By Cora Van Olson

 

The 75th anniversary of the loss of the World War II submarine USS Scorpion will be commemorated Saturday during the annual memorial program at the Scorpion memorial, located just west of the Meridian Bridge in Yankton.

The public is invited to gather at noon on Saturday, May 18, at the USS Scorpion Memorial in Yankton to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the loss of that vessel with all hands during World War II (WWII).

The USS Scorpion memorial is located on W. Riverside Dr. by the Meridian Bridge. In case of rain, the ceremony will be at the Yankton VFW Post 791 at 209 Cedar Street.

"We are trying to really emphasize the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the Scorpion," said Tim Madden, a WWII veteran and organizer of the event.

"We honor each person with tolling of the bells and we will have three speakers," he said. "Our district commander will be there, there will be a representative from the South Dakota Battleship Memorial, a member of the new South Dakota submarine which just got commissioned, and our main speaker will be from Omaha, Nebraska, from the joint military force base they have there. "

There is one WWII submarine veteran still alive in South Dakota, Jim Black, who was involved with the placement of the monument in Yankton. He plans to attend the ceremony.

The USS Scorpion was launched on July 20, 1942. Each of her first three patrols earned her a Battle Star. En route to her fourth and final patrol in the East China and Yellow seas, she rendezvoused with USS Herring on Jan. 5, 1944. After that, the Scorpion lost contact.

"In January of 1944, that submarine was lost at sea and all hands went down with it," Madden said. "When a submarine sinks, there’re typically no survivors."

The Scorpion’s fate remains a mystery.

In fact, all hands were lost when the Scorpion went down.

"There were no reports of any activity of ships like destroyers or attack submarines," said Sam Herley, curator of the Oral History Center at the University of South Dakota and Black’s stepson. "The best evidence is that it was lost in the Yellow Sea by hitting a mine. The Japanese had just set up a huge minefield in that part of the ocean at that time."

In all, there were 52 submarines lost in World War II. After the war, the United States Submarine Veterans of World War II decided to have one lost submarine memorialized in each state. New York and California were each granted two. South Dakota got the USS Scorpion.

One of the 77 crew members of the Scorpion — Jack E. Clough — was from Gregory, South Dakota, and is perhaps the reason South Dakota was selected for the USS Scorpion’s memorial.

"There wasn’t (a monument) in South Dakota for a long time, but in the early 1990s they were getting down to there weren’t many (submarine veterans) left that they could do the memorial, and they wanted to put one in South Dakota," Herley said. "Originally, they wanted to put it in Sioux Falls, but that idea was rejected because there is already a memorial to the USS South Dakota in Sioux Falls and people didn’t want to take away from that. So they talked about it and moved it to Yankton."

Yankton’s veterans funded and erected the memorial, which was dedicated in 2002. Clough’s sisters attended the dedication.

The memorial overlooks the Missouri River just west of the Meridian Bridge. On it is engraved the brief story of the USS Scorpion and the names of her crew.

 

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