USS Scorpion Submarine Disaster

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USS Scorpion (SSN-589) was a Skipjack-class nuclear submarine of the United States Navy and the sixth vessel of the U.S. Navy to carry that name. Scorpion was lost on 22 May 1968, with 99 crewmen dying in the incident. USS Scorpion is one of two nuclear submarines the U.S. Navy has lost, the other being USS Thresher. It was one of four mysterious submarine disappearances in 1968, the others being the Israeli submarine INS Dakar, the French submarine Minerve and the Soviet submarine K-129.

Scorpion's keel was laid down 20 August 1958 by General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut. She was launched 19 December 1959, sponsored by Mrs. Elizabeth S. Morrison, the daughter of the last commander of the World War II-era USS Scorpion (SS-278) (which was also lost with all hands, in 1944). Scorpion was commissioned 29 July 1960, Commander Norman B. Bessac in command.

USS Scorpion Submarine DisasterShortly after her sinking, the Navy assembled a Court of Inquiry to investigate the incident and to publish a report regarding the likely causes for the sinking. The court was presided over by Vice Admiral Bernard L. Austin, who had presided over the inquiry into the loss of Thresher. The report's findings were first made public on January 31, 1969. While ruling out sabotage, the report said: "The certain cause of the loss of the Scorpion cannot be ascertained from evidence now available."

In 1984, the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star obtained documents related to the inquiry and reported that the likely cause of the disaster was the detonation of a torpedo while the Scorpion's own crew attempted to disarm it. The U.S. Navy declassified many of the inquiry's documents in 1993.


Today, the wreck of Scorpion is reported to be resting on a sandy seabed at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in approximately 3,000 m (9,800 ft) of water. The site is reported to be approximately 400 nmi (740 km) southwest of the Azores, on the eastern edge of the Sargasso Sea. More details