US Navy Releases Unclassified Documents on 1963 Sinking of USS Thresher

On April 10, 1963, the USS Thresher (SSN 593) sank while conducting sea trials off the coast of Massachusetts. There were 129 men on onboard at the time, with 112 crew members and 17 shipyard personnel. All on board perished and are on eternal patrol.

The Navy began releasing unclassified documents on Wednesday about the loss of the submarine, based on a February 2020 ruling by the United States District Court.

After the initial tragedy in 1963, a formal Court of Inquiry convened to find if they could determine the cause of the loss, if at all possible. The Court of Inquiry could not conclusively determine the cause of Thresher’s loss from the available evidence.

THRESHER pg 1-300

The investigation did identify multiple weaknesses in Thresher’s design that contributed to either a flooding casualty or complicated the ship’s ability to combat a casualty to save the ship.

During the intervening years, no more evidence had been found that would illuminate the cause of this loss.

Based on the Court of Inquiry findings and recommendations, the Navy implemented changes in operating practices, crew training while requiring more stringent maintenance and material procedures.

The material aspect was specifically addressed by creating the Submarine Safety (SUBSAFE) Program and the basic foundation remains in place today.

In order to address the inadequacies in submarine rescue capabilities, the Navy developed and funded deep-sea submarine rescue technology to ensure any similar failures in systems or procedures wouldn’t result in the loss of Sailors’ lives.

The current release of information is consistent with the need to protect information related to military plans. It is also consistent with protecting the platforms, weapons, systems and operations that are in place. It also is protecting the privacy of crew members and their families.

This release does provide the public with electronic access to all releasable material. Additional documents will be released on a monthly basis, in the order in which they are processed.

Initially, the Navy is processing the Court of Inquiry for release, which was ordered on 10 April 1963, the original date of the loss, by the Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

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