Eye on the Navy USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN 709) deactivated Admiral's Legacy Outlives Itself By Edward Lundquist Few people in history have made the impact on naval affairs as Hyman G. Rickover. Rightfully known as the "father of the nuclear navy," he rose through the ranks to become a vice admiral and the director of nuclear propulsion long after his contemporaries retired and long after many of his superiors tried to get rid of him. His legacy is a series of engineering marvels, successive classes of nuclear submarines, carriers and surface combatants, all able to operate for sustained periods of time at high speeds without the need to refuel. For a submarine to do this without having to come up for air is nothing short of revolutionary. When Commander Eugene P. Wilkinson, USN, ordered the lines hauled aboard USS Nautilus (SSN 571) and shifted colors on Jan. 17, 1955, he signaled, "Underway on nuclear power." Naval warfare was forever changed. Five decades later, 213 total nuclear power warships have been commissioned. Currently there are 82 active nuclear powered warships, all of them the result of Rickover's vision and leadership. Whether it was the right way or the wrong way, Rickover did things his way. Irascible, brusque and annoying, he was also brilliant and inscrutable. For some, Rickover was feared and despised. For them, his legacy will remain his arrogant, abusive, condescending behavior. But the only way to change a navy is with very strong will and very strong leadership, and Rickover supplied both. President Richard Nixon, speaking at the 1973 promotion of Rickover to fourstar admiral, remarked on the Navy's superb technological accomplishments. "Polaris, Poseidon, Trident. No one can ever speak of these breakthroughs without thinking of Admiral Rickover." "I don't mean to suggest by that that he is a man who is without controversy," said Nixon. "He speaks his mind. Sometimes he has rivals who disagree with him; sometimes they are right, and he is the first to admit that sometimes he might be wrong. But the greatness of the American military service, and particularly the greatness of the Navy, is symbolized in this ceremony today, because this man, who is controversial, this man, who comes up with unorthodox ideas, did not become submerged by the bureaucracy, because once genius is submerged by bureaucracy, a nation is doomed to mediocrity." "Human experience shows that peo- A Sailor waits patiently to tend lines as USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN 709). Rickover completed its final deployment that included port calls to Haakonsvern, Norway, Faslane, Scotland, and Rota, Spain. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kelvin Edwards) ple, not organizations or management systems, get things done," Rickover once wrote. Rickover lamented that officers or civilian managers were assigned to another job before the results of their work could become evident. Although many tried to marginalize or fire him, he stayed in his job many years, cultivating strong support on Capitol Hill, so he was able to see his programs develop to fruition, from land prototypes to successive classes of ships. He ran the naval reactors pro- gram with what he called "courageous impatience." His hand was in everything. When he was in charge, he personally selected every officer that served in nuclear power, imposing a series of difficult and sometimes bizarre interviews, and directed the rigorous year-long training the officers received before they started their other training or arrived at their first ships. Rickover challenged them to be the best, and they furthered his insistence for total quality before the quality movement was popu- Aggreko Your First Port of Call For Temporary Power & Temperature Control Solutions from the loading dock to your final destination worldwide Aggreko provides temporary generator sets to help ship owners and operators reduce downtime & minimize costs in the event of an onboard generator failure. To find out how we can help call www.aggreko.com 1 866 578 5889 34 Maritime Reporter & Engineering News
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