CHIEF MOTOR MACHINIST'S MATE THEODORE THOMAS CORNELIUS was born in New Jersey on June 27, 1919 to Theodore R. and Elizabeth Cornelius. By 1930 the family was living with the grandmother, Amelia Cornelius, at 914 Vine Street in Camden NJ, where the father was a machinist. Besides Theodore Thomas, there were two brothers, Edward Kenneth Cornelius, and Robert Cornelius.
Theodore Cornelius shared his fathers aptitude for things mechanical served in that capacity while in the United States Navy. He originally enlisted in the Navy in 1936, and served a four year hitch on destroyers and patrol boats. On September 3, 1941 he re-enlisted, and later volunteered for submarine duty. Theodore Cornelius graduated from submarine school at New London CT around New Years Day, 1943 with the rank of Motor Machinist's Mate, First Class. He subsequently was promoted to Chief Motor Machinist's Mate.
Chief Cornelius served aboard the USS Scorpion. The Scorpion was lost while on her fourth war patrol of the Pacific in February of 1944. Younger brother Edward Kenneth Cornelius, serving in the United States Air Force, was lost in the Pacific in June of 1944.
USS SCORPION (SS-278)
A GATO class submarine, built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, ME, and carrying a crew of 6 officers and 54 enlisted men, the SCORPION was commissioned 1 October 1942 with Lt. Cmdr. William N. Wylie in command.
Following further yard work and fitting out, USS SCORPION (SS-278) conducted shakedown operations off the southern New England coast during January 1943 and sailed for Panama in late February. In mid-March, she transited the canal, and, on the 24th, she arrived at Pearl Harbor. There, she underwent modifications which included the installation of a bathythermograph, a then new oceanographic instrument to enable her to locate and hide in thermal layers that minimized the effectiveness of SONAR equipment.
On 5 April, SCORPION departed Pearl Harbor for her first war patrol, a hunting and mining mission off the east coast of Honshu. On the 19th, she reached the mining area near Nakaminato. During the afternoon, she reconnoitered the coast; and, in the evening, she planted her mines; then retired to deep water. On the 20th, she sank her first enemy ship, a 1,934-ton converted gunboat. On the 21st, prior to 0100, she fired on and destroyed her first sampan in surface action, then moved up the coast to observe the fishing grounds, shipping lanes, and coastline of the Shioya Saki area. On the night of the 22nd, she destroyed three more sampans with gunfire and continued north, toward Kinkasan To.
With the absence of shipping along the coastal lanes, she moved seaward and, on the 27th, sighted a convoy of four freighters escorted by a destroyer. At 0459, she fired four torpedoes at the first and largest merchantman; two at the second; then dived and rigged for depth charging. At 0505, the destroyer dropped her first depth charges. A half-hour later, the Japanese warship broke off her search for SCORPION to aid the stricken passenger-cargo ship. While SCORPION escaped with slight damage, the 6,380-ton merchant vessel sank.
On the 28th, SCORPION received orders home. En route on the 29th, she sighted and engaged a 100-ton patrol vessel, which she left burning to the waterline. On the morning of the 30th, she stalked, fired on, and finally torpedoed and sank a 600-ton patrol ship. During the hour and three-quarters fight, however, SCORPION received her first casualty. LCdr R. M. Raymond, on board as prospective commanding officer, was hit and killed by gunfire.
Soon after the patrol vessel went down, an enemy plane appeared. SCORPION submerged; survived the plane's depth charges and continued toward Midway and Pearl Harbor, arriving on 8 May.
With a 4" gun in place of her 3" gun, SCORPION set out on her second war patrol on 29 May. On 2 June, she refueled at Midway and, on the 21st, she arrived off Takara Jima in the Tokara Gunto. For the next week, she searched for targets in that archipelago in an effort to disrupt shipping on the Formosa-Nagasaki routes. On the 28th, she shifted her hunt to the Yellow Sea and, by the 30th, was off the Shantung Peninsula. On 3 July, she sighted a five-freighter convoy with one escort making its way through the eastern waters of that sea. By 0955, she had sent torpedoes toward the convoy and dived. As the depth charging began, she struck bottom at 25 fathoms. Two charges exploded close by. Between 1002 and 1006, five more shook her hull. Fearing that she was stirring up a mud trail, her screws were stopped and she settled on the bottom at 29 fathoms. At 1008, a chain or cable was dragged over her hull. Four minutes later, her hull was scraped a second time. Immediately underway again, she began evasive course changes and escaped further exploding charges. The hunt continued for over an hour; and, at 1149, SCORPION came to periscope depth; spied the destroyer 7,000 yards off; and cleared the area. Postwar examination of Japanese records show that SCORPION scored five hits and sank a 3,890-ton freighter, and a 6,112-ton passenger-cargo ship.
Because of damage received during the depth charging, SCORPION retraced her route through Tokara Gunto; underwent a bomber attack east of Akuseki Jima; and continued on to Midway. On 26 July, she arrived back at Pearl Harbor; underwent repairs conducted training exercises, and, on 13 October, departed Pearl Harbor for her third war patrol. After touching at Midway on 17 October, she headed for the Marianas, where she reconnoitered Pagan and Agrihan Islands on the 25th and 26th, and Farallon de Pajoras on the 1st and 2nd of November. On the last date, she struck an uncharted pinnacle; but suffering no apparent damage, continued her patrol. On 3 November, she was off Maug; and, two days later, she sighted her first target, a Mogami-class cruiser. Squalls interfered, however, and she abandoned the target after a four-hour chase. On the 7th, she was back off Agrihan; and, on the 8th, she closed a freighter, which turned and gave chase. The freighter was a "Q" ship, a warship disguised as a merchantman. Unable to regain the advantage, SCORPION retired.
Poor weather continued to plague the submarine's hunting until, on the 13th, she sighted a freighter and a tanker escorted by three warships. Firing her torpedoes, she scored on the oiler, which went dead in the water. One of the escorts dropped depth charges, then rejoined the formation. On the 14th, SCORPION patrolled near Rota; and, on the 15th, she watched for targets off Saipan.
For the next week, the submarine continued to work the shipping lanes of the Marianas without success. Heavy seas and squalls continued to shelter enemy traffic. On the 22nd, she sighted a transport accompanied by two destroyers and a corvette. She stalked the formation for 16 hours but was unable to fire. A few hours later, low on fuel, she headed home.
Departing Pearl Harbor on 29 December 1943, USS SCORPION (SS-278) stopped at Midway to top off with fuel, and left that place on 3 January 1944 to conduct her fourth war patrol during WWII. Her assigned area was in the northern East China and Yellow Seas.
On the morning of 5 January, SCORPION reported that one of her crew had sustained a fracture of the upper arm and requested a rendezvous with USS HERRING (SS-233) which was returning from patrol and was near her. The rendezvous was accomplished on the afternoon of 5 January but heavy seas prevented the transfer. HERRING reported this fact on 6 January, and stated "SCORPION reports case under control." SCORPION was never seen or heard from again after her departure from that rendezvous. On 16 February 1944, USS STEELHEAD (SS-280) and SCORPION were warned that they were close together, and that an enemy submarine was in the vicinity.
No information has been received from the Japanese which would indicate SCORPION's loss was the result of enemy anti-submarine tactics. There were, however, several mine lines across the entrance to the Yellow Sea. The presence of these mine lines and the "restricted area" bounding them was discovered from captured Japanese Notices to Mariners at a much later date. In the meantime several submarines had made patrols in this area, crossing and re-crossing the mine lines without incident, and coming safely home. It is probable that these mine lines were very thin, offering only about a 10 percent threat to submarines at maximum, and steadily decreasing in effectiveness with the passage of time. SCORPION was lost soon after these mines were laid, or at a time when they presumably offered the greatest threat. She could have been an operational casualty, but her area consists of water shallow enough so that it might be expected that some men would have survived. Since we know of no survivors, the most reasonable assumption is that she hit a mine.
SCORPION earned three battle stars for her World War II service.
Chief Motor Machinist's Mate Theodore Thomas Cornelius and his brother, Second Lieutenant Edward K. Cornelius, Army Air Force, were both lost during 1944. Neither man's body was recovered. Two markers were erected, side by side, in there honor, at Beverly National Cemetery in Beverly NJ.
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