Suzanne Laurent'/Seacoast Online
11 April 2015
U.S. Navy Capt. (Ret.) Joseph Yurso said he still clearly remembers the day USS Thresher SSN 593 was lost at sea.
“I was a young naval shipyard watch officer,” he told the families and friends of some of the 129 men who perished April 10, 1963.
“We collectively were not prepared to deal with losing a sub and the whole crew,” Yurso said. “There was a chaotic unfolding of events and then the realization of it all was so difficult.”
Because some men did not board the ship at the last minute, Yurso said it was a challenge to confirm who was on the submarine.
“Rarely a day goes by that April 10, 1963, leaves my mind,” said the former commander of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
“All those men did not die in vain,” he told the crowd of about 200 gathered for the 52nd anniversary memorial service for USS Thresher inside the auditorium of R.W. Traip Academy. “Immediately all submarines were restricted to one-half of their test depth and there was a Navy Court of Inquiry and a team of experienced submarine designers was used to reconfigure the Thresher.”
From the tragic event, the Submarine Safety Program (SUBSAFE) was established to assure implementation of recommendations resulting from findings of the Thresher Court of Inquiry and Thresher Design Appraisal board.
“Today, we have the strongest and safest submarine force in history,” Yurso said. “Arrogance, ignorance and complacency can be the fatal flaws in any system.”
Yurso recognized the U.S. Submarine Veterans Thresher Base that has been holding the Thresher memorial service every year since 1989. He said a service was first held in 1963 at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. It was reinstated 19 years later and services were held in
1982, 1983 and 1984.
“Holding these services must continue forever,” Yurso said.
Capt. William Green, commander of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, gave opening remarks and said he is the first commander who was not born yet when the Thresher was lost.
“But the memory of the Thresher will not fade,” he said. “And, our SUBSAFE program is a benchmark across the world. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is a well-earned center of excellence for submarine repair and maintenance.”
Greene said he has a photo of Thresher in his office and in the hallway of his home and it’s the last thing he sees when he leaves his home for the day.
Beverly Currier, daughter of Paul Chevalier Currier, a ship progressman machinist aboard Thresher, gave remarks with Paul Currier’s great-granddaughter Abigail by her side.
“My dad was born in 1922 and he and his wife Helen raised five children in Exeter,” Currier said.
She told how her father founded and coached the Tigers Little League team in Exeter.
“On the 50th anniversary of the Thresher, one of his players sent us a letter that talked about how my father made them all feel like all-stars,” she said. “It also talked about how he was like a second father to him and spoke of his quiet strength.”
Lori Arsenault and Debra Arsenault Henderson, daughters of ENCA (SS) Tilmon J. Arsenault, performed the national anthem and the Navy Hymn during the program.
After the ceremony, the crowd gathered at the pier behind the school where the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Rifle Team gave a gun salute and the family of Richard Jones, an electrician’s mate, 2nd class, aboard Thresher, cast a wreath into the Piscataqua River.