During the height of the Cold War, in 1968, four submarines disappeared with all hands on board: the Israeli submarine INS Dakar, the French Minerve, and the Soviet K-129, as well as the USS Scorpion which was lost with all hands (99 sailors) on May 22, 1968, off the coast of the Azores.

The USS Scorpion (SSN-589) was a Skipjack-class nuclear-powered submarine. It was the sixth vessel and the second submarine of the U.S. Navy to carry that name. The Scorpion was commissioned on 29 July 1960. With its tear-dropped-shaped hull, the USS Scorpion could muster speeds of 34 knots (38 mph). 

During the years 1960-67, the Scorpion performed numerous deployments in the Atlantic and was involved in the development of nuclear submarine tactics. It also took part in several U.S. and NATO exercises. In 1966, the boat was even reported to have infiltrated into an inland Soviet sea to photograph a large Soviet missile launch through its periscope.

Clouds on the Horizon

In 1967, however, a portentous event happened. The USS Scorpion entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a scheduled overhaul. The Submarine Safety Program (SUBSAFE) required increased submarine overhaul times, from nine to 36 months. However, instead of a much-needed complete overhaul, she received only emergency repairs to get quickly back on duty.