I have written other articles and one poll on the USS Scorpion (you may search my archives to find them), so I will not rehash those articles now.
May 27, 2018, marks the 50th anniversary of the loss of the USS Scorpion and the 99 men aboard her. The last time the Scorpion left port it’s underway was momentarily delayed so that a crewman could leave the ship to fly back to Norfolk, Virginia on emergency leave. He was on pier 22 that rainy Memorial Day 50 years ago, waiting with the families for the return of his ship and his shipmates. I salute the 100th member of the crew as well, and thank him for his many years of service to the submarine service.
What actually sank the USS Scorpion has still not been settled. Unlike the USS Thresher, which was lost 5 years before the Scorpion, the United States Navy still considers the loss of the Scorpion a matter of national security and keeps part of the official record classified to this day. Decades after all the material on the loss of the USS Thresher as been declassified.
The USS Thresher is in 15,000 feet of water off the coast of New England, and is in the condition you would expect of a submarine which imploded.
However, much of the USS Scorpion looks recognizable. Though the engine room was forced inside the machinery room and the sail (conning tower in the Hollywood movies) was separated from the ship, large portions of the sub look as it did when she was tied up in port.
What we do know about the USS Scorpion is that her last overhaul was supposed to be three years. But, was cut to less than a year as a cost saving measure by a Defense Department dealing with the increasing costs of the war in Vietnam. (After the loss of the USS Scorpion this cost saving measure was discontinued).
We also know that the Navy has a few dozen photographs and no video footage of the wreckage on its archive website. The navy claims this is all the film it has on the Scorpion wreckage.
Dr. Robert Ballard in his memoirs details the weeks he spent (just before finding the Titanic) taking still and video film footage of the USS Scorpion for the navy as well as checking on the integrity of nuclear material at the site. (All of the nuclear material is safe and has not contaminated any of the ocean or sea floor).
None of Dr. Ballard’s still or video photography is even acknowledged by the United States Navy to exist, and certainly not allowed to be seen by the families or the public.
The time has come for the United States Navy to declassify all the material the navy and the United States government has on the Scorpion. Not to fuel another book or movie, not to fuel the public’s morbid curiosity, not to satisfy the thousands of submariners who have never forgotten the Scorpion or her crew, but to give closure to the families and loved ones of the entire crew of the USS Scorpion. Wives, daughters, sons, siblings, mothers, fathers, and loved ones will never be able to visit the grave of their loved ones. But they do deserve the closure of knowing the entire story of the final chapter of the USS Scorpion and their loved ones still on eternal patrol.
If the navy does not want to release that information to the public, I as a submarine veteran, support that, but only on the condition that they DO release that information to the families.
Any submariner will tell you the things we did under the sea were only possible because of the support we received from our loved ones back home.
The families deserve the full unabridged story, even if that story cannot yet be made public.
Mr. President, Mr. Secretary, Chief of Naval Operations – it has been 50 years. The time has come for you to give closure to the families.
To the families of the USS Scorpion and USS Thresher, I want to tell you that your loved ones live on in the heart of every sunmariner world wide. I have personally heard the stories of submariners from the Soviet Navy, British Navy, Canadian, Navy, French Navy and others. They always speak of the exact moment and what they were doing the moment they heard of your loss. They all speak of the shock and the difficulty in believing that such an event actually happened. They also speak of changes in the design, construction, and operation of submarines after that loss. Then they go on to tell of specific incidents where those changes were responsibly for their own submarines being able to return to port after an emergency while submerged at sea.
Your husband’s, your daddies, your brothers, your sons; they did not die in vain. They have saved the lives of unknown thousands of their brothers and sisters, some of whom continue to go to sea on submarines.
We will never forget your loved ones. And as long as men and women continue to wear dolphins (submarine warfare pin) WE will always be your family.
May God bless and keep you all.