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Book about Thresher submarine disaster available April 10

March 19. 2014 4:38PM

PORTSMOUTH — Donald Nault twice altered his birth certificate during World War II in unsuccessful attempts to join the Navy.

Finally, after his 17th birthday, his parents signed the papers enabling him to enlist.

The Portsmouth native saw action in the Pacific during the war, then went on to a Navy career that included two undersea voyages to the North Pole aboard the submarine USS Skate.

He was serving as a commissaryman first class aboard the USS Thresher when the submarine sank on his 36th birthday — April 10, 1963. He left behind a wife and three children.

Nault's story is one of those told in "Silent Strength," a new book about the 129 men lost aboard the USS Thresher. A limited edition is expected to be available by April 10, just in time for the 51st anniversary of the worst submarine disaster the world has ever known.

"Silent Strength" is authored by D. Allan Kerr, a former Union Leader correspondent. Kerr now works for the U.S. Treasury Department and is a member of the Thresher Memorial Project Group.

The Thresher (SSN 593), designed and built at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, was the most advanced naval vessel of its era, Kerr said in a news release.

"Considered faster, quieter, deeper-diving and more lethal than any submarine built before her, the Thresher's primary mission was to hunt and destroy Soviet subs at the height of the Cold War — should the need arise," he said.

The nuclear fast-attack submarine sank during deep-diving tests off the New England coast following a nine-month overhaul at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

"Thirteen of the men who died that day were civilian Shipyard employees, and three others were Navy officers assigned to the Shipyard's military staff," Kerr said.

The book takes its title from the Thresher's motto, Vis Tacita — Latin for "Silent Strength."

Subtitled "Remembering the Men of Genius and Adventure Lost in the World's Worst Submarine Disaster," the hardcover volume includes personal photos and recollections from the widows and children of the Thresher heroes.

Nearly 200 of the 1,000 copies being printed through Peter E. Randall Publisher of Portsmouth have already been pre-ordered. Proceeds from the sale of this special edition will go toward the Thresher Memorial Project in Kittery, Maine, which is still about $7,000 short of the funding required to complete its permanent tribute to the 129 men who died on the morning of April 10, 1963.

Albacore Park in Portsmouth and Pine Tree Country Store in Kittery are among the local sites selected to carry "Silent Strength." Copies can also be ordered through the Thresher Memorial Project at PO Box 321, Kittery, Maine, 03904, by writing "Silent Strength" in the memo section of the check. The book is $29.99, plus $5.95 for shipping and handling.

For more information, go to and click on Donations/Paypal or contact D. Allan Kerr at

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