One of the few really interesting educational sites on Connecticut’s shoreline is the Submarine Force Library and Museum, located in Groton, near General Dynamics’ Electric Boat yards. Permanently moored on the Thames River, hard by Naval Submarine Base New London, is the world’s first nuclear sub, the fabled USS Nautilus, which is open to the public and worth a day’s visit.
The result of an audacious, some might have said crazy, plan to put the new technology of a nuclear reactor on a submarine, the Nautilus permanently changed naval warfare and global strategy, leading less than six years after its 1954 launch to the first of the nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the USS Enterprise. No longer would naval ships be limited by how much oil (or coal) they could carry. As of 1954, the U.S. Navy had developed the capability essentially to keep its ships at sea indefinitely. Since the launching of the Nautilus exactly 60 years ago, the U.S. Navy has safely operated hundreds of nuclear-powered vessels, and never, as far as is known, lost one to a nuclear accident. And none of this would have been possible without the determination of one irascible, difficult, hated genius: Admiral Hyman G. Rickover.