Sunday, 27 July 2008

Behind the Songs: The Thresher

"Oh, can't you see the wrong, she was a death ship all along, died before she had a chance to kill"
--Phil Ochs, "The Thresher" (1963)

The Death of the USS Thresher: The Story Behind History's Deadliest Submarine Disaster

On the morning of April 10, 1963, the world's most advanced submarine was on a test dive off the New England coast when she sent a message to a support ship a thousand feet above her on the surface:


Then came the sounds of air under pressure and a garbled message:

. . . TEST DEPTH . . .

Last came the eerie sounds that experienced navy men knew from World War II: the sounds of a submarine breaking up and compartments collapsing.

When she first went to sea in April of 1961, the U.S. nuclear submarine Thresher was the most advanced submarine at sea, built specifically to hunt and kill Soviet submarines. In The Death of the USS Thresher, renowned naval and intelligence consultant Norman Polmar recounts the dramatic circumstances surrounding her implosion, which killed all 129 men on board, in history's first loss of a nuclear submarine.

This revised edition of Polmar's 1964 classic is based on interviews with the Thresher's first command officer, other submarine officers, and the designers of the submarine. Polmar provides recently declassified information about the submarine, and relates the loss to subsequent U.S. and Soviet nuclear submarine sinkings, as well as the escape and rescue systems developed by the Navy in the aftermath of the disaster. The Death of the USS Thresher is a must-read for the legions of fans who enjoyed the late Peter Maas's New York Times best seller The Terrible Hours.

Norman Polmar has been a consultant to senior officials of the U.S. Navy and Department of Defense, and was a member of the Secretary of the Navy's Research Advisory Committee (NRAC). For four years--as an employee of the Northrop Corporation--he worked on the Navy's program to develop submarine escape and rescue systems. He is the author of more than thirty books on naval, aviation, and intelligence subjects. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

"Gripping in its narrative as it takes the reader step-by-step through the days leading up to the loss of the ship, much of it told in the words of pioneers of nuclear submarine force . . . the seminal work on the subject."
--The New London Day

"A worthy new book about submarines."
--The San Diego Union-Tribune

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