NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

April 11, 2013

Remembering Dad, aboard USS Thresher when it sank

(Continued)

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.

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Paul Charron lives in Berwick, Maine.

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