Nautilus, First Nuclear Submarine, Remembered on 60th Anniversary
Henry Nardone was on the deck of the USS Nautilus when it slid down the ways into the Thames River on Jan. 21, 1954.
Nardone, then 32, rested his foot on a cleat so he could distinguish himself from among the others who lined the deck in photos for years to come. Mamie Eisenhower, the wife of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, christened the ship with the traditional bottle of champagne as it moved into the water.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” said Nardone, a lifelong Westerly resident who supervised the sub’s construction. “I was up on the bow. There’s a very famous picture of the launching of the submarine, it’s been in hundreds of books and magazines. I can pick myself out. I’ve done it 1,000 times.”
A year and a half earlier, Eisenhower’s predecessor Harry S Truman, had chalked his initials onto the ship’s backbone during a keel laying ceremony. A welder traced over the letters, and the dignitary’s mark — a Navy tradition — was permanently fixed to the vessel, where it remains today.
SSN-571, the nation’s first nuclear-powered submarine, would spend more than two decades at sea, and laid the foundation for today’s modern naval fleet.