A former Navy man himself, JFK tells Rickover that he is "always pleased to hear from you on this or any other subject.".
The American who had the greatest impact on the United States Navy in the 20th century was Adm. Hyman G. Rickover. With unrelenting determination, Rickover advocated, in fact championed, nuclear power in his effort to modernize the Navy, expand its reach and efficiency, and increase its firepower in a world in the...
The American who had the greatest impact on the United States Navy in the 20th century was Adm. Hyman G. Rickover. With unrelenting determination, Rickover advocated, in fact championed, nuclear power in his effort to modernize the Navy, expand its reach and efficiency, and increase its firepower in a world in the midst of the Cold War. His strategy was to keep the Executive Branch and Congress fully informed and thoroughly engaged, and as a result of his success in doing so, his program was adopted. He supervised the construction of the world's first nuclear powered submarine, USS Nautilus (which joined the fleet in January 1955), and over the next decades spearheaded the building of the U.S. Navy's nuclear fleet and oversaw its operations. This involved not merely outfitting submarines, but aircraft carriers and other ships as well, and increasing the firepower of the fleet with Polaris missiles. Using his submarines and missiles, American might could now be delivered to any point in the world; and American submarines could cruise, silently and never surfacing, beneath the waves shadowing Soviet naval movements, collecting Soviet missile telemetry and eavesdropping on Soviet communications. This had not merely military implications, but diplomatic ones as well; as although no point on earth was safe from destruction, the ultimate goal was deterrence rather than war.
Rickover advised all presidents from Truman through Reagan, and had close relationships with a number of them. President Kennedy consulted Rickover on many matters, including the question of the multilateral nuclear force that would place international crews on American submarines. He extended Rickover's period of service past the standard retirement age. Rickover gave Jimmy Carter, when the latter was a young naval officer, his first important job; Carter later stated that Rickover had a "profound effect on my life, perhaps more than anyone else except my own parents." Rickover was awarded numerous medals and decorations, including the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, the Congressional Gold Medal, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest non-military honor, for his contributions to world peace.
According to the U.S. Navy website, Admiral Rickover "exerted tremendous personal influence over the nuclear Navy in both an engineering and cultural sense. His views touched matters of design, propulsion, education, personnel, and professional standards. In every sense, he played the role of father to the nuclear fleet, its officers, and its men." After 64 years of service, Rickover retired from the Navy as a full admiral in 1982. He was the oldest full-time employee of the federal government and arguably the longest-serving military man in the nation’s history.
Hyman Rickover was a Polish Jew who immigrated to the United States as a boy with his parents, yet he managed to climb over all of the obstacles and prejudices he had to face on those accounts. In addition to his other accomplishments, it can surely be said that he was the most important Jew ever to serve in the United States military.
The only ship of her class, USS Enterprise was an important example of expanding nuclear-powered ships beyond submarines. She was the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the United States Navy, and was the longest naval vessel in the world. The Enterprise was commissioned on November 25, 1961, and went into trials. After less than two months, she was placed in active service in the Navy.
President Kennedy was, of course, a Navy man himself, having famously been captain of PT-109 in World War II. He liked being kept abreast of naval developments. Typed letter signed, on White House letterhead, December 12, 1961, to Rickover, showing his pleasure with the results of the Enterprise's test trials. "I noted with interest the unusual success of the builder's trials of the USS Enterprise. You were considerate to write me of the status of the Enterprise, as well as that of other nuclear-powered ships. Thank you for your thoughtful letter. I am always pleased to hear from you on this or any other subject." We obtained this letter directly from the Rickover family, and it is offered for sale here for the first time.
Today, the USS Enterprise is the third oldest commissioned vessel in the U.S. Navy.
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