time.

It was a lot more fun than maintaining the gun mounts. And from what we gathered, it was not uncommon for destroyers to chase Russians around the Atlantic.
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Old 05-23-2013, 06:29 PM
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Great thread here in the lounge - wish it was a real lounge - sit and listen have few beers, etc

we can drink beer here? - right? -once we've put everything away

I read a book awhile back - Blind Man's Bluff, by Sherri Sontag - it discussed the search effort to find the USS Scorpion - good book

cheers to the crew of the USS Scorpion RIP Sailors
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Old 05-23-2013, 07:33 PM
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I was in submarine school in New London not too terribly long after this incident. What we were told, and showed pictures of, was faulty welds on pipes connected to the ballast tanks. Don't remember the exact nature of the malfunction, but it all seemed quite plausible. Not nearly as interesting as a conspiracy theory. ��
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Old 05-23-2013, 10:30 PM
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I'm seeing some posts confusing the "officially reported" details between the Scorpion and the earlier loss of the Thresher.

It should be noted that both US and Soviet submarines had been involved in "accidental" collisions with each other, and from an engineering standpoint, the scenario provided for the sinking of the Thresher simply doesn't hold up.

I'd like to talk with Robert Ballard sometime about what he actually found on the site, but from some other sources, I think I know. (I followed the Thresher incident with great interest at the time because I'd been aboard the Atlantis II a couple of times (Support ship for the Alvin.), and had seen some of the initial tests of the Alvin at Woods Hole when my Aunt worked there.)
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Old 05-23-2013, 10:35 PM
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Yeah, now that I think back, I'm confusing the Scorpion and the Thresher. It was the Thresher that was alleged to have been done in by poor welds.
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Old 05-23-2013, 10:57 PM
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i served 1976-80 on the casimir pulaski,ssbn 633 doing four patrols and one patrol on the john c calhoun,,,,,,,,,i heard it was a hot running torpedo that did in the scorpion.......being on submarines was quite a ride,would'nt change anything ,met some great guys.........i sure miss them days.
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Old 05-23-2013, 11:33 PM
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I seriously considered joining in the early 70's, for a variety of reasons, but the recruiter kept on insisting that I should become a "glow in the dark", while my real interests were in sonar, other sensors, and computer technologies.

Submarines are actually "in my blood", as Great, Great, Grandpa had been designing and building submarines in Germany, England, and Russia in the 1800's; and another relative had helped build the Pioneer, the American Diver, and finally the Hunley for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
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Old 05-24-2013, 09:46 AM
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The 1963 loss of the larger & newer class SSN, the USS Thresher, SSN-593, was determined to be two-fold - a thru hull fitting and a ballast tank connection weld failure. The USN started programs 'Level One' and 'SubSafe' to retrofit and test, generating lots of documentation, improvements to the sub fleet. Sadly, the USS Scorpion, SSN-589, didn't get many of them - budget cut backs - and was thus limited to relatively shallow depths (Reportedly 300 ft.). She was faster than the then Thresher class, now known as the Permit class, the latter being longer and having the same reactor. Later models had SONAR in their nose, moving the 'forward' torpedo rooms nearly amidship

I recall my days in the USN actually quite fondly. The years on USS Fulton, AS-11, in New London were interesting, as were the last six or so months in LaMadelina, Italy, when I took a temporary assignment to the USS Skylark, ASR-20, a sub rescue ship that participated in the hunt for Thresher and Scorpion. Why? We went to Naples... I got to see Naples, Pompeii, and Rome! As a 'tender' sailor, and having to sleep near the bow - on the deck (Below deck, of course!) - I was bruised a bit by the rough ride in weather. Still, I never got seasick. I will admit to feelings of claustraphobia the little I had to work on the fast attacks, however. My admiration went, no, still goes out to submariners, a special brave breed of sailors!

John
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