Saturday, May 23, 2009
Memorial Day 2009
Once again, Memorial Day weekend is upon us.
Wall Street would have us go out and spend all of our money at sales that have absolutely nothing to do with Memorial Day or remembering our fallen warriors. Folks call this weekend the “Official Beginning of Summer”, though summer is actually almost a month off still, and ads beckon us to cookouts and beach parties and non-stop booty-shaking at every club in town.
Hollywood generally releases some blockbuster or other this weekend every year to kick off the summer movie season and to gain revenues by having a long holiday weekend.
The worst possible thing you could do in my humble yet correct opinion is to wish someone a Happy Memorial Day. This day isn’t necessarily about being happy; it’s about being grateful for the sacrifices made by the tens of thousands of brave men and women who died in the service of this nation.
Some places still get it, and those are the places that still have a Memorial Day parade, and places where they still place wreaths and flags, in remembrance of America’s finest.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have any fun this weekend. I have to work Monday, as usual, but tonight I'm headed to a friend's house to watch a hockey game. However, I’d like each and every one of you to take a moment this weekend and think about what this day means and the people who serve this nation. And whether or not you agree with our current actions in Iraq or Afghanistan, at least support the people who are there, thousands of miles from home and family, doing their duty so that you and I can sit at home and be safe & secure.
Being a veteran myself, of course I have a soft spot for my brothers & sisters in all the branches of our armed services. Each year on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day I have a tendency to highlight the sacrifice of one of my brethren.
Go read my previous Memorial Day blogs here:
Yesterday was the 41st anniversary of an exceptionally sad event in the history of the U.S. Navy’s submarine service. On May 22, 1968, a year and six days before I was born, USS Scorpion (SSN 589) was lost at sea with all hands. There’s all sorts of speculation as to what happened, and the truth will likely never be known.
The Scorpion got underway on 15 February 1968 for a Mediterranean Sea deployment. She operated with the Sixth Fleet into May and then headed west for home. Scorpion suffered several mechanical malfunctions including a chronic problem with Freon leakage from refrigeration systems. An electrical fire occurred in an escape trunk when a water leak shorted out a shore power connection. Scorpion was an intelligence-gathering platform, and as this was the very height of the Cold War, many vessels were kept on a very hectic deployment schedule to spy on the Soviets as much as possible. Ships sometimes didn’t get as much yard time as their crew would have liked, and sometimes towards the end of a deployment both ship and crew would be frazzled.
Upon departing the Mediterranean on 16 May, two men departed Scorpion at Rota, Spain. One man left due to emergency leave and the other man departed for health reasons. Scorpion was then detailed to observe Soviet naval activities in the Atlantic in the vicinity of the Azores. With this completed, Scorpion prepared to head back to Naval Base Norfolk. She never reached home.
For an unusually long period of time, beginning shortly before midnight on 20 May and ending after midnight 21 May, Scorpion was attempting to send radio traffic to Naval Station Rota in Spain but was only able to reach a Navy communications station in Nea Makri, Greece, which forwarded Scorpion's messages to SUBLANT (Submarine Forces Atlantic). Six days later, she was reported overdue at Norfolk. Navy personnel suspected possible failure and launched a search.
A public search was initiated, but without immediate success and on 5 June, Scorpion and her crew were declared "presumed lost." Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 30 June. Some recent reports now indicate that a large and secret search was launched three days before Scorpion was expected back from patrol; this combined with other declassified information led many to speculate the US Navy knew of the Scorpion's destruction before the public search was launched.
At the time of her sinking, there were 99 crewmen aboard USS Scorpion. The boat contained a treasure-trove of highly sophisticated spy gear and spy manuals, two nuclear-tipped torpedoes, and a nuclear propulsion system. The best available evidence indicates that Scorpion sank on 22 May 1968 at approximately 1844Z after an explosion of some type, while in transit across the Atlantic Ocean from Gibraltar to her home port at Norfolk, Virginia.
Several hypotheses about the cause of the loss have been advanced. The US Navy's Court of Inquiry listed as one possibility the inadvertent activation of a battery-powered Mark 37 torpedo. This acoustic homing torpedo, in a fully-ready condition and without a propeller guard, is believed by some to have started running within the tube. Released from the tube, the torpedo then somehow became fully-armed and successfully engaged its nearest target, which was Scorpion herself. Few torpedomen familiar with the Mark 37 have expressed confidence in the self-destruction-by-torpedo theory, however.
A later theory was that a torpedo may have exploded in the tube, caused by an uncontrollable fire in the torpedo room. The Mark 46 silver-zinc battery used in the Mark 37 torpedo had a tendency to overheat, and in extreme cases could cause a fire that was strong enough to cause a low-order detonation of the warhead. If such a detonation had occurred, it might have opened the boat's large torpedo-loading hatch and caused Scorpion to flood and sink. However, while Mark 46 batteries have been known to generate so much heat that the torpedo casings blistered, none is known to have damaged a boat or caused an explosion.
Another theory, and a rather popular one, is that Scorpion was sunk by the Soviet Union. A few months previously, the Soviets lost a Golf-II missile sub off Hawaii (see my post about it here: http://mojosteve.blogspot.com/2009/03/somber-and-sobering-anniversary.html ) Some hypothesize that Scorpion was found and prosecuted by Soviet submarine and surface forces and sunk in retaliation, although current evidence leads to the conclusion that the Russian boat sank while trying to launch a nuke at Hawaii. While I was in high school, I read a novel by Mark Joseph called “To Kill The Potemkin”, which was a fictionalized account of what may have happenned to Scorpion, by which the fictional USS Baracuda chances upon a new type of deep-diving Soviet sub (presumably the Alfa class) and is sunk to keep the performance secrets from getting out.
The following officers and men were lost with Scorpion:
•CDR Francis Atwood Slattery, Commanding Officer
•LCDR David B. Lloyd, Executive Officer
•LCDR Daniel P. Stephens
•LT John Patrick Burke
•LT George Patrick Farrin,
•LT Robert Walter Flesch
•LT William Clarke Harwi
•LT Charles Lee Lamberth
•LT John C. Sweet
•LT (JG) James W. Forrester, Jr.
•LT (JG)Michael A. Odening
•LT (JG) Laughton D. Smith
Chief Petty Officers
•TMC (SS) Walter William Bishop,Chief of the Boat (COB)
•MMC(SS) Robert Eugene Bryan
•RMC(SS) Garlin Ray Denney
•RMCS(SS) Robert Johnson
•MMCS(SS) Richard Allen Kerntke
•QMCS(SS) Frank Patsy Mazzuchi
•EMC(SS) Daniel Christopher Peterson
•HMC(SS) Lynn Thompson Saville
•ETC (SS) George Elmer Smith, Jr.
•YNCS(SS) Leo William Weinbeck
•MMC(SS) James Mitchell Wells
•FTG3(SS) Keith Alexander M. Allen •IC2 Thomas Edward Amtower
•MM2 George Gile Annable •FN(SS) Joseph Anthony Barr, Jr.
•RM2(SS) Michael Jon Bailey •IC3 Michael Reid Blake
•MM1(SS) Robert Harold Blocker •MM2(SS) Kenneth Ray Brocker
•MM1(SS) James K. Brueggeman •RMSN Daniel Paul Burns, Jr.
•IC2(SS) Ronald Lee Byers •MM2(SS) Douglas Leroy Campbell
•MM3(SS) Samuel J. Cardullo •MM2(SS) Francis King Carey
•SN Gary James Carpenter •MM1(SS) Robert Lee Chandler
•MM1(SS) Mark Helton Christiansen •SD1(SS) Romeo Constantino
•MM1(SS) Robert James Cowan •SD1(SS) Joseph Cross
•FA Michael Edward Dunn •ETR2 Richard Philip Engelhart
•FTGSN William Ralph Fennick •IC3(SS) Vernon Mark Foli
•SN Ronald Anthony Frank •CSSN(SS) Michael David Gibson
•IC2 Steven Dean Gleason •STS2(SS) Michael Edward Henry
•SK1(SS) Larry Leroy Hess •ETR1(SS) Richard Curtis Hogeland
•MM1(SS) John Richard Houge •EM2 Ralph Robert Huber
•TM2(SS) Harry David Huckelberry •EM3 John Frank Johnson
•IC3(SS) Steven Leroy Johnson •QM2(SS) Julius Johnston III
•FN Patrick Charles Kahanek •TM2(SS) Donald Terry Karmasek
•ETR3(SS) Rodney Joseph Kipp •MM3 Dennis Charles Knapp
•MM1(SS) Max Franklin Lanier •ET1(SS) John Weichert Livingston
•ETN2 Kenneth Robert Martin •ET1(SS) Michael Lee McGuire
•TMSN Steven Charles Miksad •TMSN Joseph Francis Miller, Jr.
•MM2(SS) Cecil Frederick Mobley •QM1(SS) Raymond Dale Morrison
•QM3(SS) Dennis Paul Pferrer •EM1(SS) Gerald Stanley Pospisil
•IC3 Donald Richard Powell •MM2 Earl Lester Ray, Jr.
•CS1(SS) Jorge Luis Santana •ETN2(SS) Richard George Schaffer
•SN William Newman Schoonover •SN Phillip Allan Seifert
•MM2(SS) Robert Bernard Smith •ST1(SS) Harold Robert Snapp, Jr.
•ETM2(SS) Joel Candler Stephens •MM2(SS) David Burton Stone
•EM2 John Phillip Sturgill •YN3 Richard Norman Summers
•TMSN John Driscoll Sweeney, Jr. •ETM2(SS) James Frank Tindol III
•CSSN Johnny Gerald Veerhusen •TM3 Robert Paul Violetti
•ST3 Ronald James Voss •FTG1(SS) John Michael Wallace
•MM1(SS) Joel Kurt Watkins •MMFN Robert Westley Watson
•TM2 James Edwin Webb •SN Ronald Richard Williams
•MM3 Robert Alan Willis •IC1(SS) Virgil Alexander Wright III
•TM1(SS) Donald H. Yarsbrough •ETR2(SS) Clarence Otto Young, Jr.
Archive pictures of the wreckage of USS Scorpion