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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

CONTINUITY: Did the USS Thresher Crew Survive the Initial Mishap?

On April 10, 1963, the nuclear powered attack submarine USS Thresher (SSN-593) was lost during sea trials in the Atlantic Ocean east of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, with no survivors among the 129 crew and shipyard employees on board. An inquiry concluded that a failure had resulted in an uncontrolled dive which caused the hull to implode at a depth between 400 and 610 metres, instantly killing all aboard. Much of the investigation and supporting documents was classified secret and remained so for decades.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by a former Thresher-class submarine commander, the Navy has been releasing documents from the investigation in a series of batches, with the most recent on July 9, 2021. All of the releases to date are available here.

Here is an analysis of the most recent 600 page release, including reports from the USS Seawolf, which conducted search operations starting the day after contact was lost with Thresher. Seawolf detected what were interpreted as pings and metal banging noises from Thresher, but the court of inquiry concluded, “That while operating as a unit of the search force, the U.S.S. Seawolf (SSN575) recorded possible electronic emissions and underwater noises. None of the signals which SEAWOLF received equated with anything that could have been originated by human beings.”

The following analysis argues that it is extremely difficult to explain the contemporary reports from the Seawolf on multiple dives near Thresher's last reported location as having any possible origin other than crew surviving on the stricken submarine for at least a day after the accident.

Posted at July 20, 2021 15:46