USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

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USS Scorpion

Career USN Jack
Ordered: 31 January 1957
Laid down: 20 August 1958
Launched: 29 December 1959
Commissioned: 29 July 1960
Fate: Lost by storm or perils of the sea
Stricken: 30 June 1968
General Characteristics
Displacement: 2880 tons light, 3075 tons full, 195 tons dead
Length: 76.8 meters (252 feet)
Beam: 9.7 meters (32 feet)
Draft: 9.1 meters (30 feet)
Propulsion: S5W reactor
Complement: 8 officers, 75 men
Armament: six 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
Insignia of USS Scorpion

USS Scorpion (SSN-589) was the sixth ship of the United States Navy to be named for the scorpion, an arachnid having an elongated body and a narrow segmented tail bearing a venomous sting at the tip (hence the Scorpius constellation on its insignia). She was a Skipjack-class submarine of the United States Navy. She was one of the few American submarines to be lost at sea while not at war. Her keel was laid down on 20 August 1958 by the Electric Boat Division of the General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Connecticut. She was launched on 19 December 1959 sponsored by Mrs. Elizabeth S. Morrison, and commissioned on 29 July 1960 with Commander Norman B. Bessac in command.

Assigned to Submarine Squadron 6, Division 62, Scorpion departed New London, Connecticut, on 24 August for a two-month deployment in European waters. During that period, she participated in exercises with units of the Sixth Fleet and of other NATO navies. After returning to New England in late October, she trained along the eastern seaboard until May 1961, then crossed the Atlantic again for operations which took her into the summer. On 9 August, she returned to New London, Connecticut, and, a month later, shifted to Norfolk, Virginia. In 1962 she earned the Navy Unit Commendation.

With Norfolk her home port for the remainder of her career, Scorpion specialized in the development of nuclear submarine warfare tactics. Varying her role from hunter to hunted, she participated in exercises which ranged along the Atlantic coast and in the Bermuda and Puerto Rico operating areas; then, from June 1963 to May 1964, she interrupted her operations for an overhaul at Charleston, South Carolina. Resuming duty off the eastern seaboard in late spring, she again interrupted that duty from 4 August to 8 October to make a transatlantic patrol. In the spring of 1965, she conducted a similar patrol in European waters.

During the late winter and early spring of 1966, and again in the Autumn, she was deployed for special operations. Following the completion of those assignments, her commanding officer received the Navy Commendation Medal for outstanding leadership, foresight, and professional skill. Other Scorpion officers and crewmen were cited for meritorious achievement.

On 1 February 1967, Scorpion entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for another extended overhaul. However, instead of the much needed complete overhaul, it got only emergency repairs to get it back on duty as soon as possible. The cost of that last overhaul was nearly seven times less than those given other nuclear submarines at the same time. It was the result of concerns about the "high percentage of time off line" of nuclear attack submarines which was estimated to be at about 40% of total available duty time.

The reduced overhaul concept the Scorpion went through had been approved by the Chief of Naval Operations on 17 June 1966. On 20 July, the CNO also allowed deferral of the "Submarine Safety Program" (SubSafe) extensions which had been deemed essential since 1963.

In late October, the Scorpion commenced refresher training and weapons system acceptance tests. Following type training out of Norfolk, Virginia, she got underway on 15 February 1968 for a Mediterranean Sea deployment. She operated with the Sixth Fleet, into May, and then headed west for home. On 21 May, she indicated her position to be about 50 miles (80 km) south of the Azores. Six days later, she was reported overdue at Norfolk.

A search was initiated, but without immediate success. On 5 June, Scorpion and her crew were declared "presumed lost." Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 30 June.

The search continued, however. A team of mathematical consultants led by Dr John Craven, the Chief Scientist of the U.S. Navy's Special Projects Division employed novel methods of Bayesian search theory. These were developed two years earlier during the (successful) search for a hydrogen bomb lost at sea off the coast of Palomares, Spain, when a refueling Strategic Air Command B52 crashed into a KC-135 tanker. At the end of October, the Navy's oceanographic research ship, USNS Mizar (T-AGOR-11) located sections of the hull of Scorpion in more than 3000 meters (10,000 feet) of water about 650 kilometers (400 miles) southwest of the Azores. Subsequently, the Court of Inquiry was reconvened and other vessels, including the Bathyscaphe Trieste were dispatched to the scene and collected a myriad pictures and other data.

Although the cause of her loss cannot be determined with certainty, the most probable cause is inadvertent activation of the battery of a Mark 37 torpedo during a torpedo inspection. In this scenario, the torpedo, in a fully ready condition and without a propeller guard, began a live "hot run" within the tube. Released from the tube, the torpedo became fully armed and successfully engaged its nearest target, Scorpion. Alternatively, the torpedo may have exploded in the tube owing to an uncontrollable fire in the torpedo room.

The explosion -- later correlated to a very loud acoustic event recorded by monitoring stations -- broke the boat into two major pieces, with the forward hull section, including the torpedo room and most of the operations compartment, creating one impact trench while the aft section, including the reactor compartment and engine room, created a second impact trench. The aft section of the engine room is inserted forward into a larger diameter hull section in a manner similar to a telescope. The sail is detached and lies nearby in a large debris field.

The Navy has periodically monitored the environmental conditions of the site since the sinking and reported the results in an annual public report on environmental monitoring for U.S. naval nuclear-powered ships. These reports confirm that two nuclear-tipped torpedoes were aboard Scorpion when the ship was lost. The reports provide specifics on the environmental sampling of sediment, water, and marine life that is done to ascertain whether the submarine has significantly affected the deep-ocean environment. The reports also explain the methodology for conducting this deep sea monitoring from both surface vessels and submersibles. The monitoring data confirm that, by the standards of the U.S. Navy, there has been no significant effect on the environment. The nuclear fuel aboard the submarine remains intact and no plutonium in excess of levels expected from fallout from past atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons has been detected by the Navy's inspections.

See USS Scorpion for other ships of the same name.



This article includes information collected from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships and Blind Man's Bluff.

External References

Officers and Men lost with USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

The following officers and men were lost with Scorpion (SSN-589).


  • Commander Slattery, Francis Atwood, Commanding Officer
  • Lieutenant Commander Lloyd, David Bennett, Executive Officer
  • Lieutenant Commander Stephens, Daniel Peter
  • Lieutenant Burke, John Patrick
  • Lieutenant Farrin, George Patrick
  • Lieutenant Flesch, Robert Walter
  • Lieutenant Harwi, William Clarke
  • Lieutenant Lamberth, Charles Lee
  • Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Forrester, James Walter, Jr
  • Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Odening, Michael Anthony
  • Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Smith, Laughton Douglas
  • Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Sweet, John Charles

Chief Petty Officers

  • TMC Bishop, Walter William, Chief of the Boat (COB)
  • MMC(SS) Bryan, Robert Eugene
  • RMC(SS) Denney, Garlin Ray
  • RMCS(SS) Johnson, Robert
  • MMCS(SS) Kerntke, Richard Allen
  • QMCS(SS) Mazzuchi, Frank Patsy
  • EMC(SS) Peterson, Daniel Christopher
  • HMC(SS) Saville, Lynn Thompson
  • ETC(SS) Smith, George Elmer, Jr.
  • YNCS(SS) Weinbeck, Leo Williazm
  • MMC(SS) Wells, James Mitchell

Enlisted Men

  • FTG3(SS) Allen, Keith Alexander Martin
  • IC2 Amtower, Thomas Edward
  • MM2 Annable, George Gile
  • FN(SS) Barr, Joseph Anthony, Jr.
  • RM2(SS) Bailey, Michael Jon
  • IC3 Blake, Michael Reid
  • MM1(SS) Blocker, Robert Harold
  • MM2(SS) Brocker,  Kenneth Ray
  • MM1(SS) Brueggeman, James Kenneth
  • RMSN Burns, Daniel Paul, Jr.
  • IC2(SS) Byers, Ronald Lee
  • MM2(SS) Campbell, Douglas Leroy
  • MM3(SS) Cardullo, Samuel "J."
  • MM2(SS) Carey, Francis King
  • SN Carpenter, Gary James
  • MM1(SS) Chandler,  Robert Lee
  • MM1(SS) Christiansen, Mark Helton
  • SD1(SS) Constantino, Romeo
  • MM1(SS) Cowan, Robert  James
  • SD1(SS) Cross, Joseph
  • FA Dunn, Michael Edward
  • ETR2 Engelhart, Richard Philip
  • FTGSN Fennick, William Ralph
  • IC3(SS) Foli, Vernon Mark

Enlisted Men (Continued)

  • SN Frank, Ronald Anthony
  • CSSN(SS) Gibson, Michael David
  • IC2 Gleason, Steven Dean
  • STS2(SS) Henry, Micheal Edward
  • SK1(SS) Hess, Larry Leroy
  • ETR1(SS) Hogeland, Richard Curtis
  • MM1(SS) Houge, John Richard
  • EM2 Huber, Ralph Robert
  • TM2(SS) Huckelberry, Harry David
  • EM3 Johnson, John Frank
  • IC3(SS) Johnson, Steven Leroy
  • QM2(SS) Johnston, Julius III
  • FN Kahanek, Patrick Charles
  • TM2(SS) Karmasek, Donald Terry
  • ETR3(SS) Kipp, Rodney Joseph
  • MM3 Knapp, Dennis Charles
  • MM1(SS) Lanier, Max Franklin
  • ET1(SS) Livingston, John Weichert
  • ETN2 Martin, Kenneth Robert
  • ET1(SS) McGuire, Michael Lee
  • TMSN Miksad, Steven Charles
  • TMSN Miller, Joseph Francis, Jr
  • MM2(SS) Mobley, Cecil Frederick
  • QM1(SS) Morrison, Raymond Dale
  • QM3(SS) Pferrer, Dennis Paul
  • EM1(SS) Psopisil, Gerald Stanley
  • IC3 Powell, Donald Richard
  • MM2 Ray, Earl Lester, Jr.
  • CS1(SS) Santana, Jorge Luis
  • ETN2(SS) Schaffer, Richard George
  • SN Schoonover, William Newman
  • SN Seifert, Phillip Allan
  • MM2(SS) Smith, Robert Bernard
  • ST1(SS) Snapp, Harold Robert Jr.
  • ETM2(SS) Stephens, Joel Candler
  • MM2(SS) Stone, David Burton
  • EM2 Sturgill, John Phillip
  • YN3 Summers, Richard Norman
  • TMSN Sweeney, John Driscoll, Jr.
  • ETM2(SS) Tindol, James Frank, III
  • CSSN Veerhusen, Johnny Gerald
  • TM3 Violeiti, Robert Paul
  • ST3 Voss, Ronald James
  • FTG1(SS) Wallace, John Michael
  • MM1(SS) Watkins, Joel Kurt
  • MMFN Watson, Robert Westley
  • TM2 Webb, James Edwin
  • SN Williams, Ronald Richard
  • MM3 Willis, Robert Alan
  • IC1(SS) Wright, Virgil Alexander III
  • TM1(SS) Yarsbrough, Donald Howard
  • ETR2(SS) Young, Clarence Otto, Jr.

Skipjack-class submarine

Skipjack | Scamp | Scorpion | Sculpin | Shark | Snook

List of submarines of the United States Navy
List of submarine classes of the United States Navy
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