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USS Scorpion (SS-278)

USS Scorpion (SS-278) patch

The USS Scorpion (SS-278) was a Gato-class World War II era submarine.

The namesake of the USS Scorpion is an order of arachnids having an elongated body and a narrow segmented tail bearing a venomous sting at the tip.

On December 29, 1943, the Scorpion, captained by Commander Maximilian G. Schmidt, departed Pearl Harbor for her fourth and final war patrol.  On January 3, 1944, she fueled at Midway Island and then headed for her assigned patrol area in the Yellow Sea and the northern East China Sea.  On the afternoon of January 4, 1944, she reported that one crewman had sustained a simple fracture of the upper arm and requested a rendezvous with the USS Herring (SS-233), who was then in her vicinity and en route back to Pearl Harbor from her sixth war patrol.  On January 5, 1944, the Scorpion attempted to transfer the injured crewman to the Herring for return to Midway, however heavy seas made it impossible to do so.  The Scorpion reported the situation "Under control" before midnight and the Herring sailed for Midway.  The Scorpion was not seen or heard from again.  When no report was received from her by February 24, 1944, she was ordered to make a radio transmission acknowledging receipt of the dispatch.  No acknowledgement was received.  The Scorpion was presumed lost on March 6, 1944. 1

The Navy Department issued the following press release regarding the Scorpion's loss:

Navy Department Communiqué 513, March 22, 1944

1. The submarine USS Scorpion is overdue from patrol and must be presumed to be lost.

2. The next of kin of casualties of the Scorpion, have been so notified.

Loss Possibilities

1.  The Scorpion probably struck a mine and sank sometime between January 5 to February 24, 1944, in the northern East China Sea or in the Yellow Sea.  In August 1943, the Japanese had planted two hundred mines across the shallow mouth of the Yellow Sea.  The location of the minefield was not known in the time period the Scorpion might have passed through it. 2

2.  On February 26, 1944, the USS Steelhead (SS-280) and the Scorpion were each warned they were in close proximity to one another and that an enemy submarine might also be in the vicinity.  However, it was later learned that the suspect submarine, I-174, was not in their area at the time of the warning.  Therefore, the possibility of loss due to an unreported attack by a Japanese submarine is considered very unlikely. 3

Postwar examination of Japanese records did not provide any clues as to the Scorpion's fate and no conclusive explanation for the cause of her loss has ever been established.  The reason for her loss remains a mystery.

A list of the men lost with the Scorpion is maintained at

The Scorpion earned three battle stars for her World War II service.  She was scored by JANAC with sinking 18,316 tons of Japanese shipping in four vessels.  Her Alden-McDonald score is six vessels sunk for 18,567 tons and eight vessels damaged for 18,656 tons.  The SORG score for the Scorpion is twelve vessels sunk for 26,400 tons and five vessels damaged for 30,000 tons. 4

Patrol Data and Captains for the USS Scorpion (SS-278)

Patrol Duration
Rank & Name
1 Off Honshu 05-Apr-43 to 08-May-43 LCDR William N. Wylie Pearl
2 Formosa-Tsushima-
Nagasaki shipping
lanes; off Shanghai &
Korean coast
29-May-43 to 18-Aug-43 5 Same Same
3 Mariana Islands 13-Oct-43 to 05-Dec-43 LCDR Maximilian G. Schmidt Same
4 East China
& Yellow Seas
29-Dec-43 to Lost CDR Maximilian G. Schmidt Same

JANAC Score for the USS Scorpion (SS-278)

1 20-Apr-43 Meiji Maru No. 1 Converted
1,934 37-10N, 141-25E
1 27-Apr-43 Yuzan Maru Passenger-
6,380 38-08N, 143-03E
2 03-Jul-43 Anzan Maru Cargo 3,890 38-08N, 124-20E
2 03-Jul-43 Kokuryu Maru Passenger-
6,112 38-08N, 124-20E
TOTALS   4 vessels 18,316 tons  

Alden-McDonald Score for the USS Scorpion (SS-278)

1 20-Apr-43 Meji Maru Converted
1 21-Apr-43 Unknown Sampan  3   50
1 23-Apr-43 Unknown Sampan  3   50
1 23-Apr-43 Unknown Sampan  3   75
1 23-Apr-43 Unknown Sampan  3   75
1 23-Apr-43 Unknown Sampan  3   75
1 27-Apr-43 Yuzan Maru Cargo 6,380  
1 29-Apr-43 Unknown Patrol Vessel  3 120  
1 30-Apr-43 Ebisu Maru #5 Converted
Picket Boat
2 03-Jul-43 Anzan Maru Cargo 3,890  
2 03-Jul-43 Kokuryu Maru Cargo 6,112  
3 13-Nov-43 Shiretoko Tanker   14,050
1 09-Aug-43 Esutoru Maru Civilian Ship
Type Unknown  3
  3,295 MN
1 04-Oct-43 Hyakufuku Maru Converted
Cargo  5
  986 MN
  TOTALS 6 vessels sunk
8 vessels damaged
3 = Probable
5 = Marginally possible
MN = damaged by mine
laid by Scorpion 6
Tons sunk
Tons damaged

SORG Score for the USS Scorpion (SS-278)

USS Scorpion SORG score report

USS Scorpion SORG score report

SORG totals for Scorpion
12 vessels sunk for 26,400 tons
5 vessels damaged for 30,000 tons

Updated Thursday, 25-Dec-2014 16:46:47 EST


1.  Submarine war patrol reports on CD, USS Scorpion (SS-278); United States Submarine Losses World War II, p. 77.

2.  Miller, Vernon J., "U. S. Submarine Losses," issue 44, p. 54; Holmes, Wilfred J.  Undersea Victory: The Influence of Submarine Operations on the War in the Pacific, p. 291-292.

3.  Ibid.

4.  Alden, John D., and Craig R. McDonald, United States and Allied Submarine Successes in the Pacific and Far East During World War II, Fourth Edition, see USS Scorpion (SS-278), Attack Nos. 758, 759, 761, 762, 763, 764, 774, 776, 777, 945, 946, 1310, 4771, 4776, and 4811; Submarine war patrol reports on CD, USS Scorpion (SS-278), data collected by the Submarine Operations Research Group (SORG) in the report "Results of U. S. Submarine War Patrols Listed Alphabetically by Name of Commanding Officer"; Japanese Naval And Merchant Shipping Losses During World War II By All Causes, Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee, USS Scorpion (SS-278), published online at (accessed September 29, 2011).

5.  The Scorpion arrived at Midway on July 26, 1943, for battle damage repairs incurred during her second war patrol.  The repairs were completed on August 10, 1943, and she began a training program at that time.  The Scorpion ran aground off Midway on August 13, 1943, and returned to Pearl for repairs to the submarine's hull and ballast tanks at the navy yard there.  She arrived at Pearl on August 18, 1943.  The repairs were completed on September 28, 1943.  The Scorpion then conducted training exercises from September 30 to October 10, 1943.  She departed Pearl for her third war patrol on October 13, 1943.

6.  On April 19, 1943, the Scorpion laid twelve Mark 12 and ten Mark 10-1 mines at 36°-05'N, 143°-07'E, off Honshu.  On August 9, 1943, the Esutoru Maru hit one of these mines and incurred light damage.  On October 4, 1943, the Hyakufuku Maru was possibly damaged by one of these mines.