tv Arlington Cemetery Dedication of USS Thresher Memorial CSPAN November 11, 2019 11:05am-11:56am EST
uss thresher was a nuclear-powered submarine which broke up underwater in 1963. approximately 220 miles east of boston. all 129 people onboard died. next, a ceremony at arlington national sem preto dedicate a memorial to uss thresher. speakers include john richardson, thomas wiley, and u.s. senator jeanne shaheen. will the guests please rise for the national anthem and remain standing through the invocation. advance the colors.
chaplain nordan will now offer the invocation. >> would you bow with me in prayer? eternal god, we gather here on this sacred ground to pause, reflect, and remember the 129 crew members of the united states ship thresher. they served their country in the height of the cold war and were fully prepared to do whatever called upon to defend our nation, be it above or below the seas. the tragic loss felt on that april day of 1963 still stings our hearts. but we are also thankful that out of this tragedy, much good
has come through the establishment of the sub safe program, our nation has the strongest and safest submarine force in history. this assurance of safety has been secured by those who gave their lives while onboard the thresher. we thank you for those gathered here this day who have worked tirelessly to ensure that those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our nation are never to be forgotten. continue to bless their efforts. for the family members, friends, and loved ones of the crew of the thresher, we pray your continued hand of mercy to steady and support them as the hurt of loss still lingers. bless this gathering this afternoon and all those who will witness this program continue to instill in each of us the duty that we have to serve you, our
ceremonies and introduce the speakers. if you look at your extensive program, the speakers biographies are listed and i can't get any better than what's in there so i will keep my introductions short. our first speaker is the reason we are here today, meaning the reason that the idea of a monument to thresher at arlington cemetery came to fruition. kevin galley as has been working tirelessly not for months but for years to make today possible. he recruited a board including
me. he recruited a treas treasurer assist because he couldn't be both treasurer and president. but through his efforts we are here. i had to give a percentage when filling out the tax forms of what percentage of the effort was made by each one of the individuals on the board. and i put 90 for kevin because i couldn't get any higher. [ applause ] but you didn't come here to listen to me, so we'll get on with our speakers. so i'd like to introduce to you the president of the uss thresher anc memorial
foundation, kevin galeas. [ applause ] thank you all, please be seated. senator shaheen, admiral richardson, tom wiley, clark, good afternoon and welcome to all that are here today. can everybody hear me? to the thresher family and former crew and to the sub vets that have waited so long, your prayers and your dreams have
been answered. with your support, we have achieved our mission of erecting a memorial to honor the 129 men lost aboard, ss thresher and their legacy in the hollowed grounds of arlington. this memorial is unique relative to other memorials here. not only does it perpetuate the memories of the men lost but also their legacy. prior to the loss of thresher we lost an average of one submarine every three years due to noncombat related incidents. since thresher we have lost none. those responsible for the sub safe inception and for those that continue its implementation, they have and continue to protect the lives of the men and women who serve on our nation's submarines. on behalf of the uss thresher
families and former crew, i ask and challenge all those attending and viewing today to help us perpetuate thresher's sub safe legacy to future generations in order to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring. the location of the memorial could not be better. elected along the roosevelt drive walkway halfway between the welcome center and the tomb of the unknown, over 1.5 million visitors will view this and learn the story, to honor, remember and explore. i'd like to ask the following anc leadership and committee members, please stand so that the uss thresher family, project crew and supporters may recognize you. and please hold your applause until i request it. major shanon way, will you please stand? was may principle intface, a
professional, wonderful man to work with. the monument's working group, any members here? the subcommittee if you would please stand. the anc advisory committee, rihanna yates, deputy super intendent. miss kathry kelly, super intend dent and karen durham ago was laira, these are the gate keepers responsible for recommending approval to the secretary of the army. would you pleads give thse give round of applause? [ applause ] to the uss thresher family members, thank you for allowing us to serve you. and your loved once with the election of this memorial.
may god bless them and god bless america. [ applause ] our next speaker in your program is tom wiley, and if you read his biography, you see a wonderful life of service to this nation as a member of our secret service. but i know tom from a different role. tom's brother, john wiley, was a member of thresher. he has been there with kevin and i at many meetings representing the families and expressing rationale and reason why the thresher memorial is rightfully here in arlington cemetery.
so tom, representing the families, welcome to the podium. [ applause ] thank you, admiral. senators shaheen, admiral richardson, vice admiral roar, distinguished guests, thresher families, friends, thank you all for coming. on behalf of my family and other thresher families, i would like to thank kevin, president of the anc thresher memorial foundation for his dedication, sacrifices and per assistance in arriving
to this special day. the placement of the thresher memorial at arlington national cemetery is a momentous achievement. thank you, kevin. [ applause ] my name is tom wiley. i am very humbled and privileged to stand here before you as a thresher family member. my brother lieulent jg john joseph wiley graduated with distinction in 1961 from the united states naval academy and wads on the thresher. he was my older brother, my role model, and my hero. on april 10th, 1963, there was a national disaster. the united states navy lost a
lead ship of the world's most advanced class of nuclear-powered submarines, attack submarines, and its highly trained crew. portsmouth naval shipyard lost highly skilled employees and friends. the u.s. naval ordnance laboratory, gyroscope, and raytheon company lost highly skilled employees and friends. the ship building community was in shock. former thresher crew members lost fellow submariners in a boat on which they proudly served. the nation lost 129 men defending our country during the cold war challenges with the soviet union. and the 129 families lost loved ones. as thresher families know, no
family, no individual, is ever prepared to process the shock of such tragic news like the thresher disaster. no one is prepared to grieve or to properly comfort or console family members and friends. it was very difficult for the families. they had hoped and prayed their loved once would be saved. but there are no bodies, no cass kets, no real closure, just memorial services. in his book, silent strength, author d. allen kerr has a chapter titled one disaster, 129 stories. indeed, each family has their own personal story on how they coped with their loss.
memories of our loved ones are all that remain for our thresher families. every thresher family has their own story on how they learned of the thresher disaster on that terrible day. these were the days before social media. there was no texting. no facebook, no cell phones. instead, people were told in person or called by relatives, neighbors or friends. or they heard the news over the radio or tv. siblings knew something was wrong when they saw their mom crying. it was not any different from my family. my brother john's wife patty was in connecticut looking for housing. she heard the terrible news from the famous anchorman walter
cronkite on the television. my mom learned about my brother john from her own mother and brother as she was walking home from church with my brother's younger siblings. my dad, a local engineer on the pennsylvania railroad, was working in the mountains of western pennsylvania moving coal trains. he was told of the bad news and sent home. my older sister was ironing clothes when she saw the bulletin on the television. me, i was a freshman at purdue university on the football team. i had received the transifrt radio from my parents as a christmas gift, december 1962. took it back to college, and it worked for a few months, then it quit. new batteries didn't fix the problem. so it sat on the window ledge not working.
on april 10th, i came into my dorm room, and the radio was working. i asked my roommate, also a freshman football player, how they got the radio to work. he said, he just got the urge to turn it on. we sat there in the room tossing a football back and forth, talking about how our first spring football practice in the big 10 was going. then the news about the thresher came on. i ran down to the tv room to see it on the news. i ran back up to my room and the radio was off. i asked my roommate why he turned it off. he said he didn't. he said, it stopped working the moment i was out the door. the radio never worked again. the thresher crew along with the
other navy personnel on board were members of an elite group of submariners. they were trained and had completed advanced training in nuclear power. it has been written that the thresher was manned by the best and brightest of the cold war generation. my brother john stated that he considered it an honor and privilege to serve as a member of the thresher elite crew. they were young with promising futures. the civilians on board were the best of their profession. all 129 men were brilliant. they were described as men of genius and adventure. but more importantly, they were great americans. they had backgrounds in a variety of interests. many had been in scouting. they had been student athletes on a variety of winning teams.
they were scholars. they were involved in a student government or student yearbook production. they were members of high school or church choerl groups. several were world war ii and korean veterans. there was a linguist and a translator. they were all strong individuals. thresher families lost husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, grandsons. parents lost their oldest or their youngest son. some lost their only son. one family lost two sons because their brothers wanted to serve together. some mothers never recovered from their loss. strong fathers wept openly. older siblings comforted the younger ones.
big brothers, baby brothers, best friends, were lost. heroes to their families. children lost fathers. wives lost husbands. the wives were overwhelmed with grief, trying hard to comprehend this tragedy. somehow the wives, despite their own grief, found the faith, courage and strength to carry on. wives with children had to take on a new role as head of household. they had to comfort and explain the loss of a father. they helped their children to grieve and to heal. they were now responsible for raising the children to be strong, educated and successful adults. even though it was hard, they
succeeded. the thresher wives were heroes too. they were strong. [ applause ] they were the personification of the thresher's motto of silent strength. memlies are all that we have of our loved ones. we've always remembered them thru memmen toez such as old letters, cards, a news article, and most importantly family stories. they are remembered for that contagious smile, deep laughter, being a jokester, a deep thinker, they are remembered for cultivating roses, they are remembered adds fishermen, hunters, boaters, musicians,
known for playing the violin for the piano. doing wood work, being members of church choral groups or being an amateur radio operator. they are remembered for being active in their church and communities, for being in the 4-h club, being a stock car raiser, forever, a golfer, a volunteer fireman, members of the masons or knights of columbus, a coach, a teacher. it has been said that the men of the uss thresher stayed at their assigned stations while descending. they were an example of courage and commitment. to ensure the challenges that the thresher encounter would not happen again, new and better protocols were established for a program now called sub safe, the legacy of the thresher, its
crew, our loved ones. although the lives of our loved ones were lost, they were not lost in vein. memories now arlington national cemetery has a new national memorial and thresher families have a new and lasting memory for our loves ones. president kennedy said of our loved ones, quote, that the future of our country will always be sure when there are men such as these that give their lives to preserve it. a memorial in the nation's foremost sacred national cemetery will now recognize the legacy of the uss thresher and its crew as they continue on eternal patrol. the memorial will honor and recognize the sacrifice made by our loved ones for our country.
it will emphasize the point that freedom is not free, even in times of peace or armed conflict. the arlington national cemetery is respected and held in high esteem by our nation and the world. arlington national cemetery provides knowledge, history and recognition of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. arlington national cemetery is our nation's sacred and hal oe ground where our nation honors its fallen heroes and never forgets. the loved ones of the thresher families will never be forgotten. thank you. [ applause ]
i had the opportunity to be the key note speaker at the 51st annual thresher memorial service up in the sea coast area. during that time, family members challenged me for today. and i thank you for that. but it also sort of set the bar pretty high for speakers for today. so you didn't need to hear me again. so when looking for a navy speaker, i recalled a discussion i had at a conference rec lecting times in high school in the sea coast area, because i went to trap academy for a couple of years. our key note speaker went to york high school. some of the students that we went to school with are members
of families in the middle section. so not only is he the recently retired chief of naval operations, but he understands the community from which so many of the thresher sailors came from. with that, our next speaker, admiral john richardson. [ applause ] >> thank you, admiral. senator shaheen, fellow flag officers, guests, friends, and most especially most of all the families of the uss thresher crew and of the shipyard workers and private sector experts that still lie on eternal patrol. you know, many of us here today have taken an oath to support and defend the constitution of
the united states against all enemies foreign and domestic. and this oath is what binds us together. it binds us through time, it binds us together around the world. and time has shown over and over that it is impossible to predict and hard to comprehend what our oath of office may require from us on any given day. april 10th, 1963 began with so much excitement. the excitement of sea trials. and anybody who's been on a sea trial knows this feeling. it's the end of a long road, construction, testing, preparation, training. and it's the beginning of another road, going back to sea. you know, crews and ships and boats are made to go to sea.
it's our natural state, natural state of a ship and its crew. and so that day started with great joy and excitement, anticipation, and professionalism. 129 personnel, all focused on a challenging test agenda. you can look in your program and see the picture of the commissioning crew, and you can see the anticipation and the pride in their faces. and who could have known on that day that began with so much hope, that that day would finish with so much sadness and despair? indeed, that these men and their families would pay the ultimate price for their dedication to our constitution and the nation that it guides. and while the loss of any of our
people is a great tragedy, the loss of a submarine crew brings with it unique aspects, unique challenges. as mr. wiley said in his magnificent remarks, it's so hard to bring closure. submarine sub merges beneath the waves, that's what they do. and then amongst everybody who knows, there's a sense of anticipation, maybe a slight sense of anxiety until the end of the mission. the end of the mission when we should see the ship surface and return home. we should see the ship tie up to the pier and the crew come ashore and we should see families reunited by embraces, hugs, smiles, and joy. that did not happen on 10 april
1960. there was no ship on the surface. there was no return to port. no crew coming ashore. no embraces. no joy. just uncertainty. and a growing sense of dread. something had gone wrong. there was some scattered communication about a problem. and over time, it would become clear that the ship had been lost. that they had paid the ultimate price. our challenge is how best to honor the dedication and sacrifice of these men and their families. how do we best do them homage? how do we best do what we can to bring closure? well, we must come together as we have to recognize and remember each year, and today
marks a major step in this effort, the dedication of a memorial here at arlington national cemetery to honor those who were lost on uss thresher. a place for all to gather and remember. but most especially the families and friends of those who lie in eternal rest in the deep. a place to come together to remember, to meditate, and to pray. and again, we must express our deep gratitude to the entire team on the thresher memorial foundation that made this day possible. kevin ga laes, david gunter the son who remains on eternal patrol. the other members of the foundation, al kinnetcy, captain
you're sow, kathy billings, the daughter of john bilgds on eternal patrol. you heard from tom wiley, the brother of lieutenant jg john james wiley, through their great effort they've done a remarkable thing here, and we are all so grateful. let's recognize them one more time for what they have done. this hur cuelene effort. [ applause ] the other way that we can honor those brave men and their families is to do everything possible, everything we can, to
make sure that something like this never happens again. that we learn everything we can from this tragedy and put those lessons to work, to build our ships strongest, to make our procedures more effective, to train our crews better. and this is exactly what we've done. perhaps the most visibly in the advent of the sub safe program, an environment of accountability and attention to detail that changed the entire way that we build and operate submarines. the program, the sub safe program, is the very best of its kind. it has no equal in the world. and it remains in place to this day. and the 20 or so submarines that are underway submerged as we speak right now are guided by the lessons learned from uss
thresher. so it's an honor to be here today, an honor to mark the dedication of this memorial here in our nation's resting place, as a remembrance to the 129 sailors and shipyard workers, those brave souls who lie at peace in the deep. an honor to continue to help bring closure for all those who lost a loved one on that day. and an honor to take time and remember all those magnificent people who have paid and are still willing to pay whatever it takes to preserve this fragile thing that we call freedom. thank you all very much. [ applause ] it now gives me great
pleasure to introduce our key note speaker. we could ask -- we could not ask for a more fitting speaker than senator shaheen. she has a deep knowledge and a great love of our navy and submarine force. a member of the committee of armed services, a co-founder of the navy -- senate navy caucus, senator shaheen is keenly aware of the high standards and great sacrifices paid by our service members, especially our sailors and our shipyard workers. and has dedicated much of her life in public service to ensuring that we continue to provide the best equipped, most highly-trained navy possible. please join me in a warm welcome for senator jeanne shaheen. [ applause ]
thank you very much admiral richardson for that very generous introduction. i had the opportunity to serve with admiral richardson during his time as the chief of naval operations. so i am so honored to be here with all of you this afternoon, to recognize the legacy of the men we lost on the thresher 55 years ago. to all of the families and friends and submariners nationwide who are here, those of you from the sea coast of new hampshire and maine, this day has been a long time coming. this memorial and the many people who have dedicated their time and effort to ensuring that the thresher is never forgotten, this is a very exciting day for us to finally see this memorial dedicated.
i want to recognize as the other platform party members have all of the family members of the crew who are here with us. time wiley, thank you for your very he wielient remarks. for all of you who are here, it's important to remember that your relatives did not die in vain. that their sacrifice will be memorialized at our nation's most hallowed grounds besides tributes here to generations of our fallen heroes. and that's been made possible in no smart part by kevin galeas, and i want to recognize kevin adds everyone else has. because without his leadership and the support of all of the family members who are here, i think it's safe to say that we would not be here today. kevin, thank you so much.
[ applause ] i also want to thank secretary of defense mark esber. because he's the one who really helped to move the bureaucracy to make this memorial possible. secretary esper who was then secretary of the army really listened to the concerns of community members. he understood the importance of building this tribute for the men who were lost aboard the thresher. and finally i want to recognize
some of my colleagues from the congress who are here joining us today. my fellow senator maggie hassen from new hampshire and congressman john joyce from pennsylvania, thank you both for being here. [ applause ] as you all know and so many of
you have ded kicated your liveso making sure we never forget those we lost on the thresher, this memorial will pay tribute not only to their sacrifice but to the lasting impact the losses had on submarine safety. the legacy holds an important place in the hearts of granite staters and of so many others across this country. it was 55 years ago on the morning of april 10th that the thresher failed to surface from a dive approximately
220 miles off the coast of cape cod. it was the worst submarine disaster in american naval history. we lost 129 men that day, fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, friends and community members. and i know we have 129 stories reflected in the audience today. and tom wiley very eloe kwently
taukd about his personal story. but i want to talk about a few of the men we lost that day. because i think it's a reflection of all of the other members of the thresher crew. paul courier was one of those. he was a graduate of exter high school and attended the university of new hampshire. he was active in community affairs and served as a coach of the exeter little league which he helped to found. we also lost wane lavoi who graduated from spalding high school where he played varsity football and basketball and served as president of his school's student activity association. throughout his nine years of service in the navy, wane was awarded the good conduct medal, the national defense service metal and the china service medal. and franklin palmer who
graduated from dover high school, throughout his high school years he was a member of the local boy scout troop and along with several of his friends he formed a sea scout ship that often sailed around the waters of durham. he served for three years before he returned to the shipyard to work as a machinist which is what brought him to the thresher. the loss of these men, the contributions that they made, and their shipmates made, that loss led to the creation and implementation of the most comprehensive naval submarine safety program in the world. as you've heard everyone describe the sub safe program. and i think it's worth repeating, because since sub safe was put in operation, no certified sub safe submarine has gone down. so the legacy that all of those
men lost on the thresher leaves us is the freeing from harm all of those navy submariners who have come after them. and for that legacy, we are all so very grateful. [ applause ] this memorial will serve as a constant reminder of the damgers that all submariners face when they volunteer for duty and of the sacrifices that were made not just by these men and their families but for all of those who serve. a memorial in their honor in a national cemetery is a fitting tribute to their service and the impact they have had on the submarine community. again, thank you to everyone who has played such a critical role in getting us to this day. i look forward to seeing the
give a little explanation of what will go on down there. first after we reassemble, we'll have four wreaths placed on the memorial. the first wreath representing the family peter schaeffer and penny schaeffer craig, son and daughter of master chief engine benjamin schaeffer and his brother. the second wreath will be placed representing those who strive to keep our submarine safe through the subsafe program by vice
admiral tom moore, the commander of the naval seas systems command. the first wreath is a red wreath. the second wreath is a yellow wreath. the third wreath is a white wreath being placed by admiral ishi, who is the director of the undersea warfare on the chief of naval operation representing all active duty submariners. and, finally, the tricolor red, white and blue wreath will be placed by wayne standafer, national commander of united states submarine veterans. our chaplain will offer a benediction and "taps" will be played. and then we get to move again because we go to the women and
military service to america memorial at the head of memorial drive. you might have seen the model of the "thresher" out in front where we have a reception where we continue to tell stories about those we love. so let us adjourn to the memorial. [ applause ] this is american history tv on c-span3 where each weekend we feature 48 hours of programs exploring our nation's past.