The Legacy of the Thresher

Still image from the CBS Reports “The Legacy of the Thresher,” 1964.

In 1964, Dan Rather investigated “The Legacy of the Thresher” with producer David Buksbaum. Narrated by Dan Rather, the piece was broadcast on March 4, 1964, as part of CBS Reports. On April 10, 1963, the nuclear submarine, the Thresher, dove to its classified mission with 129 men aboard. Approximately 254 miles east of Boston, the Thresher exploded under 8,400 feet of water, killing everybody on board. The Thresher became the object of one of the most difficult and extensive searches in history, "an underwater detective story," as the New York Times reported. CBS Reports was authorized to follow naval authorities as they used newly developed technology for the deep underwater search. Included in the report was footage of the wreckage taken by the bathyscaphe Trieste at a depth of 8,400 feet, in addition to interviews with naval personnel, oceanographers, marine experts, geologists, and physicists.

The New York Times found most of these interviews "academic," but it praised how "when C.B.S. cameras went out to sea amid fog and rain and wind, the show made its strongest and most successful comment by capturing the horror of death in an impersonal cemetery." The Austin Statesman complimented the "seasoned restraint to bypass the cheaply popular and sensational approach to a difficult subject."