As the Los Angeles Class, fast-attack submarine transited from its homeport in Groton, Conn., to a shipyard maintenance period in Kittery, Maine, Annapolis paused near the last known location of Thresher.Lt. j.g. Daniel Mongiove, The Dolphin
18 June 2015
ATLANTIC OCEAN - About 200 nautical miles east of Cape Cod, Mass., USS Annapolis (SSN 760) fulfilled the final request of devoted Navy wife and mother Irene Harvey, by laying her cremains to rest at sea with her husband, Lt. Cmdr. John "Wes" Harvey, on April 23.
Wes was the commanding officer of USS Thresher (SSN 593) when the submarine was lost at sea, on April 10, 1963, during sea trials.
All persons aboard perished, including 112 Navy personnel and 17 Portsmouth Naval Shipyard civilian workers and contractors.
Irene’s idyllic life, having married her high school sweetheart when he graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1950, and raising two young sons (Bruce and John), was shattered, along with the lives of all family members who suffered loss that day.
“When [my father] died I was 8 years old,” recalled Bruce. “We always did things as a family, like going to the beach or visiting the pool at the officer’s club.”
In the face of tragedy, Irene persevered, noted Bruce with pride.
“She believed that the meaning of life is not to be found in mere survival. Instead, life’s purpose is to be found somewhere in the process of caring, sharing, and loving,” said Bruce. “As a nurse and Navy widow, [Irene] touched many lives.”
Irene passed away at 87 years of age, on Tuesday, February 11, 2014, leaving behind Bruce; his brother John; Bruce’s wife Maresa; and, two grandchildren, Laura and John.
She also left behind a last request: to be buried at sea alongside her husband.
In a solemn Navy tradition, USS Annapolis (SSN 760) fulfilled Irene’s wish.
As the Los Angeles Class, fast-attack submarine transited from its homeport in Groton, Conn., to a shipyard maintenance period in Kittery, Maine, Annapolis paused near the last known location of Thresher.
With engines and all unnecessary work stopped, lights dimmed to low-level, and the national ensign lowered to half-mast, Annapolis Executive Officer, Lt. Cmdr. Jared Severson, conducted a religious service and the committal of Irene’s cremains. A gun salute and the playing of taps concluded the ceremony.
The chance to fulfill a Navy widow’s wish, honor a Submariner who had made the ultimate sacrifice, and reflect on the loss of Thresher, was an important opportunity for the entire Annapolis crew, said the submarine’s Commanding Officer Cmdr. Kurt Balagna.
“To reunite Cmdr. and Mrs. Harvey at sea was an honor,” stated Balagna.
It was also somber, he said, as he thought about Thresher’s loss due to a series of catastrophic events whileconducting sea trials. After Annapolis’ shipyard period, the submarine and crew will be conducting similar trials.
“My crew will be in a similar situation in two years when Annapolis conducts its own sea trials,” noted Balagna. “The burial reminds us that submarining is a dangerous business and it’s every Submariner’s responsibility to remain vigilant and alert to ensure the safety of everyone aboard.”
Such vigilance is the foundation of the Submarine Safety Program (SUBSAFE), instituted on Dec. 20, 1963, after the loss of Thresher, said Annapolis’ Chief of the Boat, Master Chief Jason Avin.
“The men who lost their lives on USS Thresher paved the way for submarine force safety and process improvement,” said Avin.
SUBSAFE provides maximum reasonable assurance that a U.S Navy submarine maintains watertight integrity and the ability to surface should a boat experience flooding.
“By doing things right every day and staying vigilant, we do our best to honor the Sailors who took Thresher on eternal patrol,” assured Avin.
For Bruce Harvey, Annapolis has done more than that; Annapolis honored his father and mother by reuniting them on eternal patrol.