How the US Navy Helped Find Titanic and Other Sunken Ships

A 1963 photograph reveals the crushed sonar dome aboard USS Thresher. US Navy

3. USS Thresher and USS Scorpion remained of interest to the American and Soviet Navies during the Cold War

USS Thresher and USS Scorpion were both equipped to carry nuclear weapons during their periods of service. Though the US Navy never officially acknowledged whether or not nuclear weapons were aboard any vessel at any time the likelihood is the Scorpion at least was so armed as it was returning from the Mediterranean when it sank. Thresher may well not have been, since it was in a maintenance cycle. However, both ships contained nuclear reactors, as well as classified material and equipment. It was in the interests of the Soviet Navy to obtain them if possible, and it was in the interest of the US Navy to ensured that didn’t happen.

Scorpion was of particular interest due to the unknown nature of the incident which triggered its loss. Though both submarines were very deep beneath the surface (Scorpion is almost 10,000 feet below), the United States and the Soviet Union worked throughout the Cold War to develop deep submergence capabilities. Surface ship activity in the area of Scorpion’s loss by either side brought the watchful eye of the other. Thresher, about 220 miles off Cape Cod, was more easily guarded by US Navy and Coast Guard patrols and aircraft.