Sunday, April 7, 2013

USS Thresher -- and the risks of service

April 10 will mark the 50th anniversary of the loss of the the USS Thresher.

I remember when the news bulletin came on the TV. I was 9 and they still did "news bulletins" in those ancient days. Naturally I don't recall the details and I am not sure there even were many details until much later.

The Thresher was the first nuclear submarine lost at sea, but there had been many submarine disasters before that. A submarine, by nature, puts itself at risk every time it submerges, and even in peacetime they don't always come back up.

Which is why it's appropriate to remember that military service is inherently dangerous, and some sorts of service even more so. One reason why I've never been able to join in the Left's mockery of George Bush's Air National Guard service is that I recognize that there's no such thing as being a 'safe' jet fighter pilot -- especially when you are talking about 1960s-era jet fighters. The damn things crashed quite a lot, actually. Now, that's not to imply that some legitimate questions can't be raised about some aspects of Bush's service, but overall I think he deserves credit. There are many safer billets in the military than flying F-106s, even when they are not being shot at.

Similarly, anybody who goes off the sea in a submarine deserves just a little extra respect. The USN seems very serious about safety, and we have been fortunate that the Thresher and the USS Scorpion in 1968 have been our only two losses in the nuclear era, but we have also had some close calls. It's really a miracle, for example, that the 2005 collision of the USS San Francisco with an undersea mountain didn't result in the loss of the boat.

The USS Thresher was not saved by a miracle, however, and 129 men were lost.

1 comment:

  1. SSN-593, still on patrol. Thank you for the comments and reminders.