Silent Steel: The Mysterious Death of the Nuclear Attack Sub USS Scorpion

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9780471267379: Silent Steel: The Mysterious Death of the Nuclear Attack Sub USS Scorpion

Praise for Silent Steel

"The magnitude of the tragedy of the USS Scorpion is matched only by the depth of the mystery surrounding her loss. Stephen Johnson has done a remarkable job of shining new light on this dark moment in U.S. submarine history."
--Sherry Sontag, coauthor of Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage

"What happened to the USS Scorpion? The question has vexed submariners for almost four decades. Now, with meticulous research and incredible attention to detail, Stephen Johnson examines and dissects one of the most tragic and mysterious submarine accidents in U.S. Navy history."
--Douglas Waller, author of Big Red: Inside the Secret World of a Trident Nuclear Submarine

"Stephen Johnson has crafted a forensic masterpiece that leads the reader back through time to unravel the gnawing enigma of the tragic 1968 loss of the nuclear attack submarine USS Scorpion. Sifting through a maze of conflicting theories, he meticulously lays out a tale of undersea detectives searching for conclusive evidence to one of the most baffling mysteries of the cruel sea."
--Rear Admiral Thomas Evans, author, analyst specializing in submarine history and operations, and former officer on the Scorpion

"The manuscript arrived with yesterday's afternoon mail. I finished reading it by nightfall. It's that good! Thoroughly researched, impeccably documented, with an appealing and literate style, Silent Steel should become essential reading for submarine enthusiasts and for anyone else who enjoys an engaging and informative yarn."
--A. J. Hill, author of Under Pressure: The Final Voyage of Submarine S-Five

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From the Inside Flap:

She lay quietly on the ocean floor two miles beneath the roiling surface of the Atlantic, her shattered and scattered corpse a mute testament to the perils of life aboard a submarine. But what had happened to the USS Scorpion and the ninety-nine men who perished with her on May 22, 1968? A Soviet attack? A torpedo malfunction? A faulty trash disposal unit? Amid these speculations, the U.S. Navy was sure of only one thing: the disaster was not caused "by the fault, negligence or inefficiency of any person or persons in the naval service." Stephen Johnson believes the full story is far less simplistic.

In Silent Steel, the veteran reporter who has been investigating the Scorpion disaster for nearly two decades provides the most comprehensive and authoritative analysis to date of this tragic and enduring mystery. Citing documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, letters home from sailors aboard the doomed vessel, and interviews with hundreds of eyewitnesses, military insiders, and submarine experts, Johnson recreates the Scorpion's fatal cruise as well as the crucial events that preceded it. He clears away the confusion surrounding the loss of the Scorpion and puts a human face on the disaster, so often characterized as the loss of a complex machine rather than a catastrophe that took the lives of ninety-nine dedicated men.

Most moving—and most telling—of Johnson's interviews is his conversation with Electrician's Mate Daniel Rogers, who served aboard the Scorpion until shortly before the boat was lost, knew virtually all of her crew, and remained deeply affected by the event until his own death in 2003. A demoralized Rogers warned of dangerous circumstances on the submarine he no longer trusted when he quit the boat six weeks before its final cruise. He would be haunted by the decision that saved his life.

The aura of mystery surrounding what happened to the Scorpion has been abetted by the navy's unwillingness to divulge information about its own investigations. Now, many long-retired officers, sailors, and scientists feel that enough time has passed to allow them to speak openly about their roles as one-time Scorpion crewmembers or navy investigators. From these interviews and other newly available information, Johnson reveals a deep disagreement among investigators over what caused the disaster while piecing together a story that is both deeply troubling and bitterly ironic: the Scorpion fell victim to a plague of maintenance problems that dogged the U.S. Navy's submarine service during the 1960s. These maintenance problems were the unintended result of a program designed to make submarine operations safer after the 1963 loss of the USS Thresher, the first American nuclear-powered submarine disaster.

Complete with vivid photos of the Scorpion and her crew, Silent Steel combines a thrilling adventure story and an intriguing mystery with a cautionary tale about the limits of technology and the high price of failure at sea.

About the Author:

Veteran journalist STEPHEN JOHNSON first wrote about the Scorpion in a series of articles for the Houston Chronicle from 1993 to 1995 and assisted documentary makers and authors researching the disaster, including the authors of the bestselling Blind Man's Bluff. Johnson has discussed the Scorpion on Nova's Submarines, Secrets, and Spies and on The History Channel.

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Johnson, Stephen
Editorial: Wiley (2006)
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Stephen Johnson
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