John Corson's Blog

for November 18, 2020

Please, No Politics Today!
A Funeral and The U.S.S. Scorpion

I am going to try to skirt around the issue of politics with this blog. It is very hard to do that since EVERYTHING these days is political. The Left politicizes everything from the way you part your hair to the television shows you watch. But in this little rant, I will do my dead level best to avoid bashing the Left and cursing the Democrats. Hah! I already did my political rant. Jokes on you!

Now, on to the opportunities afforded me today. By opportunities I am speaking of a couple of obligations I have or will have to engage in and my lunch experience, shared with a friend and soon to be ordained Deacon at my church.

A man in my church lost his mother due to cancer over last week and her memorial service was this morning. It had been a long time since I attended a funeral in a Catholic Church. The last time, the liturgy lasted about an hour and twenty minutes. It was the "longer" version complete with a rehash of the seven sacraments of the church that the deceased experienced on earth. With each re-enactment we would stand, then sit, then with each prayer (there were seven) we would stand and then sit. There were vocal responses to prayers and singing responses to the music within the liturgy. I did not know the words or the order, so I was merely a spectator. I felt like a bounding ball with all the standing then sitting, standing the sitting, standing then sitting, standing - well you get the point.

The service today was different, and shorter, but was grueling on the old carcass as there were at least eight times we stood then were seated, stood then were seated, stood ... The service was also shorter and I think, due to the Coronavirus, the liturgy was abbreviated. Twice, the incense was used, half of the communion was observed and only for practicing Catholics, a number of prayers were offered and thanks was given unto God at least six times for the deceased woman who appeared to have been well liked in the church. I say half of the communion for in most Catholic churches only the wafer (bread) which represents the body of Christ is given to the flock. The wine (which represents the blood of Christ) is only drunk by the priest. Ironically, I have often said that the blood of Christ was shed to wash away sins and have often believed that Catholics think the laity don't drink the wine because they have no sins to be washed away and the priests have all the sins - so they drink it. I know that is not what Catholics teach, but it is not Biblical one iota for the laity to be excluded from part of the Eucharist.

The second obligation of the day comes up tonight as I have to attend choir practice (and I do not sing in the choir, but do have to attend anyway) to help out with the Christmas Cantata and rehearse with them and then assist the choir members along with a few others who will be coming later to put up some of the Christmas decorations in the church sanctuary. We have new garland and lights that have just arrived and we need to unpack, untie and stretch out the various branches and hang them up around the choir loft and doors of the church as well as hang the garland wreaths between each of the stained glass windows. We are going to wait until the first Sunday in Advent (November 29th) to turn on the lights.

Anyway, following the Funeral Mass, Bruce Wigger (a member of my church who attended the funeral) accompanied me to a deli down the road from the church which is owned by friends of mine. Debbie Vaccarelli and her husband Bill own Danny's Delicatessen in Newport News and it is there where you can find just about every kind of meat that can be put on bread, except maybe buffalo. I have known Debbie all my life. She is six years older than me and used to change my diapers! Her younger brother, Nelson, and I were somewhat close friends, but as he lived about thirty minutes from my house and across the James River, I didn't get to see him that often. Debbie and Nelson's Mom and Dad worked for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission where my mother worked as the Administrative Officer and Assistant to the Commissioner. Their mom was the receptionist at VMRC and Herbert (their father) was a Marine Police Supervisor. There was some good comradery between them and my parents, so there was a good friendship between me and Nelson - Debbie was older and much more stuck up, but she did hang around with us.

Herbert (their dad) passed away on January 1, 2001 and I performed his funeral. Less than a year later Nelson passed away and his funeral become the first I performed over a dear friend my age. Nelson was only 46 years old. I maintained contact with Debbie and her husband and off and on would drive over to Newport News and eat at their deli.

So Bruce and I ate there today. Bill and Debbie's daughter Kim manages the place as Debbie and Bill spend most of their time at home watching games shows and football. But today, they both showed up and I had the opportunity of introducing Bruce to them.

Anyway, back to lunch. Bruce had ordered roast beef and cole slaw on wheat, while I ate my usual corn beef and provolone on rye. We both had fries. He drank coffee and I had sweet tea. While eating, and for an hour afterward, we talked about the election, politics in general, how the Democrats will be in power forever if they win the two Senate seats in Georgia, and how the Obama/Biden Administration was the most corrupt in the history of the country. Now I am going to stop there because I am delving into politics, right?

The most intriguing part of our conversation was over military operations during the Cold War. We talked about submarine warfare (Bruce was a submariner in the Navy in the 60's thru 80's) and I couldn't help but bring up the movie "The Hunt for Red October" and the Russian capability to move about underwater undetected. Bruce confirmed what I have always thought that the Soviets did have a magneto hydrodynamic drive, or caterpillar drive that allowed their submarines to virtually move underwater undetected by sonar. He also came to find out many years later that the Soviets had one such submarine parked at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in the 80's - he guessed awaiting orders to fire a short range nuke at the Norfolk Naval Base and the Newport News Shipyard where many of our nuclear subs and aircraft carriers were built.

I told Bruce about the two men who attended my church in Maryland who both worked for the National Security Administration at Fort Meade, who no one knew what they did and we would have to be killed if we found out. Many, many years later when I ran into one of them, I will not say who he is, he did inform me that their intelligence from the late 70's to the mid 80's showed that the Norfolk/Newport News area was target number 1 for the Soviets to hit in a nuclear attack. Not New York, not Los Angeles, not Washington D.C. It was my hometown! Mom and Dad would be vaporized in a half second! This was just before we found out about their undetectable subs. We were target number 1 for the Soviet ICBMs.

A second part of the conversation centered on the mysterious loss of one of our nuclear submarines in 1968 called "The Scorpion." The Scorpion (SSN-589) was a skipjack classed nuclear submarine that was lost on May 22 May with 99 crewmen dying in the incident. She is one of two nuclear submarines the U.S. Navy has lost, the other being USS Thresher. It was one of the four mysterious submarine disappearances in 1968, the others being the Israeli submarine INS Dakar, the French submarine Minerve, and the Soviet submarine K-129. Bruce knew about each of these incidents and postulated a theory that we sacrificed the Scorpion for our accidental drowning of the K-129. It was like a self-imposed payback.

The Scorpion attempted to send radio traffic to Naval Station Rota for an unusually long period beginning shortly before midnight on 20 May and ending after midnight on May 21st, but it was only able to reach a Navy communications station in Nea Makri, Greece, which forwarded the messages to COMSUBLANT. Lt. John Roberts was handed Commander Slattery's last message that he was closing on the Soviet submarine and research group, running at a steady 15 kn (28 km/h; 17 mph) at a depth of 110 m (350 ft.) "to begin surveillance of the Soviets". Six days later, the media reported that she was overdue at Norfolk.

The Navy suspected possible failure and launched a search, but Scorpion and her crew were declared "presumed lost" on June 5. Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on June 30. There were at least five possible theories put forward as to its loss:

  1. A hydrogen explosion during a battery charge;
  2. An accidental activation of a torpedo onboard;
  3. An explosion of a torpedo inside the sub;
  4. An intentional firing of a defective torpedo;
  5. A malfunction of a trash disposal unit;

And then, a six possible explanation was, of course, the Soviet's did it. Ed Offley's book "Scorpion Down" promotes a hypothesis suggesting that the Scorpion was sunk by a Soviet submarine during a standoff that started days before May 22nd. Another book "All Hands Down" by Kenneth Sewell and Jerome Preisler (Simon and Schuster, 2008) concludes that the Scorpion was destroyed while en route to gather intelligence on a Soviet naval group conducting operations in the Atlantic While the mission for which the submarine was diverted from her original course back to her home port is a matter of record, its details remain classified.

We will possibly never know what happened to that sub, for sure, but one thing remains puzzling for me and Bruce said that there is all probability that my assessment is true. One of the members aboard the Scorpion was Garlin Ray Denney. He left behind two children, one of whom I dated long after his "disappearance." Bonny was her name and I remember her telling me the story of her dad's death as she said the Navy and the Pentagon call his a disappearance. Because there is no proof of death, there would be no death benefits, no housing arrangements, no retirement, no financial remuneration for the military whatsoever. Bonny's mom described it as a no-discharge, no death experience likened to her husband going AWOL. Hence, no consideration at all!

I asked Bruce if the military would do this to the families lost at sea and he said, only if the submarine was doing something it shouldn't be doing and to say what it did would be a national security nightmare, or the Soviets did sink her and to announce such an attack would result in hostilities that would quickly grow into nuclear war. President Johnson was deeply engaged in a very unpopular war in Vietnam which forced him just two months earlier to declare he wouldn't seek re-election and he didn't want to leave most of the country in ashes for who he hoped would follow him, Hubert Humphrey.

So, the U.S.S. Scorpion's downing remains a mystery and my old girl friend didn't even get a life-insurance check issued to her or her mother and no Social Security Survivors benefits came their way.

This was just one of the few topics Bruce and I discussed over lunch and it didn't help put smiles on our faces, especially after following our attendance at a funeral service. Perhaps we will have smiles tonight as Bruce, the choir and I hang the garland and ready the church for the Christmas season. I sure hope so. I need some happy time today.

Blog for November 17 Blog for November 19


Blogs are about the blogger. It's as if he or she merely toots their own horns about the things they do, say and love.

My life is boring. I read, I watch Glenn Beck and Mark Levin. I listen to Andrew Wilkow. I engage in some conversation with those who are willing to listen (they being masochistic and enjoy killing themselves with my banter).

I plan on just laying out the things that bother me and the things I love. Nothing in-between. I hope you find whatever I put here amusing.