JFK Nuclear Setback TLS, "price of freedom must be paid... by our best young men" In Wake of First Loss of Nuclear Submarine: "a great shock to freedom-loving people"

TLS, Washington D.C. dated April 19, 1963, written on "The White House" stationary and addressed to Mrs. Nault. President Kennedy, whose own family knew all too well the meaning of sacrifice for one’s country, consoles Nault, whose husband lost their life on the USS Thresher. The TLS measures 6" x 7", but is framed to an overall size of 14.75" x 15". Not examined outside of frame, but a clean letter with expected mailing folds and a "10" level signature, extremely bold.

In full:

"Dear Mrs. Nault:

Mrs. Kennedy and I want to express our very deepest sympathy to you in the loss of your husband aboard the USS THRESHER. The loss of THRESHER was a great shock to freedom-loving people around the world. The American people feel deeply this tragic loss. 

It is a sad fact of history that this price of freedom must be paid again and again, by our best young men in each generation. Your husband has joined the other defenders of this Nation who have given their lives for their country.

I want you to know of my personal feeling of loss and to wish for God's blessing in this time of sorrow.


John Kennedy"

On January 20, 1961, the newly inaugurated President Kennedy emphasized unity and freedom, famously urging Americans to consider what they could do for their country rather than what their country could do for them. The resulting wave of enthusiasm from Kennedy's rally call led to the creation of impactful programs like the Peace Corps and significant initiatives such as the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. This energizing spirit was a cornerstone of the transformative decade of the 1960s.

The USS Thresher, a state-of-the-art nuclear submarine, was commissioned on August 3, 1961. Renowned for being the world's fastest and most silent submarine at the time, the Thresher, designated SSN 593, was a pinnacle of military innovation, designed to track and eliminate Soviet submarines. On April 10, 1963, the Thresher embarked on deep-diving trials, accompanied by USS Skylark, carrying not only her crew of 16 officers and 96 enlisted men but also 17 civilian technicians to monitor her performance. During these tests, after reaching a significant depth, communication with Skylark revealed distressing signs of trouble. What followed was a haunting silence after a sound described as air rushing into a tank. All attempts to reconnect with Thresher failed, and a search operation ensued. The recovery ship found only fragments, while images captured by the bathyscaph Trieste confirmed the devastating reality: the Thresher had disintegrated, resulting in the loss of all on board. This tragedy marked a significant setback in the U.S. nuclear program and deeply affected President Kennedy, as it was a critical aspect of his strategy for deterrence.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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February 21, 2024 10:30 AM EST
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