The Fiftieth Anniversary of a (Largely-Forgotten) National Tragedy


A contemporary illustration of U.S.S. Thresher


Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the loss of the nuclear attack submarine U.S.S. Thresher, with all 129 people aboard.  I’m old enough, alas, to remember the incident distinctly.  My parents and I were camping with friends at a place in southern California called O’Neill Park, in Trabuco Canyon, when the news broke, and I was mesmerized.  I had, for quite some time, been absolutely fascinated by submarines.  (It may be genetic; my oldest son served for a time as a nuclear officer on a Trident missile submarine.)  I read and watched absolutely everything about them that I could, and this story really hit me hard.  My memories of early childhood are not especially distinct, but this particular one is.  (Another very sharp early memory, of hearing the news of President Kennedy’s assassination, will see its fiftieth anniversary in late November of this year.)


There is a photo essay on Thresher here.  (See the middle column, a short distance down.)  To me, at least, the tragedy is still very poignant.



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  • Michael Towns

    Thank you for posting this.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    For decades, most of the people who worked in Navy nuclear submarines received at least part of their training with nuclear reactors at the Idaho National Laboratory outside Idaho Falls, Idaho. A number of them encountered the LDS Church for the first time there and became Mormons.

    Many former Navy nuclear specialists have found second careers working on Department of Energy nuclear facilities in Idaho, New Mexico, Tennessee, South Carolina, and here in eastern Washington, where the reactor compartments from decommissioned subs are barged from the disassembly yeards on Puget Sound out into the Pacific and up the Columbia River, where they are offloaded and placed into a huge open disposal pit, so Russian spy satellites can watch them and confirm their number. Some of my co-workers have witnessed the last piece of their own subs being hauled in.