Thresher was commissioned in Berth 6-A of her building yard at 1435 on 3 August 1961, Cmdr. Dean W. Axene in command. Vice Adm. Harold T. Deutermann, Chief of Staff and Aide, Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic, broke his flag in Thresher after she was placed in commission, then his flag was hauled down upon his departure. Thresher then welcomed visitors between 1450 and 1700.
Two days after commissioning [5 August 1961], Thresher logged her first instance of a young sailor being “absent without leave” (AOL) when the morning muster disclosed that he had been AWOL since “0600 this date.” The vessel hosted more general visiting that day (1300-1700), and five minutes after the start of the mid watch on 6 August, the AWOL sailor returned to the ship. Later that day, Thresher again hosted “general visiting” (1300-1700), 450 visitors having been counted.
Less than an hour into the afternoon watch on 8 August 1961, TM2 Joseph H. Hoague, “while making [a] below decks inspection” of the ship, accidentally “stepped through the first platform torpedo loading hatch,” and injured his back. Lt. Arthur L. Rehme (MC), the ship’s medical officer, administered treatment and Hoague “returned to duty.”
Assisted by the large harbor tug Waubansee (YTB-366), with harbor pilot C. T. Swam on board, Thresher shifted moorings during the morning watch on 9 August 1961. During the forenoon watch, the new submarine again embarked pilot Swam and, with Montezuma (YTB-425) at her port quarter and Waubansee alongside the port bow, got underway at noon, maneuvering to clear the pier. The tugs cast off soon thereafter and Thresher began maneuvering to conform to the Piscataqua River channel, setting course for the local operating area. She entered international waters a little over 90 minutes later. Thresher then operated submerged (1430-1648), after which period she stood up the Piscataqua and returned to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Montezuma and Waubansee assisting Thresher back into berth 6-A.
The following afternoon (10 August 1961), Thresher, again assisted by Montezuma and Waubansee and with pilot Swam at the conn, got underway to clear Portsmouth harbor, then disembarked her pilot and released the tugs as the afternoon watch ended. She entered international waters, and as the visibility worsened late in the first watch that day, the boat began sounding fog signals “iaw [in accordance with] the International Rules of the Road.” Setting course for the Grand Bahama Bank, Thresher submerged on the morning of 11 August, then conducted engineering tests, completing those evolutions a little over an hour into the second dog watch.
Thresher conducted further engineering trials en route to the Bahamas (12-13 August 1961), then reached her destination on the 14th, coming to the surface less than a half hour after the end of the mid watch, arriving at the bell buoy at the Tongue of the Ocean with less than an hour remaining before the end of the morning watch. At that point she embarked people and equipment from Lord Kelvin and transferred them during the forenoon watch, the submarine conducting submerged operations that afternoon, again going through the transfer process with Lord Kelvin after she came to the surface.
Submerging again early in the evening of 14 August 1961, the new submarine carried out sound trials the following morning [15 August], carrying them out into the forenoon watch. Surfacing shortly before mid-day, Thresher came to “all stop” soon thereafter and brought Lord Kelvin alongside to port. The submarine soon broke the flag of Vice Adm. Edmund B. Taylor, Commander Antisubmarine Warfare Force, Atlantic (ComASWForLant) and a decorated World War II destroyerman, who was accompanied by Vice Adm. Elton W. Grenfell, Commander, Submarine Force, Atlantic (ComSubLant) and a decorated World War II submariner.
After Lord Kelvin moved away, Thresher submerged and for almost two hours carried out quiet running trials with the flag officers embarked. Coming to the surface upon conclusion of that phase of her trials, she disembarked Vice Admirals Taylor and Grenfell to Lord Kelvin, then submerged to continue sound tests at various depths, courses, and speeds, after which time she again surfaced and transferred four employees of the David Taylor Model Basin to a small boat. She transferred four more passengers off a short time later, then submerged to conduct further sound tests.
On 16 August 1961, Thresher came to the surface to rendezvous with Lord Kelvin (1145-1318) then submerged, continuing sound tests. During the dog watches, the crew dealt with a leak in the high-pressure air system (1708-1725), then encountered a severed high pressure air line in the torpedo room (1916) that led to blowing the main ballast tanks and venting them, severing mooring lines with the MONAB (Mobile Noise Analysis Barge) during the maneuver.
Thresher then operated submerged in the Tongue of the Ocean, steering various courses and various speeds, at various depths, for a full two and a half days (17-19 August 1961), rigging for various “quiet conditions.” During that time, she conducted a sound survey in the course of the first dog watch on the 17th, maintaining position on a sound buoy as she did so.
Thresher surfaced less than an hour before the end of the forenoon watch on 19 August 1961 and rendezvoused with Lord Kelvin (1217-1225), after which time the submarine continued operating on the surface. During the second dog watch on the 19th, she briefly went to fire quarters (1921-1923) to extinguish a small fire in the wardroom in the no.1 hot water heater controller. She then submerged during the first watch that day, as she continued conducting sound trials, only coming to the surface at the end of the mid watch on 20 August, remaining surfaced until submerging about three quarters of an hour into the morning watch, in the prose of her deck log “to continue trials at various courses, depths, and speeds.”
Securing from Quiet Condition One almost in the middle of the mid watch on 22 August 1961, Thresher surfaced a short time later, and soon thereafter transferred people and equipment during a rendezvous with Lord Kelvin (0645-0700). The submarine closed the range then took a small boat alongside at 0715 and received men from the MONAB. A little less than an hour before the end of the forenoon watch on the 22nd, she then submerged to begin a submerged transit to Newport, R.I., steering “various courses at various speeds and depths,” carrying out sound trials nearly round-the-clock over the next four days, employing her snorkel to ventilate the boat each day.
Thresher remained submerged until nearly the end of the forenoon watch on 27 August 1961, when she came to the surface. She then made rendezvous with Sea Owl (SS-405), which had Capt. Clarence J. Zurcher, Commander Submarine Development Group (ComSubDevGru) 2, embarked, and Tullibee (SSN-597) shortly before the end of the first dog watch, Thresher receiving items from the latter via line transfer. An hour into the second dog watch, Thresher returned once more to the depths, conducting sound trials with the other two submarines, surfacing shortly before the start of the mid watch on 29 August. She then took station bearing 177 degrees, 3,000 yards distant from Sea Owl less than a half hour into the mid watch. Soon thereafter, Skipjack (SSN-585) and Scorpion (SSN-589) joined them, after which Thresher submerged to carry out further sound trials that continued that afternoon.
Further evolutions of that kind, with Capt. Zurcher, ComSubDevGru 2, as officer in tactical command (OTC), continued into the mid watch on 30 August 1961. Thresher broached at 0100, then began circling to maintain station. A little less than an hour and a quarter later, the OTC in Sea Owl released the boats “to proceed independently on assigned duties.” Thresher set course for Newport, surfacing a little less than hour into the afternoon watch to continue her voyage on the surface, entering inland waters less than an hour into the morning watch on 31 August, soon sighting Block Island Light and the Brenton Reef Lightship. Her maneuvering watch took their stations, with Cmdr. Axene on the bridge, the OOD at the conn and the navigator in ship control. After steering various course and various speeds to conform to the channel, Thresher ultimately moored at 1739 to the firing pier at Gould Island to load torpedoes.
“During [the] torpedo shipping evolution,” however, TM1(SS) Raymond C. Mattson suffered a head injury when a sheet of metal fell on him. Lt. Rehme, Thresher’s medical officer, immediately treated Mattson “by suturing the wound,” thus enabling him to return to “normal duties.” Shortly after the mid-point of the afternoon watch, the submarine “commenced shipping torpedoes of varying marks and mods…” Ultimately, she completed the onload shortly before the end of the morning watch on 1 September.
An 0800 muster on 1 September 1961 revealing one crewman “absent without leave” (AWOL), Thresher prepared to sail short one sailor. The submarine’s maneuvering watch took their stations early in the afternoon watch, and the large harbor tug Tuscola (YTB-280) came alongside Thresher’s starboard quarter to assist the warship in clearing her moorings, casting off once she had done so. “Steering various courses at various speeds,” Thresher then headed for international waters and Area 12B. She made rendezvous with the submarine rescue ship Tringa (ASR-16) early in the first dog watch to conduct a little over three hours of exercises, then submerged to fire a Mk. 37 mod. 0 electrical torpedo, coming to the surface to transfer “NUOS personnel” to a small boat a little over an hour later. Submerging during the first watch, Thresher then fired a Mk. 14, mod. 5 torpedo less than three hours later.
Thresher proceeded to Area 12A during the mid watch on 2 September 1961, then set course for port, sounding fog signals when visibility closed to only yards that morning. She moored port side-to the Firing Pier at Gould Island, then secured her main propulsion plant. Her AWOL sailor reported on board about an hour later, having been absent since 0630 the previous day. Later that day, during the first dog watch, Thresher loaded six exercise torpedoes: two Mk. 37, mod. 0 and four Mk. 27, mod. 2.
The submarine remained “moored as before” into the morning watch on 5 September 1961. A muster having revealed one sailor AWOL since 0715, the maneuvering watch took their stations at 0910, and Thresher prepared to get underway. The large harbor tug Chepanoc (YTB-381) made fast alongside to port a half-hour later, and at almost the same time, the sailor AWOL since 0715 returned to the ship in time to sail. With Cmdr. Axene and the OOD on the bridge, with the former conning, the submarine put to sea for torpedo tube acceptance trials on the Gould Island torpedo range.
During those evolutions on 5 September 1961, Thresher fired two Mk. 27s during the afternoon watch, then two Mk. 16, mod. 6 torpedoes during the first dog watch before she submerged and fired two dummy submarine rockets (SubRoc), after which she came to the surface and rendezvoused with Torpedo Retriever No. 39. She maneuvered independently for the remainder of the day, proceeding into international waters toward the end of the first watch, sounding fog signals shortly before midnight.
Operating independently under Commander, Submarine Refit and Training Group, New London, schedules, Thresher resumed torpedo tube acceptance tests the next morning [6 September 1961]. Submerging during the morning watch, the ship fired a pair of Mk. 37s, then during the next periods, forenoon and afternoon watches, fired eight more torpedoes between her four tubes without incident, wrapping up those trials early in the afternoon watch and surfacing to return to the firing pier at Gould Island, mooring alongside port side-to, assisted by Iwana (YTB-272).
Thresher got underway the following morning [7 September 1961], assisted from the pier by Iwana. The submarine then proceed directly out to the torpedo firing area, Narragansett Bay, where she “maneuver[ed] at various courses and speeds while conducting torpedo runs.” After firing two SubRocs submerged, she surfaced and took Torpedo Retriever No. 35 alongside, then fired four exercise torpedoes during the afternoon watch (two Mk. 37s and two Mk. 27s). After wrapping up her work in Narragansett Bay, Thresher returned to the firing pier, assisted by Chepanoc.
Allaquippa (YTB-174) came alongside Thresher’s starboard quarter less than a half hour before the end of the morning watch on 8 September 1961, and the submarine put to sea with Cmdr. Axene and the OOD on the bridge, and the navigator at the conn. After the tug cleared the side, the OOD to the conn while the navigator repaired to the ship control center. Thresher resumed torpedo tube acceptance trials shortly after 0800, then less than two hours later submerged. She fired one SubRoc then surfaced, at which point Torpedo Retriever No. 35 came alongside to port, then cast off, completing the morning’s evolutions.
Later that day, Thresher arrived at the Submarine Base, New London, Matunak (YTB-548) and the small harbor tug YTL-438 assisting her mooring port side-to Pier 12. The tugs cast off once the sub lay securely moored, but returned during the forenoon watch on 11 September 1961 when Matunak and YTL-438 came alongside to starboard to help in unmooring the submarine, with Thresher standing out of New London and setting course for the Narragansett Bay operating area.
During the afternoon watch on 11 September 1961, at 1423 Thresher went to fire quarters for what proved to be a fire in a washing machine in the crew’s head, securing at 1430 only seven minutes after the call was sounded. As the boat proceeded on the surface through the fog-shrouded waters, visibility lessened early in the afternoon watch. With visibility down to 2,000 yards, Thresher commenced sounding fog signals as the first watch began. She then ran the measured mile one direction, then on a reciprocal course. About two hours after the conclusion of that evolution, she entered international waters, then submerged during the first watch.
She conducted torpedo exercises submerged the next morning [12 September 1961], in Area 23, then subsequently operated on the surface (1540-2345) submerging shortly before the end of the first watch, steaming to Narragansett Bay’s Area 27. That afternoon [13 September], Thresher conducted rehearsal approaches during the fore- and afternoon watches, “steering various courses at various speeds and depths…” She then served as a target for Dogfish (SS-350) during the dog watches and first watch, upon conclusion of which she came to the surface.
Thresher then steamed to Area 26 during the night of 13-14 September 1961, circled on station, then lay-to during the morning watches on the 14th. Submerging less than two hours into the morning watch, she then conducted “submarine vs. submarine exercises” at “various courses at various speeds and depths…” into the afternoon. She then carried out snorkel operations and exercised at collision quarters, after which she secured from the drill and came to the surface, setting course for New London.
During the rainy mid watch on 15 September 1961, with visibility decreased to 500 yards by 0324, Thresher began sounding fog signals. With visibility improving – increasing to 5,000 yards less than an hour into the morning watch, the boat ceased the signals. She entered inland waters soon thereafter, standing up the channel, soon taking Matunak and YTL-438 alongside to starboard, after which the returning boat secured alongside Pier 12.
With the maneuvering watchstanders at their stations, Thresher prepared to get underway on the morning of 18 September 1961. Matunak and YTL-438 again made fast to the submarine’s starboard quarter and bow, respectively, and the warship got underway in a little over 30 minutes, setting course for Area 21. Thresher then stood down the channel, the tugs casting off soon thereafter. Submerging later that afternoon, the boat went to battle stations torpedo, then fired a water slug to simulate a torpedo attack on a sonar target.
Underway submerged in company with Tullibee and Skate (SSN-578), rigged for “Quiet Condition One,” since shortly before the start of the mid watch on 19 September 1961, Thresher stationed her fire control and tracking parties about half way through the mid watch. “Steering various courses at various speeds and depth[s],” she participated in NuSubEx (Nuclear Submarine Exercise) 3-61. Her fire control and tracking parties took their stations later that morning for a brief period (0603-0640).
Thresher continued working with Tullibee and Skate into the following day [20 September 1961], conducting an “opposed transit” exercise that afternoon, and into the next. Wrapping up NuSubEx 3-61 less than an hour before the end of the first dog watch on 22 September, she set course to proceed independently to return to Portsmouth, coming to the surface a little over an hour into the mid watch on 23 September.
Thresher returned to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on 24 September 1961, stationing the maneuvering watch 30 minutes into the afternoon watch. Pilot Swam, embarked from a small tug, then brought the submarine to her berth, 6-A, Thresher mooring soon thereafter, starboard side-to. Four days later [28 September], Thresher again embarked Swam, who guided her into dry dock, the submarine assisted by Montezuma and YTL-602.
Thresher remained “resting on keel blocks as before” until 10 October 1961, a period of time that passed uneventfully save the discovery, after a thorough search of the entire ship, that a member of the duty section had gone AWOL an hour and a half into the first watch on the 7th. He returned the following morning, and later received a reduction “to [the] next inferior grade” (on Friday the 13th of October). After the submarine had undergone an inspection of all hull openings, and watertight integrity verified, a workboat brought pilot Swam over to the ship. Montezuma and YTL-602 came alongside to port and took Thresher to Berth 6-A.
Again assisted by Montezuma and YTL-602, and with pilot Swam at the conn, Cmdr. Axene on the bridge and the OOD in ship control, Thresher moved out into the channel from Berth 6-A. Casting off the tugs and disembarking the pilot, the submarine stood out and set course for the waters off Boston. Before day’s end, Thresher submerged, then steered “various courses at various speeds and depths conducting self-noise trials,” after which she rigged for “Quiet [Condition] One…” for operations in Areas 5 and 7A.
Returning from the Boston Operating Area, Thresher stood into Portsmouth’s outer harbor, where she anchored during the forenoon watch on 17 October 1961. Weighing anchor early that afternoon, she cleared the anchorage soon thereafter, initially taking Waubansee alongside to port and embarking pilot Swam. Standing up the channel with the pilot at the conn, Thresher moored starboard side-to Berth 6-A. A little less than an hour after the commanding officer had secured the maneuvering watch, Thresher experienced a “reactor scram” at 1453, rigging for reduced electrical power; with the reactor critical at 1500, the ship soon secured from reduced power shortly thereafter.
The following morning [18 October 1961], pilot Swam embarked, and Thresher, assisted by Waubansee and YTL-602, stood out of Portsmouth, bound for Puerto Rico, taking departure for San Juan less than an hour into the forenoon watch. She submerged during that afternoon, steering roughly southeasterly. The next morning [19 October], Thresher maneuvered to conduct a sonar search during the forenoon watch, then to investigate a contact. After rigging for “Quiet [Condition] One,” the boat simulated an attack on the sonar contact, simulating the firing of a torpedo. Shortly before mid-day, she made rendezvous with Cavalla (SS-244). Mid-way through the afternoon watch, Thresher “commenced [an] S-4-T rehearsal run,” the men of the fire control and tracking party taking their positions. The boat carried out an approach then stood down from the drill. Later that afternoon, Thresher conducted calibration tests, then maneuvered “at various courses at various speed[s] to take station 2,000 yards” on Cavalla’s starboard beam, after which she changed course and speed to maintain position on the older fleet boat.
Thresher conducted an exercise [S-1-CC] with Cavalla the next morning [20 October 1961], then carried out the torpedo practice [S-4-T] that she had rehearsed the previous afternoon, her fire control and tracking party simulating the firing of one Mk. 37 torpedo. She capped her work that day steering “at various courses at various speeds…engaged in section tracking exercises” that continued into the mid watch on the 21st. That morning, Thresher’s fire control tracking party drilled briefly, completing a torpedo exercise, after which the boat began calibration runs for Cavalla, completing them a little over an hour before the end of the afternoon watch. Her fire control and tracking party exercised again during the first dog watch.
Ten minutes into the mid watch on 22 October 1961, watchstanders reported a “major hydraulic leak…in [the] engine room, on [the] steering pump return line.” Thresher, at 150 feet as the watch began, broached immediately and changed course. She came to the surface and effected repairs within a little under three hours (0315). She submerged a little less than an hour later to continue the passage to Puerto Rico that proceeded uneventfully until late in the second dog watch  when the breech door to the garbage disposal unit became unlatched and fell on FN Donald C. Day’s left hand as he was loading it, inflicting multiple lacerations to his third and fourth fingers. Lt. Rehme, Thresher’s medical officer, immediately administered treatment, noting no apparent “fracture, artery, or tendon damage.” Day was placed on the sick list.
The next day [23 October 1961], Thresher began the forenoon watch conducting an S-4-T rehearsal run with Cavalla as her target, “maneuvering at various courses, speeds and depths,” as she did so, rigging for “Quiet Condition One” soon thereafter. After completing the first rehearsal run, she conducted a second early that afternoon, during which she simulated firing a Mk. 37 torpedo. She snorkeled during most of the dog watches, circling on station at the end of that period, and maintaining position 3,000-5,000 yards on Cavalla’s starboard beam into the mid watch the next day [24 October]; after which she briefly rigged ship for “reduced electrical power” (0628-0629) that morning.
Manning battle stations at 0800 on 24 October 1961, Thresher carried out an S-2-T rehearsal run with Cavalla, maneuvering at “various courses at various depths and speeds,” after which she temporarily stood down from battle stations, manning them again to conduct exercise S-4-T before the end of the forenoon watch. The boat then conducted an S-2-T exercise, with Cavalla as the target, completing that rehearsal run with her consort an hour into the afternoon. Thresher then came to the surface and conducted man overboard drills into the first dog watch, remaining on the surface to exercise “helmsmen and throttlemen at various courses and speeds” during the first watch.
The following morning [25 October 1961], Thresher conducted an S-4-T firing run, maneuvering at “various courses speeds and depths,” after which she fired a day-glo plug from her after signal gun, then fired a Mk. 37, Mod. 0 exercise torpedo from Tube No. 2. She surfaced briefly during the forenoon watch, then stationed her fire control tracking party to carry out another S-4-T run to start the afternoon’s slate of operations, firing a second Mk. 37, Mod. 0 exercise torpedo, after which she secured the fire control party. Coming to the surface, she searched for the second torpedo which Cavalla eventually recovered about three-quarters of an hour later. Thresher received four men from Cavalla, then submerged shortly thereafter, and made calibration runs for the other submarine, continuing them into the first dog watch. Later that evening, she conducted a sonar exercise.
Thresher, “underway submerged as before” on 26 October 1961, logged Cavalla firing a Mk. 37 Mod.0 unit at her, after which Thresher fired a day-glo plug. She then carried out an S-4-T run as the forenoon watch ended, firing another day-glo plug, then fired a Mk. 37 from tube No.1. She came to the surface 20 minutes later, after which she submerged to conduct a sonar search, then conducted another S-4-T run on Cavalla. She fired a day-glo plug, then “attempted to fire one Mk. 37 Mod. 0 torpedo from tube number 2” that did not function. Thresher then surfaced for a brief time (less than one hour), at which point she then resumed operations submerged.
Thresher operated as a target for Cavalla early in the forenoon watch (27 October 1961), then circled to the left and stationed her fire control tracking party, maneuvering “on various courses and speeds” completing an S-4-T run a little over an hour into the afternoon watch. She then surfaced moments later, and maneuvered to close Cavalla and transfer the four men back to her who had been on board Thresher since the 25th. She completed the transfer a little past the mid-way point in the first dog watch. “Underway as before” during the first watch, she set “Quiet Condition One” until the onset of the mid watch on the 28th.
Submerging as the forenoon watch began on 28 October 1961, Thresher maneuvered at “various courses speeds and depths” as she conducted “exercise SSN [nuclear submarine] evaluation run Bravo.” She again conducted an S-4-T run, then snorkeled for a period. Before the afternoon was out, she stationed her fire control and tracking party, then maneuvered at “various courses and speeds” to conduct a “photographic reconnaissance” evolution.
After detaching Cavalla to proceed independently late in the first watch on 28 October 1961, Thresher continued steaming toward San Juan, submerging a quarter of an hour into the first dog watch on the 29th. The boat’s trim system went out of commission at 1840, and remained that way until repaired and placed back in commission by 2318. Soon thereafter, Thresher “commenced making various depth changes for planesman training,” and continued operating submerged throughout most of the day on 30 October.
During the first watch on the 30th, Thresher came to the surface, but less than two hours later logged a “reactor scram.” The event proved of short duration, however, and the ship rigged for “reduced electrical power” for less than ten minutes. She continued to operate surfaced the following day [31 October 1961], carrying out a reactor scram drill a little less than 90 minutes after the start of the morning watch, with the ship simulating operating rigged for reduced electrical power for six minutes. That afternoon, she maneuvered at various speeds, testing her engines.
The month of November 1961 began uneventfully, with Thresher “underway independently enroute [sic] San Juan, Puerto Rico.” A captain’s mast took place during the forenoon watch on 1 November 1961 where the commanding officer imposed a non-judicial punishment on a sailor charged with “willfully disobeying a lawful order of a Chief Petty Officer [and being] Disrespectful in language to a Chief Petty Officer.” The offender received a reduction to the next inferior rate, but the sentence was suspended for two months.
Thresher operated submerged from less than an hour into the afternoon watch that day until mid-way through the second dog watch on 1 November 1961 when she came to the surface, sighting Culebrita Island later in the first watch. Rejoined by Cavalla an hour into the mid watch on 2 November, Thresher sighted Cape San Juan light a little over two hours later. She entered inland waters at 0851 and moored port side-to alongside a pier in downtown San Juan at 0933. Cavalla then moored alongside Thresher a little less than 20 minutes later, at 0951. Soon thereafter (1015), Thresher began carrying her electrical load on her diesel engine. At 1020, she rigged for reduced electrical power, with her reactor sub-critical at 1135.
During the second dog watch, however, at 1900, a malfunctioning saturated cooling pump caused the diesel engine to go out of commission and the engineering watchstanders to place the electrical load on the battery. An hour after that event (2000), the ship began a reactor start-up, with the power plant reaching the critical stage within two hours’ time (2155). Suddenly, a little less than an hour later (2200), Thresher lost all electrical power. The reactor shut down.
As conditions worsened in the engineering spaces, with rising temperatures, ultimately reaching 130° with high humidity, heat exhaustion overcame EN2(SS) Donald J. McCord at 2300. McCord received emergency treatment but had to be evacuated to the Naval Station hospital ashore. At 2315, all hands not necessary for dealing with the casualty were evacuated from the engineering spaces. Four of Thresher’s sailors distinguished themselves during that trying time.
MMCA(SS) Donald E. Wise, engineering duty chief petty officer in active charge of the engineering watch when the failure of the electrical power rendered it imperative that the reactor be started up, aligned and supervised the operation of the engineering plant.
EN1 Ralph W. Gould, a machinery space watchstander, who had been urged by superiors to obtain a watch relief but had “remained steadfast at his post,” evacuated an injured shipmate from the compartment “despite the fact that even minor exertion was extremely exhausting under existing conditions.” Gould’s actions resulted “directly in preventing serious injury” to his shipmate.
“Ship is completely without electrical power,” Lt. Michael J. DiNola, the boat’s main propulsion assistant, wrote in Thresher’s deck log at the end of the mid watch on 3 November 1961, “Reactor shut down, diesel engine out of commission, battery exhausted. Attempted to obtain electrical power from Cavalla” [moored outboard].
ET1 Paul R. Tobler, the Reactor Operator when the ship had suffered the casualty, received orders to start up the reactor, working “rapidly and effectively under adverse conditions to complete the necessary tests and adjustments in the minimum time and to bring the reactor critical.” With the battery having failed, Tobler immediately conducted the necessary checks “to insure that the reactor was safely shut down and commenced a new pre-critical check-off of the reactor plant instrumentation.”
Shortly before the conclusion of the mid watch (0345) on 3 November 1961, heat exhaustion felled a second victim, when high temperatures and humidity briefly overcame EN1(SS) Robert W. Gillette, who quickly rallied, however, responding to emergency treatment. As the morning watch began, the ship rallied, too, with the reactor critical at 0402. At 0530, Lt. DiNola recorded Thresher “commenced battery charge.” Ultimately, MMCA(SS) Wise, EM1 John J. Alaimo, EN1 Gould and ET1 Tobler each received the Navy Commendation Medal “for heroic achievement in the performance of his duties…”
Cavalla got underway at the start of the forenoon watch on 6 November 1961 and moved from her moorings alongside Thresher. During the afternoon watch, the latter stationed her maneuvering detail at 1445, and took the small harbor tug YTL-233 alongside to starboard at 1523, then got underway at 1547 with the captain at the conn, the officer of the deck on the bridge and the navigator in the ship control center. Standing out of the channel, Thresher stood out at various courses and speeds as that watch ended, then YTL-233 cast off shortly after the start of the first dog watch, leaving the submarine to set course for Cape Canaveral, Fla., submerging less than an hour before the commencement of the mid watch.
“Underway submerged as before,” Thresher carried out standardization tests during the forenoon and afternoon watches on 7 November 1961, then “special tests” during the first watch as the day ended. More trials followed as she steered “various courses and speeds” the next afternoon (8 November). The submarine reached Cape Canaveral, on 9 November during the afternoon watch, sighting the Cape Canaveral lighthouse eleven miles away at 1215, then stationing the maneuvering watch at 1240 with Cmdr. Axene on the bridge, the OOD at the conn and the navigator at the ship control station. After standing in to the channel, she maneuvered alongside Pier No.1, Port Canaveral, at 1359, her commanding officer becoming senior officer present afloat (SOPA).
Underway from her berth at Pier No.1, assisted by the tugs Hollywood and Mars, at 0704 on 11 November 1961, Thresher, with Mr. R. Condon, a civilian pilot, at the conn, stood out at various courses and speeds. The tugs casting off nine minutes later and the pilot less than a half hour later, the submarine set course for the operating area off Cape Canaveral. She steamed independently for the rest of that day and the next, operating both submerged and surfaced, conducting ship’s characteristics trials during the forenoon watch on 12 November. Standing up the channels to Port Canaveral early on the afternoon of the 12th, Thresher embarked her pilot and, again assisted by Hollywood and Mars, returned to Pier No.1.
Thresher, with pilot Condon embarked and Hollywood and Mars assisting, cleared her mooring on 13 November 1961 and stood out, submerging a little less than an hour and a half into the forenoon watch, then conducted ships’ characteristics trials and other tests for the remainder of the day and into the next. Entering inland waters on the afternoon of the 14th, Thresher stood in to the channel, embarking pilot Condon and taking Hollywood and Mars again alongside to aid in the transit, making up alongside the starboard bow and quarter, respectively. After she had moored port side to berth one, Port Canaveral, at 1400, she welcomed Capt. Zurcher on board and he broke his broad pennant in her.
Later that same afternoon, a half an hour into the first dog watch on 14 November 1961, QM3(SS) Glenn A. Rountree, returning from authorized liberty, accidentally stepped through an open deck plate at 1630 and fell from the first to the third platform deck, a distance of 15 feet, suffering injuries that included lacerations and contusions of his head and right shoulder. Lt. Rehme, Thresher’s medical officer, immediately attended to Rountree, and the injured sailor was transferred to an ambulance and taken to Patrick [U.S.] Air Force Base hospital, Cocoa Beach, Fla., for further treatment.
Underway soon thereafter, Thresher sailed with pilot Condon at the conn and Hollywood and Mars assisting, and set course for Port Everglades. The submarine reached her destination on 15 November 1961, entering inland waters a little over an hour into the morning watch, embarking her pilot, Mr. Harrison, soon thereafter. Taking the tugs Everglades and Fort Lauderdale alongside in succession. Thresher then moored starboard side-to Pier 1, Berth 11, after which the pilot and both tugs departed, Capt. Zurcher becoming SOPA.
The following morning [16 November 1961], Thresher, with Everglades and Fort Lauderdale again assisting, and with pilot I. Schuman on board to conn the ship as she left port, got underway, maneuvering to clear the harbor. “Steering various courses at various speeds,” the boat took station for SubRoc “dummy evaluation firing,” then submerged to carry out the evolution. She fired one dummy SubRoc at 0939, then two at 1048, before she surfaced and transferred 13 civilian guests to a retriever craft that met her. Early that afternoon, Thresher submerged to conduct torpedo tube tests, surfacing upon the conclusion of those evolutions, then setting course to return to Port Everglades, pilot Schuman conning the boat to Berth 11 as Everglades and Fort Lauderdale berthed the submarine.
Pilot LeBlanc embarked the following morning [17 November 1961], and with Everglades and Fort Lauderdale assisting, Thresher set course for the Fort Lauderdale Operating Area, then lay-to soon after entering international waters. She submerged in the middle of the forenoon watch, after which she fired two dummy SubRocs (1123). Ten minutes later, the boat surfaced and set course for Port Everglades, embarking pilot Schuman at 1210, then entered inland waters soon thereafter. Taking the tugs Everglades and Fort Lauderdale alongside the port bow and port quarter, respectively, Thresher then moored starboard side-to to Pier 3, Berth 16.
The next morning [18 November 1961], Thresher’s maneuvering watch took their stations, with Cmdr. Axene on the bridge, the OOD at the conn, and the navigator in the ship’s control center; embarking pilot W. E. Jackson, with the familiar Everglades and Fort Lauderdale on hand to assist, the submarine put to sea, maneuvering various courses and speeds to conform with the channel. Then, with the tugs clear, pilot disembarked, and maneuvering watch secured, Thresher “boxed the compass” shortly before the end of the morning watch, then stood out to carry out SubRoc ejection tests. She fired one dummy SubRoc, then a dummy Mk. 37 torpedo during the forenoon watch, followed by firing two Mk. 57 exercise mines early in the afternoon before entering inland waters after embarking pilot Schuman, after which the boat’s familiar consorts saw her to her mooring alongside Pier 3, Berth 16. Later, mid-way through the second dog watch, Capt. Zurcher hauled down his broad pennant and departed the ship.
Thresher got underway shortly before the end of the morning watch on 20 November 1961, and put to sea with pilot Schuman conning and Everglades and Fort Lauderdale assisting the boat from her moorings. After entering international waters, the boat submerged to conduct torpedo tube tests at “various speeds and depths” late in the forenoon watch. She conducted SubRoc ejection tests, firing two exercise SubRoc units that afternoon, then two Mk. 57 exercise mines. Having completed those evolutions, Thresher took departure for Portsmouth during the first dog watch, then submerged during the second.
“Underway submerged” during the mid and morning watches on 21 November 1961, Thresher surfaced five minutes into the forenoon watch that day and operated on the surface until shortly before the end of the afternoon watch, conducting ship stability trials. She then submerged and continued those evolutions “underway submerged as before…at various speeds and depths…” The boat conducted more stability trials late the following day [22 November], and then again on the 23rd, 24th, and 25th. She surfaced on the 26th, but operated thus for less than two hours, when she then submerged again. Coming to the surface during the morning watch on 27 November, Thresher sighted Cape Ann roughly to the west-southwest less than a half hour before the start of the forenoon watch, then entered inland waters an hour into that period of time. She then maneuvered “on various courses and speeds,” entering Portsmouth Harbor. There, the small harbor tug YTL-602 came alongside for a “personnel transfer” then cleared the side and the submarine maneuvered to clear the harbor, submerging again at the mid-point of the afternoon watch. Returning to international waters, the boat carried out air conditioning tests. Thresher then surfaced during the first watch because of a “fire in [No.] 1 high pressure air compressor motor,” but submerged again after the crew dealt with the emergency.
Thresher conducted further tests the next morning [28 November 1961], at “various courses at various depths,” operating submerged in the Boston Operating Areas in areas 5, 6, and 7, at the start of the mid watch on the 29th. Coming to the surface later that morning, the boat stood in to inland waters during the forenoon watch, pilot Swam embarking shortly before mid-day, conning Thresher to moor port side-to in Berth 11-B, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, to receive shore power and other services.
On 7 December 1961, Thresher briefly hosted Capt. Francis D. Walker, Jr., Commander Submarine Squadron (ComSubRon) 10, wearing his broad pennant during his visit that day (1127-1305). Stationing the maneuvering watch and embarking yard pilot Swam, who guided the maneuver from the conn with Cmdr. Axene and the OOD on the bridge and the navigator in the ship control station, the submarine got underway on the morning of 10 December, with YTL-602 and two smaller tugs alongside to assist in the evolution, and made fast to Berth.6. Later that day, Thresher embarked pilot S. H. Holt to guide her into Dry Dock No.2, assisted by Montezuma and YTL-602. By day’s end, the ship lay on keel blocks.
Thresher remained in Dry Dock No. 2 until 2 January 1962, on which day she cleared the blocks and floated free less than an hour before the end of the morning watch. Shortly afterwards, however, at 0705 watchstanders reported water flowing in the forward escape hatch. Her crew went to collision quarters moments later, securing the flooded area soon thereafter (0707) but not before the boat had taken 50-100 gallons of water. Embarking pilot Swam, Thresher then began moving clear of the dry dock, taking a workboat alongside to port and Waubansee (YTB-366) alongside the starboard quarter at 0811, mooring alongside Berth 6-B at 0830 with YTL-602 alongside, aft. A little less than six hours later, the maneuvering watch took their stations again (1515) as the boat made preparations to get underway. With captain, navigator, and OOD on the bridge and Mr. Holt at the conn, Thresher, with YTL-602 providing motive power, soon moored alongside Berth 11-C at 1634, the small harbor tug moving away and Mr. Holt disembarking at 1653 when all tugs were clear.
Thresher remained alongside Berth 11-C into February 1962, a period of time that passed uneventfully enough except in the case of a sailor who disobeyed a lawful order of a petty officer, earning himself a summary court martial on 16 January. The sailor received a sentence (23 January) of a reduction in rate. Another enlisted man, who had been absent from the ship while in confinement by civil authorities, received a dismissal, but received a warning concerning his behavior (also on 23 January).
Shifting her mooring on 1 February 1962 (with pilot Swam embarked and assisted by a small harbor tug) Thresher got underway the following morning, taking pilot Swam on board and again taking YTL-602 and yard workboats alongside. With Swam on the bridge along with the commanding officer and OOD and the navigator in the ship control center, the submarine “maneuvered at various courses at various speeds standing out of the channel,” passing buoy 2KR abeam to port, 500 yards away, stationing the “reduced visibility detail” shortly before the end of the forenoon watch. Thresher soon entered international waters, the visibility increasing soon thereafter to the point that she secured the “reduced visibility detail.”
Thresher fired water slugs from her torpedo tubes at the end of the first watch on 2 February 1962, then carried out sound trials. She returned to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard the next morning, embarking pilot Swam at 1029, who took the conn at 1056, with YTL-602 simultaneously coming alongside to port. Soon thereafter, Thresher lay alongside Berth 11-C, where she would remain until 8 February, when pilot Swam, with YTL-602 assisting in the evolution, embarked to take the boat from her moorings and set course for sea during the forenoon watch. After Swam left the ship, Thresher’s OOD took the conn and the boat entered international waters, submerging midway through the afternoon watch that day.
Thresher “boxed the compass” on 9 February 1962 (1122-1239), then, operating submerged, “commenced sonar evaluation tests at various depths.” Before the day was over, the boat fired four water slugs from her torpedo tubes. Thresher operated submerged until ascending on 12 February, surfacing during the forenoon watch. She rendezvoused with Conger (AGSS-477) and Entemedor (SS-340), maneuvering to take station on those boats during the first watch on 13 February to conduct sonar evaluation tests, completing evolutions with them during the first dog watch on the 14th. After operating independently in Narragansett Bay in Operating Area 23, Thresher rendezvoused (0630) with Fairview (E-PCE(R)-850) on the morning of 16 February, at which point she began conducting sonar evaluations with the experimental patrol craft (escort & rescue) that operated under the Commander New London Test and Evaluation Detachment, “steering various courses at various speeds and depths…” in the course of that research and development work.
Surfacing on the morning of 17 February 1962, Thresher “commenced maneuvering at various courses and speeds” to transfer spare parts for equipment from Fairview (1047-1125), then submerged early in the first dog watch to resume “sonar evaluation tests.” During that period of evaluations, her men went to “rig for depth charge” at battle stations (1032-1045, 19 February). Releasing Fairview from those sonar evaluation evolutions during the mid watch on 20 February, Thresher ultimately wrapped up that work later that same day, with Matunak and YTL-438 helping her moor starboard side-to Pier 12, U.S. Submarine Base, New London, Conn., a little over an hour into the first dog watch on the 21st.
On 26 February 1962, Thresher, with Matunak and YTL-548 assisting, sailed for Earle, N.J. En route, Thresher conducted a tracking exercise with Seawolf (SSN-575) (1850-1943), during which time (1937) the former simulated shooting two Mk. 37, mod. 0 torpedoes. Surfacing less than an hour into the mid watch on 27 February, Thresher began sounding fog signals when visibility lessened to 1,000 yards at the start of the morning watch (0400). Passing the Ambrose Channel lightship with less than an hour remaining in the forenoon watch, the submarine entered inland waters and stationed the maneuvering watch. Cochise (YTB-216) came alongside to port, transferring pilots J. P. Smith and A. Frier, with the latter taking the conn and bringing Thresher to her berth, the south side of Pier 2-N-2, Naval Ammunition Depot (NAD) Earle.
After embarking J. L. Cashin, a New York pilot, and C. Windell, a Sandy Hook pilot, Thresher, assisted by Cochise and Wabanaquot (YTB-525) sailed for New London on the morning of 1 March 1962, the New York pilot (Cashin) leaving the ship when the tugs cast off and moved away clear of the Terminal Channel. About an hour later, Thresher disembarked Windell to a pilot boat after he had conned the ship through the Sandy Hook and Gedney Channels. She took departure from New York Harbor mid-way through the afternoon watch.
Thresher reached New London the next afternoon (2 March 1962), a medium harbor tug (YTM) assisting her to her berth on the south side of Pier 13 at the Submarine Base at New London. During the line-handling process, TMCA(SS) Robert E. Johnson, a member of the maneuvering watch, suffered contusions of his left leg and thigh that proved serious enough to warrant his being transferred ashore to the U.S. Naval Hospital, New London, where the application of medication and bandages resulted in his being released to duty.
At the start of the forenoon watch on 5 March 1962, Matunak and Sassaba (YTB-364) came alongside Thresher’s starboard beam and starboard quarter, respectively, and assisted the submarine from her berth, and she proceeded to sea. Submerging that afternoon, she steamed independently to rendezvous with Antisubmarine Warfare Group (ASWGru) Alfa and Commander Carrier Division 16, who wore his flag in the antisubmarine warfare support carrier Randolph (CVS-15). The following morning [6 March], Thresher made rendezvous with Task Group (TG) 81.8, then began “maneuvering at various courses at various speeds” to carry out a special screening exercise. That afternoon, the men of her fire control tracking party took their stations and simulated firing two Mk. 37, mod. 0 torpedoes before securing the drill.
Thresher’s operations with TG 81.8 continued the next morning [7 March 1962], as she maintained a position 1,000 to 3,000 yards south of Randolph (with CVSG-58 and HU-2 Det. 36 embarked), although high winds and heavy seas delayed the carrier’s going to flight quarters that morning. Then, while still submerged, Thresher resumed her special screening exercise during the forenoon watch, wrapping up that work near mid-day, drilling her fire control tracking party. Detached from operations with ASWGru Alfa at 1500, Thresher set course for the waters east of the Virginia capes to make rendezvous with Task Unit (TU) 83.4.2. Sadly, while the boat’s periscope was being raised, EN2(SS) Richard J. Karkoski’s left hand became caught in the hoisting cylinder, receiving a “crushing injury” to four of the five fingers. Thresher’s hospitalman immediately rendered first aid, and the injured sailor was immediately put on the sick list.
Thresher rendezvoused with TU 83.4.2 early in the first dog watch on 8 March 1962, and, as her log states, the boat “commenced special screening exercises, maneuvering at various speeds and depths.” She later conducted target services during the first watch on the 8th, then participated in a screening exercise (Z-44-U) the following morning [9 March], during which her fire control tracking party conducted simulated attacks on three surface targets, after which she fired three green flares in succession, the tracking party securing after that evolution. Thresher continued her participation in Z-44-U through the second dog watch, then conducted a “hold down/regain contact” exercise.
Operating with elements of TU 83.4.2 during the mid watch on 10 March 1962, Thresher later conducted screen penetration exercises, then special screening exercises into the afternoon. She again exercised her fire control tracking party, during which time the boat simulated firing one Mk. 37, Mod. 0, torpedo, during the afternoon watch and again during the first dog watch, firing a yellow flare during the second period. During the first watch that day, she wrapped up her participation in the special screening exercise by her fire control tracking party simulating the firing of a Mk. 37, Mod. 0 at Torsk (SS-423). After initially steaming with elements of TU 83.4.2 to the initial position of the next exercise at the start of the mid watch on 11 March, Thresher then proceeded independently to reach those waters east of the Virginia capes.
At mid-day on 11 March 1962, Thresher began a special exercise (SpEx-5) and remained thus engaged until early in the second dog watch that day when the “flanged connection in [the] fairwater hydraulic system carried away,” causing loss of control of the fairwater planes. Immediately, the fairwater planes were “isolated…to prevent further damage or loss of hydraulic oil.” Soon thereafter, Thresher surfaced and continued participation in SpEx-5, her fairwater planes being restored to normal operation at the close of the mid watch on 12 March.
Thresher completed SpEx-5 at mid-day on 13 March 1962, then rendezvoused with TG 83.4 to provide target services during the first watch that day. She met up with a patrol aircraft (VP) on the morning of the 14th, then “commence steering various courses at various speeds and depths while conducting [a] tracking exercise.” Making a rendezvous with TU 220.127.116.11 later that same morning, Thresher then conducted an evasion exercise that she brought to a conclusion less than half-way through the morning watch on the 14th, after which she carried out further special screening exercises, followed by a tracking exercise, into the late afternoon. Surfacing shortly before she completed her participation in that busy slate of exercises, she was detached from TG 83.3 “to proceed independently to New London” less than an hour before the start of the mid watch on the 15th.
Submerging less then half-way through the mid watch on 15 March 1962, Thresher surfaced at the start of the first watch that day, sighting the Block Island Ledge South East Light 25 miles distant at 2215, then, within an hour, Montauk Point Light. The next morning [16 March], a little less than an hour after the end of the mid watch, Thresher began maneuvering to conform to the channel leading into New London Harbor. Less than an hour later, Sassaba (YTB-364) and YTL-438 came alongside to starboard, and assisted the returning submarine into her assigned berth at Pier 13-S, Submarine Base, New London.
Later that same day [16 March 1962], Thresher loaded 17 Mk. 37, Mod. 0 torpedoes, with dummy loads, by the start of the first dog watch. The submarine remained alongside Pier 13-S until 19 March, when the men of her maneuvering watch took their stations at the start of the forenoon watch, and Sassaba and Matunak secured alongside. Underway within the hour, Thresher stood down the channel, the tugs casting off soon thereafter, securing her maneuvering watch and setting the regular underway watch at that point. The submarine set course for the Narragansett Bay operating area.
After submerging, Thresher made a rendezvous with the submarine rescue vessel Sunbird (ASR-15) in Area 20, Narragansett Bay, late in the afternoon watch. The submarine fired three Mk. 37s during the first dog watch, Sunbird recovering the first in a “damaged and inoperative” condition, the second “undamaged,” and the last “slightly damaged.” Thresher then carried out brief drills to round out that watch and the next.
Operating independently in Area 20, submerged, during the mid watch on 20 March 1962, Thresher rendezvoused with Sunbird a little over an hour into the morning watch, and resumed torpedo firings, with the submarine rescue vessel retrieving each Mk. 37 fired as she had the previous day, with a record being kept of the condition of each recovered weapon. Thresher continued those operations “at various courses at various speeds and depths” into the afternoon watch. She surfaced at 1356 then took a small boat alongside for a transfer of people (1429-1435), after which evolution the keeper of the log wrote: “1500 Completed scheduled operations.” The boat conducted a major steam leak drill (2119-2209) during the first watch.
Remaining on the surface, Thresher returned to New London the next morning [21 March 1962], with Matunak and YTL-438 assisting in mooring her alongside Pier 13-S. She started loading torpedoes an hour before the end of the forenoon watch on the 21st, and completed the evolution, having brought on board 17 Mk. 37, Mod. 0 weapons early in the second dog watch. Two days later, however, Thresher unloaded 15 of the Mk. 37s between 0800 and 1400 on 23 March.
With ComSubDevGru 2 (Capt. Zurcher) embarked, Thresher, assisted from Pier 13-S by YTL-438 and Matunak, stood down the channel of the Thames River on the morning of 26 March 1962, and took her departure from New London, then submerged during the afternoon watch. During the first watch that day, she began “steering various courses and various speeds while conducting NuSubEx 2-62,” slated to be carried out in the waters south of Narragansett Bay.
In company with Cavalla and Hardhead (SS-365), Thresher continued her participation in NuSubEx 2-62, taking the role of SSK [hunter-killer submarine] early in the morning watch on 27 March 1962. Her fire control tracking party took their stations twice during that period, first simulating the firing of two Mk. 37, Mod. 0 torpedoes at Cavalla, then, a short time later, simulated firing one Mk. 37, mod. 0 at Hardhead. The exercise continued into the afternoon, when Thresher’s fire control tracking party took its station, the boat “maneuvering at various courses and speeds while conducting a sonar approach” on Cavalla. Soon thereafter, Thresher fired [simulated] a Mk. 37 torpedo from her No.2 tube before the tracking party secured. She rounded out the dog watches by conducting a special data collection run. “Underway submerged as before” as the first watch began, Thresher then took part in a transit exercise, with Cavalla assuming the role of an SSK, during which the older boat simulated firing a Mk. 37.
As NuSubEx 2-62 continued into 28 March 1962, Thresher simulated firing Mk. 37 torpedoes at Cavalla, then Hardhead, during the forenoon watch. During the dog watches, she then turned-to for a series of exercises that ranged from a fire drill to emergency ventilation of the first platform deck, after which she rigged for normal snorkel ventilation. The next day [29 March], Thresher’s fire control tracking party simulated firing six torpedoes during the mid- and morning watches, then simulated firing one Mk. 37 at Cavalla during the forenoon watch. The boat continued “maneuvering at various courses and various speeds” carrying out NuSubEx 2-62 into the following day [30 March], the fire control tracking party firing [simulated] three Mk. 37s during the mid watch, then simulated firing a Mk. 37 at Cavalla later that morning.
Early in the forenoon watch on 30 March 1962, Thresher detected a torpedo on her sonar, bearing 170° and “drawing right.” After the underwater ordnance stopped a few minutes later, however, bearing 258°, Thresher surfaced at 0855 to search for the weapon, but, having been unsuccessful, submerged a little over an hour later to continue “maneuvering at various courses and speeds…” She carried out the simulated firing of a Mk. 37 during the afternoon, and surfaced briefly for a second time that day before resuming submerged operations once more. The following day [31 March], Thresher conducted a drill that simulated shutting her starboard main generator stop valve.
Ultimately, Thresher, released to proceed independently to New London early in the second dog watch on 3 April 1962, surfaced almost mid-way through the first watch that same day. She stationed the maneuvering watch a little over an hour into the forenoon watch on 4 April, with Cmdr. Axene and the OOD on the bridge, with the OOD conning and the navigator in the ship control center, maneuvering the vessel into the channel. Within minutes of passing the New London Ledge, however, the crew went to fire quarters, quickly determining the problem to be a fire in an electrical breaker on the second platform deck, which the Threshermen quickly isolated without further damage, securing six minutes after the first intimation of trouble as the vessel was quickly ventilated. Soon thereafter, Matunak and YTL-438 came alongside, assisting Thresher into her berth alongside Pier 13-S. Soon after Cmdr. Axene secured the maneuvering watch, ComSubDevGru 2 departed and his pennant was hauled down.
Thresher’s pause from her busy operational schedule, however, proved only temporary. A little over an hour into the afternoon watch on 5 April 1962, the submarine’s maneuvering watch took their places, while Matunak and YTL-438 again secured along her starboard side. Soon afterward, Capt. Zurcher, ComSubDevGru 2, returned and embarked, his broad pennant being broken on board. As Thresher got underway for Narragansett Bay soon thereafter, the two tugs cast off, with Cmdr. Axene at the conn and the OOD on the bridge, with the navigator in the ship’s control center.
Within a half hour, however, Matunak returned, and transferred Vice Adm. Robert B. Pirie, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air), and members of the Antisubmarine Warfare Council, to the submarine within four minutes, Thresher hauling down ComSubDevGru 2’s pennant and breaking Vice Adm. Pirie’s flag in its place, after which the boat set course for international waters, submerging within three hours. She then carried out special torpedo firing exercises during the first watch, with Cavalla serving as her adversary, in Area 20 of the Narragansett Bay operating area.
Thresher surfaced during the mid watch on 6 April 1962 and re-entered inland waters soon thereafter, in the morning watch, stationing her maneuvering watch soon after sighting the Brenton Reef Lightship abeam to starboard. At that juncture, the large harbor tug Ensenore (YTB-217) came alongside and embarked Vice Adm. Pirie and members of the Antisubmarine Warfare Council. Capt. Zurcher then again broke his broad pennant in Thresher, which also embarked Cmdr. George P. Steele, II, Cmdr. Charles D. Grojean, Cmdr. James C. Bellah, two other USN officers and two enlisted men, in addition to Lt. Cmdr. R. G. King of the Royal Navy. After a brief period at anchor, Thresher got underway and submerged during the afternoon watch, rigged for Quiet Conditions II and III in succession, then carried out a drill where the ship dealt with a casualty to no. 2 main turbine, correcting the casualty within three minutes. Thresher conducted exercises as her operational readiness drills continued on 7 April, the ship not securing from those evolutions, that included a fire drill and practicing rigging ship for reduced electrical power, until a little over an hour and a half into the first watch that day, with an operational readiness inspection (ORI) occurring during the afternoon and first dog watches.
“Underway submerged as before,” Lt. (j.g.) John Smarz, Jr., noted in Thresher’s log during the afternoon watch on 8 April 1962, “Maneuvering various courses at various speeds while conducting Operational Readiness Inspection.” The boat was a thing alive between noon and 1600. First she surfaced a little over an hour into the watch, then a collision drill followed, after which there was a report of a fire in the “upper level machinery space,” the latter secured within nine minutes’ time, after which Thresher secured from the collision drill, submerging within two minutes. A “simulated atomic air burst” roughly to southwest by west, 10 miles away, followed, after which the boat descended and “rigged ship for depth charge,” then a flooding drill was held in the forward compartment. The next log entry told of a “fire in [the] air regeneration room, caused by an electrical short in [the] auxiliary override circuit.” The boat went deeper, and secured from the three aforementioned events, then secured from rigging for depth charge. Soon thereafter, the boat held a steam leak drill in the machinery space, rigging for reduced electrical power. Moments later, after the ship ascended toward the surface, a reactor scram occurred. The boat ascended still further, surfacing in 17 minutes. Securing from the steam leak drill, Thresher dealt with the scram within 35 minutes, then secured from the ship being rigged for reduced electrical power then submerged, carrying out further drills during the first watch on the 8th.
Thresher recorded a “radar landfall” of her destination at 14 miles during the forenoon watch on 9 April 1962, and made rendezvous with the pilot boat at 1114, embarking Mr. N. Richardson for the trip up the channel to Charleston. The submarine took the tugs Mars and Admiral Dewey alongside less than three-quarters of an hour into the afternoon watch and soon lay moored port side-to the Columbus Street Pier.
The following morning [10 April 1962], Cmdr. Axene stationed the maneuvering watch an hour before the end of the morning watch and the boat prepared to get underway, after which time distinguished guests began to come on board, led by the Honorable Burnet J. Maybank, Jr., South Carolina’s lieutenant governor, and Capt. Leon S. Eubanks, Commander Submarine Squadron (ComSubRon) Six. Assisted by the tugs Mars and Admiral Dewey, and with pilot N. Poulnot coming on board, Thresher moved out into the stream soon thereafter, with Cmdr. Axene and the OOD on the bridge, the latter conning, and the navigator in the ship control center. As the boat stood out, she released the tugs for other duties and, entered international waters. Thresher submerged early in the afternoon watch and at 1222 “commenced maneuvering at various courses, speeds and depths while conducting demonstration for visiting dignitaries.” Surfacing a little less than 90 minutes into the afternoon watch, she later slowed and transferred her passengers off the vessel an hour before the end of the first dog watch. She continued on the surface, course set for Onslow Bay, N.C., to join Task Force (TF) 24 for a review rehearsal, reaching those waters on the morning of 11 April.
Detached by Commander Submarine Division (ComSubDiv) 41 less than an hour before the end of the forenoon watch on 11 April 1962, Thresher set course to return to Charleston, operating on the surface for the passage. She entered Charleston Harbor the next morning (12 April), taking pilot R. Burdell on board, then entered international waters and, submerging during the afternoon watch (1252), conducted a second demonstration cruise for visiting dignitaries, “maneuvering at various courses, speeds and depths…” while thus engaged. Coming to the surface at 1403, Thresher stood into the channel with pilot Burdell at the conn. Soon after yard pilot C. N. Swan took the conn, the boat took Nakarna (YTB-393) alongside to port, that large harbor tug joined by her sister Numa (YTB-399) soon thereafter, the yardcraft mooring their charge starboard side-to Pier N-2, U.S. Naval Base, Charleston, after which they cast off and moved away.
Thresher remained at Charleston until the following morning [13 April 1962]. After embarking harbor pilot Swan and river pilot J. Lockwood, the boat took Wahpeton (YTB-327) alongside her port quarter and departed. Pilot Swan saw Thresher clear of the channel, after which he left the ship in Wahpeton, which cast off to proceed on other duties. Pilot Lockwood conned the ship further on her way, disembarking a little over an hour later. Thresher, her course set for New London, then submerged shortly over an hour into the second dog watch.
Thresher stood up the channel to Groton during the morning watch on 16 April 1962, with Cmdr. Axene on the bridge, the OOD at the conn and the navigator in the ship control center. Passing the New London Ledge abeam to starboard 150 yards distant, the submarine took Nashel (YTB-538) alongside a little over a half an hour into the forenoon watch, then soon embarked pilot Brogan for the brief trip to Pier C, Electric Boat Company. After Nashel cast off, the maneuvering watch secured, and the pilot disembarked, Thresher began receiving AC power from the pier. A little over a half an hour later, members of Capt. Zurcher’s staff and an inspection party from ComSubDevGru 2 came on board for a below decks administrative inspection (1015-1130).
Thresher again embarked pilot Brogan during the forenoon watch three days later (19 April 1962), and, after the General Dynamics’ tug Three Deuces came alongside the submarine’s starboard beam, the boat began shifting from Pier C to the small auxiliary floating dry dock AFDL-47, additional assistance being provided by tugs Uncas and Kingston II. After the tugs had moved away, the docking officer assumed the conn and guided the submarine into AFDL-47 where soon she was “resting on keel blocks,” and receiving power from the pier. During the first watch, Cmdr. Axene departed the ship on temporary additional duty (TAD) to the Bureau of Ships in Washington (he would return on 20 April).
Thresher thus began May 1962 in the small auxiliary floating dry dock AFDL-47, receiving miscellaneous services from it. Capt. Zurcher, members of his staff, and the inspecting party came on board during the forenoon watch, the boat breaking ComSubDevGru 2’s broad pennant in the ship for a personnel inspection (0825-0915).
Thresher’s maneuvering watch took their station near the end of the morning watch on 9 May 1962, as the vessel “rest[ed] on keel blocks as before.” The small auxiliary floating dry dock was flooded (0811-0855) until the procedure was stopped “for repairs to [the] 4-B Main Ballast Tank vent.” Flooding AFDL-47 resumed at 0904 and Thresher floated free of the keel blocks less than five minutes later. Joined in succession by Three Deuces, Kingston II and Uncas, Thresher moved thus aided to moor port side-to Pier C, Electric Boat Company.
Stationing her maneuvering watch again on 19 May 1962 an hour and a quarter into the morning watch, Thresher began moving from Pier C, Electric Boat. With Cmdr. Axene and the OOD on the bridge, with the latter conning and the navigator in the ship control center, the boat began standing out, setting course for the waters off Long Island, N.Y., with YTL-438 assisting in the maneuver until her services were no longer required and she cast off. A little less than an hour into the forenoon watch that same day [19 May], Thresher moored starboard side-to dolphins A and B in Fort Pond Bay. By the mid watch [20 May], Three Deuces lay “alongside to starboard conducting sound trials.”
Underway again on 21 May 1962, Thresher, assisted from her moorings by Three Deuces, then YTL-438 that afternoon, entered international waters over halfway through the afternoon watch, passing astern of the destroyer Glennon (DD-840) shortly before the submarine entered Transit Lane A. Her course set for Fort Lauderdale, Thresher submerged during the second dog watch, and conducted an exercise with Glennon (Capt. Zurcher embarked as OTC) through the mid watch.
Detached to proceed independently shortly before the end of the mid watch on 22 May 1962, Thresher continued operating submerged. She manned shock stations on the afternoon the following day [23 May], “rigging ship for depth charge” during that period. With the maneuvering watch taking their station the next morning [24 May], the submarine stood in to the channel with Cmdr. Axene on the bridge, the OOD at the conn, and the navigator at the ship control center, taking on the pilot, E. LeBlanc, soon thereafter. Within a half hour after she entered inland waters, the submarine took tugs Everglades and Fort Lauderdale alongside to assist her alongside Pier 15 to moor, after which the smaller vessels cast off and the pilot disembarked. Thresher only remained at Pier 15 for a short time, however, for she got underway, with the same tugs assisting but with G. W. Fagan, a different pilot, embarked, to put to sea, the submarine entering international waters shortly before the end of the afternoon watch.
During the first dog watch on 24 May 1962, Thresher maneuvered at “various courses at various speeds” while carrying out SubRoc “ejection tests,” submerging to do so, firing two SubRocs (DGM-1 and DGM-2), surfacing soon afterwards to set course to return to port. After standing in to the channel and entering inland waters near the middle of the second dog watch, Thresher embarked pilot LeBlanc, and with the familiar tugs Everglades and Fort Lauderdale alongside, soon moored alongside Berth 16, Pier 3.
The following morning [25 May 1962], Thresher, with pilot Harrison at the conn and with the boat assisted by Everglades and Fort Lauderdale, stood out and resumed SubRoc tests, submerging and launching three units during the forenoon watch. That afternoon, the boat fired two Mk. 10, Mod. 3, exercise mines before surfacing and making rendezvous with a retriever vessel, transferring “test personnel” to her. She then submerged again, conducting “scheduled operations” before she set course for Port Everglades, rendezvousing with tugs Everglades and Fort Lauderdale during the second dog watch, with pilot Schuman conning the vessel to Pier 3, Berth 16. Sadly, tragedy visited Thresher the next morning [26 May], when she received word shortly before 1000 that ET2 (SS) Joram Hernandez, on authorized liberty, had been struck by an automobile. Taken to Holy Cross Hospital, Ft. Lauderdale, ET2 Hernandez was pronounced dead on arrival at 1015 of the injuries he had suffered.
Thresher got underway with pilot LeBlanc at the conn, the boat assisted by Fort Lauderdale and Everglades, on the morning of 28 May 1962, and stood out to sea. Disembarking the pilot and releasing the tugs, the submarine submerged a little over an hour into the forenoon watch and fired two dummy guided missiles, the launch preceded by a yellow flare fired aft and followed by a green flare fired aft. Coming to the surface, Thresher then fired two more dummy guided missiles, submerging immediately thereafter. During the afternoon watch, the boat maneuvered n “various courses at various speeds and depths” conducting “SubRoc ejection tests,” then fired four Mk. 37 dummy torpedoes, then fired five more Mk. 37 dummies early in the first dog watch before setting course to return to port, embarking the same pilot and assisted by the same tugs, mooring alongside Pier 3, Berth 16.
Pilot Harrison conned Thresher out to sea on the morning of 29 May 1962, the boat assisted as before by Fort Lauderdale and Everglades. The submarine continued SubRoc ejection tests, submerging to conduct the launch of two dummy units before coming to the surface. Later, that afternoon, Thresher fired two dummy Mk. 10, Mod. 3, mines before returning to port and picking up pilot Schuman on the way in, again having Fort Lauderdale and Everglades to moor her alongside Berth 16, Pier 3, where she remained until leaving Port Everglades on the morning of 31 May, pilot Harrison taking the ship out.
After Thresher disembarked the pilot and released the tugs Fort Lauderdale and Everglades, she submerged and carried out more submerged SubRoc and Mk. 37 ejection tests, firing one Mk. 37 exercise torpedo during the afternoon watch. Operating submerged, she fired three more Mk. 37s during the first dog watch, then coning to the surface and lying-to, transferring people and equipment to a torpedo retriever. Upon completion of that evolution, Thresher set course for Cape Canaveral.
Thresher reached her destination early the following day [1 June 1962], sighting Cape Canaveral Light a little over a half an hour into the morning watch. She entered inland waters with the commanding officer and OOD on the bridge, the OOD at the conn and the navigator in ship control. She embarked Mr. R. Condon, the pilot, as the submarine stood in to port. Assisted by the tugs Mars and Hollywood, Thresher soon lay moored alongside Berth No. 3, discharging the pilot and the tugs clearing her side. She got underway with the same pilot and tugs the following morning [2 June], putting to sea then submerging almost mid-way through the forenoon watch, rigging for “Quiet Condition One.” That afternoon, Thresher conducted “special exercises” with the fleet ballistic missile submarine Thomas A. Edison (SSBN-610) and the auxiliary Observation Island (EAG-154), concluding those evolutions at 1937, securing from Quiet Condition One. She surfaced soon thereafter, within a quarter of an hour. During the next watch period, she carried out a scram drill.
Thresher steamed independently through the mid watch on 3 June 1962, then carried out “man overboard” drills for almost two hours during the morning watch. Entering inland waters soon afterward, she stood in to the channel with Cmdr. Axene on the bridge and the OOD at the conn, with the navigator in ship control. Early in the forenoon watch, the submarine embarked Mr. R. J. Lenny, the pilot, but a routine mooring evolution took a different turn at 0844 when the tug Hollywood, of the Port Canaveral Towing Co., while “making up [the] port side preparatory to berthing,” rammed Thresher during the procedure.
No one suffered any injuries in the mishap, but Hollywood punched a three-foot hole from one to four feet wide below the submarine’s waterline from the “forward frame to Main Ballast Tank Three Bravo [3-B].” After the incident, Hollywood, alongside the port bow, and Mars, alongside the port quarter, completed mooring Thresher alongside Berth No.3, then cast off with the ship secured. Before the day was out, Cmdr. Roy C. Standard, ComSubDiv 42, broke his pennant in the damaged boat, having been appointed a one-man Board of Investigation into the collision that had occurred that morning.
With Cmdr. Standard embarked, Thresher cleared Cape Canaveral, again assisted on her way by Hollywood and Mars, with pilot Lenny on board for the departure early the following afternoon [4 June 1962]. She entered international waters early in the first dog watch, submerging a little over mid-way through that period, and, subsequently, operated on the surface for half of the mid watch on 5 June. That afternoon, her crew manned “shock stations,” rigging ship for that condition, then securing within 90 minutes. She came to the surface mid-way through the second dog watch on the 5th, exchanging calls with the amphibious command ship Mount McKinley (AGC-7) a little less than an hour later. Thresher then operated submerged, save for a period on the surface for less than 30 minutes during the morning watch on 6 June, into the forenoon that day, coming to the surface as she neared her destination.
With Cmdr. Axene and the OOD on the bridge and the navigator in the ship control center, Thresher stood in to the channel that led to Groton early on the afternoon of 6 June 1962.Taking the pilot, Brogan, on board, the submarine, aided by a large harbor tug (YTB), soon moored port side-to Pier “Charlie East,” at the Electric Boat Company. Cmdr. Standard departed the ship at 1415, his pennant being hauled down as he did so, then Thresher got underway again, Three Deuces making up alongside the starboard bow and pilot Brogan conning the boat into AFDL-47, Thresher resting on keel blocks shortly before the start of the second dog watch to begin a restricted availability to undergo collision repairs that would ultimately last into the forenoon watch on 8 June. During that time, Cmdr. Standard, who had returned to the ship and broken his pennant on board, shifted to Odax (SS-484) at the start of the first dog watch on the 7th.
Moving clear of AFDL-47, Thresher, conned by pilot Brogan, and assisted by Three Deuces and Kingston II, shifted to Pier C at the General Dynamics’ yard, after which the tugs cast off. Capt. Zurcher visited the boat soon thereafter for a quick visit, his pennant broken on board (1500-1516). Three Deuces returned alongside and assisted Thresher from Pier C, with the boat setting course for Exuma Sound in the Bahamas. The General Dynamics’ tug cast off once her charge was free of the channel. Operating on the surface, Thresher maneuvered briefly to avoid the U.S. Coast Guard sail training ship Eagle shortly before entering international waters, then almost three hours later maneuvered to avoid a merchantman. She then submerged less than hour into the second dog watch, surfacing a little over mid-way through the first watch. She then submerged, operating thusly into the following morning [9 June].
During the voyage to Exuma Sound, Thresher prepared for the operations that lay ahead. Early on the afternoon of 9 June 1962, she manned shock stations, “rigged ship for shock,” then secured from that condition. The following morning [10 June], the boat steered “various courses at various speeds and depths while conducting noise measurement exercises,” then early that afternoon conducted the “detection phase of shock-acoustical trials.” Ultimately, Thresher came to the surface near the end of the first dog watch and sighted Eleutheria Island late in the second dog watch. An hour and a quarter into the first watch, she made rendezvous with MONAB I, “steering various courses at various speeds” to bring a small boat alongside and embarked the men comprising the sound survey team. Thresher then maneuvered to keep station on MONAB I, first 3,000 yards away, then between four to six miles.
After closing out the mid watch on 11 June 1962 lying-to on the surface of Exuma Sound, Thresher transferred MMCA Fernley R. Wagner, Jr., and RM1 Richard J. Bartsch to MONAB I via small boat, after which the submarine submerged and carried out sound trials, activities that occupied the vessel into the afternoon and dog watches, during the latter lying-to 3,000 yards southwest of MONAB I. She then conducted pre-shock test noise tests during the mid watch on 12 June, operating at Quiet Condition One until a little over halfway into that period, then took the contract boat, Bimini Express, from MONAB I alongside for a personnel transfer, disembarking a member of the sound survey team to Bimini Express before she submerged to carry out further noise trials, spending a portion of that time rigged for deep submergence. Coming to the surface a little less than a half hour into the first dog watch, Thresher then lay-to and carried out a self-noise survey that she completed a little over an hour into the second dog watch.
“Underway submerged in Exuma Sound…” at the start of the mid watch on 13 June 1962, the boat conducted a “pre-shock noise test” in accordance with ComSubDevGru 2 operations order. Rigged for Quiet Condition One, she steered the usual “various courses and various speeds and depths” while engaged in noise tests, securing from quiet running a little over an hour into the mid watch, surfacing soon thereafter. She lay-to early in the morning watch, then steered various course and speeds to close MONAB I, when she again lay-to.
Thresher then maneuvered to take station 1,000 yards astern of MONAB I, then lay-to, conducting a reactor scram drill a little over a quarter of an hour later, restoring the ship to nuclear power in less than 8 minutes. The boat then submerged and “commenced steering various courses at various speeds and depths…conducting sound trials.” Surfacing a little less than an hour before the start of the first dog watch, Thresher slowed to “all stop,” then lay-to. Soon, Bimini Express lay alongside, transferring people to and from the warship, casting off when the transfer was complete.
After lying-to, Thresher set course for Key West, Fla., shortly after the start of the first dog watch on 13 June 1962, then less than three quarters of an hour later held a second reactor scram drill for the day, restoring the ship’s nuclear power capability within eight minutes as before. That evening, at the start of the first watch, the ship went to fire quarters, the responders putting the fire in the crew’s head out in three minutes’ time, securing from fire quarters three minutes later. Before the day was out, Thresher held her third reactor scram drill, restoring nuclear power capability in nine minutes.
As the boat continued her passage to Key West, Thresher fired water slugs from her torpedo tubes for ten minutes during the forenoon watch on 14 June 1962, then submerged less than an hour into the afternoon, going to deep submergence for some 30 minutes during the afternoon watch. Later she rigged for shock less than an hour before the start of the second dog watch, then surfaced, then submerged again about four hours later, operating thusly into the mid watch on 15 June, when she came to the surface, soon to sight and identify Sombrero Key Light.
Stationing the maneuvering watch one hour before the conclusion of the morning watch on 15 June 1962, with Lt. John S. Lyman, the OOD, at the conn, Cmdr. Axene on the bridge, and the navigator in the ship control center, Thresher maneuvered to receive ComSubRon 12’s boat alongside to port, and soon embarked Capt. Raymond A. Moore, who broke his broad pennant in the newly arrived submarine, and a pilot, Lt. (j.g.) Brown. Nine days shy of his 47th birthday, “Randy” Moore had qualified in submarines in 1942, and among his professional accomplishments had been serving as executive officer of Stingray (SS-186), that had been the first submarine to rescue a downed aviator by towing the pilot to safety with a raised periscope. He had also commanded the first fleet boat to make an extended submerged snorkel patrol, in Irex (SS-482).
Entering inland waters, Thresher, Cmdr. Axene at the conn, stood toward the submarine tender Bushnell (AS-15), as she lay alongside the North Mole, U.S. Naval Station, Key West, having shifted her berth from the Naval Station’s South Quay Wall the previous afternoon. Soon, the small harbor tug YTL-440 came alongside Thresher’s port bow, after which Etawina (YTB-543) came alongside the boat’s port quarter, nudging her alongside the tender. Soon, handling crews had tripled lines to the big auxiliary vessel, with wires out fore and aft. Etawina cleared Thresher’s side, Lt. (j.g.) Brown leaving the ship, then YTL-440 moved away, her task completed. ComSubRon 12 departed at 0920, and his pennant soon came down signifying his shifting to his flagship Bushnell.
Thresher off-loaded two Mk. 37 torpedoes to Bushnell at the end of the second dog watch the next day [16 June 1962], then continued to receive services from the tender into the morning of the 17th, when, soon after muster, the maneuvering watch took their stations. Capt. Moore and a special test survey team came on board came on board soon thereafter, followed by the pilot, Lt. (j.g.) Brown, with ComSubRon 12 breaking his broad pennant in the submarine. Assisted by Cochali (YTB-383) and Etawina, Thresher stood down the channel, with the tugs clearing her side, with Etawina taking off Lt. (j.g.) Brown, then submerged 90 minutes into the forenoon watch, “steering various courses and various speeds and depths conducting pre-shock acoustical trials.” For a little over a half an hour, the boat operated at Quiet Condition One, then surfaced a little over an hour before the end of the forenoon watch. She conducted further tests, submerged, that afternoon, then again surfaced to take a small boat alongside to starboard a little over an hour into the dog watch, transferring Capt. Moore to the craft so that he could return to his flagship.
After maneuvering independently in the waters off Key West through the night, Thresher took YTL-440 alongside about an hour and a half into the forenoon watch on 18 June 1962, the small harbor tug transferring Lt. (j.g.) Brown, the pilot, while alongside. The submarine stood in to the channel, then entered inland waters. YTL-440 returned an hour later, coming alongside Thresher’s port bow; Etawina came alongside the port quarter. Soon thereafter, Thresher lay alongside Bushnell’s starboards side, receiving AC power.
Disconnecting AC power a quarter of an hour into the morning watch (19 June 1962), Thresher prepared to put to sea. Cochali came alongside the port bow, transferring Lt. (j.g.) Brown, the pilot, as she did so, then Etawina made fast to the port quarter. Underway in accordance with OpOrders from both ComSubRon 12 and ComSubDevGru 2, the boat cleared the channel, releasing the tugs and transferring the pilot to Cochali. Thresher then made rendezvous with a sound boat at the start of the forenoon watch, to conduct sound trials, then submerged, coming to the surface upon completion of the tests. Shortly before the end of the forenoon watch, the boat commenced circling on station.
Submerging 25 minutes into the afternoon watch, Thresher “rigged ship for shock,” maneuvering to take station for the test. At 1300 on 19 June 1962, no.2 shock charge detonated to starboard, with the boat surfacing a little over a quarter of an hour later, stopping and securing from shock stations. Underway again soon thereafter, Thresher headed for Key West, standing in to the channel an hour into the first watch, embarking Lt. (j.g.) Brown, the pilot, and entering inland waters soon thereafter. Etawina made up to the boat’s starboard quarter, Cochali to the starboard beam, and the two large harbor tugs assisted Thresher in mooring port side-to alongside Bushnell. The tugs then cleared the side less than 15 minutes into the second dog watch, and Lt. (j.g.) Brown departed. The boat began receiving AC shore power from the tender at the mid-point of the second dog watch. She remained “moored as before” for the rest of 19 June and for all of the next day [20 June].
Thresher prepared to get underway on 23 June 1962, embarking Capt. Moore, who broke his pennant in the vessel as the morning watch ended, soon after Cochali had come alongside to starboard and the submarine had embarked Lt. (j.g.) Brown, the pilot. As directed by the ComSubRon OpOrder, the submarine stood out of the channel, releasing Cochali, which soon came around to port and brought off the pilot. As the forenoon watch waned, Thresher maneuvered to take station on the sound boat, then submerged for sonar noise trials. She began the afternoon watch conducting pre-shock acoustical trials, until a casualty to the stern planes occurred, compelling her to surface. Following repairs to the stern planes (1248-1430), the submarine shifted propulsion to her main engines. Manning shock stations, Thresher submerged an hour later, completing the evolution at 1609 and, after coming to the surface, lying-to. She got underway again near the end of the first dog watch, then lay-to again, shifting power to her electric propulsion motor (EPM). Thresher returned to Key West the next morning [24 June], assisted alongside Bushnell by the large harbor tug Waneta (YTB-384), mooring port side-to at 1020.
Disconnecting shore power three quarters of an hour after the end of the mid watch on 26 June 1962, Thresher made preparations to get underway, her maneuvering watch set, OOD at the conn and Cmdr. Axene on the bridge. Cochali came alongside to starboard, delivering Lt. (j.g.) Brown, then Cmdr. Axene took the conn and his command got underway, maneuvering down the channel. Rigged for dive, the submarine took Cochali alongside to “drop the pilot,” then maneuvered for the open sea, passing into international waters soon thereafter, securing the maneuvering watch. That morning, Thresher, submerged, conducted pre-shock acoustic trials, rigging for Quiet Condition One during that period, then surfaced. Submerging again that afternoon, the submarine conducted shock trials, after which she surfaced and lay-to, then set course to return to Key West, picking up her pilot, Lt. (j.g.) Brown, as she stood in to the channel near the mid-point to the first dog watch. Entering inland waters with Cmdr. Axene at the conn, Thresher took Cochali and YTL-440 alongside to port two minutes into the second dog watch, then moored alongside Bushnell within a quarter of an hour, after which the maneuvering watch secured, the tugs cleared the side, and the pilot left the ship.
Thresher’s next period of operations out of Key West began on 29 June 1962, when she took Cochali alongside the port bow during the morning watch, the large harbor tug transferring CWO2 James G. Cannon, Jr., the pilot, to the boat, after which Waneta came alongside the submarine’s port quarter. Underway in accordance with OpOrders from both ComSubRon 12 and ComSubDevGru 2 to carry out “special operations,” Thresher cleared the channel, released the tugs and transferred her pilot. She passed the sea buoy at the start of the morning watch, then began maneuvering to take station for “sound runs on various courses and speeds,” submerging during the forenoon watch. She surfaced to take station for a special test, then submerged to carry out the evolution, after which she surfaced and lay-to, the ship undergoing an inspection. She then released Penguin (ASR-12) to proceed on other duties assigned.
Thresher operated independently in Areas 5 and 6 of the Key West Operating Area through the mid watch on 30 June 1962 before setting course to return to port. The sailors of her maneuvering watch took their stations an hour before the end of the morning watch, with Cmdr. Axene and Lt. Lyman (OOD), on the bridge and the navigator in the Ships Control Center, with CWO2 Cannon coming on board soon thereafter, the boat entering inland waters. Cochali and Waneta assisted Thresher in mooring port side-to Bushnell’s starboard side.
Thresher welcomed Warrant Officer Cannon, the pilot, back less than an hour into the afternoon watch on 2 July 1962, after which Cochali and Waneta made up alongside to starboard. The three ships got underway together soon thereafter, the submarine setting course for Exuma Sound in accordance with a ComSubDevGru 2 OpOrder. The tugs cast off, with the submarine slowing to a stop to transfer CWO2 Cannon, then moving ahead; she remained on the surface for the remainder of the day, then submerged the next afternoon [3 July] to carry out special sound trials, completing those evolutions during the mid watch on Independence Day, 4 July.
Surfacing within a quarter of an hour after the end of the mid watch on 4 July 1962, Thresher made rendezvous with the contract boat Bimini Express and effected a transfer of people to and from the ship (1552-1559). Thresher then conducted acoustic trials during the dog watches, rigging for Quiet Condition I, as well as during the first watch, during which she secured from Condition I to set Quiet Condition II, securing upon completion of the acoustic trials. She then operated submerged in Exuma Sound, conducting “post shock noise trials” into the mid watch on 5 July, rigging for Quiet Condition I at the beginning of the morning watch, after which point she surfaced near MONAB I, “maneuvering to accept a bridle moor” from the latter vessel, mooring by that means ten minutes later, fore and aft. Soon thereafter, she took T. R. Talbot, a civilian, on board from MONAB I, the hospitalman treating Talbot’s injured foot before the submarine released him to return to work via MONAB I’s small boat. Soon thereafter, Thresher moored, submerged, to MONAB I, remaining in that mode through the dog watches, after which she surfaced and rigged for normal running. She then clear of the barge and lay-to, transferring passengers to Bimini Express.
Thresher operated on the surface in Exuma Sound through the mid watch on 6 July 1962, then lay-to in the vicinity of MONAB I, maneuvering less than an hour before the end of the watch to moor to the barge. Less than a half an hour later, a small boat from the craft came alongside and Thresher took on board FM Raymond F. Moyer, assigned to MONAB I for medical treatment. The submarine’s hospitalmen treated him and released him to duty, transportation to be provided by the next small boat.
Mooring alongside MONAB I with bridle lines fore and aft between 0840 and 0847 [6 July 1962], Thresher unmoored and made a second approach, securing at 0947. She subsequently shifted mooring lines again, secured with two bridle lines aft at 1018. A little more than an hour later, the boat submerged, remaining “moored submerged as before” into the first watch, completing a machinery noise test, after which she rigged for normal running. She surfaced immediately afterward, then unmoored, alternately lying-to or moving slowly for the rest of the first watch.
Thresher submerged at the start of the mid watch on 7 July 1962, then rigged ship in succession for Quiet Condition I, then Quiet Condition II. She then began post-shock [test] radiated noise trials, steering “various courses at various speeds,” after which she secured from Condition II and back to Condition I. Securing from Condition I a little over an hour into the morning watch, she came to the surface shortly after 0700, “all tests completed.” During the forenoon watch, the boat started her diesel engine, then submerged to conduct snorkeling operations.
Thresher took departure from Exuma Sound for Portsmouth during the second dog watch on 7 July 1962, and operated on the surface the next day [8 July], during which she changed course early in the forenoon watch to avoid a merchant contact, then logged two reactor scrams during the dog watches, each time in the latter instance the ship being rigged for reduced electrical power. Thresher remained on the surface into a little over an hour into the forenoon watch on the 9th, when she submerged, operating thus until a little less than an hour before the start of the mid watch on the 10th, when she surfaced again. At the start of the first dog watch that day, she held a reactor scram drill. Before the day was out, she changed course twice to avoid contact with other vessels.
During the mid watch on 11 July 1962, Thresher sighted and identified familiar lights – Nauset Beach, Cape Cod, and Cape Ann – as she continued her independent passage to Portsmouth, then during the morning watch, stood up the Piscataqua. YTL-602 came alongside and transferred pilot Swam to the submarine, after which a small work tug helped assist the newly arrived boat alongside Pier 6-C at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. At that point Thresher’s Cmdr. Axene became SOPA and Commander Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet (Administrative). Assisted again by YTL-602, Thresher shifted berths the following morning [12 July], to the Sound Pier, where she moored starboard side-to upon her arrival. By the end of the mid watch on the 14th, an “overside acoustical survey” was in progress, which continued into the next morning.
Montezuma and YTL-602 came alongside Thresher early in the forenoon watch on 16 July 1962, making fast to her port side at 1031. Less than a half hour later, the submarine got underway with “dependents of crew members in accordance with ComSubDevGru Two”  [operation order]. As she had done before, Thresher steered “various courses and various speeds to conform to the channel.” The tugs cast off at 1116 and pilot Swam left the ship at 1127. Thresher passed into international waters soon thereafter, and the boat submerged within an hour of the start of the afternoon watch , conducting a “submerged demonstration” for her embarked visitors
Surfacing at 1340, Thresher transferred the dependents to Waubansee, which had come alongside her starboard side at 1452, completing the process at 1510. During the first dog watch, Thresher carried out another “submerged demonstration” (1621-1709). Re-entering inland waters a little less than an hour later, the boat embarked pilot Swam soon thereafter, and with YTL-602’s assistance, moored port side to Berth 11-B. With an overhaul scheduled, Thresher soon welcomed YRB-25 alongside to starboard by the end of the mid watch on 17 July, during the period of on-board upheaval. A tug brought YRB-6 to moor alongside the other barracks ship by the next morning [18 July]. Thresher off-loaded diesel fuel on 24 July (0930-1700).
An hour before the end of the forenoon watch on 6 September 1962, Thresher made preparations to get underway. Waubansee came alongside the starboard quarter and Montezuma the starboard bow, and with pilot Swam on board for the move, the submarine shifted to Berth 6, YTL-602 joining the evolution as well as yard work boats, securing the boat in her new berth an hour into the afternoon watch. Later that day, with tugs assisting and pilot Swam conning, Thresher entered Dry Dock No.2, resting on keel blocks at 1910. She remained drydocked into November, only one captain’s mast being held [1 November] when a sailor was AWOL on the last day of the previous month, earning himself a warning for his infraction. Four days later [5 November], ten minutes after the end of the mid watch, MM1(SS) George J. Kiesecker fell down the machinery space ladder. The ship’s hospital corpsman soon arrived and administered treatment for Kiesecker’s injured left shoulder and thumb, and head injuries, after which he returned to duty.
During December 1962, Thresher remained “resting on keel blocks as before.” During the second dog watch on 5 December, however, an electrical fire broke out in a switchboard at 1836, caused by “water leaking through an unplugged salvage connection.” At 1840, the ship’s log recounts, “fire is out; damage negligible.” Three days after Christmas, during the first watch on 28 December, Thresher’s crew “manned fire quarters” at 2230 to quell a blaze in Main Ballast Tank Number 2-A. A workman arc-welding in the tank had caused the fire, an old rope being “found burning causing heavy smoke” but no damage to the ship resulted from the mishap. The crew secured from fire quarters at 2255.
Lt. John S. Lyman, Jr., the boat’s engineering officer, stood the mid watch and wrote a rhyming entry in Thresher’s log for 1 January 1963:
Now read, good yeoman, and you shall see
How THRESHER met the best year yet and first of ‘63
The temperature was zero or maybe just below
And the winds whistled sharply from stern to open bow.
The skies were clear, although to the watery west
Appeared a few broken clouds – call it “scattered” at best.
It hardly bears repeating – you must know as well as I
That THRESHER lies in Dry Dock just as high and dry
As on previous days [weeks] months
(Forgive the crossovers, please, yeo, just this once)
Not a soul is missing, we’ve mustered our whole flock.
The ship still stands, with all hands, in #2 Dock.
Or did you believe that we might leave
Our protected spot on New Year’s Eve?
Still receiving AC power, as reported before
With miscellaneous services brought from the shore.
Units of the Fleets, Atlantic and Reserve
Are still joined with us in our private preserve.
At dock or on block, moored with wire or manila hemp
Spring line or breast line, we’re all at Portsmouth, New Hamp.
There has been no demotion, or significant promotion
In this misbegotten, all but forgotten corner of the ocean
And the most rank of us on AEOLUS is SOPA still you see.
(Lest you forget, the number yet, remains ARC-3.)
Thus ends my missive for tonight, the very first this year
Though past performance indicates, not the very last I fear!
Your faithful correspondent,
[signed] J. S. Lyman [Jr.]
New men joined the boat as she neared the end of her overhaul at Portsmouth. MM1(SS) James L. Snider came on board Thresher from the Submarine School at New London on 19 March; less than a fortnight later, on 29 March, EMSN(SS) David A. Wasel joined the boat. Thresher conducted drills on 31 March 1963 as her overhaul drew to a close, and she ran those evolutions “moored as before” as she had been since September 1962.
Thresher put to sea on 9 April 1963. Besides Lt. Cmdr. Harvey and his 11 officers and 96 enlisted men, Lt. Cmdr. Robert L. Krag, on the staff of the Rear Adm. Lawson P. Ramage, Deputy Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, was on board, as were Lt. Cmdr. Philip H. Allen and Lt. Cmdr. John H. Billings, and Lt. Robert D. Biederman, from Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Additionally, four civilian employees of the shipyard’s Design Division, three from the Combat Systems Division, and six from the Production Department were on board, as were four contractors’ representatives, three from Sperry and one from Raytheon. All told, Thresher stood out with 129 souls on board. Three men carried on Thresher’s rolls did not make the departure: Lt. Raymond E. McCoole (on emergency leave), MMC(SS) Frank J. Destafano (temporary duty with the Bureau of Personnel) and TM1(SS) Raymond C. Mattson (medical reasons).
Skylark (ASR-20), assigned to escort Thresher during her sea trials, made rendezvous (42°56' N, 70°26'W) with the boat about 0949 on the 9th. The first day’s operations proceeded without incident, and the two ships proceeded independently to a second rendezvous point (41°46' N, 65°03'W) whence the next day’s operations were to be conducted on 10 April. Thresher operated submerged as well as on the surface during that time, and carried out various tests, that included running at full power.
At 0745 on 10 April 1963, Thresher reported Skylark’s being in the vicinity, roughly southeast by south, 3,400 yards distant. Underwater telephone communication (UQC) linked Thresher and Skylark, providing the means of voice communication. At 0747, Thresher reported via the UQC that she was commencing her deep dive, and, over the ensuing time period, kept Skylark apprised of changes in her course and depth, her quartermaster most likely using a combination of words often seen in her deck log in the preceding days of her existence, maneuvering at “…various courses at various speeds and depths…”
Calm seas prevailed by 0900 that morning, with a slight swell; visibility was about ten miles, and no other vessels were present. Thresher reported to Skylark at 0913 that the boat was “experiencing minor difficulties,” that she had a “positive up angle,” and was “attempting to blow [ballast].” That particular message ended with the phrase: “Will keep you informed.” Three minutes later, at about 0916, Skylark heard a garbled transmission that included the words “…test depth.” About 0917, Skylark received another garbled transmission over the UQC that contained the words “nine hundred north.” At about 0918.1, “a high energy, low frequency noise disturbance of the type which could have been made by an implosion emanated from Thresher.
Debate over precisely what caused Thresher’s destruction began almost immediately. Had a leak occurred, a pipe-fitting failed, water spraying over electrical circuits, short-circuiting them and causing an electrical failure? Or had the reactor itself shut down? In either scenario, the loss of power doomed all on board the boat. “She was the finest product of the shipwright’s art and one of the maritime marvels of this technological age…lead ship of a class designed to run silent, run deep, and run fast – deeper and faster than any submarine of the past… The Navy that built her and manned her,” Senator John O. Pastore said in the wake of the disaster, “may never know what destroyed her; the silent forces of the deep are implacable enemies to detailed investigation.”
Thresher was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 10 April 1963.
The three men who had not sailed with Thresher that April morn remained in the Silent Service: McCoole was reassigned to Dogfish; Destafano to Tullibee, Mattson to Albacore (AGSS-569)
Commanding Officers Dates of Command
Cmdr. Deane W. Axene 3 August 1961 – 18 January 1963
Lt. Cmdr. John W. Harvey 18 January 1963 – 10 April 1963
Robert J. Cressman
12 July 2021
Note on Sources:
The author consulted the original deck logs of Thresher that exist from August 1961 through the end of March 1963 that are held by the National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md. One log (November 1961) is noted as being a “reconstruction” since the original appears to have been lost in the mail. The log for April 1963 went down with the ship. He also consulted the microfilmed copy of Thresher’s Personnel Diaries (also retained at the National Archives and Records Administration) of the ship that extend from January 1961, pre-commissioning, through April 1963, that proved invaluable for verifying ranks, rates, and correct spelling of names of the officers and men as well as passengers, officers and enlisted and civilians; as well command histories and deck logs of the ships mentioned in Thresher’s log, vessels with which she operated from August 1961 into April 1963; contemporary (1961-1963) issues of Ships Data Book/Naval Vessel Register to ensure the accuracy of yard craft (such as YTB, YTL, and YTM) designations and nomenclature; Officer Biography Files held by the NHHC Archives for pertinent biographical information, as well as the Awards Citation Files, which yielded the detailed work of the four men decorated for their heroism during the events of 2-3 November 1961.