The Legacy of the Thresher

Dan Hall: Joined the Design Workforce in 1965

danWe were working on the 613 Project when I started. That was the “SUBSAFE” changes to the 613, 614 and 615 boats after the Thresher was lost.

There is one school of thought that says that the Thresher sank because of the failure of a piping system. Prior to that there was only limited identification of piping joints. After Thresher they had to identify every joint. Every one of them was replaced on those submarines. So we were working on joint-identification drawings.

In the engine room area – I always worked engine room – there were probably a couple thousand of these. Most of these joints were drains off the bottom of a pipe. When you’re looking for them you don’t see them because the pipe can be close to the hull. I remember many, many years later being on ship checks over in Scotland and finding one. You had to replace that piece of pipe. It had been missed.

The guy that’s been here 40 years, you looked up to him and had him on a pedestal because he knew everything. He got there because all of these people helped him get there. And I got there because all these people helped me, all the way up the line. My mentor was basically a lead on the joint identification. He would come and sit with me and tell me how to look at things.

And that’s how the design force was built at Electric Boat. It was built by the knowledge of the person before you who told you how to do things.

The 613 Project was quite a cohesive group. We stuck together. We had birthday parties. We had Christmas parties. Weddings. Mostly everybody was young. After work we went to the old 95 House a lot – right in the area where Chuck E. Cheese was.

The Thresher went down with 129 souls. It gave me a very, very strong desire to do right by the sailors. The loss of the Thresher really affected us. Part of what I was teaching draftsmen later was that the specifications all go back to what happened on the Thresher. You can’t violate them.