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When you're in Groton, Connecticut, don't miss the opportunity to visit the USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear powered submarine, considered the ultimate sub of her day. Apparently a popular name, at least five previous vessels were called the Nautilus.
This Nautilus began a revolution in submarine construction and operation which continues today. After a long working life, the massive black hulk is now decommissioned and open as a museum. A quarter of a million people visit her "in retirement" each year.
The Nautilus was launched from Groton in 1954, under the leadership of Admiral Hyman G. Rickover. Submariners tell the extraordinary tale that Rickover, determined to have his nuclear sub program, locked a group of congressmen in their chambers and wouldn't let them out until they agreed to his proposal!
Whatever actually transpired, Rickover got his nuclear subs, despite a substantial amount of opposition and several rumored sabotage attempts. From then on, there was no stopping him, as those who worked at the base can attest. Rickover was as controversial as he was resolute.
Over the years, the Nautilus set many records for underwater speed and endurance. Her record setting career is echoed in her motto, "First and Finest."
Though few people were aware of it at the time, in 1958, the Nautilus was preparing to make the record books, yet again, with an even bigger accomplishment. She left Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on a top secret mission (what other kind of mission is there?) called Operation Sunshine. The journey would take her north, in fact very far north indeed. On August
3rd, she became the first ship to reach 90 degrees north or what we commonly call the North Pole. Her place in history books was assured.
In recognition of her pioneering role, she was designated a National Historic Landmark in May of 1982. She also flies a special blue, gold and red flag, presented by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Called the Presidential Unit Citation Pennant, the Nautilus was the first ship to have received this award for peace time operations.