Recollection from Captain Eugene Holler

By Eugene Holler, Captain, USNR (Ret.)

Admiral Rickover, at his various testimonies, usually stated that he personally interviewed every officer accepted into the Navy’s nuclear power program. There are numerous stories of how the interviews were conducted, of candidates made to undergo repeat interviews, and of outrageous promises made by aspiring candidates.

In the spring of 1966, several of my classmates and I were loaded on a bus and taken to Washington for our interview with the admiral. My “interview” consisted of a monologue by the admiral as I was led into his office, in which he stated that there were two kinds of people: those who worked hard and succeeded, and those who never worked hard, but did well. Asked if I knew which kind I was, and if I would change, he answered his own question by stating I would never change and to “get out of here!”  The whole process took about 17 seconds, and I was escorted out of his office before my posterior barely grazed the seat of the chair in front of the admiral’s desk.  Weeks later, I was informed that I had been accepted into the program.

I think my experience was typical of many. I know of classmates, much better students than I was, from whom the admiral extracted promises of increased study. But, as a practical matter, Admiral Rickover had ships to man and a limited pool of people from which to man them. The only time I ever saw the admiral again was a few years later when I returned to his headquarters to take the engineer’s exam, and I glanced him at the end of a hallway talking to a staff member.