Nuclear Navy and USS Nautilus Celebrate 60th Anniversary
Nuclear Navy and USS
Nautilus Celebrate 60th Anniversary
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st
Class Tim Comerford, Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and
Groton, Connecticut – (NNS)
– September 30, 2014 – The U.S. Navy celebrated the 60th anniversary of the
commissioning of USS Nautilus and the birth of the nuclear Navy Sept. 30, 2014
in a ceremony aboard the historic ship in its home at the Submarine Force Museum
and Library in Groton, Conn.
Nautilus (SSN 571), the first nuclear
vessel, a record breaker and pioneer, served in the navy for 25 years
It was Sept. 30, 1954, when the submarine community took the
first step in shifting from diesel-driven engines to those powered by the
collision of atoms, an evolution that eventually resulted in the all
nuclear-powered submarine force of today.
"A lot has been said about the teamwork it took to make the
Nautilus. That hasn't changed. That same teamwork is needed when building subs
today, and that role continues today with the Ohio replacement program." said
Adm. John Richardson, Director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.
Sideboys salute Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval reactors
The possibility of nuclear-powered vessels was just a dream
in 1946 until the successful development of a nuclear propulsion plant by
scientists and engineers at the Naval Reactors Branch of the Atomic Energy
Commission. The program was driven to completion under the leadership of
then-Capt. Hyman G. Rickover, widely-known as the "Father of the Nuclear Navy."
Many in attendance at the ceremony recalled their service
onboard Nautilus as the pinnacle of their Navy careers and shared their fondness
for Vice Admiral Eugene "Dennis" Wilkinson, the ship's first commanding officer.
Wilkinson passed in 2013, but still left some words of wisdom for the crowd.
"In Dennis Wilkinson's words 'They may make em' better, but
they will never be the first,'" said retired Capt. Ray Engle, a young officer at
the time of the commissioning.
Rear Adm. Jeffrey Metzel, 4th commanding
officer of the USS Nautilus with
Submarine Force Museum docent Norman Kuzel
Henry Nardone Sr., 92, was a project officer on Nautilus. He
said working on the nuclear-powered submarine was the highlight of his 12
1/2-year naval career. He started as a "fresh-caught" lieutenant junior grade
when the keel was laid in August 1955 and was there through her commissioning
into the Navy on Sept. 30, 1954. As a civilian, he was in charge of her first
major overhaul in 1973 at Electric Boat where he was manager of the overhaul
"It was the most significant assignment I had in the Navy,
and the one I enjoyed the most," Nardone said from his home in Westerly, just a
few miles from Groton. "I couldn't ask for a better assignment for myself or my
career. Not only was it the highlight of my career, but the highlight of the
submarine service in the country. It was one of the most significant events in
submarine design construction ever and changed the whole world of submarines."
Just three years after being authorized by Congress in 1951,
USS Nautilus was commissioned, Sept. 30, 1954. It wasn't until the morning of
Jan. 17, 1955, however, when its first skipper, Cmdr. Eugene P. Wilkinson,
signaled the message: "Underway on Nuclear Power."
From then, Nautilus went on to break numerous speed and
distance records for submarines. Three years later, Nautilus completed a secret
mission called Operation Sunshine when the boat passed under the North Pole on
Aug. 3, 1958, the first watercraft to cross the "top" of the world. "For the
world, our country, and the Navy - the North Pole," declared the boat's
commanding officer, Cmdr. William R. Anderson.
Decommissioned and stricken from the Navy rolls in 1980,
Nautilus' future was assured when the Secretary of the Interior designated the
submarine as a National Historic Landmark May 20, 1982.
Chief Machinist Mate Clarence Early
carries the Nautilus 60th anniversary flag
After a historic ship conversion, Nautilus opened to the
public April 11, 1986, eighty-six years to the day after the establishment of
the U.S. Submarine Force, to continue her service as an example of the Navy's
pioneering role in harnessing nuclear power, as the first in a fleet of
nuclear-powered ships, and as steward of the American submarine force's
reputation for and history of operational excellence.
"I was originally a plankowner in the 1950s and then a chief
of the boat in the 1960s," said retired Master Chief Engineman Robert Ringer. "I
had a good time, the whole time I was there."
He believes he is fortunate to have served on Nautilus.
"I am glad that we get honor our past, most of the other
ships her age are in the scrapheap somewhere," he said.
The Submarine Force Museum maintains the world's finest
collection of submarine artifacts. As the only submarine museum operated by the
United States Navy, it is the primary repository for artifacts, documents and
photographs relating to U.S. Submarine Force history. The museum traces the
development of the "Silent Service" from David Bushnell's Turtle, used in the
Revolutionary War, to the Ohio and Virginia-class submarines.
See additional coverage of Nautilus and the Submarine Force
at the links below:
The U.S. Navy's Nuclear Submarine Force: A 60-Year Legacy
60 Years Ago Today: USS Nautilus and the U.S. Navy Get Underway on Nuclear
USS Nautilus Plankowner Shares Experience Working on Boat