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Subase Pearl Harbor Det 716 

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The USS Scorpion (SSN-589) after successfully completing a 3 month Mediterranean deployment was returning home to home to Norfolk, Virginia.  The boat was due to arrive in Norfolk the 24th of May 1968.

The families of the Scorpion crew had prepared to meet the boat at the pier upon its arrival on the 24th but at the last minute they were informed the boat had been delayed and would arrive on Memorial Day the 27th of May.

On May 27th a rainy day in Norfolk, the families started gathering on the pier to watch and wait for the return of their loved ones aboard the Scorpion.  They waited for hours as the rain continued to come down.  One of the crew members of the USS Orion (AS-18) came down to where the families were waiting and said the boat was delayed probably due to the weather and told them they could come aboard to get out of the weather.  Some went aboard the Orion as others toughed it out in the rain.  Others went to their cars to get out of the rain. About 1600 (4 pm) someone told everyone to go home as the boat was farther delayed.  Little did the families know at this time the Scorpion would not be returning to Norfolk as it lay 9,800 feet below the surface at the bottom of the ocean in the vicinity of the Azores.

Shortly after the boat departed the Mediterranean Sea at the Naval Station Rota in Spain for Norfolk the boat was diverted to the vicinity of the Azores to observe Soviet activity .  Sonar aboard the Scorpion detected they were being followed.  This went on for some time and the Scorpion tried unsuccessfully to lose the tail. The Scorpion tried unsuccessfully to contact the Naval Station Rota on the 20th and the 21st of May to make them aware of the Soviet tail.  The finally were able to contact a Navy Communications Station in Nea Makri, Greece who forwarded the message to Rota.

On the 22nd of May after completing the mission in the Azores and underway again for Norfolk  an explosion occurred in the area of the control room which immediately flooded the control room killing the men that were maneuvering the boat.

With control lost the boat went into a fatal dive.  Once the boat reached crush depth, which is twice the depth of test depth or somewhat greater than 2,000 feet, the pressure of the water became so great that the hull collapsed at which time the remainder of the crew were killed and the boat fell to the ocean floor, a depth of 9,800 feet.

Two members of the crew escaped this tragedy.  Both men were taken of the boat at Rota, one for medical reasons and the other for a family emergency.

The number one theory as to the cause of the explosion and I might add the theory that I also believe is that the Scorpion was sunk with a torpedo fired by a Soviet submarine.

The Soviets had lost one of their boats, the K-129 only two months earlier in the Mariana Trench off Midway Island and they felt the United States was responsible for the loss and took revenge.

The events of the loss of the Scorpion are covered in great detail in a novel called Scorpion Down by Ed Offley.

This is a photo of the bow of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589) taken by the bathyscaphe Trieste II in 1968 shortly after it was discovered.

 

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