USS Nautilus (SSN-571)


USS Nautilus is arguably the most famous submarine in the world. She was first in many respects, including being the first nuclear submarine, first submarine to navigate under the North Pole, as well as setting many endurance records for submerged operations. She also participated in many exercises that helped to rewrite Anti-Submarine Warfare doctrine.

On June 14, 1952 the keel for USS Nautilus was laid at Electric Boat Division in Groton, Connecticut by President Harry S. Truman. Nineteen months later, on January 21, 1954 she was launched. Just eight months later, on September 30, 1954 she was commissioned into the US Navy.

"UNDERWAY ON NUCLEAR POWER." January 17, 1955, and Nautilus leaves her berth under the command of Commander Eugene P. Wilkinson to pass into the history books. Her nuclear reactor was developed by the Naval Reactors Branch of the Atomic Energy Commission, under direction of Captain Hyman G. Rickover. Nuclear power enabled Nautilus to remain submerged for weeks at a time, as there was no need to surface and recharge batteries, wheras diesel boats were required to surface or snorkel every couple of days. Her endurance was primarily limited by her stores and oxygen supply.

Because of her ability to remain submerged for extended periods, Nautilus was chosen for "Operation Sunshine", the first crossing under the North Pole. On July 28, 1958 she departed Pearl Harbor for the Bering Straits and the Arctic ice pack. She reached the geographic North Pole on August 3. She then completed her transpolar voyage, arriving in Portland, Enlgand on August 12.

Over the next several years Nautilus participated in many fleet exercises. Because of her greater underwater speed, she was able to outrun many of the older submarines, as well as out maneuver ASW weapons. New tactics and better weapons were required to meet the threat posed by nuclear powered submarines.

In 1966 Nautilus logged her 300,000th mile underway, another record for her. Though more modern submarines were being built (such as Skipjack, Thresher, and Sturgeon classes), she continued to serve throughout the next decade. In 1979 Nautilus made her final voyage under nuclear power, arriving at Mare Island Shipyard on May 26 for deactivation. She was decommissioned on March 30, 1980.

Nautilus was declared a National Historic Landmark on May 20, 1982. Plans were made to allow her to be opened as a museum. After returning to Mare Island Shipyard for work to prepare her for public access, she was towed back to Groton, Connecticut. She arrived on July 6, 1985. Berthed at Sub Base New London, she is in the care of the Submarine Force Library and Museum.

Some Statistics:
Length: 319 feet
Width: 27 feet
Displacement: 4092 tons surface
Speed: 20+ knots
Complement: 11 officers, 100 enlisted
Armament: 6 torpedo tubes, all forward.

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