On January 21, 1954, Nautilus was launched changing the how the submarine force would operate forever. At 10:57am, she slipped into the waters of the Thames as the sun broke through the clouds of the early morning. Complied in the archives of President Eisenhower, is a brochure complied of that fateful day. The brochure belonged to First Lady Mamie Eisenhower who served as the ship’s sponsor, breaking the bottle of champagne over its bow as it moved into the water. Within the program are paragraphs describing how historic Nautilus was.
Beyond the fancies of fiction
“When Jules Berne wrote Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1869, he imagined a true submersible which operated beneath the surface of the sea for indefinite periods, independent of the earth’s surface and atmosphere. His ship he named ‘Nautilus’ after the first practical submarine, one built by Robert Fulton in 1800. Now the sagacity and vision of the United States Navy, the Atomic Energy Commission and American industry have developed a ship which goes beyond even the fanciful creation of Jules Verne. Today’s “Nautilus’ opens the way to the world of the future.”
“…a most solemn and significant event”
“January 21, 1954 lives in history as the launching day of the world’s first atomic powered vessel, the submarine ‘Nautilus.’ Powered by the silent, invisible, airless “burning” of nuclear fuel, the ‘Nautilus’ will cruise submerged faster, farther, longer than any previous craft in history. Some 30,000 persons gathered in the shipyard of our Electric Boat Division, Groton, Connecticut, to witness this momentous occasion. That many came from great distances is a signal tribute to the scientists, engineers and craftsmen who worked to create this masterpiece of the shipbuilder’s art…..None of us who watched this unique and historic ship slide down the ways into the waters of the Thames River could doubt that we were participants in a most solemn and significant event, not only of our time but of all time.” – John Jay Hopkins, Chairman and President of General Dynamics Corporation
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Robert B. Carney, USN addressed the crowd saying:
“As an American I feel an intense pride in the vision, the brains, the ingenuity, the sweat, and the teamwork that went into the creating of the ‘Nautilus’.”
It would take one year, seven months and seven days from the day her Keel was laid, for Nautilus to take her first ceremonial steps into the water. That September she would be commissioned and on January 17, 1955, Commander Eugene P. Wilkinson USN would signal the message, “Underway on Nuclear Power.”