And it led to some big changes for the silent service.
On April 9th, 1963, USS Thresher was conducting dive tests 220 miles east of Cape Cod. Though it had been in service for two years, the U.S. Navy was still attempting to determine the true strength of its hull. At the time of the incident it was reportedly at a test depth of 1,300 feet, with the submarine rescue ship USS Skylark waiting above. Onboard were its standard complement of sixteen officers and ninety-six enlisted, plus seventeen civilian contractors on board to observe the tests.
In the United States Navy, submarines lost at sea are said to be on “eternal patrol.” One such submarine was USS Thresher. Meant to be the first in a new generation of fast nuclear-attack submarines, today it rests in more than eight thousand feet of water, along with its crew. Thresher is one of two American submarines lost since the end of World War II.
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In the mid-1950s, the U.S. Navy was still pushing nuclear propulsion out to the submarine fleet. USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear submarine, had just been commissioned in 1954, and nine classes of submarines were created, including the Sailfish, Barbel, Skate and Skipjack classes, before the Navy felt it had a design worthy of mass production. Preceding classes of nuclear submarines were built in small batches, but Thresher would be the first class to build more than five. Altogether fourteen Threshers would be built.