Robert Donald Biederman – Lieutenant, United States Navy

Robert Donald Biederman
Lieutenant, United States Navy


Robert Donald Biederman was born on August 27, 1930, in Hartford, Connecticut. While attending Weaver High School in Hartford, he was active in sports, including track, cross country, and basketball. After being graduated from high school in 1948, he entered the University of connecticut, and in June 1950, he was accepted as a Midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. He was graduated from the Academy with the class of June 1954, and commissioned as an Ensign.

His first assignment as a naval officer was aboard the Newport-based destroyer U.S.S. Hyman (DD 732). After 3 years of sea duty, Robert was selected for postgraduate study at Webb Institute of Naval Architecture, Glen Cove, Long Island, N.Y. He successfully completed the course of study and was graduated with a master of science degree in naval architecture.

Robert volunteered for submarine duty and entered the Submarine School at the U.S. Naval Submarine Bass, New London, Connecticut. His first assignment in submarines, after completing the course of instruction, was in the U.S.S. Cavalla (SS 244). It was while serving in that command that Robert qualified as a submariner and was awarded his gold dolphins; insignia of the submariner.

He reported to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in June 1962, where he studied in the Nuclear Power Submarine Familiarization Training Unit until December. In January 1963, Robert was assigned to the U.S.S. Thresher (SSN 593), in his capacity as senior ships superintendent for non-nuclear work for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

During his naval career, Robert had been awarded the Navy Occupation Service Medal with European Clasp and the National Defense Service Medal.

He is survived by his widow, the former Bettie Boehringer of Meridan, Connecticut; sons, Gregory, Bruce and Eric; and a daughter, Deborah. He also leaves his mother, Mrs. Dorothy S. Biederman; four brothers, and three sisters, all of Hartford, Connecticut.

On April 9, 1963,  USS Thresher, commanded by Lieutenant Commander John Wesley Harvey, began post-overhaul trials. Accompanied by the submarine rescue ship USS Skylark (ASR-20), she sailed to an area some 220 statute miles or 190 nautical miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and on the morning of April 10 started deep-diving tests. As Thresher neared her test depth, Skylark received garbled communications over underwater telephone indicating “… minor difficulties, have positive up-angle, attempting to blow.” When Skylark’s queries as to if Thresher were under control were answered only by the ominous sound of compartments collapsing, surface observers gradually realized Thresher had sunk. All 129 officers, crewmen and military and civilian technicians aboard her were killed.

There is an “In Memory Of” Stone placed in Arlington National Cemetery for Lieuenant Biederman in Memorial Section F, Grave 40.


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