What really happened to the USS Scorpion

Submarines: Was the "USS Scorpion" sunk by the Soviets?

The assignment sounded as simple as it was difficult: the "USS Scorpion" was supposed to "monitor the activities of the Soviet Navy". This meant that the submarine had to drive as close as possible to the ships of the other superpower and record everything possible that could be detected by electronic signals and noises.

Probably from May 19 to May 21, 1968, the eight-year-old nuclear submarine of the Skipjack class apparently fulfilled this mission, because on the evening of May 21, the 36-year-old commander Francis Slattery reported that his boat was breaking up 50 nautical miles south of the Azores en route to home base in Norfolk. It was the last message from the "USS Scorpion".

The next routine report on the evening of May 22, 1968 did not materialize. Sometime in the meantime, something fatal must have happened in the middle of the depths of the Atlantic. Only what? On May 27, 1968 at the latest, when the "Scorpion" did not arrive in Norfolk, hope faded that only its entire communication technology could have failed - a rather unlikely assumption anyway.

A major search began immediately, but there was no longer any hope for Slattery and his 98-man crew: the sea area from which the “Scorpion” had last reported was over 3000 meters deep. So if the boat had sunk to the bottom, the water pressure would have squashed it long ago. And even if individual men had made it out of the hull of the sinking boat alive, they would have been dead after six or more days in the Atlantic - from being chilled or thirsty.

It was the second catastrophe with a US nuclear submarine after the loss of the "USS Thresher" on April 10, 1963 during a diving test. The "Scorpion" even had two nuclear torpedoes on board. What went wrong with the US Navy high-tech weapons?