Little Known Characters In America: Hyman G. Rickover
By Cal Campbell
Journal Gazette & Times-Courier
May 15, 2017
Hyman George Rickover (Jan. 27, 1900 -- July 8, 1986) was a United States Navy admiral who directed the original development of naval nuclear propulsion and controlled its operations for over 30 years as director of Naval Reactors.
Known as the “Father of the Nuclear Navy”, he was directly responsible for the implementation and continued development of nuclear-powered submarines, aircraft carriers and cruisers. Today, many of these early vessels are now decommissioned and others under construction.
Rickover became the longest-serving naval officer in United States history with 63 years of active duty service. Rickover had a unique personality that often conflicted with other high-ranking naval officers and civilian authorities. Yet, he managed to persevere and achieve greatness.
What is so amazing is that there were no reactor accidents, as defined by the uncontrolled release of fission products to the environment subsequent to reactor core damage.
Rickover graduated from the United States Naval Academy and assumed command of numerous ships in his early career.
The Navy recognized a brilliant naval officer and so sent him to Columbia University where he earned a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering.
It was on April 10, 1942, after American’s forced entry into World War II, that Rickover was given the assignment of making repairs to the electrical power plant of the USS California. The California was heavily damaged when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Rickover was able to put the ship’s electrical alternators and motors back into operating condition, enabling the battleship to sail under her own power and proceed to Puget Sound Navy Yard for further repairs.
In February 1949 he received an assignment to the Atomic Energy Commission’s Division of Reactor Development and began work on developing the first atomic submarine. The development was difficult as the nuclear reactor had to fit in the limited space of a submarine. But with Rickover’s knowledge and determination the problems were solved resulting in the first atomic submarine. Thus, USS Nautilus was built and commissioned as an able submarine.
Rickover was promoted to the rank of vice admiral in 1958, the same year that he was awarded the first of two Congressional Gold Medals.
Rickover assumed tight control for the next three decades over the ships, technology and personnel of the nuclear Navy.
Rickover would eventually achieve the rank of admiral and retire in 1982. He succumbed to a multitude of illnesses and died on July 8, 1986, at the age of 86.