First Nuclear CO Passes
VADM Eugene Wilkinson, the first CO of USS Nautilus (SSN
1. It is with sincere sadness that I report the passing of Vice Admiral Eugene P. "Dennis" Wilkinson, USN(Ret) on 11 July 2013. VADM Wilkinson graduated from San Diego State University in 1938 and was commissioned in 1940. His 34 years of honorable service was highlighted by his pioneering of nuclear power and culminated in his appointment as the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Submarine Warfare. Vice Admiral Wilkinson served in two surface ships and ten submarines, including eight war patrols in USS DARTER (SS 227) and command of three diesel submarines, most notably, he served as the first commanding officer of both the first nuclear powered submarine, USS NAUTILUS (SSN 571), and the first nuclear powered cruiser USS LONG BEACH (CGN 9).Sailor, Rest Your Oar.
2. VADM Wilkinson was instrumental in the early development of Navy nuclear propulsion. In the late 1940s, he served in a variety of nuclear billets at the Oak Ridge and Argonne National Laboratories and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. At 1100 on 17 January 1955, then-Captain Wilkinson signaled "Underway on Nuclear Power" from NAUTILUS, marking the United States Navy's entry into the nuclear power age. His leadership of NAUTILUS and LONG BEACH were critical to charting the course for today's Navy and fundamentally changed the way we fight from the sea.
3. Following his retirement in 1974, Vice Admiral Wilkinson continued to advance nuclear power by serving as the first president and CEO of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations.
Update 1230 16 July: If anyone who served under Admiral Wilkinson at any time would like to share some memories of him as a leader, a reporter for the Navy Times is looking to do some quick phone interviews. Drop me an E-mail at joel(dot)bubblehead(at)gmail(dot)com and I'll put you in touch with her.
Update 1555 16 July: Updated to correct the Nautilus' hull number based on a comment.