For the past few weeks, the Thresher people have been writing
stories about the family members they lost. And I thought I should put down
some thoughts about Dad.
So this is dedicated to the memory of Robert Edward Charron,
Senior. Born in 1922 in Haverhill, 'Bob' to everyone except his family (who all
called him Dad or Daddy), was an affable, friendly man who was dedicated to
"God, Family, Country" as his religion and upbringing required. He
was dedicated to electrical engineering because he was good at it, but also
because he was fascinated by it.
He always talked to my brother Bob (he's the 'Junior' in that duo)
and I about his love of woodworking and his growing collection of tools in the
cellar that he would only get to use maybe one weekend a month. But his love of
all things electrical was a day by day affair.
At night he would read trade magazines and books about the latest
innovations, explorations and instrumentation, but he would especially focus on
sound, sound engineering and electrical field analysis.
(I know. I tried reading them. And Dad would laugh and tell us
that we were too young to understand. Even the writing was as much symbols and
equations, as it was words.) (so he was right. It's taken years to re-think
about what I read and connect the dots.)
I was talking to Mom the other day about the offers that Dad would
get from private industry, mainly from the Rt 128 circle where new businesses
(new after the Second World War) were very interested in anything on the
leading edge of electrical engineering.
This was an industry that was going through several changes that
would propel future modern miracles: sonar, sound engineering (not yet widely
called 'acoustics'), vacuum tubes to solid state, printed circuit boards,
ultra-sound and EMF, 'electrical' to 'electronic', wider investigation of the
EMF (ElectroMagnetic Force Spectrum): microwaves, broadcast frequencies v.
'Public' frequencies, high-frequency pulsed transmission, white sound and
And Dad was at the leading edge. He was building his own
instrumentation in order to scientifically investigate sound and sound
silencing. He had a drawer in his workbench, down cellar, where he kept the
citations, certificates and even one appreciating the fact that he had invented
something. He wasn't about to leave the Navy Yard where he felt he would have a
permanent position free from the worry of "last hired; first fired".
So in contrast to all the other electrical engineers and radiomen
on the boat, who were tuned to listen 360* out into the ocean, Dad was
listening to his own boat trying to change the 'signature' that would identify
the boat and its location. By listening to the sub in normal conditions
he could pinpoint those noises able to be silenced by mechanical means: a new
bearing; new materials that were quieter at operating temperatures; different
designs for anything that spun or turned.
The United States had just spent years developing SOSUS, an
underwater series of 'phones' (hydrophones) that were wired to cables and
dropped throughout the Atlantic to 'eavesdrop' on ocean traffic, including
subs. If Dad could build something that made his sub invisible to SOSUS, he
could be sure that the enemy could not detect the sub. It would be a
"ghost in the ocean", a " hole in the sea".
When the Thresher submerged to operating depth, on that fateful
day, I'm sure that Dad was at his station, trying to silence any noises that
might give away their position. And from that space he would have had access to
on board ship's communication, so it is possible that the last thing anyone
heard was Dad saying the Lord's Prayer over the intercom.
Paul F Charron
son of Robert Edward Sr. and Ruth M. Charron