For the past few weeks, the Thresher people have been writing stories about the family members they lost. And I thought I should put down some thoughts about Dad.
So this is dedicated to the memory of Robert Edward Charron Sr. Born in 1919 in Haverhill, “Bob” to everyone except his family (who all called him Dad or Daddy) was an affable, friendly man who was dedicated to “God, Family, Country” as his religion and upbringing required. He was dedicated to electrical engineering because he was good at it, but also because he was fascinated by it.
He always talked to my brother Bob (he’s the “Junior” in that duo) and me about his love of woodworking and his growing collection of tools in the cellar that he would only get to use maybe one weekend a month. But his love of all things electrical was a day-by-day affair.
At night he would read trade magazines and books about the latest innovations, explorations and instrumentation, but he would especially focus on sound, sound engineering and electrical field analysis.
(I know. I tried reading them. And Dad would laugh and tell us that we were too young to understand. Even the writing was as much symbols and equations, as it was words. So he was right. It’s taken years to re-think about what I read and connect the dots.)
I was talking to Mom the other day about the offers that Dad would get from private industry, mainly from the Route 128 circle where new businesses (new after the Second World War) were very interested in anything on the leading edge of electrical engineering.
This was an industry that was going through several changes that would propel future modern miracles: sonar, sound engineering (not yet widely called acoustics), vacuum tubes to solid state, printed circuit boards, “electrical’ to ‘electronic,” wider investigation of the EMF (ElectroMagnetic Force Spectrum): microwaves, white sound and background “anomalies.”
And Dad was at the leading edge. He was building his own instrumentation in order to scientifically investigate sound and sound silencing. He had a drawer in his workbench, down cellar, where he kept the citations, certificates and even one appreciating the fact that he had invented something. He wasn’t about to leave the Navy Yard where he felt he would have a permanent position free from the worry of “last hired; first fired.”
So in contrast to all the other electrical engineers and radiomen on the boat, who were tuned to listen 360 degrees out into the ocean, Dad was listening to his own boat trying to change the “signature” that would identify the boat and its location. By listening to the sub in normal conditions, he could pinpoint those noises able to be silenced by mechanical means: a new bearing; new materials that were quieter at operating temperatures; different designs for anything that spun or turned.
The United States had just spent years developing SOSUS, an underwater series of “phones” (hydrophones) that were wired to cables and dropped throughout the Atlantic to “eavesdrop” on ocean traffic, including subs. If Dad could build something that made his sub invisible to SOSUS, he could be sure that the enemy could not detect the sub. It would be a “ghost in the ocean,” a “ hole in the sea.”
When the Thresher submerged to operating depth on that fateful day, I’m sure that Dad was at his station, trying to silence any noises that might give away their position. And from that space he would have had access to onboard ship’s communication, so it is possible that the last thing anyone heard was Dad saying the Lord’s Prayer over the intercom.
Robert Edward Charron Sr. left a wife, Ruth Charron, currently living in Dover, N.H.; and five children: Robert Edward Charron Jr., Concord, N.H.; Paul Charron, Berwick, Maine; Anne-Marie Milliken, Dracut; Theresa Conley, Missoula, Mont.; and Peter J. Charron Sr., Rochester, N.H.
Paul Charron lives in Berwick, Maine.