At 1000 local time, Friday, November 22, 2013, family, friends, local city
and state officials and submarine veterans gathered at Arkansas Inland
Maritime Museum in North Little Rock to honor ETN2 (SS) Richard George
Schaeffer, USN and ninety-eight submariners who perished in USS
SCORPION SSN 589 in May 1968. Schaeffer graduated from Sylvan Hills
High School in nearby Sherwood, AR in 1963.
The submarine’s loss has never been fully discovered and remains a
mystery today but the answers will never be known as the only witnesses
perished with SCORPION into the Atlantic Ocean at a depth of nearly
10,000 feet over forty-five years ago.
SCORPION was the third of six SKIPJACK Class fast-attack class
submarines and built by General Dynamics’ Electric Boat Division in Groton,
CT. Her keel was laid in 1958, launched in 1959 and commissioned under
the command of Commander Norman Bessac in 1960. SCORPION was
awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for her successful North Atlantic
independent operation in 1962 under command of “Yogi” Kaufman.
SCORPION departed Norfolk in February 1968 for a three month, routine
deployment to the Mediterranean Sea. She completed her mission in April
and departed for her homeward transit, Commander Francis Slattery, the
commanding officer estimated arrival at Norfolk at 1300 local time on May
21. The Force Commander later stated the boat had been diverted early in
the transit to locate and conduct surveillance of a Soviet Task Force
operating near the Azores, Islands
As family and friends and Navy officials gathered on Naval Station Norfolk’s
Destroyer-Submarine Pier 22, there were no indications that the
homecoming was to be other than routine. The weather had worsened, yet
families and Navy personnel remained vigilant for SCORPION’s unique
profile to appear as it approached from the James River. The Navy finally
made the announcement to the families that there was a problem and
SCORPION would not be arriving as scheduled. The suggestion was made
that more information would be made available.
On May 28, 1968 the official announcement was made that SCORPION
was overdue; search and rescue efforts were ongoing; but little or no
information was being released by the Navy. The shroud of secrecy from
officials only served to frustrate the families and requests were continuously
requested but to no avail. There were never indications of survivors.
The SCORPION Memorial is located adjacent to the Maritime Museum and
USS Scorpion SSN 589