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Merrimack Valley

February 27, 2013

Remembering the Thresher

Ceremony to mark 50th anniversary of sub disaster

When her keel was laid at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on May 28, 1958, the USS Thresher was set to be the world’s most advanced attack sub, nuclear-powered and able to dive deeper, cruise faster and run quieter than any before her.

But by 9:13 a.m. on Wednesday, April 10, 1963, the Thresher and all 129 men aboard her were dead, their remains eventually found scattered across the bottom of the ocean, 8,400 feet below the surface, about 220 miles east of Boston.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Thresher disaster, and local members of the U.S. Submarine Veterans will honor the sailors who died aboard the ship — including two Newburyporters and a Salisbury Beach resident.

The ceremony will be held April 10 at 9 a.m. at a memorial marker in Salisbury Beach Center that honors the memory of Robert Steinel, a Salisbury Navy man.

“We’re planning just a quiet, reserved ceremony to memorialize the people who lost their lives on the Thresher,” U.S. Submarine Veterans Marblehead base commander Tom Shannon told Salisbury selectmen this week. “It should take about half an hour. We’ll read the names of all who were lost, and there’ll be the tolling of bells.”

With Shannon at the selectmen’s meeting were other local submarine veterans, Peter Koester of Rowley and Arthur Ober of Salisbury. They’re all proud of their service on these Navy ships built for stealth, and they know the debt they owe to the men who lost their lives on the Thresher.

The loss of the Thresher was a landmark event in American Naval history. The nation was stunned in the hours that followed the Navy’s first announcement that it had lost contact with its wunder-boat during sea trials. With a seafaring history and the home of two Naval hubs, New England had many sons on the Thresher. In Newburyport and Salisbury, families with men on aboard prayed that the ship, whose motto was “silent strength,” had gone quiet only because of communications problems.

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