P.O.D.
images/ss_quarterdeck/quarterdeck_01.jpg
Pirates Home Address Religion Churchhill Brotherhood T.S. Eliot Quote - Going too far

On April 10th, 1963, I was sitting at my desk in Mrs. Adam’s first grade class at the Branon Street Cottages, as the small school in El Paso, Texas was called. Do I remember hearing that the USS Thresher had been lost with all hands?

I think so, but fifty-five years plays games with your memory and it’s hard to separate that which is real from that which might be imagined. What I am sure of, is that having studied the event, done my time in Maneuvering, and traveled tens of thousands of miles submerged, my appreciation and gratitude for what the deaths of our shipmates bought us continues to grow.

I’m sure they didn’t give it a thought, as they cast off lines the day before and put out to sea for post-overhaul shakedown and testing. We wouldn’t have either. We were young enough to think we could take on the world, and what 20-year old wouldn’t with 5000 tons of nuclear-powered HY-80 under his feet, and a torpedo room full of the most sophisticated weaponry to grace the planet.

For all our similarities, the difference between us remains. They never came home.

Things went wrong that day, and the sea, like I remember Mrs. Adams, was a stern and unforgiving school-mistress.

Though it would be almost twenty years before I would walk across the brow and salute the ensign on the USS William H. Bates, learning was taking place. Out of the ashes of the Thresher disaster rose organizational learning on a scale that has not been equaled since. The birth of the SUBSAFE program in those dark days mourning the loss of 129 shipmates, sailors, and civilians laid the groundwork for fundamentally changing the way we designed and built submarines. It was radical, it was revolutionary, and it protected the lives of thousands of submariners that prowled the ocean depths in the years that followed.

I speak with a grateful voice, and a heart that aches for those who were lost. I’ve been there. We’ve been there. On the edge, at the very limits of design, with the bite of seawater or the searing acid of smoke in the air, where life becomes very binary – either we will be successful, or we won’t. Surrounded by the steady professionalism of men coaxing their machine to the limits and more, finally breathing the sigh of someone pardoned, and only later, when the realization of what just happened sinks in, lying quietly in your bunk when the shaking comes.

So to the men of the Thresher, the legacy you left us has paid off time and time again, and will continue to do so for as long as submariners go to sea. Your sacrifice, the SUBSAFE program, and the professionalism of the dolphins brought us home.

For that, we remain eternally grateful, and we will never forget.

 

Please take a minute to honor our shipmates, and visit www.threshermemorial.org, and see how you can help preserve the memory of those we lost.

  • No comments found
Please login to comment

Fund Sailing List Research!

Help fund SSN–680.org research and recover Personnel Diaries and Quarterly Muster Reports from the National Archives, helping us in our goal to identify every sailor that sailed on the USS William H. Bates (SSN 680) and add them to the Master Sailing List.

Amount:

© 2018 Brad Williamson
and/or the
USS William H. Bates (SSN 680) Association
or respective image owners
 
All Rights Reserved
 
Permission is granted for not-for-profit reproduction of text and images under the condition that all attribution as to owner and source is included,
and additionally, when republished electronically, a link to is provided.

U.S. Naval Institute News

  • Navy, Civilian Nuclear Regulators Struggling Over How to Dismantle Former USS Enterprise
    THE PENTAGON — A brewing regulatory fight between the Navy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over who should oversee a possible commercial contract to dismantle the hull of the former USS Enterprise (CVN-65) could ultimately cause the project’s price tag to balloon well above the current $1 billion estimate. Controlling costs and preventing a log-jam of […]
  • Pentagon Asia Policy Chief Talks South East Asia Military Cooperation, U.S. South China Sea Operations
    KULALA LUMPUR – Washington is in discussion with individual South-East Asian countries on what programs to support as part of the ongoing Maritime Security Initiative and the $290.5 million Foreign Military Financing (FMF) aid allocation for the Indo-Pacific region announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Aug. 4 at the ASEAN Regional Forum in […]
  • Report to Congress U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Procurement
    The following is the Aug. 3, 2018 Congressional Research Service report, Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress. The Coast Guard’s acquisition program of record (POR) calls for procuring 8 National Security Cutters (NSCs), 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), and 58 Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) as replacements for 90 aging Coast Guard high-endurance […]
REGISTRATION