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Scorpion Down: Sunk by the Soviets, Buried by the Pentagon: The Untold Story of the USS Scorpion Paperback – March 25, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The U.S.S. Scorpion SSN 589, a 99-man fast attack submarine, sank 400 miles southwest of the Azores on May 22, 1968, a time during the Cold War when the Soviet Navy was expanding and becoming more aggressive. The Navy's top secret court of inquiry, however, theorized that the Scorpion was sunk by its own hot-running torpedo, not an enemy vessel. In this thorough post-mortem, military beat reporter Offley challenges the Navy's official report-including details like when the wreckage was found and what the sub's mission had been-with a succinct charge: "It was all a lie." Offley believes the Scorpion was sunk by the Soviets, in retaliation for the loss of one of their subs two months prior. Using the U.S.S. Pueblo incident of January, 1968, in which key cryptography gear was lost, Offley connects the dots between the Navy, the John Walker spy ring, and Soviet intelligence to conclude that the Russians had access to all of the Navy's most secret communications, allowing them to ambush the Scorpion. Most of Offley's argument, while compelling, is based solely on interviews with former Navy personnel, and a lack of factual evidence weakens it. Still, this well-told narrative history holds much appeal for naval historians and conspiracy buffs.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

On May 22, 1968, the submarine Scorpion exploded and sank 400 miles southeast of the Azores, killing all 99 men aboard. It had been torpedoed by a Soviet submarine in retaliation for its suspected involvement in the disappearance 11 weeks earlier of the Soviet submarine K-129. Oilley believes that admirals in the U.S and Soviet navies--fearing what could become World War III--agreed to hide the truth of the two sinkings. Only 91 seconds after the torpedo struck, the Scorpion plunged 1,300 feet below the surface. By May 31, a search force had increased to 55 surface ships and submarines and three dozen land-based patrol aircraft. On June 5, the U.S. declared that it was lost at sea, and on October 30, the navy announced the discovery of the vessel. Based on 25 years of research, which included investigating declassified navy documents, Offley reveals details of the events that led to the vessel's sinking and the cover-up that followed. He has written a searing account of this tragedy at sea. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (March 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465051863
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465051861
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #552,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ed Offley has been a military reporting specialist since 1981 for newspapers and online publications. In addition to The Burning Shore: How Hitler's U-boats Brought World War II to America, he is the author of Scorpion Down: Sunk by the Soviets, Buried by the Pentagon - the Untold Story of the USS Scorpion, and Turning the Tide: How a Small Band of Allied Sailors Defeated the U-boats and Won the Battle of the Atlantic. A 1969 graduate of the University of Virginia, Offley served aboard the USS Midway including a Vietnam deployment. He lives in Panama City Beach, Florida with his wife, Karen Conrad.




Customer Reviews

This is a fascinating book, and well worth the read!
L. Howe
Conclusions: SCORPION sank to crush depth with the pressure hull still intact because of an onboard problem (the battery explosions) the crew could not overcome.
R. B. RULE
In a court of law, every single bit of "evidence" presented by Mr. Offley would be considered not just circumstantial, but in fact "hearsay" evidence.
S. N. Gaines

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

179 of 187 people found the following review helpful By R. B. RULE on August 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
UPDATE OF 23 AUG 2010

Response to comment from James Dickinson who hoped the SCORPION event was over quickly.

It was very quick; the SCORPION pressure-hull and all internal bulkheads were destroyed in 0.112-seconds, That's slightly faster than Usian Bolt, currently the world record holder for the 100m and 200m sprints, reacts to the starting gun. Put another way, everything was over in less time than it would take to blink.

The two paragraphs immediately below provide the summary assessment of why SCORPION was lost from my letter of 6 Aug 2010 to the Director of Naval Intelligence, copies of which can be obtained from the Navy History and Heritage Command (NHHC) through a Freedom of Information Act request. This is the last nail in Ed Offley's coffin of conjecture about Soviet involvement. Also ask the NHHC for copies of Rule's letters of 14 Mar and 3 Apr 2009 which provide detailed analyses of the acoustic detection of the loss of SCORPION and explain why John Craven was wrong when he conjectured SCORPION had reversed course to deal with a torpedo that had started up in its launch tube.

(quote) The USS SCORPION was lost because hydrogen produced by the 65-ton, 126-cell TLX-53-A main storage battery exploded in two-stages one-half second apart at 18:20:44Z on 22 May 1968. These events, which did not breach the pressure-hull, prevented the crew from maintaining depth-control. The SCORPION pressure-hull collapsed at 18:42:34Z at a depth of 1530-feet. Noted times are actual event times on board SCORPION.

This assessment is NOT the generic attribution of the loss of a submarine to a battery-explosion advanced as a default explanation in the absence of any more likely construct.
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72 of 81 people found the following review helpful By S. N. Gaines on July 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
First off, I am in NO way impugning the service or memories of those lost in USS Scorpion.

However, I believe this book insults the lives and memories of those lost, and those that were involved.

As far as differing timelines for the search, not unusual given the top secret methods and procedures used in the search and by the lost USS Scorpion.

Now, as to specifics. I call this a square peg in a round hole since it appears that Mr. Offley started out with his conclusion and worked backwards from there to try and make it seem "fact". He decided that the Soviets intentionally sank the USS Scorpion. This apart from his earlier descriptions of "hull shot" missions (where a US submarine will close to within a very few feet of a Soviet submarine and take pictures through the periscope) in which collisions occurred.

Mention is made of an alleged multiple day "dogfight" between USS Scorpion and a Soviet submarine, a Soviet MISSILE submarine (that's important, and I'll come back to that later). Now the Scorpion was an attack submarine, described by Mr. Offley as being able to attain underwater speeds in excess of 30+ knots. Equipped with state of the art (for that time) sonar gear.

Then Mr. Offley wants us to believe that this hunter/killer submarine, and make no mistake about it, that is what USS Scorpion was designed and built to do, kill other submarines, got into a fight with a Soviet submarine, and was unable to lose that pursuer.

Now, let's talk about that Soviet submarine, shall we? Mr. Offley states several times that the Soviet submarine was a missile sub. An Echo II submarine. Designed to shoot missiles at surface targets, and, as Mr.
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65 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on May 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Ed Offley in "Scorpion Down: Sunk by the Soviets, Buried by the Pentagon, The Untold Story of the USS Scorpion" rejects the official US Navy chronology of events surrounding the loss of the US Navy nuclear submarine Scorpion on May 22, 1968, and he reaches a controversial conclusion that the Soviet Navy deliberately torpedoed and sank the vessel, a fact then covered up by the US Government (the Soviets, according to Offley, were taking revenge for the loss of their K-129 submarine two months earlier, which they blamed on aggressive US tactics). His evidence for his theories consists largely of interviews with various US Navy officers and enlisted men who remembered events differently than the official accounts. Offley's conclusions might be reduced to three main items:

(1) The search for the missing Scorpion did not begin after the submarine failed to show up at its homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, on May 27, 1968, but instead it was triggered several days earlier by the failure of the sub to communicate by radio as scheduled. The Navy, at the time and subsequently, covered up the existence of this early search.

(2) The US Navy actually found the lost submarine only a few days after the search began, not several months later according to the official reports, the Soviets having tipped off the Navy as to the lost vessel's location.

(3) The Scorpion was sunk by a Soviet torpedo.

Offley's first conclusion - that the search began in earnest even before the Scorpion failed to show up at Norfolk - appears tenable, based as it is upon by statements from Admiral Schade, commander of the Atlantic submarine force at the time, and from Admiral Moorer, the Chief of Naval Operations.
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