Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
USS Thresher (SSN-593)
|Ordered:||15 January 1958|
|Laid down:||28 May 1958|
|Launched:||9 July 1960|
|Commissioned:||3 August 1961|
|Fate:||Lost during deep diving tests, |
9 April 1963
|Stricken:||16 April 1963|
|Displacement:||3540 tons light, 3770 tons submerged|
|Length:||279 ft (85 m)|
|Beam:||32 ft (9.7 m)|
|Draft:||26 ft (8.7 m)|
|Propulsion:||1 Westinghouse S5W PWR, Westinghouse Geared Turbines(15,000 SHP)|
|Speed:||20+ knots (37 km/h)|
|Complement:||16 officers, 96 men|
|Armament:||four 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes amidships|
|Motto:||Vis Tacita (Silent Strength)|
The second USS Thresher (SSN-593) was the lead ship of her class of nuclear-powered attack submarines in the United States Navy. Her loss at sea during deep-diving tests is often considered a watershed event in the formation of the "nuclear navy", led by Hyman Rickover.
The contract to build her was awarded to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on 15 January 1958 and her keel was laid down on 28 May 1958. She was launched on 9 July 1960 sponsored by Mrs. Frederick Burdett Warder, and commissioned on 3 August 1961, with Commander Dean L. Axene, USN in command.
Thresher conducted lengthy trials in the western Atlantic and Caribbean Sea areas in 1961 and 1962, providing a thorough evaluation of her many new technological features and weapons. Following trials, she took part in Nuclear Submarine Exercise (NUSUBEX) 3-61 off the northeastern coast of the United States from September 18 to September 24.
On October 18 Thresher headed south along the East Coast. While calling at San Juan, Puerto Rico, on 2 November 1961 her reactor was shut down and her diesel generator used to carry the "hotel" electrical loads. Several hours later the diesel generator broke down, and the electrical load was carried by the battery. The generator could not be quickly repaired, so the captain ordered the reactor restarted. However, the battery charge was depleted before the reactor reached criticality. With no electrical power for ventilation, temperatures in the machinery spaces reached 140°F and the boat was partially evacuated. Cavalla (SS-244) arrived the next morning and provided power from her diesel engines, enabling Thresher to restart her reactor.
Thresher conducted further trials and test-fired her torpedo system before returning to Portsmouth on November 29. The ship remained in port through the end of the year and spent the first two months of 1962 evaluating her sonar system and her Submarine Rocket (SUBROC) system. In March, the submarine participated in NUSUBEX 2-62, an exercise designed to improve the tactical capabilities of nuclear submarines, and in antisubmarine warfare training with Task Group ALPHA.
Off Charleston, the ship undertook operations observed by the Naval Antisubmarine Warfare Council , before she returned briefly to New England waters whence she proceeded to Florida for SUBROC tests. However, while mooring at Port Canaveral, Florida the submarine was accidentally struck by a tug which damaged one of her ballast tanks . After repairs at Groton, Connecticut, by the Electric Boat Company, the ship returned south for more tests and trials off Key West, Florida. Thresher then returned northward and remained in dockyard hands through the early spring of 1963.
On April 9, 1963, after the completion of this work, Thresher, now commanded LCDR John Wesley Harvey , USN, began post-overhaul trials. Accompanied by the submarine rescue ship USS Skylark (ASR-20), she transited to an area some 350 km (220 miles) east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and started deep-diving tests. As these proceeded, garbled communications were received by Skylark, indicating trouble aboard the submarine. It gradually became apparent that she had sunk, taking the lives of 129 officers, crewmen and military and civilian technicians.
After an extensive underwater search utilizing the bathyscaphe Trieste, oceanographic ship Mizar and other ships, Thresher's remains were located on the sea floor, some 8,400 feet (2560 m) below the surface, in six major sections. The majority of the debris is in an area of about 134,000 m² (160,000 square yards). The major sections are the sail, sonar dome, bow section, engineering spaces section, operations spaces section, and the tail section. Deep sea photography, recovered artifacts and an evaluation of her design and operations permitted a Court of Inquiry to determine that she had probably sunk due to a piping failure, subsequent loss of power and inability to blow ballast tanks rapidly enough to avoid sinking before imploding with massive force. Over the next several years, a massive program was undertaken to correct design and construction problems on the Navy's existing nuclear submarines, and on those under construction and in planning. Following completion of this "SubSafe" effort, the US Navy has suffered no further losses of the kind that ended Thresher's brief service career.
The Navy has periodically monitored the environmental conditions of the site since the sinking and reported the results in an annual public report on environmental monitoring for U.S. Naval nuclear-powered ships. These reports provide specifics on the environmental sampling of sediment, water, and marine life which were taken to ascertain whether the submarine has had a significant effect on the deep ocean environment. The reports also explain the methodology for conducting deep sea monitoring from both surface vessels and submersibles. The monitoring data confirms that there has been no significant effect on the environment. Nuclear fuel in the submarine remains intact.
- Loss of USS Thresher: http://www.submarinehistory.com/Thresher.html
- Thresher-Scorpion Memorial: http://www.submarinehistory.com/ThresherScorpionMemorial.html
- World War II National Submarine Memorial - West: http://www.submarinehistory.com/WWIISubmarineMemorial.html
- World War II National Submarine Memorial - East: http://www.submarinehistory.com/WWIISubmarineMemorial-East.html
See USS Thresher for other ships of the same name.
Officers and Men lost with USS Thresher (SSN-593)
The following officers and men were lost with Thresher (SSN-593). NOTE: the designator "(SS)" after an Enlisted Man's name and rate denotes "Qualified in Submarines" and therefore entitled to wear the silver dolphin insignia.
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