Admiral on Board

Could that be Rear Admiral Hyman G. Rickover standing on the port fairwater of Scorpion talking to another officer in the Winter 2008 cover photo?

Edward Costello

Bellevue, Wash.

Editor’s note: The picture does include Rickover, the foremost proponent of a nuclear-powered American navy, in civilian dress.

Scorpion Allegations

I have read the article “Buried at Sea” by Ed Offley and would like to comment: I arrived at the Naval Intelligence Support Center in Suitland, Maryland, in 1970—admittedly almost two years after Scorpion had disappeared. However, I worked in the “Submarine Shop,” the element of Naval Intelligence that assessed Soviet submarines. I cannot recall ever hearing from any of the older submariners of Ed Offley’s conspiracy theory. In fact, after publication of Offley’s book Scorpion Down: Sunk by the Soviets, Buried by the Pentagon, I received a message from Bruce Rule, the foremost acoustic expert of Naval Intelligence, who wrote in essence that the book was pure fiction. Another highly respected submariner, Captain James B. Bryant, former commander of USS Guardfish, wrote a critical review of Scorpion Down in the August 2007 issue of U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings. In his review, Captain Bryant stated: “On May 17, 2007, I spoke with Captain Joseph E. Bond, commanding officer of the Compass Island during the Scorpion search. He denied that his ship left port on May 24 or discovered the wreckage in early June. He clearly remembers receiving a phone call late on May 27 instructing him to get under way, but, because of tides, they left at 0300 or 0400 the next morning….

“Two months later, I spoke with Vice Admiral Beshany. He does not recall speaking with the author about secret searches, Soviet aggression toward the Scorpion, or any of the conspiracy theories described in the book. He vehemently denies that any such theories are true.”

Gerhardt Thamm

Fernandina Beach, Fla.

Ed Offley replies: Captain Bryant’s assault on my book centers on an assertion on which we both actually agree. He wrote, “In order to be told, this tale would re quire senior admirals involved…to recant their stories years later to the author.” He then added that the only survivor of three key navy officials I had interviewed had denied what I reported him as having told me.

This is in fact what happened: In April 1983, former COMSUBLANT Vice Admiral Arnold F. Schade revealed in an interview that his command was searching for Scorpion at least four days before its failure to reach port on May 27, 1968, triggered the highly publicized SUBMISS alert. Former CNO Admiral Thomas Moorer confirmed Schade’s allegation in an interview. And in 1997, former Director of Submarine Warfare Vice Admiral Philip Beshany did the same, providing even more details about how the Atlantic Fleet was looking for the nuclear attack submarine in secret the week before the incident was made public.

Published articles of mine that explored the classified, pre-May 27 search for Scorpion and the two admirals’ on-the-record confirmation of same appeared in four newspapers between 1983 and 1998. At no time during that 15-year span did either Moorer or Schade utter a single word challenging the accuracy of those accounts. In fact, Schade agreed to a follow-up interview with me on March 14, 1986, where he provided even more details about the secret pre-May 27 search, well aware that I had already published two major articles centering on his 1983 disclosure. Nor did Beshany object when his revelations appeared as part of a package of stories that ran in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on May 21, 1998.


Originally published in the Spring 2008 issue of Military History Quarterly. To subscribe, click here