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Navy Undersea Museum Opens USS Thresher Exhibit - Submarine veteran Bob Bissonnette rings a bell during a memorial service for the 50th anniversary of the loss of the U.S. Navy submarine USS Thresher
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Seth Coulter, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Northwest

KEYPORT, Wash. (NNS) -- Naval Undersea Museum, Keyport, Washington, held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the unveiling of a new USS Thresher (SSN-593) exhibit Dec. 3.

USS Thresher was the Navy's most advanced submarine when it sunk April 10, 1963, with all hands on board. This tragedy became a turning point for the Navy to establish the Submarine Safety (SUBSAFE) program and the Deep Submergence Systems project.

"Thresher was an example of military prowess. So, it was a big shock when it sank," explained Mary Ryan, curator of the Naval Undersea Museum. "The exhibit we've put together is to learn about the Thresher but to also learn what the Navy did to make sure something like that never happened again."

The loss initiated major changes in safety, construction and quality assurance programs throughout the submarine fleet.

"Before the Thresher went on its final cruise she was tested during an overhaul," said Cmdr. Daniel Ettlich, from Cameron Park, California, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility Business and Strategic Planning Office. "Out of the 150 joints tested, 14% were considered substandard. That equates to over 400 joints through-out the submarine being mechanically unsound."

Though distant in time, the memory of this disaster still lingers for veterans who served during those years.

"We had a job to do and if something went wrong we took care of it and continued on," said retired Master Chief Mechanist's Mate Harry Gilger. "The men who went down on that sub were shipmates and though we can't bring them back we can try to make sure it never happens again. The sub force takes care of each other, and always will."

Since the initiation of the (SUBSAFE) program no certified submarine has ever been lost.

For more news from Navy Region Northwest, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnrnw/.

For more news from Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Northwest, visit www.navy.mil/local/nwpacen/.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Carlstrom
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