US Navy marks 50 years since mysterious disappearance of submarine USS Scorpion

The US Navy has marked the 50th anniversary of the loss of attack submarine USS Scorpion (SSN 589) in a ceremony at the Scorpion Memorial on Norfolk Naval Station.

Photographed on 22 August 1960, off New London, Connecticut. A "GUPPY" type submarine is faintly visible in the distance, just beyond the forward tip of Scorpion's "sail". Photo: US Navy

On May 26, family members, friends, and submariners past and present gathered at the memorial to honor the memory of the 99 sailors lost aboard the submarine.

Following the invocation by Capt. Melvin Underwood, the Submarine Force chaplain, Vice Adm. Joseph E. Tofalo, commander, Submarine Forces, gave opening remarks welcoming all in attendance on behalf of the United States Submarine Force.

“I can think of nothing more appropriate on this beautiful Memorial Day weekend morning than to formally pause for a moment to reflect on these great Americans who gave their lives in the service of this country,” Tofalo said.

After recognizing the families, Capt. Maryetta Nolan, daughter of Chief Torpedoman Walter William Bishop, the Chief of the Boat on Scorpion at the time of her loss, introduced the Sailors who would be reading of the 99 names and tolling the bell. Machinist Mate Chief Patrick Smith, the grandson of LT David Lloyd, Scorpion’s executive officer, and Lt. Charles Koller, grandnephew of Bishop, read the names of each submariner as Yeoman Second Class Rachael Skelton, granddaughter of Storekeeper Second Class Julies Jackson, tolled the bell.

After the reading of five names, the bell was struck twice. Once for the lost Sailor and once for the family left behind.

As the last name was read and the final bell struck, a 21-gun salute was rendered, followed by the playing of taps by the U.S. Fleet Force Band.


USS Scorpion was returning to Norfolk from a deployment to the Mediterranean Sea in 1968 and last indicated her position on May 21. The submarine was about 50 miles south of the Azores. Six days later, Scorpion was reported overdue at Norfolk, and the United States initiated a massive search for her.

According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, her name was stricken from the Navy list on June 30 and she was finally located at the end of October. Scorpion’s hull sections were discovered by the Military Sea Transportation Service-manned oceanographic research ship Mizar (T-AGOR-11) in more than 10,000 feet of water, about 400 miles southwest of the Azores.

Even after conducting studies based on numerous pictures and data, the navy was unable to determine the cause of Scorpion’s loss.