USS-THRESHER-SSN593-L ArchivesArchiver > USS-THRESHER-SSN593 > 2005-01 > 1104944120
From: "pat creel" <>
Subject: Raymond McCoole & Gerald McLees
Date: Wed, 5 Jan 2005 10:55:20 -0600
[copied from google.com ]
Thresher’s ‘luckiest man’ dies
Staff and wire reports
CHESTER - The 2004-05 holiday season has claimed the lives of two men who
escaped tragedies involving submarines sailing from the Portsmouth Naval
On Dec. 30, 2004 Gerald McLees of Portsmouth, one of 33 survivors of the
sinking of the USS Squalus in 1939, died at age 90; and on Jan. 1, Raymond
McCoole, who was a crew member of the ill-fated USS Thresher, died at 75.
McCoole did not perish along with his 129 crew mates in the 1963 disaster
because he was ordered off the sub just hours before it departed on its
McCoole, a native of Dover, served in the Navy’s submarine service for 24
years. He had held the rank of chief petty officer on the world’s first
nuclear submarine, USS Nautilus. No date was available for McCoole’s
McLees will be laid to rest with full military honors today at Cavalry
Cemetery in Portsmouth at 11 a.m.
For years after the USS Thresher failed to surface from a deep dive off the
New England coast, McCoole said he might have been able to save the
submarine - and the 129 crew members who perished with it.
McCoole, who came to be known as the Thresher’s "luckiest man," was the
nuclear-powered vessel’s reactor-control officer. He was ordered off the
vessel two hours before it sailed that last time, on April 9, 1963, because
his wife had injured her eyes and needed emergency medical treatment.
The submarine, which was carrying out deep-diving tests, sank the next day
in 8,400 feet of water in the Atlantic Ocean, about 220 miles east of Cape
Cod. Navy officials believed the problem was a weak pipe joint in the
submarine, which was built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and launched in
Navy investigators believed a hole opened up in the pipe, letting a
high-pressure stream of seawater into the engine room. The electrical system
short-circuited, shutting down the nuclear reactor. Then, when the captain
tried to empty seawater from ballast tanks, that system failed.
As the submarine sank, water pressure crushed the vessel. An officer
monitoring the radio on a submarine rescue vessel, Skylark, "heard the
sounds of a ship breaking up - a dull, muted roar."
McCoole maintained that, had he been on board, his experience would have
prompted him not to follow standard procedure, perhaps endangering the
reactor, but saving the boat.
"The proper procedure in a nuclear reactor scram is to shut off the steam
engines," McCoole said in a 1993 interview. "Jim Henry, who was my
assistant, I am certain, followed this established procedure. He had just
come out of nuclear power school.
"But I was a little more experienced and, if I saw my pressure gauge
exceeding test depth, knowing full well the captain was unable to do
anything without propulsion, I would have drawn the steam (not shut it
down)," McCoole said.
"Yes, I still feel, if I was there, I certainly could have been able to
contribute something and I would have tried to draw steam."
McCoole had long blamed the Navy for allowing the sub to sea with what he
called "glaring deficiencies." He also blamed the Navy’s policy of rotating
personnel immediately prior to a ship’s sea trials.
"They had almost a complete change of crew," McCoole said. "And the captain,
although an experienced nuclear submariner, hadn’t been aboard in months."
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