Nobody Asked Me, But...Let's Resolve the Scorpion Mystery

By Lieutenant Joel I. Holwitt, U.S. Navy

The discovery of Sydney and the extent to which the Australians went to close out her story should inspire us to make the same sort of investment. Deep-sea technology has evolved tremendously since the 1986 expedition to the Scorpion 's wreck. Submersibles and small remote operating vehicles have made detailed studies of the wrecks of the Titanic and Bismarck , both of which are as deep if not deeper than the Scorpion . A thorough survey of the wreck can conclusively prove or disprove the theory that a torpedo detonation, whether internal or external, caused her sinking. Indeed, such a survey may very well point to a more likely cause by being able to examine some interior portions of the wreck more comprehensively than was previously possible. Additional wreckage could also be recovered and examined.

The possibility of determining the cause of the Scorpion 's sinking is bolstered by the extraordinary extent to which NASA researchers were able to piece together the final moments of the space shuttle Columbia from disintegrated fragments scattered across three states. Admittedly, the wreckage necessary for such a determination, such as the sub's control panel and ballast control panel, may have been completely destroyed. In fact, given the depth of the wreckage and the passage of time, it is possible that another expedition will only be able to disprove some theories and find no other clues. But until a more thorough expedition with the latest deep-sea technology actually takes place, the possibility remains that the answer to the Scorpion 's last moments lies in her hull.

The time has come to bring closure to the story of the Scorpion and eliminate these hurtful conspiracy theories. The $4.2 million invested by the Australian government to find and survey Sydney is about 0.25 percent of what our country is paying for a new Virginia -class submarine. This is a small price to pay for the U.S. Navy to honor the memory of the 99 sailors of the USS Scorpion and bring peace to their families.

Lieutenant Holwitt is assigned to the USS Houston (SSN-713), based out of Apra Harbor, Guam. He has a Ph.D. in history from The Ohio State University.

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