In the fall of 1972, I was a First-Class Midshipman and a Rhodes Scholar candidate. I wanted to be a submariner but was not allowed to interview with Adm Rickover until my future availability was resolved. So, in Feb 1973, I boarded an early morning Naval Academy bus with a dozen other Mids and headed to Naval Reactors in Crystal City. After the standard three technical interviews we sat around for hours waiting to interview with the good Admiral. About 3pm I was escorted to the Admiral’s office and stood at attention just inside his doorway while he was chewing someone out on the telephone. I surreptitiously glanced sideways at his bookshelf and was surprised at the wide variety of titles: almost nothing about science and engineering.
After slamming the phone down, he told me to sit down and glanced at what was probably my Naval Academy records and interview results. “I see you’re a history major. How many history books have you written?” I sheepishly replied: “None, sir.” He said, “I’ve written three.” He continued, “You wasted three years studying French. How many French books have you written?” I replied, “None, sir.” He replied, “I’ve written two.” He continued the interrogation, “You wasted a year studying psychology. How many psychology books have you written?” Sensing a pattern to his questions, I honestly replied, “None, sir.” He replied, “I’ve written several.” He sat back in his chair and said, “Ryan, how come I’ve done so much and you’ve done so little?” As a 21-year-old Midshipman responding to a 70-something year old the answer seemed pretty obvious to me: “You’re older, sir.” He rose half-way out of his chair and yelled, “How can someone so smart say something so stupid?” Taken aback, I quickly responded, “No excuse, sir.”
He told me to “Get the hell out of my office.” Thus ended my Rickover interview. When the bus returned to the Naval Academy I was informed that I was accepted into the nuclear program. I subsequently served on five submarines, commanding USS Philadelphia, and retired as a Rear Admiral.