Senators push for USS Thresher memorial in Arlington National Cemetery
By HADLEY BARNDOLLAR | The Portsmouth Herald | Published: November 16, 2018
KITTERY, N.H. (Tribune News Service) — U.S. senators from three New England states recently wrote a letter urging Secretary of the Army Mark Esper to consider the USS Thresher Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Project, to establish a monument honoring the 129 men who perished aboard the submarine.
USS Thresher sank off the coast of New England April 10, 1963. The submarine was built and maintained at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Angus King, I-Maine, Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wrote the recent letter, asking for commemoration of the 16 officers, 96 sailors and 17 civilians who lost their lives when Thresher experienced sank during a post-maintenance sea trial dive.
"As we pass the 55th anniversary since we lost the Thresher, we believe a memorial at Arlington National Cemetery would be a fitting tribute to its legacy," the senators wrote. "As you know, a number of special monuments and memorials have been dedicated at Arlington, including tributes to the USS Serpens, the USS Maine, the space shuttles Columbia and Challenger as well as those lost during the Iran rescue mission in 1980. We believe a memorial to the USS Thresher would reflect the Arlington National Cemetery's long legacy as a national shrine and a 'living history of freedom...where dignity and honor rest in solemn repose.' This memorial would serve not only to honor the sacrifice of those that lost their lives but as a reminder of the dangers that all submariners face when they volunteer for duty."
In response to the Thresher tragedy, the U.S. Navy instituted a new program to ensure the health and safety of U.S. submarines, establishing the Submarine Safety and Quality Assurance Program. SUBSAFE is one of the world's most comprehensive military safety programs and has helped provide maximum protection for Navy crews. No SUBSAFE-certified submarine has ever been lost.
The Thresher tragedy had a deep impact on the New England community. Approximately two dozen families of the men lost aboard the submarine still live in New Hampshire, and a number of other families live in Maine. In Kittery, the flagpole at the traffic circle stands as a Thresher memorial.
In 2013, Shaheen, Collins, King and former then Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., introduced a resolution to honor Thresher on the 50th anniversary of its sinking, which passed the Senate unanimously. Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., also urged the Army earlier this year to approve an Arlington National Cemetery memorial.