Admiral Rickover

By Jim Gutierrez, former Lieutenant, USN

I had two interviews with Admiral Rickover in the spring of 1964. They were uneventful by Rickover standards. The first one was a wave off, "Never mind." he said with a wave of his hand. I was then sent back to talk to one of the submarine prospective commanding officers to better explain some discrepancies in my grades.  

For the second interview he told me, "I see you have been working harder." I replied, "Yes, particularly the last three semesters when I made the dean's list." I was dismissed and I said, "Yes sir, thank you sir," To which he replied, "What are you thanking me for?" "For allowing me to come to see you." I replied and walked out.

I wanted to fly. I completed the Flight Indoctrination Program in my senior year at the University of New Mexico and got my private license. I was slated to go to Pensacola for naval aviation training. However, I knew that Nuclear Power School and submarines would provide me with the education and experience I would need later in life, so I went into the nuclear power program instead. It was a good choice, as I had a successful career in petrochemicals and refineries and I even got to help build River Bend Nuclear Power Station in Saint Francisville, LA. I retired back in 2014 at the age of 72.  

Admiral Rickover’s success in building a Nuclear Submarine Force depended on him hand picking each and every Officer. We were the best. Nuclear Power School was the most difficult school in the country. Many young officers were not able to make it to the finish line. 

Admiral Rickover rode the first shakedown cruise of every new nuclear sub. This was the Power Run. One of his prospective commanding officers would come aboard ahead of time with a list for what he needed, for instance, a set of khakis since he would always arrive in civilian clothes. One of the items on the list was Lemon Gum Drops to be placed in a bowl in the wardroom. 

The photo accompanying this article is a “Holland shot” of me on the commissioning day for the USS HENRY L. STIMSON (SSBN-655). It is called a Holland shot after John Phillip Holland, who developed the first submarine to be commissioned by the U.S. Navy, because Holland had his picture taken looking out the forward hatch. You can look at pictures of Rickover and you will find photos of him looking out the forward hatch of a brand-new sub. It's a tradition.