(On the 20th Anniversary of the Thresher’s loss, a memorial ceremony was held at New London, Connecticut. RAdm. Brad Mooney, Jr., the Oceanographer of the Navy and a guest speaker,
recalls his experiences (as digested here) on that day in April 1963 when the news was
broadcast that Thresher had sunk in 8400 feet of water. For Brad, remembering that event was
particularly graphic since 16 months after the Thresher’s loss, he was aboard the bathyscaph
Trieste II when Thresher’s hull was first discovered on the ocean’s bottom. A New York
Times editorial on April 13, 1963, noted that Thresher “was the lead ship of a class to run
silent, run deep and run fast — faster and deeper than any submarine of the past.” And, Vice Adm.
Ron Thunman in a message for the memorial ceremony noted the legacy derived from this tragic loss.
“Our boats are safer, and tougher today and our procedures are better constructed and more
carefully crafted.11 — Editor)
Remarks of Rear Admiral J. B. Mooney, Jr., at the Memorial Service for the 20th Anniversary of
“I want to share some very personal memories with you today which are intimately linked to the
loss we remember at this 20th anniversary memorial service. This is a personal witnessing of the
outpouring of genuine concern and shock, as experienced not only by myself but others I came
in contact with immediately after the Thresher was lost.
“I was Executive Officer of the Sea Robin when she arrived in Monaco for the Easter holiday in
1963. When the Sixth Fleet Staff notified us of Thresher’s loss, I rushed to the Flagship at
Villefranche, France, to see if my father was on the Thresher’s sailing list, since he was an
engineer at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and often rode the boats on their sea trials.
Although I was relieved to learn he was not aboard, many of my close friends were on that
list. My return to Monaco that evening was marked with a profound sense of loss and sadness. Later,
I took a long walk by myself, along the seawall to collect my thoughts and try to dispel the feeling
of gloom which weighted me down. Then I noted that the flag over the palace on the hill had been
lowered to half-mast. It was a first revelation of the spontaneous outpouring of grief and
sympathy by many others — who were not part of the U.S. sub~arine service.
“The first person to share my loss was Ed Link, the inventor of the Link Trainer for aviators. He spotted me on the seawall and asked me to come aboard his small ship and have a cup of coffee and ‘talk about it. ‘ His ship, which was moored alongside the seawall, was supporting the diving operations he was conducting in the Mediterranean. Subsequently I discovered that he flew to the U.S. the next day to serve on the technical advisory committee which would determine how to search for the Thresher. On the following day, I met Winston Churchill’s personal bodyguard who arranged a visit with Sir Winston at his residence in the Hotel de Paris. In a brief visit, Sir Winston expressed his sympathy
and condolences for all Americans who experienced this loss, as well as his personal sense of shock
and sadness at hearing the news.
“On the Saturday before Easter, we conducted a memorial service aboard the Sea Robin for the
crew of the Thresher. Thousands of European people gathered on the pier to join us in the
ceremony — their heads bowed. Sarah Churchill represented her father. The Colonel of the
Palace Guard represented Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. David Niven and his wife
at tended. From all, there was an overwhelming expression of sympathy for the families of our
lost Thresher crew members.
“After the ceremony, wherever our officers and crew went, people stopped and expressed their
condolences. It was as if all of Europe recognized this loss as a great American tragedy.
“On Easter eve our wardroom had dinner at the palace with Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. The Bishop of Monaco offered a table grace which included prayers for the men of the Thresher and their families. That evening proved an extraordinary demonstration of concern for our
lost submariners and those close to them.
“These memories were brought to mind when I was asked to talk at this occasion. Twenty years have
come and gone since we lost our friends and loved ones. But between then and now our Navy and our
Nation were moved to action not only to make our submarines safer but also to develop the ocean
science and technology which offers far better opportunities to find and rescue submariners in