November 13, 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, joined with Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in a letter urging Secretary of the Army Mark Esper to consider the USS Thresher Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Project to establish a monument honoring the 129 men who perished aboard the USS Thresher, a submarine that sank off the coast of New England on April 10, 1963. April 10, 2018 marked the 55th anniversary of the tragedy.
“As you know, on April 9, 1963, the USS Thresher, built and maintained at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, departed with a crew of 16 officers, 96 sailors, and 17 civilians. Early in the morning on April 10th, approximately 300 miles off the coast of New England, the Thresher experienced an incident during a post-maintenance sea trial dive from which she could not recover. Tragically, the boat was lost along with all 129 men on board,” wrote the Senators.
In response to the Thresher tragedy, the U.S. Navy instituted a new program to ensure the health and safety of U.S. submarines, establishing the Submarine Safety and Quality Assurance Program (SUBSAFE). SUBSAFE is one of the world’s most comprehensive military safety programs and has helped provide maximum protection for Navy crews. No SUBSAFE-certified submarine has ever been lost.
The Senators concluded, “As we pass the 55th anniversary since we lost the Thresher, we believe a memorial at Arlington National Cemetery would be a fitting tribute to its legacy. As you know, a number of special monuments and memorials have been dedicated at Arlington, including tributes to the USS Serpens, the USS Maine, the Space Shuttles Columbia and Challenger as well as those lost during the Iran rescue mission in 1980. We believe a memorial to the USS Thresher would reflect the Arlington National Cemetery’s long legacy as a national shrine and a ‘living history of freedom…where dignity and honor rest in solemn repose.’ This memorial would serve not only to honor the sacrifice of those that lost their lives but as a reminder of the dangers that all submariners face when they volunteer for duty.”
The Thresher tragedy had a deep impact on the New England community. Approximately two dozen families of the men lost aboard the submarine still reside in New Hampshire, and a number of other families reside in Maine. Senator Shaheen and members of the New England delegation have long worked to honor the memory of the men who perished aboard the Thresher. In 2013, Shaheen, Collins, King and former Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) introduced a resolution to honor the Thresher on the 50th anniversary of its sinking, which passed the Senate unanimously.
The letter can be read in full here.