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All Hands Down: The True Story of the Soviet Attack on the USS Scorpion

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  • Posted July 5, 2010

    Did they or didn't they? The mystery of the Scorpion lingers.

    On or about May 22, 1968, the nuclear submarine USS Scorpion sank about 400 miles southwest of the Azores in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, with the loss of 99 officers and crew. And that is about the only thing about her loss that is not in dispute.

    In the intervening 40 years a number of theories about what sank the Scorpion have gained a following, each supported to a greater or lesser degree by its own stack of "evidence." Sewell and Preisler have a well-researched stack of evidence that they think makes a compelling case pointing to a single conclusion - in a fit of Cold War rage, the Soviet Union deliberately sank the Scorpion to get even for what the Soviet's mistakenly believed was America's sinking of one of their submarines a few months previously.

    While Sewell and Preisler do a good job of describing the almost-but-not-quite state of warfare that characterized the Cold War, and bring to life the men on the doomed boat, and their wives and families at home, in the end there is a little too much reliance on leaps of faith to make "the Soviets did it" plot work instead of logic, and sources that want to remain anonymous instead of documented evidence.

    There is also the level of technical expertise to consider in 1968. When the Scorpion went missing, the US spent six months looking for it - but found it and photographed it with its deep submergence vehicles. When the Soviets lost their nuclear sub in the Pacific (that supposedly sparked the Scorpion's ambush), not only could they not find it, the Americans did find it and brought part of it to the surface. For a different take on what may have happened to the Scorpion, try Death of the Thresher by Norman Polmar, the updated version.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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