By: Garland Davis
I was stationed at NAS Lemoore out of Recruit Training. I was there for a one-year special tour of shore duty. Lemoore was a brand new station. They shipped a number of “boots’ there to do the mess cooking and coop cleaning duties. I spent nine of the twelve months in the galley as a mess cook and as a Commissaryman striker. During that time I was assigned to the same berthing cubicle (four bunks and locker per cubicle) with a CS3, later CS2 Ronald A. Muise.
“Moose” helped me learn the rudiments of the CS rate and his advice was very helpful in my battle to become a cook striker. We became good friends. He was attached to one of the training squadrons and was transferring the same month that I was. We both filled out our “dream sheets” on the same day. I requested ships homeported on the west coast and in Hawaii. Moose applied for Submarine School. We received our orders the same day. His to Groton Connecticut for Sub School and mine to the USS Vesuvius, an ammunition ship homeported in Port Chicago, CA.
I checked out of the base the same day he checked out of his squadron. A friend of his gave us a ride to the bus station in Hanford. We shook hands and vowed to keep in touch. He was going on leave to his home in New York and I was going to San Francisco.
We traded a couple of letters over the next few months. I still have the last postcard he sent. It read: “Dave, I graduated Sub School. Getting a few days leave before I report to my first boat. I will be coming back here to report to the USS Thresher.” The postcard was dated March 27, 1963.
On 9 April 1963 Thresher, got underway from Portsmouth at 8 am and rendezvoused with the submarine rescue ship Skylark at 11 am to begin its initial post-overhaul dive trials. That afternoon Thresher conducted an initial trim dive test, surfaced and then performed a second dive to half test depth. It remained submerged overnight and re-established underwater communications with Skylark at 6:30 am on the 10th to commence deep-dive trials. Following standard practice, Thresher slowly dived deeper as it traveled in circles under Skylark – to remain within communications distance – pausing every additional 100 feet of depth to check the integrity of all systems. As Thresher neared her test depth, Skylark received garbled communications over underwater telephone indicating “… minor difficulties, have positive up-angle, attempting to blow”, and then a final even more garbled message that included the number “900”.[ When Skylark received no further communication, surface observers gradually realized Thresher had sunk. By mid-afternoon, a total of 15 Navy ships were en route to the search area. At 6:30 pm, the Commander Submarine Force Atlantic sent word to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to begin notifying next-of-kin that Thresher was “missing.” By morning the next day all hope of finding Thresher was abandoned and at 10:30 am the Chief of Naval Operations went before the press corps at the Pentagon to announce that the submarine was lost with all hands.
Today marks the fifty-fifth anniversary of Thresher’s loss. Today my flag flies at half-staff in honor of the USS Thresher and my friend and shipmate Ronald A (Moose) Muise.