USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

Jessica Sinclair, Guest Writer

With 109 unfulfilled repair orders and only a fraction of money spent on the USS Scorpion, I knew immediately when I heard the intense echoing noise coming from the hull near her stern that these moments would be my last. I just wish they had told us we couldn’t submerge past 300ft.


It was May 16,1968 and we were finally headed home. Russell and I had been on edge the whole time ever since two fellow crew members asked to be let off. We were at the US naval base in Rota Spain, and he said that the Scorpion was going to sink since they only spent 3 million on ship repairs when the average spent was 22 million. He also believed that two of the nuclear torpedos were faulty and leaking radiation and the navy purposefully sent us out to get rid of evidence from the torpedos. Everyone on board knew she had a stress crack in her hull, but we all thought she would hold up. Even with all the potential problems running through my head, I could only think of my pregnant wife, Arlene, waiting for me at home. We were going to have a little girl! Russell’s wife was also pregnant.


“Cloyd, come here!” Russell hollered. “We got messages from our wives!” My heart started racing. I ran to where Russell was standing with the letters and took mine from him.

 …Cloyd, our baby was born a healthy 8lb and 2 oz. We are waiting your arrival and we can’t wait to see you!…

            The letter was amazing and everything I had hoped for! I couldn’t wait to see my child. Overwhelming joy hit me immediately. I told Russell and he informed me that his child was born a few days after my daughter. Our children would grow up together and I would always be surrounded by people I love. Russell and I had plans to go travel after our service ended on the Scorpion. We had been best friends since preschool and always would be. Russell, was there for me after my parents had divorced. He was there when I needed someone the most.


On May 21, 1968, we were a few miles south from the Azores. We sent out a message saying that we were six days from our destination: Norfolk, Virginia. I wanted to see my beautiful baby and my wife; it was all I could think about. It was the middle of the day when I heard on the staticky intercom: “Everyone to their positions, we’re going to be making a 180° turn back towards the Canary Islands. We are to spy on a group of soviet ships in the Eastern Atlantic; we shall arrive in Norfolk May 27 at 1 p.m.” We submerged past three hundred feet and immediately headed out. It was around 5 or 6 o’clock when I heard a deafening noise echo throughout her halls. I knew immediately what the cause of the sound was— the stress fractures were buckling. I thought she could hold up, but I was wrong. Seconds after the reverberating sounds stopped, a piercing alarm went off and red lights flashed. I knew what this meant: the stern had already breached and we were going down. Ship-wide, panic immediately broke out. What do I do? What do I do? I couldn’t remember what my position was or who I was supposed to be.

I turned towards Russell and I could tell he had no idea what to do either. I could only focus on his eyes and what they were saying to me. We both knew that the water was in the access tunnel heading towards the reactor and machine room. Lights kept coming on as each part of her filled with water, and as the torpedo bulkhead room collapsed, water started to trickle under our feet. We started tipping down and I slammed into Russell. Water started pouring in faster and it rose up to our waists.

“Russell, what do we do?” I called out.

“I don’t known mate, I don’t think we can do anything.”

“Is this it?”

“I think it is man, I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

We took one last inhale of air before water enveloped us completely. I realized then that I would never be able to see my daughter or my beautiful wife again. I looked over at Russell and saw him struggling; he can’t hold on anymore. Just like that I saw the life leave his eyes and Russell stilled. He’s dead. My stomach started rocking and I felt pain like I’ve never felt before as sharp fire shot through my whole body. My lungs burned. I took an involuntary breath as my mind told me to. Water filled my lungs immediately and I started gasping for the air as I realized that I would never breathe again. Darkness