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NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive


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Scorpion (SSN-589)
Keel Laying - Loss

Radio Call Sign: November - Victor - Charlie- Foxtrot

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Discovery


Skipjack Class Attack Submarine: Laid down, 20 August 1958, at the Electric Boat Division, General Dynamics Corp., Groton, CT.; Launched, 19 December 1959; Commissioned, USS Scorpion (SSN-589), 29 July 1960; Last reported position, 21 May 1968, about 50 miles south of the Azores. Six days later, she was reported overdue at Norfolk; Crew declared "presumed lost," 5 June 1968; Struck form the Naval Register 30 June 1968; Final Disposition, in October 1968 Mizar (T-AGOR-11) located sections of Scorpion's hull in more than 10,000 feet of water about 400 miles southwest of the Azores. Subsequently, the Court of Inquiry was reconvened but, despite the myriad of data and pictures collected and studied, the cause of the loss remains a mystery.
Specifications: Displacement, Surfaced: 2,880 t., Submerged: 3,500 t.; Length 251' 9"; Beam 32'; Draft 28 ft.; Speed, Surfaced 15 kts, Submerged 30+ kts; Depth Limit 700'; Complement 118; Combat Systems, Sonar, BQR-12, BQR-2 passive, BQS-4 (modified) active/passive; Radar BPS-12; Fire Control, MK-101 torpedo FCS, ASW MK-48; Armament, six 21" torpedo tubes, forward; Propulsion System, one S5W nuclear reactor, two Westinghouse steam turbines, one propeller 15,000 shp.


10 December 2010
From: B. Rule, 3931 Brookfield Ave, Louisville, KY 40207-2001 To: VADM David J. Dorsett, Director of Naval Intelligence, Office of Naval Intelligence, 4251 Suitland Road, Washington, DC 20395-5720

Subj: Why the Scorpion (SSN-589) Was Lost on 22 May 1968

When the US nuclear submarine Scorpion was lost in the east central Atlantic on 22 May 1968, the event produced a series of acoustic signals detected by underwater sensors on both sides of the Atlantic.
By comparing the detection times of these signals, the position of the Scorpion was determined. That position provided the basis for the search that identified the Scorpion wreckage.
The first reanalysis of these acoustic signals in 40-years, in combination with conclusions drawn in 1970 by the Scorpion Structural Analysis Group (SAG), has provided the following new information:

- The initiating events that caused the loss of Scorpion were two explosions with an energy yield of not more than 20-lbs of TNT each. These explosions, which occurred one-half second apart at 18:20:44 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) on the 22 May 1968, were contained within the Scorpion pressure-hull,
- Based on the examination and microscopic, spectrographic and X-ray diffraction analysis of a section of the Scorpion TLX-53-A main storage battery cover recovered by the U.S. submersible, Trieste-II, the SAG determined the battery exploded before flooding of the battery well occurred.
- Collectively, the acoustic data and the physical evidence confirm Scorpion was lost because of two explosions that involved the ignition of hydrogen out gassed by the battery, i.e., these explosions were the initiating events responsible for the loss of Scorpion.
- These explosive events prevented the crew from maintaining depth-control. The Scorpion pressure-hull and all internal compartments collapsed in 0.112-seconds at 18:42:34 GMT on 22 May 1968 at a depth of 1530-feet. The energy yield of that event was equal to the explosion of 13,200 lbs of TNT, the essentially instantaneous conversion of potential energy (680 psi sea pressure) to kinetic energy, the motion of the water-ram which entered the pressure-hull at supersonic velocity.
- The more than 15 acoustic events that occurred during the 199-second period following pressure-hull collapse were produced by the collapse of more pressure-resistant structures, including the six torpedo tubes, within the wreckage.
- Reanalysis of the acoustic data also confirmed:
(1) Scorpion did not reverse course to deal with a torpedo conjectured to have become active in its launch tube;
(2), there were no acoustic detections of either a torpedo or any other naval surface ship or submarine when Scorpion was lost,
(3), there were no explosive events external to the Scorpion pressure-hull.

In summary, Scorpion was lost because two battery-associated explosions created onboard problems the crew could not overcome. There was no Soviet involvement.

This information has been provided to the Chief of Naval Operations, OPNAV N87, the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), Commander Submarine Forces, and the Naval History and Heritage Command.
Source: analysis of acoustic data that has been in the public domain for over 40-years.
Analyst: B. Rule, for 42-years, the lead acoustic analyst at ONI, the national laboratory for passive acoustic analysis.

Text courtesy of Chuck Haberlein.[Former Director of the Naval History and Heritage Command]


Click On Image
For Full Size Image
Size Image Description Contributed By
Skipjack 841k Skipjack (SS-585) about to slide down the launching ways at General Dynamics Corp., Electric Boat Division, Groton, CT., 26 May 1958.
I believe the Scorpion (SSN-589) is under construction on the right.
USN photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
Photo added 10/10/14.
Skipjack 729k Skipjack (SS-585) is waterbourne on 26 May 1958.
I believe the Scorpion (SSN-589) is under construction on the right.
USN photo # NPC 710183, courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
Photo added 10/10/14.
Scorpion 243k With her bow wrapped in the bunting of the constellation bearing her name, the Scorpion (SSN-589) slides down the ways at the Electric Boat Division, General Dynamics Corp., Groton, CT. 19 December 1959. US Navy photo.
Scorpion 22k The Scorpion (SSN-589) is waterborne following her launching at the Electric Boat Division, General Dynamics Corp., Groton, CT. 19 December 1959. Photo courtesy of Bill Gonyo.
Scorpion 357k The beginning of Scorpion (SSN-589) as a commissioned warship, 29 July 1960. The Triton (SSRN-586) is seen behind her. Following her post-shakedown availability, Triton assumed her duties as a radar picket submarine in August 1960. Partial text courtesy of DANFS. US Navy photo # USN 1051824 courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
Submarine Silhouettes 1960179kSubmarine Silhouettes of 1960:
Nautilus (SSN-571), Seawolf (SSN-575), Skate (SSN-578), Skipjack (SS-585), Triton (SSRN-586), Halibut (SSGN-587), Thresher (SSN-593), Tullibee (SSN-597), George Washington (SSBN-598), & Ethan Allen (SSBN-608) classes.
U.S. Navy Photograph submitted by Ron Titus, courtesy of Ingersoll-Rand. Corp.
Nuclear Submarine Profiles187kNuclear Submarine Profiles 1960:
Nautilus (SSN-571),
Seawolf (SSN-575),
Triton (SSRN-586),
Skate (SSN-578) & Skipjack (SS-585) classes,
Halibut (SSGN-587) & Tullibee (SSN-597) classes,
George Washington (SSBN-598) &
Thresher (SSN-593) classes.
US Navy photo courtesy of Ron Titus courtesy of Ingersoll-Rand. Corp. Photo i.d. courtesy of Dave Johnston.
Scorpion6.40kCommissioning PDF for the Scorpion (SSN-589) & Court of Inquiry on her loss.U.S. Navy Photograph courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com
Scorpion 75k Scorpion (SSN-589) photographed, 27 June 1960, off New London, CT., during builder's trials. Vice Admiral Hyman G. Rickover is standing on her sailplanes with another officer.
US Navy photo # NH 97215, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.
Scorpion 107k Scorpion (SSN-589) possibly on 27 June 1960, off New London, CT., during builder's trials.
US Navy photo courtesy of Wendell Royce McLaughlin Jr.
Scorpion 100k Scorpion (SSN-589) photographed, 22 August 1960, off New London, CT. A "GUPPY" type submarine is faintly visible in the distance, just beyond the forward tip of Scorpion's "sail".
US Navy photo # NH 97214, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.
Scorpion 111k Scorpion (SSN-589) photographed, 22 August 1960, off New London, CT.
US Navy photo # NH 97230, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.
Scorpion 40k Assigned to Submarine Squadron 6, Division 62, Scorpion (SSN-589) departed New London, Conn., on 24 August 1960 for a two-month deployment in European waters. During that period, she participated in exercises with units of the 6th Fleet and of other NATO navies.
She is pictured here entering Portsmouth Harbor, England during that deployment.
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress and submitted by Bill Gonyo. Partial text courtesy of DANFS.
Skipjack Class 60k Watercolour and gouache on paper painting by the artist Viktor Stepansky entitled "Diving Skipjack Class".
The Skipjack Class (SSN-585 / 88-92) - clearing showing the tear-drop shape adopted by many of the submarine's successors. The Scorpion (SSN-589) is pictured here underway.
Photo & text courtesy of subart.net.
Scorpion912kFour page Welcome Aboard PDF for the Scorpion (SSN-589).U.S. Navy Photograph courtesy of Mike Smolinski.
Scorpion 21k A shipfitter measures the hull for a cofferdam to fit around an access hole to remove and install equipment, June 1963 to May 1964. The Scorpion (SSN-589) was the first nucelar sub to be overhauled by the Charleston, S.C. shipyard.
US Navy photo courtesy of Robert Hall.
Scorpion 24k Scorpion (SSN-589) logo on ship's mail, May 1964.
Courtesy of Richard Leonhardt.
Scorpion 28k Scorpion (SSN-589) in 1966 at D&S piers Norfolk Va. Cutlass (SS-478) and Orion (AS-18) in the background.
Courtesy of John Hummel.
Scorpion 344k Scorpion (SSN-589) on it's last Northern run in 1966. We were tied up at Holy Loch. Photo courtesy of Bill Lee.
Scorpion 72k Scorpion (SSN-589) approaches Tallahatchie County (AVB-2) in preparation for coming alongside, outside Claywall Harbor, Naples, Italy, 10 April 1968. US Navy photo # NH 70310, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center, courtesy Lieutenant John R. Holland, Engineering Officer, Tallahatchie County, 1969.
Scorpion 72k Scorpion (SSN-589) prepares to come alongside Tallahatchie County (AVB-2) outside Claywall Harbor, Naples, Italy, 10 April 1968. US Navy photo # NH 70309, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center, courtesy Lieutenant John R. Holland, Engineering Officer, Tallahatchie County, 1969.
Scorpion 115k Scorpion (SSN-589) comes alongside Tallahatchie County (AVB-2) outside Claywall Harbor, Naples, Italy, 10 April 1968. US Navy photo # NH 70305, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center, courtesy Lieutenant John R. Holland, Engineering Officer, Tallahatchie County, 1969.
Scorpion 104k Scorpion (SSN-589) comes alongside Tallahatchie County (AVB-2) outside Claywall Harbor, Naples, Italy, 10 April 1968. The submarine's Commanding Officer, Commander Francis A. Slattery, is atop her sail, holding a megaphone. US Navy photo # NH 70304 from the collections of the Naval Historical Center, courtesy Lieutenant John R. Holland, Engineering Officer, Tallahatchie County, 1969.
Scorpion 174k Scorpion (SSN-589) ties up alongside Tallahatchie County (AVB-2) outside Claywall Harbor, Naples, Italy, 10 April 1968. This view shows the submarine's line handling crew aft of her sail, just as she has been made fast and the National Ensign transferred to its "in port" position. US Navy photo # NH 70308, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center, courtesy Lieutenant John R. Holland, Engineering Officer, Tallahatchie County, 1969.
Scorpion 63k Scorpion (SSN-589) alongside Tallahatchie County (AVB-2) outside Claywall Harbor, Naples, Italy, in April 1968, shortly before she departed on her last voyage. US Navy photo # NH 68141, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center, courtesy Lieutenant John R. Holland, Engineering Officer, Tallahatchie County, 1969.
Scorpion 71k Scorpion (SSN-589) alongside Tallahatchie County (AVB-2) outside Claywall Harbor, Naples, Italy, in April 1968, shortly before she departed on her last voyage. US Navy photo # NH 68140, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center, courtesy Lieutenant John R. Holland, Engineering Officer, Tallahatchie County, 1969.
Scorpion 347k Scorpion (SSN-589) alongside Tallahatchie County (AVB-2) outside Claywall Harbor, Naples, Italy, in April 1968, shortly before she departed on her last voyage. Text courtesy of NH 68136 photo from the collections of the Naval Historical Center, courtesy Lieutenant John R. Holland, Engineering Officer, Tallahatchie County, 1969.
US Navy photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
Scorpion 56k Scorpion (SSN-589) alongside Tallahatchie County (AVB-2) outside Claywall Harbor, Naples, Italy, in April 1968, shortly before she departed on her last voyage. US Navy photo # NH 68139, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center, courtesy Lieutenant John R. Holland, Engineering Officer, Tallahatchie County, 1969.
Scorpion 66k Scorpion (SSN-589) alongside Tallahatchie County (AVB-2) outside Claywall Harbor, Naples, Italy, in April 1968, shortly before she departed on her last voyage. US Navy photo # NH 68138, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center, courtesy Lieutenant John R. Holland, Engineering Officer, Tallahatchie County, 1969.
Scorpion 68k Scorpion (SSN-589) alongside Tallahatchie County (AVB-2) outside Claywall Harbor, Naples, Italy, in April 1968, shortly before she departed on her last voyage. US Navy photo # NH 70307, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center, courtesy Lieutenant John R. Holland, Engineering Officer, Tallahatchie County, 1969.

View the Scorpion (SSN-589)
DANFS history entry located on the Haze Gray & Underway Web Site.
Crew Contact And Reunion Information
U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation
Fleet Reserve Association

Additional Resources and Web Sites of Interest
On Eternal Patrol
USS Scorpion (SSN-589)
Dedicated to the Memory of our Fallen Shipmates
decklog.com/SSN-589
FAS - SSN-585 Skipjack Class

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