A memorial to the 129 men who perished nearly 56 years ago when their submarine sank off the coast of New England will be built at Arlington National Cemetery.

Cathy Beal of Kittery, daughter of sailor Daniel W. Beal Jr., made this memory board for the 50th anniversary memorial service for the USS Thresher in 2013.

Secretary of the Army Mark Esper has approved the memorial, according to a statement posted Monday night on the Facebook page of the USS Thresher Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Project.

Memorial Project President Kevin Galeaz of Hooksett, New Hampshire, said the memorial will serve as a tribute to the men who lost their lives during the Thresher’s deep dive sea trial exercise on April 10, 1963, about 220 miles off the coast of Cape Cod.

Commissioned in 1961, the Thresher was built and maintained at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery during the height of the Cold War. The nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine was designed to hunt down and destroy Soviet ballistic missile submarines before they could launch nuclear weapons against the United States.

On the day it sank as a result of a piping failure, the submarine departed with 16 officers, 96 sailors and 17 civilians.

Galeaz’s statement said the prolonged process to receive permission for a memorial culminated with Esper signing the proposal Monday. A formal announcement by the Army had not been made as of Tuesday evening, but Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire issued a statement confirming the memorial’s approval.

Many of the sailors on board the Thresher were from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, which is why members of those Congressional delegations wrote a letter, dated Nov. 9, 2018, to Esper asking him to authorize the memorial. The letter was signed by Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, as well as New Hampshire Sens. Shaheen and Margaret Wood Hassan, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

“At long last, the 129 brave men who perished aboard the USS Thresher more than five decades ago will receive a memorial at Arlington National Cemetery to honor their legacy,” Shaheen said in a statement issued Tuesday. “This monument is so important for the families who lost loved ones on that fateful day, and is incredibly meaningful to the Seacoast community.

“I applaud the advocacy of the USS Thresher Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Foundation, who helped spearhead this effort, and I look forward to an official announcement on the Army’s plan to make this project a reality.”

Newspapers from April of 1963 declare the tragedy of the USS Thresher. Several senators from New England wrote to Secretary of the Army Mark Esper requesting he authorize the memorial.

Spokesmen for both Collins and King said that they had not yet received an official notification from the Secretary of the Army regarding his plans for building a memorial at Arlington, and therefore would withhold comment.

In their November letter to Esper, the five Senators pointed out that there have been a number of monuments dedicated at Arlington including tributes to the USS Serpens, the USS Maine, and the space shuttles, Columbia and Challenger.

“We believe a memorial to the USS Thresher would reflect the Arlington National Cemetery’s long legacy as a national shrine and a living history of freedom … where dignity and honor rest in solemn reposed,” the senators wrote. “This memorial would serve not only to honor the sacrifice of those that lost their lives, but as a reminder of the dangers that all submariners face when they volunteer for duty.

Galeaz said in his Facebook post that the Memorial Foundation has received nearly $60,000 in donations that will cover the cost of the memorial and to make sure it is maintained. He said the monument will be “modest in size” and placed along a walkway in an area that is not suitable for burial.

Galeaz could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

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