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Accessibility Links Skip to content. Menu Close. Log in Subscribe. Shaken but not seriously damaged, Thresher made minor repairs as she headed for Truk to reconnoiter the passes leading into this enemy naval bastion. Missing a freighter with torpedoes on the night of 20 July, Thresher surfaced in a rain squall before daybreak the next morning.
The boat's sonar picked up the sound of screws, close and closing. Soon an enemy patrol craft came into view, on a collision course. Surprisingly, the Japanese chose not to ram, but instead turned hard right, and came to a parallel course some 50 yards 46 m away. Thresher went deep, while the enemy's guns fired close but ineffective salvoes into the water ahead of the disappearing boat. The two torpedoes she fired at the enemy failed to explode,  and the Q-ship subjected Thresher to a salvo of eight depth charges before giving up the attack.
Since she had been reassigned to the Southwest Pacific Submarine Force, Thresher sailed away from this encounter en route to Australian waters and terminated her fourth war patrol at Fremantle on 15 August. After refit, Thresher loaded mines and departed Fremantle on 15 September , bound for the Gulf of Siam. She fired torpedoes at two freighters north of Lombok Strait on 19 September but was unable to determine the results of her attacks.
On the night of 25 September, luck again failed to smile on her as a single torpedo streaked beneath a large, high-speed target in the Sulu Sea. Thresher later surfaced at and proceeded on a course which took her north to Pearl Bank. There, in the northernmost reaches of the Gulf of Siam , she made one of the first mine plants by a submarine in the Pacific War.
These strategic mine fields laid by Thresher and her sisters in subsequent patrols, covered Japanese shipping lanes in areas of the Southwest Pacific Command previously unpatrolled by submarines. Later, these minefields filled the gap between patrol zones along the coastal waters of Malaya , Siam , and Indochina , when many boats were diverted to participate in the Solomon Islands campaign.
While reconnoitering off Balikpapan , Borneo , and the Celebes coast, Thresher sighted a tanker aground on a reef off Kapoposang Island in the Java Sea. She soon surfaced for a deck gun attack and left the enemy ship with decks awash. The boat then returned to Fremantle on 12 November for refit. She intercepted a convoy of freighters, escorted by two destroyers, several subchasers, and two aircraft. Slipping past the escorts, Thresher sent five torpedoes towards the leading three ships.
Two successive explosions followed. Rising to periscope depth , the boat observed the second ship in the column down by the bow, with her stern up in the air and her screws, still revolving, out of the water. A second ship lay dead in the water, enveloped in smoke. Escaping unscathed from this tangle with a coastal convoy, Thresher sighted an enemy aircraft carrier the next night, but was picked up by escorts and held at bay for more than an hour while the tempting target faded into the night.
On the night of 29 December , Thresher now in the hands of William J. Just before midnight, she fired a spread of torpedoes at the cargo ship, but all missed or ran too deep. Undaunted, she waited for the moonrise and then surfaced to use her deck gun. Outmaneuvering the enemy, who tried to ram her, Thresher scored eight hits in succession with her 5 inches mm main gun , where her target probably sank in the shallow water, one of the few sunk entirely by deck guns. After arriving back in Fremantle on 10 January , the boat got underway 15 days later for her seventh war patrol, with four torpedoes short of a normal load.
She launched two torpedoes; one was a dud, and the other exploded on the ocean bottom. Turning north and firing deck guns, Thresher' s adversary soon disappeared over the horizon. Proceeding to the Flores Sea , Thresher intercepted a three-ship convoy escorted by two anti-submarine vessels on 21 February.
One of the sub's two torpedoes hit the stern of a transport. Thresher then evaded 13 depth charges before returning to periscope depth a little more than an hour later. She observed her target lying dead in the water while barges lightered troops to an undamaged mate. As escorts searched the waters nearby, Thresher closed and torpedoed the second transport, which had stopped to transfer survivors.
Two loud explosions reverberated in the background as the boat dived to avoid possible countermeasures. The following day, Thresher returned to celebrate Washington's Birthday by finishing off the first transport which jack-knifed into a " V " shape and sank within three minutes. Thresher prowled for more game and came upon a tanker and a freighter on 2 March. A single torpedo hit on the 5,ton tanker and it sank.
The freighter, sighting torpedo wakes, took evasive action to avoid being hit. Then, a nearby escort arrived on the scene and kept Thresher at bay while the target escaped. The boat subsequently concluded this patrol arriving at Fremantle on 10 March. On her return to base, her skipper roundly criticized the torpedoes, especially the failure to sink the I-boat.
Admiral Ralph W. Christie  denied it and relieved him. Her eighth war patrol commanded by Harry Hull, Class of , lasting 4 April to 23 May , was uneventful, but her ninth saw the boat score another kill. Off Balikpapan , Borneo , she sighted a three-ship convoy, escorted by a sole destroyer Hokaze on the night of 30 June After an unrewarding try with a trio of torpedoes, Thresher dodged the escort's depth charging attack and returned for another attempt.
Tracking with radar, Thresher set a tanker ablaze from stem to stern and scored hits on a 5,ton passenger freighter in the Makassar Strait. Heading for Tambu Bay on the morning of 5 July, Thresher tracked a tanker. Chasing her quarry along the Sulawesi Celebes coast, the submarine lurked nearby until the escort left.
Thresher then closed, loosed three torpedoes, and scored one hit on the bow of the enemy vessel. This blow failed to stop the tanker, which fired her guns to keep Thresher at bay as she escaped at high speed. Under cover of darkness, the boat surfaced and delivered pounds kg of stores and 40, rounds of ammunition to Filipino guerrillas. Receiving intelligence documents in return, Thresher got underway for a resumption of her patrol shortly before midnight on 9 July.
Newly refitted and again commanded by Harry Hull, Thresher departed the west coast on 8 October and arrived at Pearl Harbor one week later; she commenced her tenth war patrol on 1 November, bound for the waters north of the Caroline Islands.
Prowling north of Truk, Thresher commenced tracking a five-ship convoy on the morning of 12 November and slipped past two escorts shortly before midnight. She fired three torpedoes into a 4,ton transport. The next attack, another three torpedo spread, missed their mark. Escorting antisubmarine craft hunted in vain for the American attacker, dropping 20 depth charges in a harassing barrage. While cruising on the surface on 10 January , Thresher sighted a pair of masts, low on the horizon, and quickly dove to avoid possible detection.
Coming to periscope depth soon thereafter, she approached cautiously, keeping in mind the ship may have been the advance screen of a convoy. The contact proved to be a ton trawler. Thresher battle-surfaced, commencing fire at 6, yards 5, m ; the trawler sank after Thresher expended 45 5 inches mm shells, 1, rounds of.
At on 15 January, she came to the surface and spotted a Japanese aircraft carrier with an escorting destroyer soon thereafter. The boat submerged to periscope depth in time to observe two enemy destroyers rapidly approaching. With insufficient time to maneuver for a "down the throat" shot, Thresher went deep and rigged for silent running.
The destroyer churned overhead and dropped four depth charges, none close. After remaining overhead two hours, dropping between ten and fifteen more depth charges,  the enemy finally turned away, leaving Thresher unscathed.
Again coming to periscope depth at , Thresher soon sighted a four-ship convoy at 12, yards 11, m with a single sub-chaser as escort. Surfacing at , Thresher began the chase, tracking the convoy by radar. The three leading targets steamed in column, with the escort between the third and fourth merchantmen. Thresher maneuvered to the west to silhouette the targets against the rising moon. The convoy changed course at , giving Thresher an excellent setup for her stern tubes.
At , the boat let fly from 1, yards 1, m with four torpedoes at the lead ship, a 6, ton freighter. Thresher observed two hits, and the vessel, its bow in the air, was observed in a sinking condition. Thresher next fired three bow tubes at the second target, a 4, ton freighter.
Three torpedoes struck the freighter  and literally blew her to pieces. The cargo of oil burst into flames and illuminated the night as brightly as day. The third ship started firing on Thresher with deck guns, passing down the port side at yards m. With the submarine now readily visible, and her stern tubes dry, Thresher dove as bullets from the approaching escort splashed nearby. Thresher counted some 20 explosions from depth charges before the patrol craft left an hour later.
Upon surfacing, Thresher was again alone and set off to patrol along the Singapore-to-Japan trade route. On 26 January, Thresher made radar contact with a small convoy and soon spotted two ships steaming along beneath the overcast night skies. At , Thresher fired three bow torpedoes at a 1,ton freighter, then bent cleared the area. Her "fish" scored a bullseye, and the quarry disappeared within a minute.
A second spread, 35 seconds after the first, claimed a 2,ton freighter. A third target made off to the south at high speed, "spraying the ocean with five-inch ammunition". Resuming the approach at , Thresher doggedly tailed the Japanese ship for four hours before reaching a favorable attack position.
Firing her last torpedoes at , Thresher began to build up speed and had just commenced a turn when one torpedo struck the enemy ship, causing a tremendous explosion. The blast slowed the freighter, but its tremendous concussion stopped Thresher dead in the water. All four main engine overspeed trips were actuated; cork insulation flew; lights broke; clocks stopped; and water poured down the antenna trunk. By the time Thresher regained battle readiness, the enemy was too far away to encourage further pursuit.
Well within the range of shore-based aircraft, Thresher quit the chase. Escorts, alerted to the fact an American submarine was prowling in the vicinity, arrived on the scene and conducted a three-hour-long, futile, depth-charging. Thresher went to sea again on 18 March , departing Pearl Harbor for the central Caroline Islands.
She remained on air-sea rescue "lifeguard" station during American carrier strikes on Truk , bombarded Oroluk Atoll on 11 April, and photographed islands in that group. The boat played "hide and seek" with numerous enemy aircraft and witnessed several American bombing raids on Truk. She sighted only two enemy ships and was unable to attack either, before she returned to Pearl Harbor on 8 May. On 14 June , Thresher headed out for her 13th war patrol, again commanded by MacMillan.
Arriving in the vicinity on 27 June, they found only a drop tank and no trace of plane or pilot. Over the succeeding days, the boats observed several planes but contacted only a few fishing vessels and small patrol craft. This drought of targets continued until 11 July, when Thresher made radar contact with a group of six ships steaming on the Formosa-Luzon route. As she changed course to intercept, she dispatched contact reports to the other boats.
Guardfish and Apogon picked up the contact, but Piranha could not. Thresher deployed to a position 15, yards 14, m astern of the convoy, to trail the enemy group and be ready to pick off stragglers. Guardfish took the enemy's port flank, and Apogon maneuvered to the convoy's starboard quarter. A Japanese escort latched on to Thresher , however, and trailed her, depriving her of a chance to attack the convoy. Apogon was rammed and forced to return to base for repairs.
Rendezvousing on 13 July, the remaining boats resumed the hunt. At on 16 July, Thresher sighted smoke on the horizon. She surfaced and dispatched a contact report. After a cat-and-mouse period of some two hours, she noted the convoy consisted of six ships: a large tanker, three freighters, and two escorts.
Thresher closed beneath a clear and dark night sky. At , with the range to the near escort at 2, yards 1, m , she commenced fire. Three torpedoes sped from the forward tubes toward the lead escort, three to the first freighter. Thresher then turned and emptied all four stern tubes at the second freighter. Four explosions were sighted and as Thresher departed at high speed, another six soon after.
Commencing a reload of her tubes at midnight At , Thresher fired two bow tubes at the escort and three at the leading freighter; the sub then fired her stern tubes at the oiler. Soon thereafter, Thresher heard at least six explosions. The escort promptly began a depth charge barrage. Returning to periscope depth, Thresher found the convoy had remained stubbornly afloat. She began reloading her tubes again at While tube number six was still being reloaded, Thresher fired two other bow tubes at the freighter, two more at the oiler, and the remaining full one at the escort; she then swung about and fired one stern tube at the latter.
Two torpedoes exploded at , and the cargo ship sank immediately. One minute later, two "fish" struck the oiler. A tremendous explosion lighted the entire sky, and the ship sank within 15 seconds.
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|Uss thresher||Navy's newest anti-submarine uss thresherthe SUBROCas well as passive and active sonar that could detect vessels at unprecedented range. Thresher immediately went deep to avoid. It was deployed for two series of dives into the debris field; the first taking place from 24 to 30 June, and the second from late August until early September. Archived from the original on 15 November After arriving back in Fremantle on 10 Januarythe boat got underway 15 days later for her seventh war uss thresher, with four torpedoes short of a normal load.|
As she neared her test depth, Skylark received a call that said, "[We are] experiencing minor difficulty, have positive up-angle, attempting to blow," followed by a garbled message that included " N". Another transmission included the phrase, "exceeding test depth That noise was characteristic of an implosion, which is where the hull of a vessel is crushed by the tremendous pressure of the seawater surrounding it. The U. Navy quickly mounted an intensive search, using the oceanographic ship Mizar , and they soon found the shattered remains of Thresher's hull lying on the sea floor, at a depth of 8, ft 2, m.
The bathyscaphe Trieste , fresh from visiting the deepest place on earth, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, was brought from San Diego, California to survey and photograph the debris field. A Naval Court of Inquiry was convened to determine the cause of the accident, and it concluded that the Thresher had suffered a failure in its salt-water piping system joint, which caused high-pressure water to spray out. This could have shorted out an electrical panel, which in turn would have caused the sudden shutdown, or "scram" , of the nuclear reactor.
Without the nuclear reactor, there would have been a loss of propulsion. Thresher 's regular Reactor Control Officer, Lieutenant Raymond McCoole, was on shore caring for a sick wife, and his replacement was just out of nuclear power school. The replacement followed standard procedures following a scram, but this meant that the reactor couldn't be restarted immediately, which in turn meant that Thresher couldn't climb her way out of the deep. Following Thresher's sinking, Admiral Hyman Rickover created a "Fast Recovery Startup" procedure that allowed a nuclear reactor to be immediately restarted after a scram.
Thresher still should been able to surface by blowing her ballast tanks, but excess moisture in her high-pressure air flasks had frozen in the cold water at depth, and that ice plugged the flasks. After Thresher , air dryers were installed in subs to unfreeze the flasks and allow emergency blows.
With no propulsion and no way to blow her tanks, Thresher began to sink until she imploded at a depth of 1, to 2, feet - m. During a inquiry into the sinking, Admiral Rickover stated :. I think it is important that we re-evaluate our present practices where, in the desire to make advancements, we may have forsaken the fundamentals of good engineering.
By , her permanent port was Norfolk, Virginia. During the early s, Scorpion participated in numerous naval exercises with the U. A story says that during a "Northern Run" in , Scorpion entered an inland Russian sea and filmed the firing of a Soviet missile through her periscope, before running from approaching Soviet Navy ships.
On February 1, , Scorpion entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for what should have been a nine-month-long overhaul, but Navy requirements forced this to be shortened, and the same emergency system that had doomed Thresher was not corrected on Scorpion. Following a Mediterranean Sea deployment, Scorpion left the U.
Scorpion was sent to observe Soviet naval activities in the Atlantic Ocean in the vicinity of the Azores. Besides two fast knot Soviet November-class hunter-killer subs, the Soviet convoy also included an Echo II-class submarine, as well as a Russian guided missile destroyer. Scorpion observed and listened to the Soviet ships, then prepared to head back to Naval Station Norfolk.
Sometime after midnight on May 21st, Scorpion sent a message that was picked up by a U. That was the last communication from Scorpion. Navy began a search for the missing ship that employed the methods of Bayesian search theory , which was initially developed during the search for a hydrogen bomb lost off the coast of Palomares, Spain in January Again, the oceanographic reserarch ship Mizar was brought in to locate Scorpion , and she found her on the sea floor about nautical miles km southwest of the Azores, and at a depth of 9, feet 3, m.
The bathyscaphe Trieste II , a successor to its sister Trieste was also deployed, and she collected pictures of the crash site. Tapes from the U. The search included Mizar with partial modifications but not a center well , Hoist , and Trieste II , Trieste ' s successor. That submersible incorporated parts of the original bathyscaphe and was completed in early McGraw and shipped to Boston.
Mizar did have a system called Underwater Tracking Equipment UTE by which it could track its towed vehicle, and it was planned for use to track Trieste. Before her departure from NRL in Washington, Mizar was equipped with highly sensitive proton magnetometers furnished by the instrument division of Varian Associates in Palo Alto. In use, the magnetometers were suspended on an electrical line that also towed underwater video cameras.
Mizar sailed on 25 June to begin the deep search and found the wreck within two days. The shattered remains of Thresher ' s hull were on the sea floor, about 2, meters 8, ft below the surface, in five major sections. Major sections of Thresher , including the sail , sonar dome, bow section, engineering spaces section, operations spaces section, and the stern planes were found. By July 22, most of the lost submarine had been photographed.
Its first two dives were unsuccessful, but on the third dive, the UTE enabled placement of Trieste II on the wreck, at first not seeing wreckage because the bathyscaphe was sitting upon it. Mooney Jr. Howland and Captain Frank Andrews, in an operation that recovered parts of the wreckage in September On 9 July , the United States Navy declassified the narrative of the submarine Seawolf during the search for the Thresher.
The Seawolf detected acoustic signals at However, after the commander of Task Group That while operating as a unit of the search force, the U. Seawolf SSN recorded possible electronic emissions and underwater noises. Deep-sea photography, recovered artifacts, and an evaluation of Thresher 's design and operational history permitted a court of inquiry to conclude that the submarine had probably suffered the failure of a salt-water piping system joint that relied heavily on silver brazing instead of welding.
But on 30 November , nearly three years prior to the accident, the Barbel suffered such a silver-braze joint failure near test depth while on an exercise, flooding the engine room with an estimated 18 tons of water in the 3 minutes it took to surface under power and with blown tanks. The inability to blow the ballast tanks was later attributed to excessive moisture in the submarine's high-pressure air flasks, moisture that froze and plugged the flasks' flowpaths while passing through the valves.
This was later simulated in dockside tests on Thresher ' s sister sub, Tinosa. During a test to simulate blowing ballast at or near test depth , ice formed on strainers installed in valves; the flow of air lasted only a few seconds. Ballast tanks were almost never blown at depth, as doing so could cause the submarine to rocket to the surface out of control.
Normal procedure was to drive the submarine to periscope depth, raise the periscope to verify that the area was clear, and then blow the tanks and surface the submarine. Subsequent study of SOSUS sound surveillance system data from the time of the incident has given rise to doubts as to whether flooding preceded the reactor scram, as no impact sounds of the high pressure water in the compartments of the submarine could be detected on instrument recordings from SOSUS at the time.
Such flooding would have caused a significant sonic event, and no evidence of such may be found in the recorded data. At the time, reactor-plant operating procedures did not allow for a rapid reactor restart following a scram, or even the ability to use steam remaining in the secondary system to propel the submarine to the surface. After a scram, standard procedure was to isolate the main steam system, cutting off the flow of steam to the turbines providing propulsion and electricity.
This was done to prevent an overly rapid cool-down of the reactor. Thresher ' s reactor control officer, Lieutenant Raymond McCoole, was not at his station in the maneuvering room, or indeed on the boat during the fatal dive, as he was at home caring for his wife, who had been injured in a household accident.
McCoole's trainee, Jim Henry, fresh from nuclear power school , probably followed standard operating procedures and gave the order to isolate the steam system after the scram, even though Thresher was at or slightly below its maximum depth. Once closed, the large steam system isolation valves could not be reopened quickly. Reflecting on the situation in later life, McCoole was sure that he would have delayed shutting the valves, thus allowing the boat to "answer bells" and drive itself to the surface, despite the flooding in the engineering spaces.
Admiral Rickover noted that the procedures were for normal operating conditions, and not intended to restrict necessary actions in an emergency involving the safety of the ship. After the accident Rickover further reduced plant restart times, which had already been gradually improving with new technology and operating experience, in addition to limiting factors that could cause a shut down. In a dockside simulation of flooding in the engine room, held before Thresher sailed, the watch in charge took 20 minutes to isolate a simulated leak in the auxiliary seawater system.
At test depth with the reactor shut down, Thresher would not have had 20 minutes to recover. Even after isolating a short circuit in the reactor controls, it would have taken nearly 10 minutes to restart the plant. It was believed at the time that Thresher likely imploded at a depth of — m 1,—2, ft , though acoustic analysis concluded implosion occurred at meters.
The U. Navy has periodically monitored the environmental conditions of the site since the sinking and has reported the results in an annual public report on environmental monitoring for U. These reports provide results of the environmental sampling of sediment , water, and marine life, which is performed to ascertain whether Thresher ' s nuclear reactor has had a significant effect on the deep-ocean environment.
The reports also explain the methodology for conducting deep-sea monitoring from both surface vessels and submersibles. The monitoring data confirm that there has been no significant effect on the environment. Nuclear fuel in the submarine remains intact. Robert Ballard , the oceanographer credited with locating the wreck of RMS Titanic , was sent by the Navy on a mission under cover of the search for Titanic to map and collect visual data on the Thresher and Scorpion wrecks.
The Navy conditionally granted him the funds if the submarine wrecks were surveyed before Titanic. Ballard's robotic survey showed that the depth at which Thresher had sunk caused implosion and total destruction; the only recoverable piece was a foot of mangled pipe. His obligation to inspect the wrecks completed, and with the radioactive threat from both established as small, Ballard then searched for Titanic. Financial limitations allowed him 12 days to search, and the debris-field search technique he had used for the two submarines was applied to locate Titanic.
Almost all records of the court of inquiry remain unavailable to the public. In , the Navy began declassifying them, but decided in that it would not release them to the public. The Navy began a rolling release of the records on September 23, The aftermath of the public relations aspect of this major disaster has since been part of various case studies.
During the inquiry, Admiral Hyman Rickover stated:. I believe the loss of the Thresher should not be viewed solely as the result of failure of a specific braze, weld, system or component, but rather should be considered a consequence of the philosophy of design, construction and inspection that has been permitted in our naval shipbuilding programs.
I think it is important that we re-evaluate our present practices where, in the desire to make advancements, we may have forsaken the fundamentals of good engineering. Rule concluded that the primary cause of the sinking was a failure of the electrical bus that powered the main coolant pumps. This caused an immediate reactor scram, resulting in a loss of propulsion. Thresher could not be deballasted because ice had formed in the high-pressure air pipes, and so she sank.
Rule's analysis holds that flooding whether from a silver brazed joint or anywhere else played no role in the reactor scram or the sinking, and that Thresher was intact until she imploded. In addition to the SOSUS data that does not record any sound of flooding, the crew of Skylark did not report hearing any noise that sounded like flooding, and Skylark was able to communicate with Thresher , despite the fact that, at test depth, even a small leak would have produced a deafening roar.
Additionally, the previous commander of Thresher testified that he would not have described flooding, even from a small-diameter pipe, as a "minor problem". Rule interprets the communication "" from Thresher at a. According to Rule the SOSUS data indicates an implosion of Thresher at , at a depth of meters 2, ft , meters ft below her predicted collapse depth.
The implosion took 0. When the Court of Inquiry delivered its final report, it recommended that the Navy implement a more rigorous program of design review and safety inspections during construction. From to , the U. Navy lost a total of 16 submarines to non-combat accidents. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
United States Navy submarine. For other ships with the same name, see USS Thresher. Retrieved 7 August ISBN March Naval Institute Proceedings. The National Interest. Retrieved 15 July Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Naval History And Heritage Command.
Retrieved 19 July Grenfell, U. Naval Institute Proceedings , March ; accessed 6 April Archived from the original on 29 January Retrieved 2 February Legion Magazine. Retrieved 8 August Kennedy 12 April Executive Order. Retrieved 3 March Washington, D. Retrieved 23 February Sealift Magazine. July ISSN OCLC Retrieved 10 July Rickover and the nuclear navy : the discipline of technology. Annapolis, Md. Tim Kelly, Executive Producer.
National Geographic , Retrieved 15 April United States Naval Institute. Retrieved 2 August Freedom of Information Act. United States Navy. Retrieved 25 September Boston University. School of Engineering, Vanderbilt University. Retrieved 23 April Navy Times : 20— The Cable. Kitsap Sun. SeaCoast online. Portsmouth Marine Society. ISBN X. Retrieved 1 June Archived from the original on 18 May
USS Thresher (SSN) was the lead boat of her class of nuclear-powered attack submarines in the United States Navy. She was the U.S. Navy's second. USS Thresher (SSN) was the lead boat of her class of nuclear-powered attack submarines in the United States Navy. She was the U.S. Navy's second submarine to be named after the thresher shark. USS Thresher (SS) was the most decorated United States Navy submarine of World War II. Thresher was the third of twelve Tambor-class submarines that.