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NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive


Contributed by Mike Smolinski

Scorpion (SS-278)


Gato Class Submarine: Laid down, 20 March 1942, at Portsmouth Navy Yard, (N.H.); Launched, 20 July 1942; Commissioned USS Scorpion (SS-278), 1 October 1942; Sunk on 4th patrol by mine in January-February 1944 in the Yellow Sea, all hands lost; Struck from the Naval Register, (date unknown). Scorpion received three battle stars for World War II service.

Specifications: Displacement, Surfaced: 1,526 t., Submerged: 2,410 t.; Length 311' 8"; Beam 27' 4"; Draft 15' 3"; Speed, Surfaced 20.25 kts, Submerged 8.75 kts; Complement 6 Officers 54 Enlisted; Operating Depth, 300 ft; Submerged Endurance, 48 hrs at 2 kts; Patrol Endurance 75 days; Cruising Range, 11,000 miles surfaced at 10 kts; Armament, ten 21" torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 24 torpedoes, one 3"/50 deck gun, two .50 cal. machine guns, two .30 cal. machine guns; Propulsion, diesel electric reduction gear with four Fairbanks Morse main generator diesel engines, HP 5400, Fuel Capacity, 94,400 gals., four General Electric main motors, HP 2740, two 126-cell main storage batteries, twin propellers.
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PNY1.03kPortsmouth Navy Yard: Scamp (SS-277), on left & Scorpion (SS-278) in middle & Steelhead (SS-280) on right, under construction on building ways. Stern views looking forward from after catwalk, 7 July 1942.
Directly to the left of the Scamp, there is apparently an empty way. However, if you look closely enough, you can just barely see a small section of Balao (SS-285). She filled the way vacated by Sawfish (SS-276) on 23 June 42.
Over on the far left is Snook (SS-279). You can see her conning tower and covered wagon ribs and some portions of her bow. The numbering system for the ways at Portsmouth was quite odd at the time. They were out of numerical sequence. From left to right, they are Ways #2, 4, 3, 1A, & 1. The construction shed was widened in 1941 and two ways were added. Way #1A was crammed in between the others in 1942 and Scorpion was the first to be built on it.
Photo i.d. courtesy of Ric Hedman , John Hummel, Dave Johnston (USNR) & Robert Morgan.
US National Archives photo # 19LCM 757-42, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert.
Scamp & Scorpion 319k Scamp (SS-277), on left & Scorpion (SS-278) at right, dual launching ceremony on 20 July 1942, at Portsmouth Navy Yard,N.H.
The book "Portsmouth-Built Submarines of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard" states that this shiphouse contained five ways at the time. The boat on the left of the Scamp should be the Snook (SS-279), on ways 2, which would be launched 26 days from now, 15 August 1942.
Photo i.d. courtesy of Darryl Baker, David Decrevel, Ric Hedman, John Hummel & David Johnston.
USN photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
Scorpion 792k Launch of the Scorpion (SS-278), 20 July 1942.U.S. Navy Photograph courtesy of worldwarphotos.info.
Scorpion 35k Scorpion (SS-278) all decked out with flags for her commissioning ceremony in the Piscataqua River at Portsmouth Navy Yard,N.H., 1 October 1942. Courtesy of MMCM (SS) Greg Peterman USN, Retired.
Scorpion 432k Bow view of the Scorpion (SS-278) with her diving planes open, photographed while fitting out on the Piscataqua River at Portsmouth Navy Yard, N.H. 10 December 1942. US National Archives photo # 19LCM bs38225, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert.
Scorpion 427k View on beam of the Scorpion (SS-278) while fitting out on the Piscataqua River at Portsmouth Navy Yard, N.H. 10 December 1942. US National Archives photo # 19LCM 1277-42, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert.
Scorpion 373k Stern view of the Scorpion (SS-278) while fitting out on the Piscataqua River at Portsmouth Navy Yard, N.H. 10 December 1942. US National Archives photo # 19LCM 1278-42, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert.
Scorpion 115k Scorpion (SS-278) at Portsmouth Navy Yard, N.H., sometime after her commissioning, 1 October 1942. Courtesy of Jack Treutle.
Scorpion 109k With the absence of shipping along the coastal lanes, she moved seaward and, on the 27th of April 1943, sighted a convoy of four freighters escorted by a destroyer. At 0459, she fired four torpedoes at the first and largest merchantman; two at the second; then dived and rigged for depth charging. At 0505, the destroyer dropped her first depth charges. A half hour later, the Japanese warship broke off her search for Scorpion (SS-278) to aid the stricken passenger-cargoship, Yuzan Maru. While Scorpion escaped with slight damage, the 6,380-ton merchant vessel sank. Text courtesy of DANFS.
Photo courtesy of ibiblio.org
Scorpion 2.10k Three photo PDF showing action on the morning of the 30 April 1943, when Scorpion (SS-278) stalked, fired on, and finally torpedoed and sank a 600-ton patrol ship in position lat 37-37E, Long. 155-00E, surface positions. Trawler exploding when hit by a torpedo (enlargement may show depth charge blown off deck of the ship). Vertical black object in center of picture is the Scorpion's 20 mm. gun.
During the hour and three-quarters fight, however, Scorpion received her first casualty. Lt. Comdr. R. M. Raymond, on board as prospective commanding officer, was hit and killed by gunfire.
Text courtesy of DANFS & flickr.com.
U.S. Navy Photograph # 80-G-68668 68669 & 68670, now in the collections of the National Archives courtesy of the National Museum of the U.S. Navy, via flickr.com.
Scorpion 1.05k Burning Japanese sampan attacked by Scorpion (SS-278), in position late 37, 12N, Long 141 29E. Surface picture. U.S. Navy Photograph # 80-G-68672, now in the collections of the National Archives courtesy of the National Museum of the U.S. Navy, via flickr.com.
Scorpion 212k With the absence of shipping along the coastal lanes, she moved seaward and, on the 27th, sighted a convoy of four freighters escorted by a destroyer. At 0459, she fired four torpedoes at the first and largest merchantman; two at the second; then dived and rigged for depth charging. At 0505, the destroyer dropped her first depth charges. A half hour later, the Japanese warship broke off her search for Scorpion (SS-278) to aid the stricken passenger-cargo ship, Yuzan Maru. While Scorpion escaped with slight damage, the 6,380-ton merchant vessel sank.
Periscope picture taken from Scorpion of Yuzan Maru which was sunk in position, lat 38 08N, long 143 03E, 27 April 1943.
U.S. Navy Photographs # 80-G-68674 & 68675, now in the collections of the National Archives courtesy of the National Museum of the U.S. Navy, via flickr.com.
Scorpion 240k This painting is entitled 'Up Scope! by the artist Drawn by Cdr. Griffith Baily Coale.
On 3 July 1943 Scorpion (SS-278) sighted a five-freighter convoy with one escort making its way through the eastern waters of that sea. By 0955, she had sent torpedoes toward the convoy and dived. As the depth charging began, she struck bottom at 25 fathoms. Two charges exploded close by. Between 1002 and 1006, five more shook her hull. Fearing that she was stirring up a mud trial , her screws were stopped and she settled on the bottom at 29 fathoms. At 1008, a chain or cable was dragged over her hull. Four minutes later, her hull was scraped a second time. Immediately underway again, she began evasive course changes and escaped further exploding charges. The hunt continued for over an hour; and, at 1149, Scorpion came to periscope depth; spied the destroyer 7,000 yards off; and cleared the area. Postwar examination of Japanese records show that Scorpion scored five hits and sank the 3,890-ton freighter, Anzan Maru, and the 6,112-ton passenger-cargo ship Kokuryu Maru.
Text courtesy of DANFS.
USN photo courtesy of history.navy.mil.
Scorpion 183k Poor weather continued to plague the submarine's hunting until, on the 13th of November 1943, she sighted a freighter and a tanker escorted by three warships. Firing her torpedoes, she scored on the oiler Shiretoko, which went dead in the water. Text courtesy of DANFS.
Oiler by Takeshi Yuki scanned from "Color Paintings of Japanese Warships. Photo courtesy of combinedfleet.com.
Scorpion 1.83k Presenting of the Navy Cross by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN, to Commander William Naylor Wylie, USN, for sinking and damaging enemy vessels while commanding Scorpion (SS-278). Photograph received 27 September 1943 (in error as Wylie received his Navy Cross in 1945).
Citation: The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Commander William Naylor Wylie (NSN: 0-63253), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the Scorpion, on the First War Patrol of that submarine during the period 5 April 1943 to 8 May 1943, in enemy controlled waters of the Sea of Japan. In addition to sinking an important amount of enemy shipping, including a brilliant attack on a strongly escorted freighter, Commander Wylie's excellent supervision resulted in the success of a special vital mission by his submarine. Through his experience and sound judgment Commander Wylie brought his ship safely back to port. His conduct throughout was an inspiration to his officers and men and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
15 page PDF history of ships named Scorpion.
U.S. Navy Photographs # 80-G-81396 & 81418 now in the collections of the National Archives courtesy of the National Museum of the U.S. Navy, via flickr.com.
USN photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
Scorpion 37k Commemorative photo in honor of the memory of the crew of the Scorpion (SS-278).Photo courtesy of Tom Kermen. Dante's Prayer courtesy of Loreena McKennitt via quinlanroad.com.
East China & Yellow Seas 88k Google Earth satellite photo of the East China & Yellow Seas, where the Scorpion's (SS-278) last approximate position based during post-war debriefings. This position is thought to be the final resting place of the Scorpion and her crew.View courtesy of Google Earth.
Scorpion 43k Maximilian Gmelich Schmidt, Commander (Commanding Officer) of the Scorpion (SS-278) at the time of her loss. USN photo courtesy of oneternalpatrol.com. via Bill Gonyo.
Tolling the Boats 117k Joyce DaSilva, the wife of Jesse DaSilva of the Tang (SS-306), one of the nine survivors of the boat, tosses a flower into a reflecting pool to honor the memory of one of the 52 submarines lost during World War II at the National Submarine Memorial-West on board Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, Calif. On this Veterans Day, the Submarine Veterans of World War II transferred ownership of the memorial to the U.S. Navy.

The following text is from The Coming Fury by Bruce Catton., pg. 478.
"Major Sullivan Ballou of Rhode Island was killed in the battle, and just before it he had wrote to his wife, Sarah, to tell her that he believed he was going to be killed and to express a tremulous faith that could see a gleam of light in the dark:
"But O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and float unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you in the gladdest days and in the gloomiest nights, always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your chest it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait, for we shall meet again!"
Text i.d. courtesy of Marlynn Starring. Photo i.d. courtesy of Chuck Senior, Vice Commander, Los Angeles-Pasadena Base, USSVI.
USN photo # N-1159B-021 by Journalist 2nd Class Brian Brannon, courtesy of news.navy.mil.
Scorpion 432k (Original Caption) Groton, Conn.: Capt. Paul R. Schratz, USN, (L), only surviving member of the crew of the World War II submarine Scorpion (SS-278) presents the Commissioning Pennant of the sub to the skipper, Cmdr. Norman B. Bessac, of the nuclear powered sub Scorpion (SSN-589) during commissioning ceremony at the General Dynamics Shipyard in Groton, 7/29. Capt. Schratz of Pittsburgh, Pa., was transferred from the Scorpion just before it was lost in action. Collection: Bettmann/Getty Images courtesy of gettyimages.com.
Photo added 12/17/16.
Scorpion 512k Stern view of the Scorpion (SS-278) while fitting out on the Piscataqua River at Portsmouth Navy Yard, N.H. 10 December 1942.


In Memorium:
In the Second Book of Shmuel (Samuel), 22nd chapter, 5th through the 20th verses, translated from the original in Hebrew and published by the Koren Publishers of Jerusalem, Israel, 1982, can perhaps aptly describe the fate of the crew and all other U.S. submariners who died defending their county:

"When the waves of death compassed me / the floods of ungodly men made me afraid; / the bonds of She'ol encircled me; / the snares of death took me by surprise; / in my distress I called upon the Lord, / and cried to my G-D: / and he heard my voice out of his temple, / and my cry entered into his ears. / Then the earth shook and trembled; /the foundations of heaven moved / and shook because of his anger /...the heavy mass of waters, and thick clouds of the skies /... And the channels of the sea appeared, / the foundations of the world were laid bare, / at the rebuking of the Lord, at the blast at the breath of his nostrils. / He sent from above, he took me; / he drew me out of many waters; / he delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me; for they were too strong for me. / They surprised me in the day of my calamity: / but the Lord was my stay / He brought me forth also into a large place: / he delivered me because he delighted in me./"
US National Archives photo # 19LCM bs38224, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert.

View the Scorpion (SS-278)
DANFS history entry located on the Haze Gray & Underway .
Crew Contact And Reunion Information
U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation
Fleet Reserve Association

Additional Resources and s of Interest
On Eternal Patrol
ComSubPac Report of loss of USS SCORPION (SS 278) January 5, 1944 - 77 Men Lost
Ep-21 (1) - Victory At Sea ~ Full Fathom Five - HQ

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