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[Ed. Note: In order to give adequate notice to each President’s association with submarines, this Reflection is being given in two parts. Part One was presented in the July 1992 issue of The SUBMARINE REVIEW, and covered the period through Mrs. Eisenhower’s christening ofNAUTILUS.]

Submarines have played a minor but interesting role in the history of the American presidency. Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to go aboard a submarine, and since Franklin Roosevelt every president has, at one time or another in his life, been aboard a submarine.

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy was the first of many presidents who had served as officers in the U.S. Navy. He had commanded aPT boat in the South Pacific during World War Two.

The President visited USS 1HOMAS EDISON {SSBN-610) in April1962 while the ship was alongside the pier at the Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia THOMAS EDISON was brand new, having been commissioned in Groton a month earlier.

A back injury suffered when his PT boat was sunk by enemy action made it difficult for JFK to climb the submarine’s vertical ladders. He used a special elevator which barely fit through the submarine’s narrow hatch. Crew members with block and tackle raised and lowered the elevator for the President. Kennedy’s visit was brief and the submarine did not get underway.

President Kennedy made a surprise visit to USS CHOPPER (SS-342) in November 1962 during a tour of Key West Naval Station. While the presidential motorcade was proceeding through the base, he unexpectedly stopped it to go aboard CHOPPER, commanded by LCDR C. R. Miko. Though the officers and crew were drawn up in ranks for a presidential drive-by, the decision to go aboard CHOPPER was unplanned. The President talked briefly with the officers and crew before resuming his tour of the base.

Mr. Kennedy traveled to Cape Canaveral, Florida, in November 1963 to witness the launch of a Polaris A-2 missile from USS ANDREW JACKSON (SSBN-619), commanded by CDR James B. Wilson. JFK helicoptered to the USS OBSERVATION ISLAND (EAG-154) thirty miles off the Florida coast. ANDREW JACKSON submerged 1,200 yards from OBSERVATION ISLAND and began the countdown to launch. The missile broke the ocean’s surface shortly before noon and continued downrange for a successful flight.

When the Polaris A-2 was out of sight, President Kennedy congratulated the crew of ANDREW JACKSON by radio-telephone. He called the launch “an excellent demonstration …wonderful.” Three days later he wrote Rear Admiral I. J. Galantin, the Navy’s Special Projects Officer: “It is still incredible to me that a missile can be successfully and accurately fired from beneath the sea. Once one has seen a Polaris firing the efficacy of this weapons system as a deterrent is not debatable.”

Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy’s 1962 visit to Groton to christen USS LAFAYEI IE (SSBN-616) drew an enthusiastic response from the people of southeastern Connecticut. lac/de fever was rampant in the U.S., and Electric Boat received thousands of requests for invitations, most of which it had to tum down for lack of space.

May 8 brought gray skies and a chill wind as 12,000 people crowded into the shipyard to see Mrs. Kennedy. On the sponsor’s platform with her were the French Ambassador to the United States, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Chairman of the Board of General Dynamics. Shortly after noon Mrs. Kennedy smashed a bottle of French champagne against LAFAYE’ITE’s bow and said “I christen thee LAFAYETTE” and then in French “Je te baptiste LAFAYETIE.” The sight of the 7,000 ton vessel sliding into the Thames River impressed her, and Jackie put her hand to her chin with a look of awe on her face.

After the ceremony Jackie went to the groundways area to meet the men who launched LAFAYE’ITE. As she was leaving her car, she spotted carpenter-diver Harold Blaney and asked him if she could have his hard hal He offered her a new one, but she preferred his, which was old and battered, and he gave it to her. Mrs. Kennedy later said the launching “was probably one of the most enjoyable things I will ever have the pleasure of performing during my stay in the White House.”

Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon Johnson officiated at three keel laying ceremonies, two more than any other president. His first was USS SAM RAYBURN (SSBN-635). Rayburn, a Texan and famed Speaker of the House of Representatives, had been Johnson’s mentor when LBJ served as a Texas congressman. The ceremony took place on a cold, rainy day in December 1962 at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia. At the Vice Presi-dent’s signal, yard workers moved a fifty-two ton ring section into place on the keel blocks. Johnson hammered the authenti-cating seal into the brass plate on the keel. After the ceremony, Johnson shook hands with the men who handled the ring section, speaking with every one of them.

When SAM RAYBURN was launched in December 1963, Lyndon Johnson, now President following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, sent a personal message which was read at the ceremony. At the submarine’s commissioning in December 1964, President Johnson made a telephone address to the crew and spectators.

Cheering crowds greeted President Johnson when he came to Groton, Connecticut, for the keel laying ceremony for USS P ARGO (SSN-650). LBJ was obviously enjoying himself on the warm and sunny day in June 1964. The Electric Boat Company presented him with a scale model of PARGO. He chalked his initials ten inches high into the sub’s keel and watched as shipyard worker Herman Doughrity welded the initials into the keel plate. The President then addressed the crowd of fifteen thousand workers and visitors. Afterward he waded into the crowd, shaking hands and speaking with practically everyone within his reach.

Johnson participated in a third keel laying ceremony when he burned his initials into the keel of USS MARIANO G. VALLFJ’O (SSBN-655). The ceremony took place in July 1964 at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California. The President, who stayed in the White House, pressed a button, activating a mechanical device in the shipyard which imprinted his initials into VALLEJO’s keel. Mr. Johnson also delivered a telephone address to the crowd assembled for the ceremony.

The United States was at war with Germany and Japan when Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson launched USS TENCH (SS-417) at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Her husband was then a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas. U.S.

shipyards were building submarines very quickly, and TENCH was one of two subs launched at Portsmouth on April 11, 1944. The other was USS THORNBACK (SS-418).

Accompanying Mrs. Johnson to Portsmouth was Mrs. Tom Clark, Matron of Honor. The two ladies posed by TENCH’s bow for photographs, Mrs. Johnson holding the metal-wrapped launch bottle and a bouquet of roses. Looking trim and businesslike in a suit and straw hat, Lady Bird smashed the champagne bottle against TENCH’s bow, beginning the subma-rine’s twenty-six year career.

Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon never visited a submarine during his presi-dency. His only known trip to a submarine came in November 1980, six years after he left the White House. During a conversation with Admiral Hyman Rickover, the former president expressed an interest in visiting a submarine. The Navy subsequently organized a familiarization tour for him.

Nixon flew to Groton on a Friday afternoon and went aboard USS CINCINNATI (SSN-693), with Admiral Rickover. CINCINNATI got underway and steamed into the operating areas south of Groton. Mr. Nixon remained on board over-night, spending much time discussing world affairs and national policy with the officers and crew. CINCINNATI returned to port Saturday morning and Mr. Nixon departed. CINCINNATI presented him with a blue jacket bearing his name and the ship’s patch.

Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford made his only visit to a submarine when he was a congressman from Michigan. He joined eight other congress-men and Rear Admiral Hyman Rickover for an overnight cruise onboard USS NAUTILUS (SSN-571}, commanded by CDR Eugene Wilkinson. The group boarded NAUTILUS in Groton the morning of February 24, 1956, and spent twenty hours underway, most of it submerged in the waters south of Long Island. Mr. Ford toured the submarine, took a tum at the helm, and looked through the periscope. NAUTILUS returned to port the next morning. After posing for a group picture on the brow, the congressmen toured the Naval Submarine Base.

Mrs. Betty Ford, sponsor for USS DACE (SSN·607), launched the submarine at ceremonies at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi, in August 1962. She returned to Pascagoula in April 1964 to participate in DACE’s com-missioning.

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter had the strongest connection of all the presidents with submarines. A 1946 graduate of the Naval Academy, he attended Submarine School in Groton from July through December 1948.

After sub school LTJG Carter reported to USS POMFRET (SS-391), a diesel submarine homeported in Hawaii. The ship deployed immediately to the Far East. During the crossing POMFRET encountered a violent storm. Carter was standing watch on the bridge one night when a wave washed him thirty feet aft and left him clinging to POMFRET’s five inch gun. He held on till he recovered his strength, then returned to the bridge. As he later recalled, had the wave taken him anywhere other than dead aft, he would have been washed overboard and undoubtedly lost at sea. As it was, the storm knocked out all POMFRET’s radio transmitters, and after she missed several scheduled transmission periods, the Navy reported her as missing and possibly sunk.

In April 1949 POMFRET returned from deployment. Rosalyon Carter and their son Jack, then almost two years old, moved from Plains, Georgia, to Oahu to join LTJG Carter. POMFRET operated in the Pacific for the rest of 1949 and 1950. In the summer of 1950 she changed homeports to San Diego.

In the fall of 1950 LT Carter received orders as senior officer to the pre-commissioning crew of USS K-1, (later called BARRACUDA), then under construction at Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut. K-1 was an experimental submarine — small, quiet, and designed for anti-submarine warfare. Carter enjoyed his engineering work and his role in establishing the ship’s operating procedures.

After USS K-l’s commissioning on November 10, 1951, LT Carter served as Operations and Gunnery Officer. The sub operated off the New England coast and made occasional trips to the Caribbean. Carter later described his service on K-1 as “tough, dangerous, and demanding.” He earned his coveted command qualifications while onboard.

Following an interview with then-Captain Hyman Rickover in 1951, LT Carter was accepted into the Navy’s nuclear power program. He was assigned to the pre-commissioning crew of USS SEAWOLF (SSN-575), the nation’s second nuclear subma-rine. SEAWOLF was under construction at Groton, but the crew was in Schenectady to be close to Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory where General Electric was building a prototype of SEAWOLF’s reactor.

At the time of his assignment, Carter was the senior officer on the pre-com crew. His work involved observing the reactor’s construction, teaching advanced mathematics to SEAWOLF’s enlisted crewmembers, and traveling to different sites involved in reactor planning and construction. One of these trips, with his wife Rosalynn, was to Groton to witness the keel laying ceremony for NAUTILUS in June 1952. He served with the SEAWOLF crew from 1951 until 1953.

Mr. Carter’s father died in 1953. Although LT Carter considered his work in sut-marines and nuclear power to be the best job in the Navy, he resigned from the service and returned to Plains, Georgia, to go into business.

Jimmy Carter’s next visit to a submarine was as Commander-in-Chief, when he visited USS LOS ANGELES (SSN-688), in May 1977. Accompanied by his wife Rosalynn and Admiral Rickover, he went aboard LOS ANGELES, commanded by CDR John E. Christensen Jr., at Cape Canaveral. The President spent nine hours onboard, three and a half hours submerged, as LOS ANGELES operated off the Florida coast. The President and Mrs. Carter steered LOS ANGELES, driving the submarine at top speed, and they participated in a mock attack on USS ARTHUR W. RADFORD (DD-968), their surface escort.erwards President Carter praised LOS ANGELES and her crew: “With absolute certainty, I can say there is no finer ship in the world. rm very proud of what I see.”

On April 7, 1979, Mrs. Carter went to Groton for a double event at the Electric Boat shipyard. First she witnessed the launch of USS OHIO (SSBN-726), the nation’s first Trident submarine. Immediately after the launch, the First Lady marked her initials in the keel of USS GEORGIA (SSBN-729) at the keel laying ceremony for the fourth Trident submarine. Mrs. Carter wore a special apron commemorating the event. Welder Kimberly Shriver burned RSC into the keel and Mrs. Carter cleaned up the work with a wire brush. She also made short speech about the importance of submarine-based strategic weapons.

Ronald Reagan

President Reagan’s experience with submarines was confined to his career in the movie business. He did not visit a subma-rine during his eight years in office.

In the 1930s Ronald Reagan, under contract to Warner Brothers, had a role in the movie Submarine P-1. starring Pat O’Brien, George Brent, and Wayne Morris. The story involved two sailors trying to win the same girl. Much of the action centered on sunken submarines with crew trapped onboard and the use of the McCann diving chamber to rescue them. The movie used much film shot on location and contains excellent pictures of submarines and facilities at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton and the Naval Base in San Diego.

Warner filmed two endings to the movie -one in which Wayne Morris gets the girl, another in which Reagan, playing naval aviator, enters as her fiance at the end of the film and claims her. The studio chose the Wayne Morris ending and all of Mr. Reagan’s scenes were cut from the movie. Mr. Reagan spent an enjoyable week in Coronado working on the film, but it is not clear if his portion of the filming involved going close to or on a submarine.

Ronald Reagan’s last film was Hellcats of the Navv, made in 1957 for Columbia Pictures. Based on a book by Vice Admiral Charles Lockwood, the movie loosely interpreted the daring penetration of the Sea of Japan by U.S. submarines in World War ll. Mr. Reagan played the Commanding Officer of one of the subs sent on this dangerous mission. Much of the film was shot on a U.S. submarine, and the future president spent many hours on the bridge and inside the conning tower, wardroom, and other spaces onboard. Between scenes Mr. Reagan relieved an inclination to claustrophobia by looking through the ship’s periscope.

Co-starring in the film were Arthur Franz, Harry Lauter, and Nancy Davis, who played a nurse and the romantic interest It was the only film Mr. Reagan made with his wife Nancy Davis.

George Bush

George Bush was grateful for his first trip on a submarine because it probably saved his life. During World War Two, then LTJG Bush setved as a naval aviator and flew torpedo bombers from the carrier USS SAN JACINTO.

On September 2, 1944, Bush was flying his fiftieth mission, a bombing run on a Japanese radio station on ChiChi Jima, when heavy anti-aircraft fire struck his plane. He continued to his target, dropped four 500 pound bombs, and then headed out to sea. With the plane ablaze and one crewmember dead, LTJG Bush and the other crewmember bailed out at 1,500 feel The other man’s parachute failed to open, but the future president landed safely in the ocean close to ChiChi Jima.

U.S. fighter aircraft drove away a Japanese boat that tried to capture the downed pilot. They also radioed Bush’s position to the USS FINBACK (SS-230), commanded by LCDR R. R. Williams, which was operating fifteen to twenty miles from the island.

Two hours later FINBACK had the life raft and pilot in sight through the periscope. They saw him before he saw them. Mr. Bush remembered the occasion years afterward: “I saw this thing coming out of the water and I said to myself ‘JeeZ; I hope it’s one of ours’.” FINBACK got him aboard quickly.

FINBACK, however, was not running a taxi service, and LTJG Bush stayed with the sub for the remaining thirty days of its war patrol. During this time FINBACK picked up five downed fliers, sank two enemy freighters, and was both depth charged and bombed by enemy ships and planes. Mr. Bush recounted the experience: “I thought I was scared at times flying into combat, but in a submarine you couldn’t do anything except sit there. When we were getting depth charged, the submariners did not seem overly concerned, but the other pilots and I didn’t like it a bit. There was a certain helpless feeling when the depth charges went off that I didn’t experience when flying my plane.”

George Bush’s next three visits to submarines, all as Vice President, were more relaxed. He was the main speaker and Mrs. Bush the sponsor at the launching of the fast attack submarine USS HOUSTON (SSN-713) in Newport News, Virginia, in March 1981. He visited USS INDIANAPOLIS (SSN-697) in Pearl Harbor in July 1981. The Vice President was the principal speaker at commissioning ceremonies for the nation’s first Trident submarine, USS OHIO {SSBN-726), in Groton in November 1981.

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