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), which 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.
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.
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
A list of the men lost with the Scorpion is maintained at On Eternal Patrol.
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.
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).