On Sunday, 10 April 2005, exactly 42 years after the tragic loss of THRESHER (SSN 593), Captain Harry A. Jackson, USN(Ret.) passed away. Captain Jackson was possibly the most influential person in the design of modem nuclear powered submarines. His legacy will be long lived and widely felt for as long as navies sail submarines.
Born on 7 December 1916, Harry enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1935. He was commissioned an Ensign after graduating from the University of Michigan in 1940 with a Bachelors of Science degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. Harry worked to design, build, and repair Navy warships throughout World War II.
Harry reported to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in 1951 as the Assistant Design Superintendent and Design Project Officer for three important projects: the TANG (SS 563) Class submarine, which was the first submarine designed for optimal submerged, vice surfaced, performance; the GUPPY IIA, or THORNBACK (SS4 I 8) Class; and for the first teardrop hulled submarine, ALBACORE (AGSS 569). ALBACORE was commissioned in December 1953 and produced unmatched submerged performance. Since then, virtually every submarine designed and built worldwide has copied its hydrodynamic shape.
Reporting to BUSHIPS in 1956, Captain Jackson was first in charge of the design work for the world’s first class of ballistic missile submarines, GEORGE WASHINGTON (SSBN 598) Class during Preliminary and Contract Design Phases. In 1958, he transferred to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and served as the Design Superintendent and led the design efforts of both the United States’ last diesel-electric class submarine, BARBEL (SS 580), and the Navy’s first-of-class nuclear fast attack submarine THRESHER (SSN 593). Harry personally knew the crew, shipyard, and contractor personnel who were aboard THRESHER during her last dive in 1963. Their loss haunted him for 42 years.
Harry continued to shape the Submarine Force after he retired from the Navy in 1968 by teaching a submarine design course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Furthermore, for decades after his retirement, Harry reviewed many of NA VSEA’ s and MIT’s design projects. According to Rear Admiral Paul E. Sullivan, Deputy Commander for Ship Design Integration and Engineering, “in his 80’s, Harry Jackson had more innovative spirit and design ideas than most 25 year olds.”
Harry trained and mentored virtually every submarine Engineer-ing Duty Officer, and many Line Submarine Officers, for the past four decades. He has been both a teacher and a friend. He taught us our business, and the Submarine Force’s track record for safe operations is a direct indication of his skill. Captain Jackson has touched the lives of every submariner who has served over the past forty years and because he trained those who now design the VIRGINIA Class, he will continue to be a part of the Submarine Force.
Team Submarine and the Navy’s Ship Design, Integration, and Engineering Command send their heartfelt condolences’ to the Jackson family. To Harry, we send our thanks for a job, and a life, well done.