In early 1966, while at Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Newport, RI, I volunteered for submarine duty. I had graduated from a liberal arts school, Lawrence College in Wisconsin, with a degree in Economics in 1963 and received an MBA from the University of Chicago, Graduate School of Business with a major in Finance in 1965. My draft board was calling and the Navy recruiters were more than happy to sign me up for OCS.
At OCS I was told that the nuclear program was the way to go, but that I didn’t have the requisite engineering degree to qualify. One of the instructors said he thought that because of my advanced degree, and good grades in math at Lawrence, I might be able to gain acceptance into the program.
I was sent to Washington, D.C. in my new Officer Candidate’s uniform to be interviewed and tested by Admiral Rickover’s staff. At the end of a long day, I was ushered into the Admiral’s office and directed to the famous interviewee’s chair opposite the window that looked at the Washington Monument. The Admiral was seated well to the right of the window, a small figure behind a very large desk. Without introduction, as I recall, he immediately stated, “Officer Candidate Weber, you have the worst background of anyone I have ever interviewed for this program.” Without objection I simply answered, “Yes Sir.” What followed were several questions about my experience as an exchange student in Germany during my senior year of high school. When asked about my performance relative to my German peers I simply answered that the German students were for more advanced in math and the sciences at that age. Little did I know that the Admiral annually testified before Congress about the sad state of the American education system, especially with the regard to those disciplines. Those questions were followed by a personal question, specifically, did I have a serious girlfriend, and out the door I went.
Totally exhausted, I returned to Newport with no clue about what would happen next. Within a day or two I received word that I had been accepted into the program. Following graduation from OCS I successfully completed Nuclear Power School in Mare Island, CA; Nuclear prototype, Windsor, CT; and Submarine School, New London, CT. The program was far more rigorous than anything I had experienced in college or graduate school. Survived I did, with a standing, that I recall, was in the upper 20% of my class. In the early fall of 1967 I joined the wardroom of the USS U.S. Grant (SSBN 631) (Blue). Following four deterrent patrols the Grant went to Bremerton, WA for a missile system conversion. Unable to stay with the Grant because of the limited time remaining in my commitment, at his request, I was assigned to the staff of Admiral I.J. Galantin, the Chief of Naval Material, where, along with other responsibilities, I enjoyed accompanying the Admiral, an avid golfer, on many rounds of golf at Burning Tree Country Club. I suspect that Admiral Rickover was never aware of that final billet.