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In remembrance of the Thresher tragedy, 60 years later

During a ceremony on Monday morning, United States Navy veteran Jerry Davenport was joined by City of Adel representatives and Adel News Tribune staff in memorializing the 129 crew and shipyard personnel who passed away when the USS Thresher nuclear-powered submarine (SSN-593) was lost on April 10, 1963.

During the ceremony held in the small park by the Adel News, Davenport marked the occasion by blowing a bosun’s whistle and tolling the Navy Bell. This signified the end of watch for the Thresher and her crew.

On April 10, 1963, the Thresher sank during deep-diving tests about 220 miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, killing all aboard. It is the second-deadliest submarine incident on record, after the 1942 loss of the French submarine, Surcouf, in which 130 crew died. The Thresher’s loss was a watershed for the U.S. Navy, leading to the implementation of a rigorous submarine safety program known as SUBSAFE. 

The first nuclear submarine lost at sea, the Thresher was not decommissioned by the U.S. Navy and remains on “Eternal Patrol.”

The Thresher was the lead boat of her class of nuclear-powered attack submarines in the Navy. President John F. Kennedy ordered all flags to be flown at half staff from April 12 to 15, 1963, in honor of the 129 lost submariners and shipyard personnel.

In 1964, searchers found the shattered remains of the Thresher’s hull on the sea floor, about 8,400 feet below the surface. A court of inquiry concluded that the submarine had probably suffered the failure of a salt-water piping system joint that relied heavily on silver brazing instead of welding. The Thresher lost propulsion and was unable to blow the ballast tanks so it could surface. Acoustic analysis in 2013 concluded that the Thresher imploded at a depth of 2,400 feet. The implosion took 0.1 seconds, too fast for the human nervous system to perceive.

The Thresher’s loss continues to affect Jerry Davenport because he served aboard her sister sub, Tinosa (SSN-606). She received SUBSAFE safety improvements in the wake of the Thresher tragedy. Mr. Davenport noted that his brother-in-law would have been aboard the Thresher on her last dive if shipyard workers had not filled up the personnel roster.  


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