WASHINGTON -- The U.S. nuclear-powered submarine Scorpion that mysteriously sank in the Atlantic 13 years ago with 99 men aboard carried at least one nuclear missile to the bottom, defense sources say.
A Pentagon spokesman said the Scorpion 'was capable' of carrying both high-explosive and nuclear torpedo warheads, but declined to comment on the nature of the weapons aboard. Pentagon policy is to neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons aboard ships or planes.
But defense sources said the Scorpion did go down with at least one nuclear missile aboard when it sank after a three-month training exercise in the Mediterranean.
The Pentagon last week released a list of 32 accidents over the last 30 years that involved nuclear weapons or the presence of such weapons.
One of the previously unreported accidents said only, 'Spring 1968, at Sea, Atlantic. Details remain classified.' That was the year the Scorpion went down.
The sources refused to divulge precisely where the sub sank because of a possibility powers hostile to the United States might go diving for it.
The $40 million vessel was reported missing May 29, 1968, with 99 men aboard. It was returning to its home base at Norfolk, Va., at the time.
On Oct. 31, 1968, the Navy announced the submarine had been located by a Navy research ship 10,000 feet below the surface of the Atlantic some 400 miles southwest of the Azores.
Underwater photographs showed the 3,075-ton, 252-feet long vessel lying on its side with a split hull and with part of its bow missing. The submarine, which had a maximum safe depth of 1,200 feet, was apparently caved in from the tremendous pressure two miles under water.
The Scorpion, built at Groton, Conn., and launched in 1959, was designed to protect Polaris missile submarines and surface ships.
It was the second U.S. nuclear-powered submarine to sink with all aboard.
On April 10, 1963, the attack submarine Thresher went to the bottom while making a deep dive in the Atlantic some 220 miles off Cape Cod., Mass. with 129 men aboard, including 17 civilian technicians.
A later Navy court of inquiry concluded that the sinking was 'most likely' due to a piping system failure that flooded the engine room.