USS Nautilus (SSN-571)

Missing image
2002 May 08, USS Nautilus (SSN-571), retired, heading for home after $4.7 million dollar preservation by .

Nautilus, retired, heads for home on May 8, 2002, after preservation by Electric Boat.
Career United States Navy Jack
Awarded: 2 August 1951
Laid down: 14 June 1952
Launched: 21 January 1954
Commissioned: 30 September 1954
Fate: retained by Navy as museum
Stricken: 3 March 1980
General Characteristics
Displacement: 2980 tons light, 3520 tons full, 540 tons dead
Length: 97.5 meters (320 feet)
Beam: 8.5 meters (28 feet)
Draft: 7.9 meters (26 feet)
Armament: 6 torpedo tubes
Complement: 13 officers, 92 men

USS Nautilus (SSN-571), the first nuclear-powered submarine and a unique prototype, was the sixth ship of the United States Navy to be so named. The concept of the nuclear submarine was based on the work of physicist Philip Abelson. On December 12 1951, the Navy Department announced that the world's first nuclear-powered submarine (SSN 571) would carry the name Nautilus. Authorized by the Congress in July 1951, her keel was laid at the Electric Boat Division, Groton, Connecticut by the Honorable Harry S. Truman, President of the United States, on June 14, 1952, at the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Connecticut. She was christened on January 21 1954 sponsored by Mamie Eisenhower, wife of President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower, who broke the traditional bottle of champagne on her bow as the ship slid down the ways into the Thames River, and was commissioned on September 30 1954 with Commander Eugene P. Wilkinson, USN, in command.


"Underway on nuclear power"

Following commissioning Nautilus remained at dockside for further construction and testing until January 17 1955. On 17 January 1955, at 1100, USS Nautilus put to sea for the first time and signaled her historic message: "Underway on nuclear power.". Trials followed, and on 10 May, Nautilus headed south for shakedown. She steamed submerged 1,300 miles from New London to San Juan, Puerto Rico, covering 1381 miles in less than 90 hours . She remained submerged while enroute, the longest submerged cruise to that date by a submarine, and at the highest sustained submerged speed ever recorded for a period of over one hour's duration. Throughout 1955, and into 1957, she investigated the effects of the radically increased submerged speed and endurance, such changes in submerged mobility having virtually wiped out progress in anti-submarine warfare techniques. The airplane and radar, which helped defeat submarines in the Atlantic during World War II, proved ineffective against a vessel which did not need to surface, could clear an area in record time, and swiftly change depth simultaneously.

On 4 February 1957, Nautilus logged her 60,000th nautical mile, matching the endurance of the fictional Nautilus described in Jules Verne's novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. In May, she departed for the Pacific Coast to participate in coastal exercises and the fleet exercise, operation "Home Run," which acquainted units of the Pacific Fleet with the capabilities of nuclear submarines.

Nautilus returned to New London, Connecticut, on 21 July and departed again 19 August for her first voyage, of 1383 miles, under polar pack ice. Thence, she headed for the Eastern Atlantic to participate in NATO exercises and conduct a tour of various British and French ports where she was inspected by defense personnel of those countries. She arrived back at New London 28 October, underwent upkeep, and then conducted coastal operations until the spring.

On 25 April 1958 she was underway again for the West Coast, now commanded by Commander William R. Anderson, USN. Stopping at San Diego, California, San Francisco, California, and Seattle, Washington, she began her history making Polar transit, operation "Sunshine," as she departed the latter port 9 June. On 19 June she entered the Chukchi Sea, but was turned back by deep draft ice in those shallow waters. On 28 June she arrived at Pearl Harbor to await better ice conditions. By 23 July her wait was over and she set a course northward. She submerged in the Barrow Sea Valley on 1 August and on 3 August, at 2315 (EDST) she became the first ship to reach the geographic North Pole. From the North Pole, she continued on and after 96 hours and 1830 miles under the ice, she surfaced northeast of Greenland, having completed the first successful submerged voyage across the North Pole.

Proceeding from Greenland to Portland, England, she received the Presidential Unit Citation, the first ever issued in peace time, from American Ambassador J.H. Whitney, and then set a westerly course which put her into the Thames River estuary at New London 29 October. For the remainder of the year she operated from her homeport, New London, Connecticut.

Following fleet exercises in early 1959, Nautilus entered the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, for her first complete overhaul (28 May 1959-15 August 1960). Overhaul was followed by refresher training and on 24 October she departed New London for her first deployment with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea, returning to her homeport 16 December.

Nautilus operated in the Atlantic, conducting evaluation tests for ASW improvements, participating in NATO exercises and, during the fall of 1962, in the naval quarantine of Cuba, until she headed east again for a two month Mediterranean tour in August 1963. On her return she joined in fleet exercises until entering the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for her second overhaul 17 January 1964.

On 2 May 1966, Nautilus returned to her homeport to resume operations with the Atlantic Fleet, and at some moment that spring, logged her 300,000th mile underway. For the next year and a quarter she conducted special operations for ComSubLant and then in August 1967, returned to Portsmouth, for another year's stay, following which she conducted exercises off the southeastern seaboard. She returned to New London in December 1968.

11 years of history missing.

In the spring of 1979, Nautilus set out from Groton, Connecticut on her final voyage. She reached Mare Island Naval Shipyard of Vallejo, California on 26 May 1979 - her last day underway. She was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 3 March 1980.


Nautilus was designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Secretary of the Interior on 20 May 1982. Following an extensive conversion at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Nautilus was towed back to Groton, Connecticut arriving on 6 July 1985.

The Nautilus now serves as a museum of submarine history, after undergoing a five-month preservation in 2002, at Electric Boat division of General Dynamics, at a cost of approximately $4.7 million. The historic ship Nautilus attracts some 250,000 visitors annually to her present berth near the United States Naval Submarine Base New London, at Groton's Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton Connecticut.

Nautilus celebrated the 50th anniversary of her commissioning on 30 September 2004 with a ceremony that included a speech from Commander Wilkinson, the first Commanding Officer of Nautilus, and a designation of the ship as an American Nuclear Society National Nuclear Landmark.

See also

See USS Nautilus and ships named Nautilus for other ships of this name.


This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

External links

sv:USS Nautilus


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