USS Scorpion...what's the SD?

I picked up this info on the web today:

Does anyone have a link to the unclassified docs? Did we really torpedo our own guys?


They say the Lord loves drunks, fools and little children.
Two out of three ain’t bad.

And why didn’t we mount a rescue mission for those ninety-nine sailors?

We’ve (well, our Navy) been scooping submariners up off the ocean floor since the SQUALUS sunk, and the rescue technology was developed.

I hope I get the ship names straight. I saw a show on Disc. Channel the other night that claimed that the torpedo story was a coverup. It alledged that the Scorpion was a victim of a Navy program to reduce maintenance costs, or possibly a (thermal) runaway battery in a torpedo. They claimed that after the accident that the maintenance program was scrapped and the torpedo was redesigned. Or was it the Thresher they were talking about ?

Does anyone recall the name of a book out that details the cold war exploits in the submarine area ? It seemed to cover a lot of the topics in the TV episode.

On the show (above) they claimed that the DSRV program was primarily a vehicle (sorry) for hiding secret $$ for the massive submarine listening project and to mine Soviet harbors with covert wiretaps. In any event, I thought that both those ships (Thresher & Scorpion) were well below crush depth with the Thresher actually imploding prior to hitting the bottom. The Squalus was fortunate to be in shallow water when she went down. They also stated that most submarines would go down in areas that would preclude the use of DSRVs because of depth contraints.

An interesting note on the show was that Robert Ballard was involved in a secret project to find one of the lost ships under the guise of looking for the Titanic.

Here’s a transcript:

It also covers my favorite, Howard Hughes and the Glomar Explorer. What a great story.

I saw this episode of NOVA a couple weeks ago, and they also stated that (except in very rare cases near a coastline) when a sub goes down it is usually crushed by the water pressure. The DSRV program was just a way to syphon off money for high tech military intelligece. In the early '70s, much of this money went into a front company whose public mission was to search for magnesium nodes on the ocean floor. The real intent was to recover a Soviet submarine from a mile down. They managed to get a grip on it and raise it several hundred feet before one of the nukes slipped out of it’s silo and crashed into the ocean floor at about 100 miles an hour(luckily, it didn’t go off). Another 1000 feet or so the sub started to break up. In the end, they only managed to recover a small section that contained no usefull military intelligence, but did contain several Russian sailors. NOVA actually showed video footage of a secret burial at sea for these sailors. It was a weird sight seeing several American naval personel and techs standing at atttention while caskets clad in the hammer and sickle flag were put over the side.

BTW- Last year (maybe still) there was a Soviet sub on display next to the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Its name is the Scorpion!

Frolix beat me to it. The mission I described was the Glomar Explorer.

The name of the book is “Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage,” by Sherry Sontag and Cristopher Drew. A really fascinating read in general. According to the book, the Scorpion imploded when a hot-running torpedo exploded on board. There would have been no chance for survivors.

This is Blind Man’s Bluff by Sherry (or Cheryl) Sontag and a few others I don’t remember. I haven’t read it, but I’ve sold a few thousand copies of it, it seems like!


Full of 'satiable curtiosity

Thanks for the great simulpost, I will order a copy of the book tomorrow.

I thought it was more mundane than that, wasn’t it a sticky depth guage, made no doubt by the lowest bidder

The “sticky depth gauge” is an impossibility.
The days of the mechanical bourdon tube type of analog gauges are long gone. Today’s depth gauges have nothing to stick, in addition to having double redundancy in most cases.


“Misers get up early in the morning; and burglars, I am informed, get up the night before.”~~*G.K.Chesterton *

One documentary I saw, which I’m pretty sure was about the Scorpion, said that there had been indications that a torpedo was accidently armed on-board, and instead of taking the risk of disarming it, they just fired it. Unfortunately, the torpedo then acquired them as a target and came back like a boomerang. Please correct me if this is another sub I’m thinking about.


According to the book, the likely scenario was that a defective torpedo battery overheated and activated the torpedo. Based upon where the wreckage of the Scorpion was found compared to her original course, experts determined that the sub had attempted a 180-degree turn, which normally would have triggered a fail-safe and disarmed the torpedo. However, in this case, the subtle nature of the battery defect probably prevented the crew from noticing that anything was wrong until it was too late to jettison the torpedo or prevent its detonation.

Yeah, that sounds like it makes more sense. I think my memory might have confused the whole “turn-around” thing. It was the sub that turned around not the torpedo.

Ukulele Ike wrote:

Rescue operations only work if the submarine went down above its crush depth. The USS Scorpion went down in 10,000 feet of water.

The Glomar Explorer was a CIA, not Navy, operation.

Andrew Warinner