Pete Seeger: The Thresher
Even though our theme is called Getting There, the USS Thresher never did. She was a nuclear submarine that sank off the coast of Massachusetts in 1963. It was the height of the Cold War, and the fear of anything nuclear was very real. I grew up with it, and we felt that any large war that broke out had the potential to be the last one mankind would ever see. I was three years old when the Thresher sank, so I can’t say I remember it. But I imagine that the first thing people worried about would have been the radiation. This context adds resonance to Pete Seeger’s song The Thresher. To Seeger, the sinking is a morality tale that demonstrates the folly of war in general, and nuclear weapons in particular. He makes his case quite eloquently.
I should note that, in the sinking of the Thresher, we got lucky. The ship’s nuclear rods were eventually recovered intact, and no leaked radiation was ever discovered.