Category Archives: history

Treasure In Your Attic


I have said it before, and I am saying it again.

Always keep your eyes open. You never know what you will find.

I just sat down for a relaxing evening tonight, when I received an email with a photograph attached.

The photograph was found in an attic. It is about 110 years old. A unknown photograph of the RMS Olympic. In the photograph the ship is passing the Isle of Wight. The previous photographs I have seen of Titanic & Olympic passing the Isle of Wight are taken from the Isle of Wight. But this one is taken from the mainland with the Isle of Wight in the background.

I wrote back telling the gentleman what he had and how to properly preserve it.

My point is, always keep your eyes open. If you don’t know what you have, ask someone who does.

This is a never seen photograph. Taken of a well photographed ship, from an unusual view point. It certainly made my day to see it and to tell the owner what he had.

You never know, you might be next. Have a good year everyone, and thank you for your patronage.

(And thank you Bob!)

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The Great War, The War to End All War ~ World War One


The titles given to this war says much about the people at that time. The first two titles are pre-World War Two. There is nothing great about any war. Wars happen because of the failures of politicians. The failures of politicians decide when wars begin and end. As General Patton once said, politicians always pull us up short and leave us with another war to fight. World War Two gave us over 45 years of Cold War. A war that was not cold and brought us to the brink of world wide nuclear war on more than one occasion.

World War One was seeded forty years earlier at the end of the Franco Prussian War. The French were dealt with so severely at the end of that war it made another French German war inevitable. Just as the Germans were dealt with so severely at the end of World War One that it made another war inevitable.

There is nothing honorable or glorious about war, despite what politicians say when they are trying to start one.

General George S. Patton was a man of action, in war and peace. Whether he was commanding Third Army racing across France toward Berlin or the occupational governor of Bavaria after the war. I admire him for that. But when it comes to war the general and I are polar opposites. He loved war, I detest war.

The largest number of casualties in any war are civilians not military. I say civilians and not innocent civilians, because they are the ones who supported the politicians while they beat their war drums. They supported, cheered for, and even demanded war in some instances. They sent their children to fight the war, and when the war came to their neighborhood they either ran or fought back as best they could. No one is innocent when war comes, we all have blood on our hands.

By 1918 Germany had defeated Russia. Germany quickly moved all the armies on the eastern front to the western front and planned an all out battle designed to take Paris, defeat the allies, and end the war before the United States could get her soldiers on the field of battle. Germany failed at all three objectives.

The Battle of Belleau Wood was not an isolated battle. It was part of the offensive Germany initiated along the entire western front, from the sea in Belgium south across all of France to its southern borders.

The American forces had arrived in France more than six weeks before this offensive began. The marines were the first to arrive. The French had been training the Americans for combat since their arrival, and thought very poorly of their ability to fight.

Next week we will discuss the Battle of Belleau Wood itself. You will hear the officers memorable words. You will hear the machine guns.

You will see the courage of the young boys in arms and hear their crys. You will see the scary, impossible goal at the beginning of the battle, and watch these boys as they will accomplish it. In some cases you will watch as the legends of Belleau Wood happen. In some cases you will watch as legends dissolve into myth. You will be there.

But between now and then I want you to do something first. I want you to find a photograph of a young person killed in war, preferably from World War One (a member of your own family if you can).

As we read next week’s article I want you to have that photograph with you. I want you to think about that young person while we watch the Battle of Belleau Wood.

That young person made mistakes and had triumphs in such a short life. They had dreams, aspirations, and goals for a future that never happened. They never got to guide their children into adulthood and know the joys of grandchildren.

That young person died so young that they left few to remember and mourn them. In most cases only parents.

Robert E. Goodykoontz left behind a mother and a brother who mourned his loss for the rest of their lives. He left behind no one of his own. No one to remember his smile or the sound of his laugh, no wife, no children. There is not even a photograph of Bob to show he really lived. All that is left is a cold marble stone in a foreign land to mark his grave and a few short words on the web stating his regiment, division, and place of death.

The only thing left was the grief in the eyes of his younger brother. A grief that persisted for over half a century.

War is not honorable, war is not glorious, war is a thief. Next week we will watch the thief at his worst.

Part one “Grandfather, Bob, My Daughter, and France”

Part three “The Battle of Belleau Wood”

Part four “The U.S. Army at the Battle of Belleau Wood”

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Grandfather, Bob, My Daughter, & France


Hmmm, okay what do those things have in common? And, what do they have in common with the United States Marine Corp? None of them have ever been in the marines.

When you look at the history of the United States Marine Corp, there are three battles that “made the marines” what they are today. Iwo Jima, fought against the Japanese in Japan during World War Two, Chosen Reservoir fought against the Chinese and North Koreans during the Korean War, and Belleau Wood fought against the Germans in France during World War One.

My knowledge of the battle of Belleau Wood was what most people’s knowledge was (those who have actually heard of the battle that is). It was fought by two regiments of marines. Our allies (the French and British forces) on both sides of the US forces retreated leaving the Americans alone. Six times they attacked across an open wheat field. Beaten back five times. On the sixth try they took the woods and tenaciously held on, defeating the Germans, saving Paris, and were decorated by France for their achievement. They were so tenacious in the battle that the Germans nicknamed the Marine Corp “Devil Dogs”, and if you talk with any marine (particularly those serving in the 5th or 6th regiments) that is what you will learn.

Then I found out my grandfather’s older brother, Bob (Robert E. Goodykoontz), fought, died, and is buried at the battle site. And, he was not a marine. All those things and the fact that my grandfather was 13 years old when his brother was killed, just as my daughter is 13 years old at the 100th anniversary of the battle — well, I had to learn more.

Thanks to the knowledge of an official Marine Corp Historian I learned more than I could have imagined, including the myths, legends, and facts of the battle.

The Battle of Belleau Wood lasted from 1 June 1918 to 23 June 1918. Three weeks of intense fighting that stopped the last German offensive of World War One. For the next couple of weeks I will share what I have learned about the battle; the myth, the legend, and the men.

Just to give you a sneak peak of some of what is to come.

Those two marine regiments were not alone. They were attached to two Army divisions that also fought in that battle. The Army lost more men in the Battle of Belleau Wood (one of them my great-uncle) than the marines lost in the entire war.

I am not taking anything from the marines. Their courage, bravery, audacity, and tenacity does truly make this battle one of the finest hours of the United States Marine Corp.

So, join me for the next couple of weeks as we honor all the men who fought in that battle.

Part two “The Great War, The War to End All War ~ World War One”

Part three “The Battle of Belleau Wood”

Part four “The U.S. Army at the Battle of Belleau Wood”

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Filed under history, legend, myth, New

“SUBMISS” 27 May 1968


Monday 27 May 1968, Memorial Day, at 1PM USS Scorpion was due to arrive pier 22 Norfolk, Virginia.

From COMSUBLANT (commander submarines Atlantic) the following flash message was sent at 3:15PM, 27 May 1968, to all ships and naval commands of the United States Navy Atlantic Fleet.

Executed Event SUBMISS at 271915Z for USS Scorpion ETA NORVA 271700Z ….. All submarine units surface or remain surfaced until this message is cancelled. Units in port prepare to get underway on one hour’s notice …..

What this meant was the USS Scorpion was due to arrive in Norfolk at 1PM (5PM Greenwich Mean Time). By 3:15PM the Scorpion had not yet arrived and all means by the navy to contact the Scorpion had failed.

This message ordered all US submarines in the Atlantic to surface. The navy wanted to insure the Scorpion was the only submarine missing.

The rest of the message was an order to all naval units (submarine, surface, and air) to prepare to leave port and search the Atlantic Ocean for the Scorpion.

Over the next 8 hours more than 40 surface ships and submarines would put to sea. More ships, from Florida to Maine, would put to sea by sunrise. Soon every plane, ship, and submarine in the United States Navy’s Atlantic Fleet would be scouring the Atlantic Ocean looking for the USS Scorpion and her 99 man crew.

Since the end of World War II there had only been one United States Naval operation this big — the Cuban Missile Crisis.

These two photos are of the Scorpion. The bottom one is one of the last photos taken of the Scorpion.

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USS Scorpion The Most Probable Cause For The Loss


If you are a regular reader of my articles you know I present events like the loss of the USS Scorpion and the most popular or probable causes of the event. I try to treat each theory fairly. However, I always keep my most preferred theory to myself.

I do that for a reason. You are intelligent and I want you to form your own opinion. Whether we agree or not is irrelevant. I view my job as to present as much of the facts and evidence as possible, to allow you to form your own intelligent opinion.

I do, fairly often, get requests for what my opinion or theory is. Even in private, I decline to answer that question. I do not want anyone to simply take my word for it, I want you to decide for yourself. Only once did I bow to pressure and make public my personal thoughts (that was about the submarine H.L. Hunley). Now for the second time I will bow to pressure and state my opinion as to the cause of the loss of the USS Scorpion.

First I want to say my opinion is based on circumstantial evidence and not a thorough examination of the debris field and the ship itself. Only a thorough examination of the debris field and the ship itself will ever provide the conclusive evidence as to the loss of the USS Scorpion. The United States Navy has made that impossible by withholding some of the pertinent information.

There is no real reason to continue to withhold that information. The last sister ship of the Scorpion was taken out of service and decommissioned decades ago. Taking a look at the many theories and the causes they point to, there no longer exists a reason to withhold information as well.

The theory one of Scorpion’s own weapons caused the accident. The weapons the Scorpion carried were taken out of service and no longer used by the navy long before the last sister ship of the Scorpion was decommissioned.

The theory that the Soviet Navy somehow caused the loss of the USS Scorpion. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) has not existed for almost three decades. That nation does not exist now.

The theory that cost cutting measures caused the loss of the USS Scorpion. The decision to reduce the Scorpion’s last overhaul from 36 months to 6 months was a bad decision. To be fair though, it was a decision made because of the escalating costs of the war in Vietnam. A war where, except for the navy S.E.AL.S., navy river boats, and naval air, the navy had very little role. Yet our submarine force was a major expenditure on the navy.

I also want to point out that after the loss of the Scorpion, naval cost cutting ideas involving the submarine force were all canceled. No more abbreviated overhauls. Also those submarines that had not under gone conversion to the Subsafe program were immediately scheduled to enter the shipyard to undergo Subsafe conversion. (I will add a postscript to this article that explains the Subsafe program as a refresher for those of you who know, and as an introduction for those who do not.)

In previous articles I have published some of the more widespread and popular theories. Also, using unclassified sources, I have tried to give the reader as accurate an understanding of the conditions at the time. Both the conditions of the world and the ship. The climate of 1968 was radically different than 2018, politically, technologically, and for the military in general and the navy specifically. To judge events and people against the 21st century in those and other areas would not only be unfair, but will prevent us from arriving at the true cause and responsibility for the event. I encourage you to do further research on your own into that unique period and event. It is simply not possible for me to cover in detail the time period in which this tragedy took place.

One quick note. A reminder from one of my previous articles on the USS Scorpion. The Scorpion had not yet under gone conversion to the Subsafe program. One of the system changes during Subsafe conversion is to the emergency blow system (EMBT). This system failed on the USS Thresher five years earlier. That left the Scorpion with two other ways of expelling water from the main ballast tanks. The normal blow, which as the name implies, was the normal method for this class of submarine to surface by blowing main ballast tanks. And the low pressure blow. This method involves the submarine driving to the surface and then blowing the ballast tanks dry with low pressure air.

At the time of the loss of the USS Scorpion the EMBT system had not been updated to comply with Subsafe. The shipyard said the system worked effectively and properly and was fit for service. The United States Navy said the system did not work effectively and properly and ordered the system to be danger tagged out of service.

I am not going to cover in this article other ships near the Scorpion or any mission she was on or may have recently completed when this tragic event occurred. I am only going to cover the series of events which caused the USS Scorpion to exceed its maximum diving depth, eventually coming to rest 10,000 feet below on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, where it is today.

At its operating depth for this patrol (300 feet or less, see other articles). The Scorpion began flooding through torpedo tube valves. As I previously wrote about, the Scorpion had already reported, a problem with substantial seawater leaks through these valves. On return to Norfolk at the conclusion of this patrol the Scorpion was to go into the shipyard. These valves were on the work schedule to be repaired or replaced in the shipyard.

As soon as the valves began to allow flood waters to enter the Scorpion the flooding alarm would have been sounded and the nature of the emergency stated. All those personnel who had just gotten off watch would have reported to the torpedo room to combat the casualty. All those personnel preparing to relieve those currently on watch, would have reported to the adjacent watertight compartment as the backup damage control party. The entire ship would have immediately began taking necessary steps to stop the flooding and regain safe operation and control of the ship. Those on watch would have began taking the ship to a shallower depth and began making preparations to surface the ship if necessary.

Due to the water flooding into the ship, Scorpion became heavy and began slowly sinking because of the extra water weight.

As ship’s personnel lost control of the ship’s depth and it began going deeper, those on watch would have attempted all available means to surface the ship.

These actions failed.

As the ship continued its descent passing below 300 feet (its officially reduced safe operating depth) the shaft seals began leaking. This was a recurring problem that had been previously fixed and was also scheduled for work in the shipyard.

As the ship continued to descend the sea pressure outside the hull would have increased causing the flow of water into the torpedo room and engine room to increase.

All hands would have been actively doing all within their power to stop the two flooding casualties and regain control of the ship. The damage control party would have been in the torpedo room and the backup damage control party would have been in the engine room.

At some point, probably at or below the theoretical crush depth of the submarine. The watertight bulkhead (wall) between the axillary machinery space and the engine room collapsed, causing the engine room to “telescope” inside the machinery space (one compartment was shoved inside the other by the sea pressure outside the Scorpion). At or shortly after that event the bulkheads for the operations compartment would have collapsed flooding the last dry compartment of the submarine.

The ship would have continued its descent to the ocean floor carrying its crew on eternal patrol.

The physical condition of the operations compartment as it now rests on the bottom indicates the casualty did not start in the operations compartment. But that the bulkheads collapsed under extreme pressure. Probably below the ship’s designed crush depth.

The physical condition of the torpedo and engine rooms as they are now, resting on the bottom, the bulkheads for these two compartments did not collapse which indicates the area inside these compartments was equal or almost equal to outside sea pressure.

Actually, based on what little photographic evidence the navy has made available, the casualty could have started as I believe in the torpedo room. Or the casualty could have started in the engine room.

What I am certain of is that both compartments had flooding which exceeded the ability of the crew to stop. And, though not the only possible source, the torpedo tube valves and the shaft seals are the most likely candidates for the source of the flooding.

It must be remembered that for any emergency aboard a submerged submarine, the crew only has seconds to regain control if the submarine is going to survive. Sound recordings by the navy of the sinking of the USS Scorpion show that the entire emergency, from start to implosion of the bulkheads, took approximately 90 seconds.

Each member of the crew would have continued to do everything within his power to regain control of the ship until he was permanently incapacitated. Gratefully, this was not a long period of time and the men did not have to endure a long period of suffering.

Were Soviet ships nearby? Was there a fire or electrical problem onboard? Was there a problem with some other system including the weapons? The answer to these questions is maybe, maybe not. But if any of those problems did exist, it is not what took down the Scorpion.

As the Scorpion descended below its actual crush depth the engine room and torpedo room were at or near outside sea pressure inside those compartments. Inside the operations compartment was no where near sea pressure as the ship descended below crush depth.

Based on information currently available from the United States Navy I believe this is the best possible explanation for what happened to the USS Scorpion and the 99 men of her crew.

I believe the crew did everything possible that a highly trained submarine crew could possibly have done. Circumstances simply overwhelmed them.

“Good and faithful job sailor, rest your oars.”

P.S.

The Subsafe program was instigated after the loss of the USS Thresher on 10 April 1963. A board of inquiry was convened to investigate the loss of the ship. The board went far and beyond its requirement, to determine the loss of the USS Thresher. It looked at every aspect of the design, construction, and operation of nuclear powered submarines.

The board included a recommendation in its final report, large and wide sweeping changes to every aspect of the design, construction, and operation of nuclear powered submarines. These findings became the foundation of a new system – Subsafe. The intent was to stop any future preventable accidents from happening to United States submarines. The navy then required that all submarines go through a conversion in the shipyard to bring all the ship’s equipment and systems up to Subsafe standards.

After the submarines in the Thresher class (the first ship in this class) had gone through Subsafe conversion it was determined that the changes were sufficient from the original design to name it a new class. The USS Permit, formerly the second ship in the Thresher class, was now the first ship in the new class. This new class of submarine was now called the Permit class.

The loss of the USS Thresher sent shockwaves throughout the submarine community worldwide of friend and foe alike. Navies around the world watched the United States Navy and adopted programs similar to Subsafe for their own submarine forces. The loss of the USS Thresher has saved the lives of thousands of men and women who continue to take those damnable ships beneath the ocean. The loss of the USS Thresher and the USS Scorpion had effects which continue to impact the safety of submarines around the world to this day.

P.S.S.

There are many people, particularly submarine veterans who want the United States Navy to do a proper investigation and come clean with all it has on the loss of the USS Scorpion. The following is just one of many articles that back this up.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.usatoday.com/amp/1692343

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Filed under history, ships, submarines, USS Scorpion