U.S. Navy Ordered by Judge to Release All Documents of U.S.S. Thresher's Accident

Sinking in April 1963, the Thresher lost all 129 crew members during the accident known as the country's worst nuclear submarine disaster.
Fabienne Lang
The U.S.S. ThresherU.S. Navy Blog

57 years after 129 officers, sailors, and shipbuilders in the U.S.S. Thresher nuclear submarine lost their lives during a tragic accident, the U.S. Navy has now been ordered by a District Court judge to release all disaster documents covering the issue. 

The 1963 accident was considered one of the nation's worst nuclear submarine disasters. 


U.S. Navy documents

The request for the public release of these documents came from the retired Navy Capt. James Bryant. Bryant was a former Thresher-class submarine commander, and he sued the Navy in July 2019 to try and force them to reveal the thousands of unclassified investigation documents pertaining to the disaster. 

At the time, the Navy rebuffed Bryant's request. 

As of Monday, the tables have turned. Judge Trevor McFadden ordered the Navy to release the requested documents. Bryant remains dubious, waiting to see if the documents have been redacted. 

What's the reason for Byrant's interest in a submarine that sunk nearly 60 years ago? He believes that there are still valuable lessons that can be learned from the sinking of the nuclear Thresher submarine. 

On April 10, 1963, the Thresher conducted a deep dive test, never to resurface. The story goes that either mechanical failures or Soviet interferences could have been some of the reasons the submarine went down. 

The Navy has kept the approximately 3,600 Thresher-related documents under a close and watchful eye. Given the documents are unclassified and thus releasable, there should have been no issues with the Navy sharing them publicly. Hence the judge's decision to disclose them once and for all. 

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Long-awaited answers may soon be revealed. However, before these are shared the Navy first has to go over all of these thousands of files to ensure none are in fact classified, a time-consuming task to say the least. 

Judge McFadden has ordered the Navy to review and then release the first batch of 300 documents by May 15, the next batches of 300 documents are due to be released by the 15th of each month until all are done. The Navy also has to send a report status every 60 days to the judge. 


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