December 1945 of the year. Only four years have passed since that day, as the armadas of Japanese torpedo bombers and sowers, causing death and destruction, hit the Pearl Harbor naval base, but during this very short time, truly great events took place by the standards of world history. The whole era has changed.
Ruthlessly redrawn world map. There was another revolution in military affairs, which gave life to completely new, unprecedented models of weapons and military equipment, capable of wiping entire cities off the face of the earth, in the blink of an eye incinerating tens of thousands of people. Atomic energy, which escaped like a genie from a magic lamp, became a real "joker" in a political deck of cards - owning a nuclear weapons could dictate his will to those who did not have it.
However, on December 14, 1945, an influential New York Times published an article entitled “Atomic energy is a godsend for Fleet”, Which summarized the report by Ross Gunn, senior physicist expert at the US Navy Research Laboratory, at a meeting of a special committee of the US Senate. The note did not become a sensation - after all, nothing was said there about a new type of super-destructive weapon. On the contrary, Ross Gunn argued: "The main work that nuclear energy should do in the world is to spin the wheels and move the ships."
And although the idea of creating a nuclear power plant was by no means new, it was openly expressed in the United States for the first time. This seemingly inconspicuous article provokes even greater interest among American naval historians due to the fact that Hyman Rickover, the future "father of the American atomic fleet", is likely to have read it. At least, American naval historians are absolutely sure of this, although the admiral himself, as far as is known, never mentioned it.
As a result, as we know, it was Rickover who played the role of a locomotive in promoting the idea of equipping submarines with an atomic power plant (AES), which literally turned the methods and methods of submarine warfare upside down. The term “unlimited submarine warfare” acquired a completely different meaning - for a nuclear submarine it wasn’t necessary to continually charge batteries, and nuclear reactors didn’t need tons of fuel consumed by voracious diesel engines. In addition, a powerful AEU made it possible to increase the size and displacement of the submarine, which made it possible to significantly increase the ammunition of torpedoes, etc.
Captain Elton Thomson (center), commander of the first crew of the Ohio SSBN, explains Admiral Hyman Rickover, then Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for the Navy's reactor program, and Vice President George Bush (right) during the missile carrier tour after the ceremony entering it into the fleet combat. 11 November 1981 g. Photos of the US Navy
"Russian roots" atomic fleet of America
It is noteworthy that, as in the case of “Russian roots” in the history of the American helicopter industry - in the person of the Russian immigrant Igor Sikorsky, there are also such roots in the history of the world and nuclear submarine fleet. The fact is that the future “father of the nuclear submarine fleet,” Admiral H. Rickover, was born in 1900 in the town of Makow Mazowiecki, which belongs today to the Polish Mazovian province, but was located in the Russian Empire before the October Revolution. The future admiral was taken to America only in 1906, in 1922, he graduated from the Naval Academy, specializing in mechanical engineering, and then - Columbia University.
Apparently, the early years of childhood, spent in a very uncomplicated setting of what was then Russian Poland, laid the foundations for the inflexible character and iron will that had been characteristic of Rikikeru throughout his career in the navy. The careers during which events took place are so dramatic that the other person could not endure and break.
Take, for example, the appointment of Rickover at the end of 1947, the Assistant Head of the Shipbuilding Department, Vice-Admiral Earl W. Mills, on nuclear energy issues. On the one hand, it seems to be a promotion, but on the other hand, the future “father of the nuclear submarine fleet” received… the former ladies' room, which at that time was still in the “transformation” stage! Eyewitnesses claim that, having seen his “workplace”, on the floor of which there were still spots - places where there was a toilet bowl before, and parts of the drain pipes remained in the corners, Hyman Rickover was in a state close to shock.
However, all these were "little things", the main thing is that Rikovera was not "thrown out" of the nuclear program, and he could continue to work, and in February 1949 he was appointed to the post of Director of the Nuclear Reactors Design Division of the Atomic Energy Commission while retaining in the Office of Shipbuilding. Rickover's dream came true - he became the sovereign "master" of the program and now, as a representative of one agency, he could send a request to another organization (IC Navy) and as a representative of the latter - to give an answer to his request "in the right way".
A reproduction of a commemorative photograph from the ceremony laid by President Truman of the first American Nautilus submarine. The autograph left by Truman on the photo is clearly visible. Photo of US Navy
Operation Rescue Rickover
Or another example - the attempt, as they say, of “squeezing out” Rickover of individuals, which almost ended in success, did not allow him into the admiral cohort. The fact is that according to the provisions of the NNS Service of 1916 of the Year (Naval Personnel Act of 1916) and the Rules of Service of the Officers of the 1947 of the Year (Officer Personnel Act of 1947), the assignment of the title of Admiral in the Navy The United States took place with the participation of a council of nine officers - they looked at the new candidates from among the captains for a new rank and then voted. In the event that, for two years in a row, the captain presented himself to receive the rank of rear admiral, but he never received it, a maximum of a year he had to resign. Moreover, by the 1950 years, the Americans obligatory commissioned three officers of the fleet engineering corps - they had to approve the “nomination” of each engineering specialty officer, and only if at least two of them voted for the candidate - the rest of the commission approved this decision.
Rickover planned to get the rear admiral back in July 1951, at least a year later. He was one hundred percent sure that he would receive the admiral’s title “Father of the Nuclear Fleet” - after all, he was in charge of one of the most important programs of naval construction. However, among the "advanced" in 1951 in the rear admirals of 32, Rickover was no captain. Why - already, probably, we won’t find out: the commission’s voting was held behind closed doors and no records were made, so even American naval historians cannot, with a high degree of probability, explain certain decisions of the commission and its officers.
7 July 1952 of the Year Nickroofer was called and informed that Navy Minister Dan E. Kimball called him, but didn’t give the reason for the call, and Rickover decided to take with him, just in case, a simplified model of an atomic-powered vessel with a section where the nuclear power plant is located. for visual demonstration. Upon entering the reception room, Rickover encountered numerous reporters and photographers, in front of whom Kimball reported that on behalf of the President of the United States he was giving Captain Rickover the second gold star of the Order Legion of Honor (the first such order was received at the end of World War II), behind the grandiose efforts and an invaluable contribution to the program to create a prototype of a nuclear reactor Mark I and the first nuclear submarine, which was recently laid on the slipway - before the originally scheduled time. It was here that the famous photo was taken, in which Rickover and Kimball were bent over the nuclear-powered model.
And the next day, a "personnel" commission gathered at the meeting on the choice of new rear admirals of the US Navy. On July 19, the results of the meeting were announced to everyone - among the 30 newly minted rear admirals of the American fleet, including four naval engineers, the last name Rickover did not appear. At that time it was impossible to strike a greater blow to the father of the atomic fleet - since he finished his studies at the Naval Academy in 1922, no later than September of 1953, he had to leave the service.
The decision caused a shock to many managers who were directly involved in the implementation of the program for developing a ship-based NPP and designing a nuclear submarine. I had to carry out a special operation "Save Rickover."
4 August 1952 of the year in the 60 number “Time” is an article signed by Ray Dick, who criticized the US Navy command for its short-sightedness in personnel policy and hindering the advancement of technical specialists. Moreover, he particularly emphasized that this "will cost the fleet of the officer who created the most important new weapon since the end of the Second World War." The information reached Republican Carl T. Durham (Carl T. Durham), a North Carolina senator who headed the Joint Atomic Energy Committee, who was very “surprised” that the naval commission interrupted the career of an officer who had done so much for the US Navy nuclear shipbuilding program and to which the committee has repeatedly expressed its thanks. 16 December 1952 of the year he sent a letter to the Minister of the Navy asking him why the Navy were going to fire an officer who would own all the laurels on the day the first American nuclear submarine was launched? “Probably, the fleet has an officer who can replace him and continue working with the same efficiency,” Senator Durham asked in a letter. “If so, then I don't know him.”
Over the next few months, a real battle unfolded for Admiral star Rickover, including even a congressional hearing. 22 January 1953 Republican Sydney Yates (Sydney Yates) spoke on this issue in the House of Representatives, and then expressed his opinion on the pages of Congressional Records, stressing that in the age of the atom, Navy officials simply do not have the right to decide the fate of an excellent specialist and even more so - a leader important for the future of the American fleet, and indeed of all the US Armed Forces. In conclusion, Yates said: the fact that the US Navy command awards Rikovera one day, and the next day, he was actually sent by the commission to resign, requires careful consideration at a meeting of the Senate Committee on Armed Forces. A little later, on February 12, Yeats spoke at a parliamentary meeting, stating: the Navy’s procurement and supply programs are carried out poorly, and the personnel policy is pursued even worse, thanks to which “the admirals dismiss the naval officer who, in essence, is the best Navy specialist in atomic energy issues. " And then he proposed to reform the system of awarding the highest officer ranks.
13 February 1953 of the Washington Post publishes the article Refusal to Promote Rickover Assailed, in the Washington Times Herald - Yeats once again accuses the Navy of capturing Rickover "(" Yates Blasts Navy Again on Capt. Rickover "), in the New York Times (New York Times) - the article" Navy Rules - the reason for the refusal to advance "(Navy Rules Scored in High Promotions), in the Boston Herald (Boston Herald) - the article "Forced dismissal of an expert on nuclear submarines is called" shocking "" ("Forced Retirement of the Expert on Atomic Subs Held cking '"), and finally, the Daily World from Tulsa, Oklahoma, published an article titled" Dismissing a naval expert triggered accusations of "embezzlement" "(" Naval Scientist Retirement Brings Charges of Waste " "). All of them quoted Yeats as saying that the selection process for candidates in the admiral cohort was too secretive: “Only one God and nine admirals know why Rickover did not receive promotion.” In general, after having “crushed” Rickover, the command of the Navy “has self-propelled itself to the scaffold”.
As a result, the supporters of Rickover succeeded first in postponing his dismissal for a year, and then in holding the next “admiral” commission. Gathered in July 1953, the commission consisted of six naval officers and staffs and three engineers. The latter had to choose three engineers-engineers for promotion to rear admirals, and one of them, as prescribed by the instruction of the US Navy Minister, was to be an atomic energy specialist. It seems incredible, but the naval engineers did not support their colleague and did not choose Rickover! And then the six other officers had to - in order to avoid another “case of Rickover” being taken to the congressional hearings - by unanimous vote for Captain Hyman Rickover’s candidacy.
24 July 1953, the United States Navy Ministry announced another promotion of officers to admiral positions - the first on the list of captives who were assigned the rear admiral rank was Hyman George Rickover. Meanwhile, in the Groton, work was already in full swing on the world's first submarine, which had to be moved by the energy of an atom conquered by man.
Decision is made
Officially, the decision to build the first submarine was the head of the marine operations, according to our terminology, the commander, US Navy Admiral Chester W. Nimitz received 5 December 1947, 10 days before retiring, and the Navy Minister John Sullivan, on December December 8 approved him, having determined the Shipbuilding Board responsible for work in this area, and for cooperation with the Atomic Energy Commission. It remained to choose the shipyard for the construction of the nuclear head ship.
6 December 1949 of the Year Hyman Rickover held talks with O. Pomeroi Robinson, General Manager of the Electric Boat, a private shipyard, who gladly agreed to take a contract to build an atomic-powered vessel - the company launched the submarine every two weeks into war , but now sat almost out of work. A month later, on January 12, 1950, Rickover, along with James Dunford and Louis Roddis, were still in the “Rickover Group” while working at Oak Ridge, as well as Bettis Laboratory General Manager Charles H. Weaver arrived at the Navy Yard in Portsmouth , to explore the possibility of attracting it to the program of construction of submarines. The head of the shipyard, captain Ralph E. McShane, was ready to join the project, but one of the plant officers present at the meeting spoke out against - they say, they are too busy with contracts to modernize diesel-electric submarines. McShane agreed with his subordinate and refused the proposal of Rickover, who immediately - leaning over the table - took the phone and called Robinson, asking if the Electric Boat would take the contract for the second submarine. Robinson agreed without hesitation.
The Nautilus itself was included in the US Navy's shipbuilding program for the 1952 year - at number four of the 26 ships listed in it. After congressional approval, President Truman approved it on 8 August 1950. A month earlier, 1 July 1950, the Atomic Energy Commission issued Westinghouse a contract for the design and construction of a prototype nuclear pressurized water reactor, which was designated the Mark I thermal boat reactor (Submarine Thermal Reactor Mark I or STR Mark I ). Subsequently, after approval of a single classification of the US Navy and NPP, this reactor was designated S1W, where “S” is “submarine”, that is, YAR for a submarine, “1” is the first generation active zone developed by this contractor, and “W "Is the designation of the contractor itself, that is, the Westinghouse company.
The construction of the reactor was to be carried out on the territory of the State Commission for Testing Nuclear Reactors, located in Idaho between the cities of Arco and Idaho Falls (today Idaho National (Engineering) Laboratory), which belongs to this commission, and its most important feature was to be as close to mass-dimensional as possible. characteristics of the submarine's NPP reactor. In fact, in Idaho, a ground model of such a power plant was built as part of the reactor itself and the steam generating plant, and the steam turbine plant was simplified - the strength of the steam produced using nuclear energy caused the propeller shaft to rotate, which was supported by a special propeller, and there was no propeller at the end of the shaft A water brake was installed. Moreover, the entire structure was built inside the stand simulated the reactor compartment of the Nautilus nuclear submarine - a metal cylinder with a diameter of about 9 meters surrounded by a pool of water (through the latter, excess heat was removed from the reactor installation). The construction of the "hull" Rickover initially wanted to entrust the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, but, not agreeing with her leadership on a number of issues, transferred the order to the "Electric Boat".
Capten Hyman Rickover and Navy Minister Dan Kimball are exploring a conceptual model of a submarine with a nuclear power plant. Photo of US Navy
Truman lays nuclear-powered icebreaker
In August 1951, the command of the US Navy officially announced that it was ready to sign a contract with the industry for the construction of the first nuclear submarine. Upon learning of the admirals' decision to build the first nuclear submarine, Clay Blair, a young correspondent for Time and Life magazines, decided to prepare material on this topic. 25-year-old journalist during the war years served as a sailor on a submarine and participated in two military campaigns. Blair was fascinated by the idea of a submarine moving on atomic energy, but he was even more impressed by the personality of the program manager, Rickover.
Blair's material came out in the September 3 magazines of the year 1951. “Life” illustrated his article with a photo of Rickover in a civilian suit, a view of an “Electric Boat” from a bird's-eye view and, most importantly, a picture that depicted the world's first nuclear submarine — naturally, it was an artist’s fantasy based on submarine models. Blair, who “traced” Captain Rickover in his report from the Washington Station Station to the shipyard in Groton, was surprised to note that Rickover was extremely negative about naval officers who, as the “father of the atomic fleet” , in those years, more "translated the spirit after the war ended, than prepared for a new war." Rickover declared “war on the naval indifference,” the journalist wrote.
Finally, on August 20, the United States Navy 1951 signed with the Electric Boat a contract for the construction of a nuclear submarine, which was named Nautilus. The actual cost of building a ship in the prices of that year amounted to 37 million dollars.
9 February 1952, Captain Rickover, on the call of President Truman, who closely followed the fleet's atomic program, arrived at the White House, where he and the rest of the program leaders were to hold a briefing for the president. Rickover brought a model of a nuclear submarine and a small piece of zirconium with him to the white house. "The man who ordered the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, now had to make sure personally - nuclear energy can also power the machines," wrote Francis Duncan in his book Rickover: The Battle for Excellence.
In general, Truman was pleased with the work of Rickover and other specialists, and Rickover decided that Truman should speak at the Nautilus bookmark ceremony. Not having direct access to the president, Ricover, asked Truman to persuade the chairman of the Senate Joint Atomic Energy Committee, Bryn Mac-Machon, which he did with success. For such an event, a landmark day was chosen for Americans - Flag Day - 14 June 1952. However, the event almost turned out to be another nuisance for Rickover.
The fact is that a few days before the laying ceremony of the “Nautilus” on the slipway, Robert Panoff and Ray Dick arrived at the “Electric Boat” shipyard to resolve the latest issues. And here, with inexpressible surprise, they found out that the “father of the nuclear fleet” did not include in the list of persons invited to the ceremony of laying the first nuclear-powered ship of America!
Panoff and Dick turned to the officers of the US Navy who were seconded to the shipyard, but they refused to deal with this problem. Then they went to the management of the shipyard itself - the shipbuilders advised “to turn to the command of the Navy,” but Panoff and Dick insisted that once the receiving party is a shipyard, then its management should make a decision. Finally, 8 Jun. Rikover received a telegram signed by O. Pomeroy Robinson, CEO of Electric Boat, in which Captain and his spouse were invited to a solemn ceremony to bookmark Nautilus and the subsequent reception on the occasion. Moreover, the invitation was sent to the head of the nuclear reactor section for the fleet of the “civilian” Atomic Energy Commission, and not to the officer of the US Navy, who heads the department of nuclear power plants of the US Naval Shipbuilding Administration.
And then came the 14 June 1952 of the year. By noon, more than 10 thousands of people gathered at the southern shipyard of the Electric Boat company. High-level executives of the organizing company, as well as representatives of other companies employed in the program: Westinghouse, Bettissky laboratory and General Electric stood on the high platform. The company they were composed of the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission Gordon E. Dean (Gordon E. Dean), the Navy Minister Dan Kimball and other representatives of the Navy command, as well as the captain Hyman Rickover, though in a civilian. Nearby, among the crowd, were his wife Ruth and son Robert.
Kimball, in his welcoming speech, noted that the nuclear power plant was "the greatest breakthrough in the field of ship traffic means after the Fleet moved from sailboats to ships with steam engines." According to him, many worthy people have contributed to the creation of such a miracle of engineering, but if only one person needs to be identified, in this case, as Kimball stated, “laurels and honors can belong only to the captain Hyman Rickover.”
Truman, in turn, expressed the hope that the day will never come when the atomic bomb will be used again, and the Nautilus will never have to engage in a real battle. Then, at his signal, the crane operator hooked up a section of the hull and set it on the slipway, the president approached her and wrote his initials HST with chalk, after which the worker came and “burned out” them in metal.
“I declare this keel well and properly laid down,” proclaimed Truman, and later, during a ceremonial reception at the officers ’club, he said:“ You can call today's event epochal, this is an important milestone on the historical path of researching the atom and using it energy for peaceful purposes. " And just a few years ago, the same person without hesitation gave the order to subject the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to atomic bombing ...
Virtual Transatlantic Transition
At the end of March, 1953 Rickover arrives at the Mark I nuclear reactor site, where they were preparing to implement the first self-sustaining chain reaction. It was possible to carry out the reaction on the Mark I reactor in 23 h 17 min 30 March 1953. It was not about generating a large amount of energy - it was only necessary to confirm the efficiency of the NR, to bring it to the level of criticality. However, only the withdrawal of the reactor to the nominal (operating) power could prove the possibility of using Mark II I as part of an NPP capable of “moving ships”.
The radiation safety of the specialists involved in the program was so strong that the initial process of putting the Mark I reactor to its rated capacity was planned to be controlled from a distance of almost 2 km, but Rikover choked up the proposal as too complicated for practical implementation. Just as he refused to exercise control from the post outside the steel cylindrical "sarcophagus" that imitated the submarine compartment, firmly insisting that it be done only in the immediate vicinity of YAR. However, for the sake of safety, a control system was installed, which made it possible to shut off the reactor in just a matter of seconds.
31 in May 1953 of the year to the YP Mark I site to lead the reactor to its rated capacity came Ricover, and with him Thomas E. Murray, a professional engineer appointed to the Atomic Energy Commission in 1950 President Truman, and now headed it. Rickover told his representative at Mark I, Commander Edwin E. Kintner (Edwin E. Kintner), that it was Thomas Murray who had the honor of opening the valve and launching the first working volume of steam generated by using nuclear power to the turbine of the prototype ship-borne AEU. Commander Kintner was against, “for security reasons,” but Rikover was adamant.
Rickover, Murray, Kintner, and several other specialists went inside the "submarine hull" and, from the Mark I reactor station equipped there, they proceeded with the planned important process. After several attempts, the reactor was brought to rated power, then Murray turned the valve and the working steam went to the turbine. When the unit reached a capacity of several thousand hp, Rickover and Murray came out of the "hull", went down to the lower level and headed to the place where the red-and-white-colored shaft line was mounted, which rested on a special device with a water brake . Rickover and Murray looked at the rapidly rotating shafting and, satisfied with the first “atomic energy breakdown,” left the hall.
However, it should be noted here that Mark I did not become the first nuclear reactor from which the working energy was removed. These laurels belong to the experimental nuclear breeder (breeder) designed by Walter Henry Zinn (Walter H. Zinn), from which 20 December 1951 of the year at the experimental site and were removed 410 kW - the first energy obtained from a nuclear reaction. However, the Mark I was the first reactor, which managed to get a truly working volume of energy, which made it possible to set in motion such a large object as a nuclear submarine with a full displacement of about 3500 tons.
The next step was to become an experiment to bring the reactor to full capacity and maintain it in such a state for a sufficiently long period of time. 25 June 1953, Rickover was again at Mark I and gave permission to conduct a test of 48 hours, sufficient time to gather the necessary information. And although the experts managed to remove all the necessary information after the installation hours of 24, Rickover ordered that the work be continued - he needed a full check. In addition, he decided to calculate how much energy an AES should produce in order to “transport” an atomic submarine across the Atlantic Ocean. Especially for this, he took a map of the ocean and laid on it a course of an imaginary nuclear-powered ship - from the Canadian nova Scotland to the coast of Ireland. With this card, the "father of the atomic fleet" intended to lay on the shoulder blades of "these naval scoundrels" from Washington. Against such a vivid demonstration, any skeptics and opponents of the nuclear submarine fleet and Rickover himself could not say anything.
According to Rickover’s calculations, Mark I’s 96 operating hours have already brought the nuclear submarine to Fasnet, located on the south-west coast of Ireland. Moreover, the ship with a length of about 2000 miles made a transition at an average speed of slightly more than 20 nodes, without stopping and surfacing to the surface. However, during this virtual transatlantic transition several times there were malfunctions and breakdowns: after 60 hours of operation, the autonomous turbine generators of the installation practically failed - the graphite dust formed during their wear settled on the windings and reduced the insulation resistance, the cables of the reactor monitoring system were damaged - the specialists lost control over the parameters of the core (AZ) YAR, one of the circulation pumps of the primary circuit began to create an increased noise level at high frequencies, and several pipes to the main condenser given flow - as a result of the beginning of the rising pressure in the condenser. In addition, during the “transition”, the plant's capacity went down uncontrollably — twice to the level of 50% and once to 30%, but the reactor plant did not stop, however. So when 96 hours after the “start”, Rickover gave the command to finally stop the experiment - everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
Commander of the Nautilus submarine, Commander Eugene Wilkinson (right) and Lieutenant Dean. L. Aksin on the navigating bridge of the nuclear icebreaker (March 1955 of the year). After commander Yu.P. Wilkinson was appointed the first commander of the world's first Nautilus submarine, friends began to call him "Captain Nemo." Photo of US Navy
Rickover proceeded to the selection of officers and sailors for the first crew of the Nautilus even before the Mark I YAR was put into operation. At the same time, the “father of the nuclear fleet” shouldered the heavy burden of developing technical documentation and operating instructions for all the new systems that received registration on the nuclear submarine - those regulatory documents developed by naval specialists, laboratories and contracting companies turned out to be so inept and impractical that they simply could not learn anything.
All selected by Rikover in the first crew of the Nautilus, the sailors completed a one-year training and education course at the Bettis laboratory, gaining additional knowledge of mathematics, physics, and the issues of operating nuclear reactors and nuclear power plants. Then they relocated to Arco, Idaho, where they completed a training course on the Mark I prototype shipboard spacecraft under the supervision of specialists from Westinghouse, Electric Boat, and others. It is here, in Arco, located approximately 130 km from Idaho - Falls production site of the company "Westinghouse", was formed the first Naval Nuclear Education Center (Naval Nuclear Power School). Officially, the reason for such remoteness of the site with the prototype of the booster NR from the city was the need to maintain an appropriate regime of secrecy and reduce the negative impact of radiation on the population of the city in the event of a reactor accident. The sailors among themselves, as some members of the first Nautilus crew later recalled, were simply sure that the only reason for this was the command’s desire to minimize the number of casualties during the reactor explosion, in this case only the seamen and their instructors on the site would die.
Officers and sailors who were trained in Arco were directly involved in bringing the Mark I to production and full capacity, and several were even transferred to the “Electric Boat” shipyard, where they took part in the installation of an already standard, designed for the head nuclear submarine, Mark type YAR II, later received the designation S2W. It had a capacity of about 10 MW and was structurally similar to Mark I YAR.
It is interesting that for a long time it was not possible to find a candidate for the post of commander of the first crew of the first submarine in the world. The requirements for such an officer were so high that the search for the right person could not be delayed. However, Rikover, as he later stated several times in an interview, already from the very beginning knew who he would prefer to see as commander of the Nautilus, his choice fell on Commander Eugene P. Wilkinson, an excellent officer and highly educated person , "Free from ossified traditions and prejudices."
Wilkinson was born in California in 1918 year, twenty years later graduated from the University of Southern California - received a bachelor's degree in physics, but after a year and a little work as a teacher of chemistry and mathematics, he entered the US Navy Reserve in 1940, receiving the title of ensign (this is the first The US Navy officer rank, which theoretically can be equated to the Russian rank "junior lieutenant"). Initially, he served on a heavy cruiser, and a year later he switched to a submarine and made eight combat trips, rose to senior assistant commander of the ship and received the rank of lieutenant commander (corresponds to the Russian military rank of "3 rank captain").
Wilkinson commanded the Wahu submarine (USS Wahoo, SS-565) of the Tang type, when 25 March 1953 of the year he received a letter from Rickover, who offered him to take the vacant position of the Nautilus submarine. And Rickover asked him to hurry up with the answer, and not “to be lazy as usual.” However, Wilkinson's candidacy caused a strong opposition in the submarine forces of the US Navy: first, because he was not a graduate of the Naval Academy - the forge of the elite of the American fleet; secondly, he did not command a submarine during the war years; thirdly, "he was chosen by Ricover." The latter was probably the most powerful argument against Wilkinson’s candidacy for such a truly historically significant position. In addition, for many years the command of the submarine forces of the Atlantic fleet had the privilege of appointing officers to new submarines — and here Rickover came and everything was ashen ...
In August, 1953, everything again, as it should be in America, splashed into the pages of the press. An article appeared in The Washington Times - Herald, stating that Wilkinson was chosen because he initially received the education of a "scientist" and was a "technical group." However, the author continued, many personnel officers of the fleet opposed this candidature, arguing that “a nuclear power plant is just an ordinary steam turbine plant” and that “you cannot command a submarine if you have formed your worldview in the engine room”. Such people believed that the commander of the Nautilus submarine should be Commander Edward L. Beach (Cmdr. Edward L. Beach), who was called "submarine commander No. XXUMX". However, Edward Beach later became the commander of the no less unique Triton submarine (USS Triton, SSRN / SSN-1).
The Nautilus godmother, First Lady M. Eisenhower, smashes a traditional bottle of champagne against the board of a ship. Behind her - captain Edward L. Beach, the naval adjutant of President Eisenhower, who later became the commander of the Triton submarine and made a round-the-world diving trip on it. Photo of US Navy
Such a different press ...
The theme of creating the first nuclear submarine in America was then so popular, downright “hot,” that the famous publishing house Henry Holt and Company placed 28 December 1953 of the year in the New York Times advertising about the upcoming 18 of January 1954 of the Year by Clay Blair Jr., The Atomic Submarine and Admiral Rickover, by Clay Blair’s Atomic Submarine and Admiral Rickover. And the advertising categorically stated: “ATTENTION! The fleet will not like this book! ”
Blair collected information for his book carefully and everywhere. For example, he visited the Office of Information (Office of Naval Information), which was then headed by the famous submariner Rear Admiral Lewis S. Parks (Lewis S. Parks). There, among other things, he spoke with Parks' subordinate several times - Commander Slade D. Cutter, Head of Public Relations.
Blair sent part of his manuscript to Rickover, who, along with other engineers, carefully studied it and generally approved it, although he considered it to be “overly bright and bright” and “too often pushing for anti-Semitism” (Rikikeru often got it also for his Jewish origin, therefore The author decided to “cheer him up” and put on his face such unseemly behavior to some opponents of the “father of the US atomic fleet”).
But Rickover distinguished Blair’s office and allowed access to unclassified information, adding in addition to the assistants of Louis Roddis, who had previously been a part of the already mentioned “Rickover Group”. Interestingly, Rickover showed Blair’s manuscript to his wife, Ruth, who read it and was shocked. In her opinion, such a statement could harm the career of her husband, and together with Blair, they "corrected the style." In early January, 1954, the first printed copies of the new book already “went” to the Pentagon’s offices, and a few days later the launch of the Nautilus was expected. But then the press again intervened in the case, having nearly struck a "fatal blow" to one of the most important programs in the history of the US Navy.
The culprit of the next “black line” that was almost ready to break out of the tragedy and the next “black line” that almost came to life was the Washington Post military commentator John W. Finney, who decided to make money after Clay Blair to make money first for the average citizen. in the world of the atomic submarine.
Unlike his more enthusiastic and romantic colleague, Finney immediately realized that the best way to demonstrate to the public the unique capabilities of the new ship would be to make as close as possible a detailed comparison of the tactical and technical elements of the atomic and conventional diesel-electric submarines. However, the head of the Navy's public relations department, Commander S.D. Katter told him literally the following: there is no significant difference in the design of a conventional diesel-electric submarine and a promising nuclear-powered ship, moreover, large displacement and main dimensions of the Nautilus can be a disadvantage in combat. Having no deep knowledge of shipbuilding and naval tactics, Finney left the commander’s office, firmly confident that the main task of the Nautilus would be to test the ship’s nuclear power plant.
4 January The 1954 of the Washington Post published Finney’s article entitled “A Submarine Held Unfit for Battle Now”. It stated that, in the opinion of high-ranking officers of the fleet, the US Navy is not yet ready to create an atomic submarine capable of being effectively used in combat. It was argued that the Nautilus had too large dimensions and displacement, and its torpedo armament was installed on the ship like that - just in case, therefore, one of the officers told the newspaper columnist, “this is an experimental submarine and I doubt that the ship will perform torpedo shooting at a real enemy. " Another edition, “Washington News”, only added fuel to the fire, placing a note on its pages under the simply killer title: “Nautilus is already outdated” (“Nautilus Already Obsolete”). And then it began ...
President Eisenhower called Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson (Charles E. Wilson) asking why his wife should become the godmother of an experimental submarine? Two more calls followed: from the chairman of the Joint Atomic Energy Committee, Congressman W. Sterling Cole, who was unhappy with Finney’s article, and from Lewis L. Strauss, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, who proposed immediately call a press conference. The Minister immediately called his deputy Roger M. Kayes (Roger M. Kyes), Assistant for Nuclear Issues Robert Le Baron (Robert LeBaron), Minister of the Navy Robert Anderson (Robert B. Anderson), and Parks and Cutter .
The minister believed that holding a press conference was not from his hand, since secret information could come out, and the most acceptable option would be to postpone the launch of the Nautilus. At the meeting, it suddenly turned out that some of the quotations in Finney’s article were identical to Cutter’s remarks, which he set forth in his numerous memoranda addressed to Parks. Thus, it became clear - Finny stated in the article the thoughts that his interlocutors informed him. It also turned out that no secrets came out to the surface - “and then thank God,” the participants considered.
The conversation then went to Rickover and directly to the Nautilus. The Minister of Defense asked Le Baron about the quality of Rickover’s work - he replied that everything was going fine, although Rickover had amassed many “oppositionists”. To Kais’s question about who Rickover is working for — the Fleet or the Westinghouse — Le Baron replied to the Fleet and the Atomic Energy Commission. Wilson also wondered if the funds were spent on the Nautilus correctly, and Le Baron answered that everything was in order. After that, the Minister of Defense, not without some hesitation, nevertheless made a decision: not to postpone the launch of the nuclear-powered ship on the water and to conduct it according to the previously approved work schedule. Rickover and Nautilus were lucky again ...
The moment of launching the Nautilus submarine. 21 January 1954, the Electric Boat Shipyard. Photo of US Navy
"I call you" Nautilus "
21 January 1954, the shipyard in Groton. Cold, overcast day of the next working Thursday. Nothing, at first glance, not remarkable. Nothing, moreover, that it was on this day in the annals of the history of military shipbuilding that the Americans had to record in gold — to launch the world's first submarine with a nuclear power plant. That is why from early morning on the shipyard the workers, military sailors and numerous guests went and went in an endless stream. As the journalists later calculated, 15 thousands of “spectators” arrived at the descent of the Nautilus to the Electric Boat enterprise, an absolute record of that time! And now, probably, few ships launched, can boast such attention from various segments of the population. Although, of course, most of this crowd of thousands of people saw little - they were too far away.
And the icebreaker standing on the slipway was painted in a peculiar and unusual way for modern submarines: the upper part of the hull was olive-green to the waterline, and the outer part of the hull was painted black below the waterline.
The launching of the ship was planned to take place at the highest point of the tide, which, according to the train, in this area was supposed to happen at about 11 hours of the day. As eyewitnesses recalled later, half an hour before the appointed time, as if by a wave of a magic wand, a light breeze blew that managed to disperse the fog. And then the metal began to play in the sun, the flags turned in the wind - as they say, life has become more fun. And after a while, the main characters, the first lady acting as the godmother of the nuclear-powered icebreaker, and her accompaniment appeared on the scene. The wife of Eisenhower immediately climbed the platform built next to the Nautilus, where she was already eagerly awaited by the company's management and high-ranking representatives of the fleet.
A few minutes before the appointed time, Mamie Eisenhower climbed onto a small platform, moved almost to the very body of the nuclear-powered icebreaker, with which she had to smash a traditional bottle of champagne on him exactly at 11.00. One of the reporters of the local newspaper New London Evening Day wrote that day in a note from the scene: “Not a muscle trembled on the face of a small man in the form of a rear admiral, who first sat in the extreme position in the front row of honored guests, and then he joined a small group of favorites who stood behind the first lady during the launch of the ship. ” It was about Hyman Ricovere - probably the struggle for the promotion of atomic energy in the fleet, for the "Nautilus" and, finally, for himself cost him such nerves that at the culminating moment of the long-standing epic forces of the "father of the US atomic fleet" remained.
Finally, the worker at the bottom “with a slight hand movement” freed the submarine hull of the submarine, the first lady smashed the bottle with a firm hand on the hull and clearly said in the silence hanging over the shipyard: “I christen Nautilus”, which can be translated as “I name you Nautilus”. The bottle was smashed to pieces, and the firstborn of a nuclear submarine ship slowly moved along the launch slipway to the water, which will become his native element for decades. He still stands afloat - as a ship-museum.
The Nautilus submarine is on trial. During the day the ship completed 51 dive / ascent. Photo of US Navy