"Scorpion Down" by Ed Offley

Just read a fascinating book,“Scorpion Down” by Military Reporter Ed Offley (2007)about the sinking of the USS Scorpion.The “Scorpion” was a nuclear sub lost off the Azores in the spring of `1968. The Naval official version is the sub’s loss(and crew) was an accident, perhaps a torpedo misfired and turned on the sub. The author believes the sub was sunk by the Russians who were nearby on a naval exercise.Motive- perhaps payback for the Russian sub K-129 sinking 4 months earlier in the Pacific.The Russians believe a American boomer sub ran it over.The book covers a detailed history of Cold War sub cat and mouse tension between the fleets and even mentions a couple of MSC vessels involved in the search of the wreckage.Also convicted spy Johnny Walker possible hand in the affair.

Hey Domer,

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I enjoyed the Scorpion Down. I graduated from New London Sub School the same weekend that the first Nautlis went into service. I never have been on a nucliar .I served two years on the SSK 241 Bashaw during the Korean War. I was a ETR2SS and operated and maintained the S-band radar in the Conning Tower, the LORAN and IFF Radar. The book brought back several menories of our duty. The S-band Radar console was located aside the periscopes where the Captain stood.Also I stood sonar watches when submerged.The Bashaw was one of two eletric/diesel snorkel boats modified as prototype sub killers. It had a sonar transducers array for the upper part of the bow. There was to be a fleet of the boats which seems to have revolved into the fast attack nukes. These a few of the things that the book brought back. (1) We were part opf a 1000 mile picket line from a ship every 50 miles between the Hawaii Islands and the Johnson islands to try and contact a Russian Sub seen off Peru on its return to Vladivstok .We sat out there for bettrer then a week but never make contact. The Idea was to trail him until he surface and then give him a 1 finger salute. Another time we spent a serveal weeks submerged and radio silents outside of Vladivstok photographing and sound recording Russian Ships. At that time we also went up the coast line recording Russian land radars. Our EMC antenna connector flooded out and I had to repair it. Here we were on the surface, in February , supposely in International waters, at night and I’m on top of the sail with only a red flash light replacing the connectors. I sure didn’t want to hear “Dive Dive”. When in port on weekends several times we would take people out for a short cruise out of Pearl Habor. We were sailing along at periscope depth and the captain order “take her to 100 depth”. The bow planes stuck on full dive. The crew on the bow planes could not return the planes. The boat had a 800 foot colapse depth. As we passed 200 ft feet the captain order to blow “negative”, didn’t stop the downward travel. As we passed 300ft the captain order “blow safe tank”. That didn’t stop the downward travel. At 400 ft he order “blow all ballast tanks”. We were at 500 ft. Next came, “Emergency speed aft:. Our momentum kept us still downward. At 600 ft he order " take the locks of the fuel tanks”. Before that happen the boat stop the downward travel. The boat vibrated and started for the surface in reverse and accelerating as we accended . As this was not the normal direction the boat travels, there were lots of things flying out of shevies. Some of the guest were senior offices. The order clean it up and he disappeared for the day.That evening some of us were in our favorite bar on Hotel street. Some sailors off a destroyer heard us talking about the days events. The said 'hey, were you on the sub?" It was crazy, this sub shoots out of the water with the twin screws spinning in the in air. We had several other ocurrences that I’ll allways remember, but this is getting too long. They had to do with needing British help tieing up in Hong Kong, Christmas trees in the torpedo tubes, rescuing downed air crew, japanese fishing floats, and the “Little Doggy in the Window”.

Richard Witt