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The USS Scorpion - What Happened ?

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posted on Oct, 22 2002 @ 02:17 PM


Comment by The Northwest Veterans Newsletter
Disclaimer: Not necessarily the opinion of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer or Mr. Offley

Mr. Offley's article suggests that the USS Scorpion may not have been lost due to mechanical failure which led to massive flooding as has been suggested by the Navy, but MAY have been sunk by a Soviet submarine while on a top-secret mission.

In his report above, Mr. Offley raises the issue of a serious security breach. History shows how the British capture of Germany's "Enigma" decryption equipment during WWII was very instrumental in the Allied victory of Germany during that war. It is possible that the same could have happened to the U.S. during the Vietnam conflict. As reported above, the crypto gear itself was NOT destroyed prior to the Pueblo's capture and that Walker had provided the Soviets vital keylists for at least some, if not all of our crypto gear.

Mr. Offley thus has made a case that the Scorpion's mission and whereabouts were known by the Soviets. And our sub may have been being shadowed by a Soviet submarine and sunk.

Perhaps of even greater significance - not taking away from the tragic loss of the Scorpion crew or Mr. Offley's outstanding article - one must wonder at this point if much of the message traffic flowing between CINCPAC in Hawaii and Vietnam was also being intercepted by the Soviets and being read, possibly almost as it was being transmitted, from CINCPAC? Soviet spy ships were often seen near the Hawaiian Islands.

In my research on Cambodia Incursions it has been reported in a book authored by a former VC enemy that they were given almost 30-minutes notice of our B-52 bombing raids. While advance notice of such bombing raids could be explained by simply watching our B-52's taking off from their bases, the actual specific target areas would be unknown, that is unless enemy SIGNET was very good, and perhaps it was....

Of further interest is the time-line of certain events.

In May of '68 as reported above, the Scorpion was lost. Just a few months earlier, several highly-sensitive sites in Laos, including Lima-Site85 which was a highly-classified TACAN site that reportedly was used to help direct B-52 strikes against our former enemy. This site reportedly also held highly-classified launch codes for our nuclear force.

Former North Vietnamese have stated all U.S. personnel were killed when Site-85 was overrun on March 11, 1968. Other information suggests the possibility that several, including Melvin Holland, were captured and possibly found their way to the Soviet Union for interrogation. It is also noteworthy that the North Vietnamese never made mention of the capture of U.S. personnel or equipment in Laos. Such disclosure could have caused considerable outcry since officially U.S. forces were NOT allowed in Laos.

Of other interest:

In April, 1970, ARVN forces began conducting cross-border raids into the Parrot's Beak area of Cambodia. On May 2nd, U.S. forces crossed into Cambodia in the Fish Hook area. The capture of NVA forces had been prevented because of earlier movement of major NVA forces to the west. While large caches were found, the hoped-for capture of COSVN was averted. Also U.S. bombing strikes the morning of the U.S. incursion did little damage to NVA forces or major caches. It is also now known that American POWs had been held in the Fish Hook area. No American POWs were found during this or other incursions into Cambodia. It has been reported in several historical works written since the war that following the 1970 Incursion, American POWs were moved to or near Kratie to prevent their possible repatriation by U.S. or ARVN forces.

In the summer of 1970, SECDEF Laird proposed to Pres. Nixon a daring raid to rescue American POWs at Son Tay. The raid occurred on the evening of Nov. 21, 1970. We now know that the U.S. POWs had been moved from Son Tay possibly only 48-hours prior to the rescuers arrival!

In early 1971, ARVN forces again crossed into the Fish Hook region of Cambodia supported by American Air Cav units, including my old unit the Silver Spurs (A Trp., 3/17th Air Cav) and Cobra gunships from the 1st Cav's Blue Max. Two large columns of ARVN armor en route to relieve encircled ARVN forces at Snoul were virtually wiped-out by a large NVA ambush.

Also in Feb. 1971, ARVN forces crossed into Laos in attempts to cut the Hoi Chi Minh trail. This was the ultimate test to prove the success of Vietnamization of the war. While initial penetration went moderately well and large caches were found, ARVN forces suffered very HEAVY losses when they attempted to withdraw from Laos. The serious losses to ARVN from these two operations would have significant impact in the fall of South Vietnam.

What all these incidents have in common is the high probability of these missions being compromised at the highest levels. And one must understand that CINCPAC in Hawaii, was the "Pacific Pentagon." Almost all message traffic to and from MACV from the Pentagon and Whitehouse were routed thru CINCPAC.

I can only assume that since the KW-7 crypto machine was the best of its kind available in 1968, that it is very possible that it was also used for message traffic between the Pentagon, CINCPAC and MACV. With the selling of U.S. keylists to the Soviets by Walker and the capture of the KW-7 crypto machine in the Pueblo incident, one might jump to the conclusion that the reason so many of our missions from 1968 on were seemingly compromised might thus be explained. The capture of crypto gear was known. But according to Mr. Offley's report U.S. Intelligence agencies still felt that communications were secure because of the keylists. Unknown at the time was the fact that Walker had furnished the Soviets with the vital keylist information. Thus, the knowledge of 'Orestes' message traffic may have been as damaging to U.S. efforts in Vietnam, just as the capture of 'Enigma' by British Intelligence during WWII was to Germany.

Update: On 9 June 2001, FoxNews ran a special on spies. Oleg Kalugin, a reported former high-level KGB official stated about John Walker:

"His access to cryptographic material, allowed us to read all U.S. secret communications between the United States Naval Headquarters and its Navies across the world."
Since the Seattle P-I did not have the Scorpion article posted on the web at time of publication, my wife Pam has requested, and received, permission from Mr. Offley to post his informative article on the USS Scorpion on our website. I believe many will find his article of great interest.

I want to thank Mr. Offley and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer for allowing me to post the Scorpion article.

For more on the USS Scorpion, see: USS SCORPION (SSN-589) - Fast Attack Nuclear ...

For more on message traffic between MACVSOG and CINCPAC, see: AFFIDAVIT OF BARRY ALLEN TOLL

And may those who perished in the Scorpion rest in peace...


Roger Young -- Email:
A Troop, 3/17th Air Cav -- Dec '69 - Nov '70 -- Vietnam
The Northwest Veterans Newsletter --


Subj: Scorpion
Date: 99-05-25 09:34:07 EDT


I found your Scorpion page via a Yahoo search. I find many of your conclusions to be in direct conflict with the known events of the time. Scorpion had completed the "high-tech spy mission" and was returning to Norfolk. Also you suggest that the Soviet Navy had the ability to " monitor an electronic transmissions to the Scorpion, including the encrypted orders sending it on its spy mission." 1. This is patently false. 2. If it were true, then the Soviets would have had a tremendous advantage during the cold war, which is not borne out by the results of same.

You also contend that the Soviet battle group which was shadowing had detected her, possibly followed her, and then attacked her with torpedoes. Nonsense. No Soviet captain would ever dare such a thing without orders from CNO Moscow. And such orders would have led to an escalation in the cold war that frankly never happened.

Your sequence of events for the Scorpion;s change of mission is also wrong. She was given the change at Naples before departing. This is a well documented fact. A point of note, the Captain and several of the officers attempted to get the Captain James Bradley to change the orders. They had been at sea for 2 months and wanted to get home. Bradley was sympathetic, but the orders stood. Did you even research any of this?

Next you say that the Soviets were conducting tests of possible acoustic systems and ways to replenish subs at sea without relying on foreign ports? What nonsense is that? There is plenty of documentation readily available to show what they were doing there. In fact, in one of Scorpion's last radio messages, she tells exactly what she observed and her analysis.

Your statements attributed to Lt. Jonh Rodgers are interesting. My only question is what would a mere Lt. be doing with classified information of that magnitude? And what would make him divulge it in an interview years later. Especially if that information had yet to be declassified? Your contention that he was a messenger in the COMMO center is flawed. All that information is encrypted. Then sealed before being handed to a messenger. If he read it, he broke the seal. If he handed it to his boss with a broken seal, he gave the interview from Leavenworth prison.

Now about the torpedo. 1. he previous incident with an "unarmed training torpedo" is just laughable. Why would a US Attack submarine, operating during the cold war, close to Soviet fleets, waste her valuable hull space with something like that?

What you refer to is called a "hot run" It happened frequently with the Mk37 torpedo. There was a problem with the wiring on the test equipment used. The most likely scenario is that there was a test on a torpedo being carried out. This is standard procedure for any US Submarine returning to base after a patrol.

The wires were probably reversed. This caused the fish to "hot run". At that point the Captain would instantly order 'Right full rudder". The reason is that every torpedo has a built in safety device that prevents it from turning and destroying the sub it was fired from. By turning right, and reversing course this device would have been activated and the warhead would not have armed.

This may explain why the wreckage of Scorpion was heading East when in fact her destination was West of her position. I really don't intend to find fault with your page. I do think the background music is a bit annoying. But it seems that you have drawn conclusions from some shakey sources. And I am not sure that you do any service to the families.

There was no cover up. There was no attack by a Soviet vessel. It was simply a case of terribly bad luck striking a boat with a history of bad luck and maintenance problems.

My best to you and yours,


Webmasters note: While the e-mail was addressed to me, as the author, I have contacted and explained that Ed Offley was the author of the original article and that it was posted with Mr. Offley's permission. A copy of's comments has been forwarded to Mr. Offley by this newsletter for his information. -- The Northwest Veterans Newsletter


Subj: USS Scorpion website
Date: 12/25/1999 4:38:21 PM Pacific Standard Time
From: (Don Dew)

Dear Sir,

In concurrance with the information given by, a book I have recently read - entitled "Blind Man's Bluff" by Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew (pp. 124-170) leads to evidence indicating that Navy research labs knew of a design defect in the Mark 37 torpedos. This defect had on documented occasions caused a battery explosion and rendered the torpedo hot. The torpedo was put into service before these discoveries were documented and acted upon.

The information provided by and the book indicate that the Scorpion was found 180 degrees from the course it should have been on, with extensive damage in the torpedo bay area. To test the hot torpedo theory, Craven put former Scorpion XO Robert Fountain aboard a simulator and ran through numerous test scenarios. On the last one, a person from the control room called "Hot running torpedo in the torpedo room" - Fountain's immediate reaction was "right full rudder." Then the computer simulated an explosion in the forward torpedo room, and the computer registered flooding, etc. Fountain followed exact procedure, and the "sub" passed implosion depth exactly 90 seconds later at 2000 feet. The simulation was 1 second off the 91 second explosion to implosion time registered by underwater hydrophones at the time.

It is theorized that the faulty battery setup caused the torpedo to go hot and eventually explode, despite the captain bringing the sub about.

I am no expert, more of a fascinated bystander, however this information is presented in a very plausible manner from interviews with numerous insiders. For full details, I would suggest reading the chapter, it is very informative, and the idea of a Soviet attack seems quite unlikely.

Donald Dew


Subj: uss scorpion/kw7 article/pueblo
Date: 09/21/2000 8:51:05 AM Pacific Daylight Time
From: (Murphy, Michael A.)
To: ('')

Sir, I would like to correspond with the author of the article in question. I was in communications in the Navy from 1970-1976, and while our security was damaged by the pueblo incident the kw7 was a regional high frequency ship to ship crypto equipment. Our main communications were done with the kg13 and the kw26 (between CINCPAC and our carrier) as well as secure voice communications.

Anything of sensitive intelligence was encrypted offline with a machine much like the german enigma box. I believe the overall premise of his story is in error for this reason.

Even in 1970 with the advent of the first "super" computers, encryption breaking became a mere matter of enough time to crunch the numbers. At that time we were "glad" to be able to keep something a secret for this amount of time.

I believe the ability to keep communications secure in this day and age has vanished completely (been reduced to a matter of minutes). Very interesting reading though.

Michael A. Murphy

Subj: Scorpion Date: 02/02/2001 2:33:58 PM Pacific Standard Time From:

Dear Sir:

I only know that I saw the Scorpion before I left Rota in late May 1968. I read the newspaper in Philidelphia and was shocked to here that she had gone down. I thought about some of the young guys that I had seen just a few days ago. This was 32 years ago. I didn't really get interested untill the Russian Sub was lost. I had thought that the Navy knew what had happened to the Scorpion. After reading the Navy findings I could not understand why there was no mention of Rota.

I remember that the Scorpion left two men in Rota for personal reasons. I was not on duty that day but I heard about it. Later she came back in. She was on a pier across from me. I didn't know what she was because all I had ever seen was missile boats. Some one told me that she was the Scorpion. They had a coferdam built around here and they were weilding on the storboard bow.

Maybe they welding hand rails on the side. I don't really know. I was only cleared for confidential messages. I have read the book "Blind mans bluff" and maybe she did have a hot running fish. I just want to know why she was in Rota.

So what do you think happend to the USS Scorpion.....

Sabotoge ?
A Soviet Sub Attack ?
Faulty Mechanisms ala the USS Thresher ?

[Edited on 22-10-2002 by Arizona Ranger]

posted on Oct, 30 2002 @ 06:19 AM
seriously, AR, this was a fascinating tale but it may be a bit too long ago.
You'll be aware of the very strange history of the naval panels and inquiries.
First it was a "rogue" torpedo -one of the Scorpion's own -then thet was overturned and it was a mechanical failure. Then after material had been recovered it was a torpedo accident once more.
A lot of material has since been declassified and is available at USN web-sits (that's not to say it's true, of course). However, the sub was quickly linked to the activities of USN masterspy, the Soviet agent John Walker and possibility that the Russians had all the codes.
It was further alleged that teh Scorpion had been spying on a group of Soviet vessels and had been sunk by the Russians.
To add to the conspiracy -a Soviet sub (K-129 I think) had mysteriously sunk just a little while before. It was said that this the work of the USN and that the two powers had done a deal to sort of cancel the two subs out, to avoid a war.
Those were the days: the Red hordes and not just a bunch of camel-cowboys to worry about.

posted on Nov, 30 2008 @ 09:24 PM

posted on Dec, 1 2008 @ 12:58 AM
i dont mean for this to be a one line post but here goes -

k-129 is a far more interesting story, but basicly, they took the scorpion out thinking we took k-129 out... imho (k-129 was the almost nuclear attack upon hawaii, a rogue element of the soviet trying to make it look like an attack by china)

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