Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

50 Years Ago

Fifty years ago this morning, USS Thresher (SSN 593) got underway for sea trials following a 9 month overhaul. At 0918 the next morning, April 10th, during the deep dive, the accompanying ASR heard garbled communications over the underwater comms channel, then a sound like "air rushing into an air tank", then... silence.

129 souls were lost that day. As tragic as this was, I'm convinced that the loss of these brave men, along with the 99 men lost on USS Scorpion (SSN 589) five years later, saved many more men through the advent of SUBSAFE program. The Russians/Soviets have lost 5 commissioned nuclear boats since the Scorpion went down. Other countries have lost several diesel boats. Through the skill of American submarine crews, builders, and designers, we haven't lost any since 1968.

The men of the Thresher and Scorpion will never be forgotten by those who face the perils of operating under the waves.

48 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I raise a toast to all who went before me and never returned.

4/09/2013 8:02 PM

 
Blogger a_former_elt_2jv said...

Very sad indeed

4/09/2013 10:16 PM

 
Anonymous HMCM(SS) Retired said...

In memoriam of HMC(SS) Andrew J. Gallant, Jr.

4/10/2013 6:06 AM

 
Anonymous submarines once... said...

A very sad day at the time. But so many improved safety and operational procedures and processes came from the tragedy. All who have gone down to the sea in their submarines since then must never forget.

4/10/2013 7:18 AM

 
Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

And the conditions of our submarines...their maintenance and operational problem has never been kept so in such secrecy.

Let alone the trouble with our shipyards and national budget problems.

I yearn for the days of a mouthy Adm Rickover who warned congress and our nation about Navy ship building and maintenance problems in general.

We as a nation are 100 times more military readiness blind than we were when we lost USS Thresher on April 10 1963...

Could even imagine we'd destroy a $2 billion submarine in a shipyard fire event....

4/10/2013 7:49 AM

 
Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

I am just waiting for a submarine fire conflagration accident far out to sea caused by the shipyard penny pinching over the component combustibility requirements as seen in the USS Miami...

4/10/2013 7:55 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike Mulligan,

F*ck off! This blog is for remembering a tragedy where we lost 129 of our brothers.

This is not for your political ramblings.

Vaginus,

Unless you have something respectful to say about the Thresher, don't say anything.

4/10/2013 8:01 AM

 
Anonymous Cupojoe said...

I often worry that the loss of another submarine is inevitable. I think many have a story where 7 of the 8 or so things needed to go wrong actually go wrong. Frankly, I was surprised that San Francisco did a as well as it did after its grounding.

4/10/2013 9:11 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Mike. While we honor those who have gone before us, we need to be wary for those who come after.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

4/10/2013 9:20 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Frankly, I was surprised that San Francisco did a as well as it did after its grounding."

Based on its behavior immediately following the grounding, so was the Navy. It was all too clear at the time that we'd nearly lost another one.

Having said that, good, basic submarine design saved the day...so we should all applaud Electric Boat for San Francisco's outcome. The fact is that submarines -- unlike skimmers -- physically can run into a wall at flank speed. That they can do that and survive is totally to the credit of the designers and builders. God bless EB.

4/10/2013 10:02 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice. Except SAN FRANCISCO was built by Newport News, not EB. And Newport News is the Planning Yard for the LOS ANGELES Class. Credit where credit is due.

4/10/2013 11:02 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Point well-taken, but EB absolutely designed the 688s...any one of which could likely take the hit that San Francisco did due to conservative design...by EB.

4/10/2013 1:11 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back on the topic of Thresher...as a young JO doing a newcon submerged crash-back drill with Admiral Rickover standing next to me, a brief dialogue with the man left me, personally, with no doubt whatsoever that even in his 80s he felt a deep sense of loss for Thresher...and possibly (this part being conjecture; who can know) even a sense of personal responsibility for too-conservative operating guidelines at the time.

Nonetheless, we U.S. submariners did not suffer a single loss from reactor accidents...something the Soviet Union suffered from any number of times back in the day.

So, God bless and rest Admiral Rickover, too. Job well done.

4/10/2013 1:20 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^^^^
Pretentious Nuke

4/10/2013 3:01 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^^ Knuckle-dragging skimmer?

(We win. Every time.)

4/10/2013 3:14 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reactor accidents are no 'pretense', skimmer boy.

Reactor accidents aboard nuclear submarines

United States reactor accidents: 0
Soviet Union reactor accidents: 14

By the numbers:

K-8, 1960
K-14, 1961
K-19, 1961
K-11, 1965
K-27, 1968
K-140, 1968
K-429, 1970
K-116, 1970
K-64, 1972
K-222, 1980
K-123, 1982
K-431, 1985
K-219, 1986
K-192, 1989

4/10/2013 3:24 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Among Molten Eagle's past tributes to the Thresher tragedy was May 25, 2009, the second of that year bt the way.

Any insignificant little troll who dares accuse Vigilis of ever dishonoring Thresher's crew deserves
to slip into drydock on a bannana peel.

If this makes some anonymous little TSSP troll (who never qualified in any boat) feel insignificant and foolish, why not share what you have done to honor Thresher's lost crew?

As usual, you can't respond.

Rex

4/10/2013 4:06 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chief Elwood Forney let me sleep over on the Sea Poacher, just before he left that boat to go to Thresher. It was very exciting for a 13 year old kid to sit in that tiny sonar room below Control.

4/10/2013 6:27 PM

 
Anonymous John Fordyce said...

I can tell you one thing. It was damn quiet in Bells on Hampton Blvd. that night! We just kind of sat around and talked quietly. No one could believe that our newest and finest was gone. I raise a beer tonight, to toast those fine men who lost their lives, never knowing those lost lives would bring about the many changes that made our submarines far safer. I also know, when I pulled out the "rig for dive" bill from that day on I took it a lot more serious.

OLD COB

4/10/2013 6:38 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just attended a lecture on Thresher by Norman Polmar, author of "Death of the Thresher". His theory was that she did NOT have a pipe failure; she suffered an electrical casualty that lost the RCPs and scrammed the reactor - and that is why she sank. During the Q&A session afterwards the point was raised that - even if she did suffer a loss of propulsion and she could not blow MBT due to (now) known problem with HP air lines freezing up - those in themselves would not have caused her to continue sinking. Something else gave her negative buoyancy and prevented her from attaining neutral or positive bubble. If not a SW leak - then what?

BTW: To clear up an earlier discussion: EB did NOT design the 688 Class. The class was designed by Newport News.

4/10/2013 9:20 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hand Salute!


http://www.ussthresher.com/roster/


Ready, To!

The web site above includes pics and bios for each of the crew.


You will always be remembered and honored, shipmates.

With heartfelt condolences to their families, friends and colleagues...

With respect,
~~(SS)~~

4/10/2013 10:09 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Polmar is something of a blowhard. Just sayin'. It's not like he's alone in that affliction. Just check in with any skimmer.

Thanks for the 688 class correction.

4/10/2013 10:27 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. I can fairly easily see how flooding in the engine room could/would lead to electrical bus frequency instability. Eventually, with flooding of switchboards, SSTG regulators, etc., that's fairly unavoidable.

However, it's much more difficult to imagine how a loss of coolant pumps alone would of itself sink a boat that had at least partially blown MBTs. To your point, Thresher clearly was taking on seawater, consistent with the original investigation's findings.

4/10/2013 10:32 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Based on its behavior immediately following the grounding, so was the Navy. It was all too clear at the time that we'd nearly lost another one.

I guess you just had to be there to enjoy it.
When I was on the Tullibee we had the same air bank problems, I don't know if the entire class didn't have air dryers, just 1 stage water separators. While doing air bank blowdowns in 86 or 87 a water slug slammed the valve and blew it off the piping. When the air bank finally depressurized, there was a mountain of ice underneath it. You couldn't get within a few feet from the sound/pressure surge, incredible.
I still don't understand why so many jump on the "it just scrammed" theory.
God bless to those men and their families in their loss.



hagar

4/10/2013 11:50 PM

 
Anonymous Royalsmith said...

Fire damage is one of the most common disaster that residents experience in their area .Fire damage removal Miami is available 24/7 to help in case of unfortunate fire damage disaster.

4/11/2013 12:37 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^^ Spam.

4/11/2013 3:58 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hat tip to ye, Hagar...thank you from all of us for your service -- and demonstrated 'hard-nosed Auxiliaryman' abilities. ;-)

For those of us on the beach at the time, the tip-off to just how significant SanFran's bounce had been was the complete lack of "gonna open me up a can of whoop ass" attitude that the Navy likes to go thrusting about with whenever there's a grounding. You knew all too well what had happened. But, for most of us, our insight was a rare moment of seeing the Navy all but fall on its knees and give thanks for once.

God bless all those who don't come home to their families again on this Earth.

4/11/2013 4:11 AM

 
Blogger Garyl Gordon said...

As one that definitely owes a debt to those who served before me and most especially to those who unfortunately fell in the deliverance of that service it is with great reverence that we acknowledge,remember,and honor thee for that service, that sacrifice made by you, indeed you, you "Chosen Few." Forever may you rest in Peace.

Garyl Gordon TM2/SS, USN (formerly)USS Thomas Jefferson SSBN-618(Blue Crew),USS Sargo SSN-583

4/11/2013 4:29 AM

 
Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

For Chief Forney and TM-2 (SS) Steve Cayey and Lt Beiderman, shipmates all, God's hand on you in the deep.

4/11/2013 8:21 AM

 
Blogger a_former_elt_2jv said...

FWIW, not every "reactor accident" is included. It's a really broad category.

For example, OLYMPIA in 2000-- that was a bad accident!

4/11/2013 9:49 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A "reactor accident" has a very specific definition, ELT-guy...go back & review your basics.

4/11/2013 9:55 AM

 
Anonymous STSCS said...

Accidents are zero...incidents are numerous...

WRT, "I think many have a story where 7 of the 8 or so things needed to go wrong actually go wrong" Absolutely.

Had a very scary hour or two on more than one boat where but for the grace of God and some good Submariner intervention at the last minute we would have all put the Thresher & Scorpion three section. The last time (2009) still gives me chills when I think about it.

4/11/2013 12:43 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty embarrassing when an STSCS knows nuclear definitions better than an ELT...

4/12/2013 6:45 AM

 
Blogger a_former_elt_2jv said...

According to the STCS's definition, Fukushima wouldn't be a "reactor accident" because the reactor was shut down at the time. I would disagree, you know, with the boiling spent fuel pools and hydrogen explosions.

I'll go out on a limb and say that any technical fast-leak of the un-isolable variety is a reactor accident. Especially when containment wasn't and couldn't be set, and the crew took the plant into an unanalyzed condition. Archive versions of the story are here

From the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Definition
A reactor accident occurs when the plant cooling water systems are no longer removing heat from the reactor fuel (the “core” of the reactor). Extensive core damage could melt reactor fuel, which would settle at the bottom of the reactor vessel that is designed to hold the fuel. The reactor vessel is surrounded by the containment building.
If cooling water is not restored, however, and the accident progresses further, the melted fuel could rupture the bottom of the reactor vessel, with the melted fuel flowing onto the containment floor. Radioactive material would be released from the fuel into the containment atmosphere and could potentially escape containment if there were any available leakage paths.
[Page 3, "Modeling Potential Reactor Accident Consequences"]

I suppose we're circling around a semantic-- I'm saying that a "reactor accident" doesn't necessarily involve loss of the ship, or a technical meltdown; you're saying that that's exactly what it it.

4/12/2013 10:54 AM

 
Anonymous Mark (MM1/SS) said...

You are digging a deeper hole, former ELT. You have forgotten your basic ELT training regarding reactor and radiological accidents. Fukushima certainly met the nuc Navy's definition of a "reactor accident", and the definition has nothing to do with loss of the ship. You oughta know better.

4/12/2013 11:32 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^^ What MM1/SS said, ELT-guy.

Hint: Go read the last paragraph of the lead section in Rickover's article on Wikipedia.

4/12/2013 12:09 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My biggest worry is that the Miami will be the next one we lose. I commend the navy for trying to make a statement a d trying to repair her and put her back to see, but god only knows the sort of heat stresses applied to that hull, and we all know what heat does to the structure of steel.

There's a lot I would do for my country, but knowingly partaking in path testing on a hardened steel hull is probably not one of them.

4/12/2013 5:54 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^^^^^^^^
That Sir, is a no shytter. I met a tech rep who's friend is the Navigator on the Miami right now. Reports of the hull glowing red, burning SHT, and fire hoses cooling it off scare the shyt out of this moron. I've seen what happens when water hits a hull that has hy-80 heaters on it for weld cooldown. A nice amount of spider cracks.
I did offer the round, and a plane ticket to take care of the moron that burned her.



hagar

4/12/2013 8:57 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As to the EB vs. NNS designing the 688, it turned out to be a co effort between both yards on the contract. If my memory (CRS notwithstanding) is correct, EB designed the engine room and NNS designed the cone. For final ownership NNS won on "ownership" as the final planning yard based upon the bidding process. The initial contract design signed by congress was 744 mirrion per hull. The subsequent modifications in mod 2 and mod 3 were never added to the contract, and congress did not see them. So, in '91, Miami cost 1.44 birrion, not much cheaper than the seawolf program killed.
Most "intelligent" 688 sailors can tell in 3 minutes on a boat which yard it came from. But, it's a new Navy now.......
Imagine the 5 yards that built 637s? Oh man that could cause confusion.......and it did.



hagar,
the rest of the
story.

4/12/2013 11:08 PM

 
Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

I always wonder if we built 30 domestic nuclear plants at the same time and all identical...how cheap then would be the electricity.

It would have to be a government proram!

4/13/2013 7:25 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How to tell which yard built which boat?? I could tell as soon as I hit the deckplates.

NNS 688 had dark wood paneling.

EB had light wood paneling.

4/14/2013 11:35 AM

 
Blogger Garyl Gordon said...

mike mulligan said...
I always wonder if we built 30 domestic nuclear plants at the same time and all identical...how cheap then would be the electricity.

It would have to be a government proram!

It already basically is Mike:

http://www.npr.org/2013/02/04/170482802/are-mini-reactors-the-future-of-nuclear-power

BTW-I am not one of the spelling or grammar Nazis; however, your typo in "program" was copied and pasted just as it appears simply for accuracy in my referencing your post Sir.
Salute!

4/14/2013 4:16 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Command passageways on EB boats have no false overhead, a kick valve on the urinal with no handle, and the deck plates all have hinges under the deckplates. NNS has the false overhead, the huge urinal handle that is a sound short, and the hinges are on top of the deck plates. There's other items, but those are the first 3 that come to mind. NNS also used Seargent control valves and EB was Bendix. Wood paneling was picked by the command in newcon I believe.



hagar




4/14/2013 11:51 PM

 
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4/18/2013 12:02 PM

 
Anonymous Ex Nuke said...

I served as an instructor at S8G with EM1 (SS) Neil Collier. His father, Lt Merril Collier, went down on the Thresher. I thought it was very brave of him to join the Navy and volunteer for submarines.

4/19/2013 11:27 AM

 
Blogger Mike Chapman said...

God rest the souls aboard Thresher. Painful lessons learned.

And the 688 class was definitely designed by NN. EB's first ship of the class was Philadelphia; had they been the designing yard, they would have built the class ship, Los Angeles. EB would later claim that NN's designs caused the massive cost over-runs that so enraged Rickover.

4/22/2013 4:24 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Thresher dove that fateful day my boat was tied up in Groton after taking sub school students out for dives & surfaces the day before. We were sent out to a area to search for Thresher and many of us, all of whom never served on a nuc wondered out loud, how our newest and best ship could have ever went down. As a newly qualified FN, I thought if any boat could sink it was an old Diesel. Never a nuk...I remember that day with great sadness I had and still do for all the men that went down with her. Rest In Peace.

4/29/2013 10:39 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking as a shipbuilder, I can say with absoloute certianty that the loss of the Thresher is very much in the minds of everyone who builds submarines. SUBSAFE requirements are held as gospel within the shipyard.

And to re-iterate a now dead topic... Newport News alone designed the 688 class. The Seawolf class was designed as a joint effort, NNS hull and forward end and EB engine room. This is reflected in the current Planning Yard arrangements for both classes and is evident in the arrangement difference in the ER between the two classes.

May those who were lost on the Thresher rest in peace knowing their sacrifice has made the US submarine service safer.

~Yard Bird

5/10/2013 11:44 AM

 

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