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Scorpion V (SS-278)

(SS-278: dp. 1,526 (surf.), 2,410 (subm.); l. 311'8"; b. 27'4"; dr. 15'3" (mean); s. 20 k. (surf.), 9 k. (subm.); cpl. 60; a. 1 3", 4 mg., 10 21" tt.; cl. Gato)

An order of arachnids having an elongated body and a narrow segmented tail bearing a venomous sting at the tip.


The fifth Scorpion was laid down on 20 March 1942 at the Portsmouth (N.H.) Navy Yard; launched on 20 July 1942; sponsored by Miss Elizabeth T. Monagle; and commissioned on 1 October 1942, Lt. Comdr. W. N. Wylie in command.

Following further yard work and fitting out, Scorpion conducted shakedown operations off the southern New England coast during January 1943 and sailed for Panama in late February. In mid-March, she transited the canal; and, on the 24th, she arrived at Pearl Harbor. There she underwent modifications which included the installation of a bathythermograph, a then new oceanographic instrument to enable her to locate and hide in thermal layers that minimized the effectiveness of SONAR equipment.

On 5 April, Scorpion departed Pearl Harbor for her first war patrol, a hunting and mining mission off the east coast of Honshu. On the 19th, she reached the mining area near Nakaminato. During the afternoon, she reconnoitered the coast; and, in the evening, she planted her mines; then retired to deep water. On the 20th, she sank her first enemy ship, the 1,934-ton converted gunboat, Meji Maru No. 1. On the 21st, prior to 0100, she fired on and destroyed her first sampan in surface action, then moved up the coast to observe the fishing grounds, shipping lanes, and coastline of the Shioya Saki area. On the night of the 22d, she destroyed three more sampans with gunfire and continued north, toward Kinkasan To.

With the absence of shipping along the coastal lanes, she moved seaward and, on the 27th, sighted a convoy of four freighters escorted by a destroyer. At 0459, she fired four torpedoes at the first and largest merchantman; two at the second; then dived and rigged for depth charging. At 0505, the destroyer dropped her first depth charges. A half hour later, the Japanese warship broke off her search for Scorpion to aid the stricken passenger-cargo ship, Yuzan Maru. While Scorpion escaped with slight damage, the 6,380-ton merchant vessel sank.

On the 28th, Scorpion received orders home. En route on the 29th, she sighted and engaged a 100-ton patrol vessel, which she left burning to the waterline. On the morning of the 30th, she stalked, fired on, and finally torpedoed and sank a 600-ton patrol ship. During the hour and three-quarters fight, however, Scorpion received her first casualty. Lt. Comdr. R. M. Raymond, on board as prospective commanding officer, was hit and killed by gunfire.

Soon after the patrol vessel went down, an enemy plane appeared. Scorpion submerged; survived the plane's depth charges; and continued toward Midway and Pearl Harbor, arriving on 8 May.

With a 4" gun in place of her 3" gun, Scorpion set out on her second war patrol on 29 May. On 2 June, she refueled at Midway and, on the 21st, she arrived off Takara Jima in the Tokara Gunto. For the next week, she searched for targets in that archipelago in an effort to disrupt shipping on the Formosa-Nagasaki routes. On the 28th, she shifted her hunt to the Yellow Sea and, by the 30th, was off the Shantung Peninsula. On 3 July, she sighted a five-freighter convoy with one escort making its way through the eastern waters of that sea. By 0955, she had sent torpedoes toward the convoy and dived. As the depth charging began, she struck bottom at 25 fathoms. Two charges exploded close by. Between 1002 and 1006, five more shook her hull. Fearing that she was stirring up a mud trail, her screws were stopped and she settled on the bottom at 29 fathoms. At 1008, a chain or cable was dragged over her hull. Four minutes later, her hull was scraped a second time. Immediately underway again, she began evasive course changes and escaped further exploding charges. The hunt continued for over an hour; and, at 1149, Scorpion came to periscope depth; spied the destroyer 7,000 yards off; and cleared the area. Postwar examination of Japanese records show that Scorpion scored five hits and sank the 3,890-ton freighter, Anzan Maru, and the 6,112-ton passenger-cargo ship Kokutryu Maru.

Because of damage received during the depth charging, Scorpion retraced her route through Tokara Gunto; underwent a bomber attack east of Akuseki Jima; and continued on to Midway. On 26 July, she arrived back at Pearl Harbor; underwent repairs; conducted training exercises; and, on 13 October, departed Pearl Harbor for her third war patrol. After touching at Midway on 17 October, she headed for the Marianas, where she reconnoitered Pagan and Agrihan Islands on the 25th and 26th, and Farallon de Pajor as on the 1st and 2d of November. On the last date, she struck an uncharted pinnacle; but suffering no apparent damage, continued her patrol. On 3 November, she was off Maug; and, two days later, she sighted her first target, a Mogami class cruiser. Squalls interfered, however, and she abandoned the target after a four-hour chase. On the 7th, she was back off Agrihan; and, on the 8th, she closed a freighter, which turned and gave chase. The freighter was a -Q- ship, a warship disguised as a merchantman. Unable to regain the advantage, Scorpion retired.

Poor weather continued to plague the submarine's hunting until, on the 13th, she sighted a freighter and a tanker escorted by three warships. Firing her torpedoes, she scored on the oiler, which went dead in the water. One of the escorts dropped depth charges, then rejoined the formation. On the 14th, Scorpion patrolled near Rota; and, on the 15th, she watched for targets off Saipan.

For the next week, the submarine continued to work the shipping lanes of the Marianas without success. Heavy seas and squalls continued to shelter enemy traffic. On the 22d, she sighted a transport accompanied by two destroyers and a corvette. She stalked the formation for 16 hours but was unable to fire. A few hours later, low on fuel, she headed home.

Scorpion returned to Pearl Harbor on 5 December and remained until the 29th. On 3 January 1944, she departed Midway on her last war patrol, heading toward the East China and Yellow Seas. On the 5th, sheattempted to rendezvous with Herring (SS-233) to transfer an injured man. Heavy seas prevented the transfer, and Scorpion continued west. She was not heard from again. Assumed to be the victim of a Japanese mine, she was declared lost on 6 March 1944.

Scorpion (SS-278) earned three battle stars for her World War II service.


The original hull for Scorpion (SSN-589) was laid down on 1 November 1957 by the Electric Boat Division, General Dynamics Corp., Groton, Conn. In December, however, the hull was split, extended, and renamed George Washington (SSBN-598) (q.v.), effective on 6 November 1958.

Published: Tue Sep 08 07:43:28 EDT 2015