It was an honor to have been asked to review Mr. Rule’s book for a number of reasons. Most importantly at a personal level, SCORPION was my home from October 1961 to December 1962 and three deployments when, as one of the first group of direct inputs I learned the trade from giants such as Bessac, Carr, Kaufman, Trost, Holland and Fountain. There were also several still aboard I had served with such as Mazzuchi, Huckleberry and, most notably, Wally Bishop-who had been made Chief of the Boat as a First Class Petty Officer (with full support of the Goat Locker) while I was aboard. l also remember Admiral Rickover’s stem admonition about the heavy responsibility one assumes when he is so presumptuous as to advise potential readers about another person’s writings.
Significantly, Why the USS Scorpion (SSN-589) was Lost is not a book in the traditional sense of the word. Far from being a novel or historical documentary, it is a superbly prepared technical report based on empirical evidence and written to high forensic standards by an individual who served in the acoustic intelligence field for 40 years. Mr. Bruce Rule had been the Lead Acoustic Analyst as the Office of Naval Intelligence, and quite simply, has no peer capable of having accomplished what his book does-the stripping away of almost all of the erroneous myths and conjectures concerning the demise of SCORPION.
Since 2002 there has been a well-moderated Yahoo Group concerning SCORPION’s loss on which there have been nearly 15,000 postings ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime. I lurked in the group and occasionally contributed, as did Mr. Rule. A major contributor was Stephen Johnson-the author of Silent Steel-the only other book about SCORPION that is worth the time to read, and which is the ideal companion piece to Bruce Rule’s work. As tribute to the focused nature of Why the USS Scorpion (SSN-589) was Lost, one could read all 15,000 of those postings and not get as complete an understanding of SCORPION’s loss as exists in the book’s 75 or so pages.
If Why the USS Scorpion (SSN-589) was Lost has a flaw, it is that portions of it are very technically complex-the very same characteristic that makes it so credible. For those not feeling up to that intellectual challenge-or merely in a hurry-the 7 pages of Chapter 5 (a 6 August 2010 letter to the Director of Naval Intelligence), Chapter 6 (a 22 May 2011 letter to the Director of Naval Intelligence) and Appendix B (an article published in the Submarine Library and Museum’s Electronic Newsletter the PING) nicely capture the history and forensic analysis leading to Mr. Rule’s conclusions.
After being Navigator on three SSNs, it finally dawned on me that the secret is that one never really knows where they are, but it’s a question of just how badly you don’t know-navigational uncertainty. Similarly, we will never know what really happened on SCORPION on 22 May 1968, but Why the USS Scorpion (SSN-589) was lost, has reduced the existential uncertainties of the root cause to nearly zero.