1963 USS Thresher loss remembered at shipyard

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KITTERY (AP) – The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard paused during the weekend to remember the loss of the USS Thresher 43 years ago.

The sub was on sea trials out of the yard when it sank off Cape Cod on April 10, 1963, killing 129 crewmen and civilians

“We are experiencing minor difficulties, we have a positive up angle, and are attempting to blow. We will keep you informed,” the doomed sub radioed to an escort ship on the surface.

They were among the last words heard from the crew before the sub sank some to the sea floor. Investigations led officials to believe the Thresher sunk because of a pipe leak, which lead to a loss of power, and the sub’s inability to blow ballast tanks.

The shipyard, where the Thresher was built, held a memorial Saturday that attracted crew members’ families.

As the ceremony ended, a single bell tolled 129 times, as the names of the dead were read aloud. Family members also helped lay a wreath at water’s edge.

One of those who laid a wreath was Victoria Sallade, granddaughter of Thresher crewmember Charles Wiggins. She came with her mother Dawn Herrmann, from Perkasi, Pa.

“It was the opportunity to give my grandfather a big kiss and hug,” Sallade said of the ceremony.

Herrmann, who has nearly 2 years old when the Thresher sank, does not remember her father. She comes to the ceremony nearly every year to speak with those who do.

“It’s a somber day, but it’s something you just have to come to,” Herrmann said.

From the tragedy, came hope for generations of sailors who followed. The Submarine Safety Program (SUBSAFE) was established to ensure every submarine undergoes evaluation and meets tougher safety requirements.

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