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Navy releases documents from Cold War-era sinking of USS Thresher, the deadliest submarine disaster in US history

The Navy will release more information in coming months but doesn’t believe the documents will shed any new light on the cause of the sinking.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this July 9, 1960 file photo the 278-foot (82 meters) long nuclear powered attack submarine USS Thresher, a first in its class boat, is launched bow-first at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine. A Navy submarine that left a Connecticut base this week is carrying the ashes of a veteran to be buried at sea near the site of the USS Thresher's sinking. For half a century Navy Capt. Paul "Bud" Rogers struggled with feelings that it should have been him and not his last-minute replacement on the doomed voyage. (AP Photo, File)

The Navy has started releasing declassified documents from the investigation into the deadliest submarine disaster in U.S. history. 

A judge ordered the declassification of about 4,000 documents pertaining to the sinking of the USS Thresher 57 years ago. The first batch of pages were made public Wednesday. 

The USS Thresher was a submarine built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. It tragically sank off the coast of New England on April 10, 1963, taking with it all the 129 men aboard. The documents were released in compliance with a Freedom of Information Act ruling made earlier this year.

The Navy will release more information in coming months but doesn’t believe the documents will shed any new light on the cause of the sinking. 

The nuclear-powered submarine and all 129 men aboard were lost on a test dive in the Atlantic Ocean in 1963. The submarine came to a rest on the ocean floor, about 220 miles off Massachusetts' Cape Cod.

Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen from New Hampshire, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued a statement on the newly declassified documents.

Family members of the brave men lost aboard the USS Thresher have lived with unanswered questions about the loss of their loved ones for more than 50 years. I hope that these documents help bring closure,” said Shaheen. “The pain of the Thresher tragedy is still felt today by the children and relatives who were left behind. While nothing can make up for their loss, it’s my hope that this new information sheds some light and helps families heal as we continue to honor and remember the brave 129 of the USS Thresher.”

Shaheen successfully led bipartisan efforts in Congress to establish a memorial for the men lost aboard the USS Thresher at Arlington National Cemetery. Last year, Shaheen delivered the keynote address at the dedication for the memorial.