Scorpion Down

Ed Offley details in great minutiae the destruction of the U.S.S. Scorpion by the Soviet Navy on May 22, 1968. I read this book because I had an interest in submarines from when I was a child. My father had books detailing all of the German U-Boats from WWI and WWII. The ship numbers, where and when they were lost or if they and their crews survived. This carried through and when I was in college taking Oceanography classes my professor talked to both the class and myself about the loss of a colleague of his in the 1970’s while working on an experimental submarine that was being tested in the North Atlantic. The only notice the families of those that died were given by the U.S. Navy was that they had died serving their country. To say that our nation or any nation treats its submarine operations as a secret beyond top secret is an understatement.

This book picks apart in detail the methods that the United States Submarine Command used to conceal the truth about what happened to the Scorpion and her crew by misinformation, simple turn of phrase and blatant lies. What I like is that the author never makes the judgement that the Navy acted in a malicious manner but rather goes to great lengths to explain the truth about what happened. The Navy is shown to have protected this secret to help prevent an escalation between the former Soviet Union and the United States during the height of the cold war. Intrigue, spies and mortal danger are all present in this book and you will not only get the truth about the incident but you will learn about many other events during the rather “warm” war between the U.S. and Soviet submarine fleets during that period. A lot of this book fits in with stories I had read in one publication or another when I was younger. One parallel to what I already knew that Offley gives, points out that the Russian submariners were more afraid of the death due to the bad design and implementation of their own submarines than they were at the hands of their American counterparts.

The only downside to this book is that at times his documentation and historical information is so detailed that it bogs down the reader. However, the information and uncovering of the facts is intriguing enough to get the reader through these rough patches to get to the next revelation. This is a great book and it demonstrates the heroism of anyone that has served in their countries’ submarine fleet and the secrets that they guard to protect everyone; even when they are not on their boats.

Leave a Reply