SALISBURY BEACH — Two bells tolled 129 times at Salisbury Beach Center yesterday morning in memory of the men who lost their lives 50 years ago, when the USS Thresher sank with all hands during deep diving trials off the coast of Cape Cod.
Family and friends of the men who died, along with military veterans, gathered to remember the tragedy that occurred that cloudy Wednesday morning so long ago. Holding a moment of silence at 9:18 a.m. — the time most believe the Thresher and her men were lost — those present clustered around a granite memorial to honor them. The memorial is named for Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Steinel, a Salisbury Beach resident who died on board the Thresher.
Among the crowd was Steinel’s family, as well as Rowley’s Jane Sorenson, who proudly wore a badge with a picture of her first husband, Donald Day. Day was a 20-year-old engineman 3rd class and went down with his shipmates, leaving his wife and his 1-year old daughter, Anita, to grieve.
“I’m originally from the area, and we had been living in Newburyport, but we moved to Plaistow (N.H.) right before it happened,” Sorenson said. “Nobody ever forgets. It’s like it happened only yesterday when these things come about.”
Organized by area submarine veterans from Marblehead Sub Base with the help of Salisbury’s American Legion Post 309, yesterday’s event was meant to ensure that although 50 years has passed, the loss of what was thought to be the Navy’s most advanced nuclear-powered attack sub of its day would always be remembered.
Constructed to dive deeper, cruise faster and run quieter than any before her, the Thresher suffered a fatal flaw on April 10, 1963, that led to her demise, along with the 16 officers, 96 enlisted men and 21 civilians aboard for the trials, according to Marblehead Submarine Base Commander and sub veteran Tom Shannon,