Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Rickover Stories Needed

I got an E-mail from a middle schooler, thusly:
I'm an 8th grader and live in Eau Claire Wisconsin. I'm doing a project in school on an individual in history and I chose Admiral Rickover. I was wondering if you could post a blog on your site asking people to donate any stories or recollections about the Admiral. I would appreciate it very much. I realize that this is not the purpose of your blog but I thought that other people might find the recollections interesting as well as being useful to myself.
Actually, this is exactly the purpose of this blog, so I'm glad to help. What are your best stories, either from direct knowledge or scuttlebutt, about the KOG?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you familiar with the interview chair? I'm gonna see it today!

2/05/2009 8:32 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have one or two KOG stories, but would prefer not having to re-write them, and I know I've posted them here before.

Problem: neither Google nor the Technorati search engine are working for your blog right now, Joel. They just come up with generalities that have nothing to do with your blog.

2/05/2009 8:40 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, I have a couple. I personally never met Rickover, but a friend of mine interviewed with him, and he told me some stories. Also the "Proving the Principle" book has a couple stories in there as well.

One story goes like this (I don't remember where I got this from).

A man who worked for Rickover was sitting at his desk, when the Admiral came over and told him let him see his tie. Liking the tie, Rickover demanded that the employee give it to him. The employee refused, and Rickover said to him "Come with me to my office." The employee went with him to his office and on arrival Rickover opened a desk drawer full of ties. At this time he said to him "You wouldn't believe the number of d*** fools who give me their ties."

I'll let others share their stories...


2/05/2009 8:44 AM

Blogger Buck said...

@anonymous 08.40:

I tried this: rickover story and got a pretty focussed list.

Bravo Zulu on the topic.

2/05/2009 8:59 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out for a different take on Admiral Rickover

2/05/2009 10:22 AM

Blogger Submaster said...

This is a lengthy story: A friend of mine who is retired told me this story of what happend to him. He was in a Nuc school in Mare Island back in the day and was waiting class up. He was assigned to be Rickover's driver. The CO personally briefed him on his duties, he had a stage with bunting all prepared and of course strawberries and creme (the admirals favorite). The whole nine yards. He picked up Rickover at the airport with his secretary and they got in the back seat. Rickover kept telling his secretary "to take a note" and he would blather on about some subject or other. He then said to my friend that he better not see any stawberries and creme as he was sick of it. he's driving Rickover on base and up to the stage, Rickover tells him to keep going and take him to his hotel and not to stop. Rickover is pissed that they have all this fanfare on his account (bunting, students hanging out windows, etc...) he thinks it is a waste of time and effort and is taking away from the students ability to learn. friend is looking in the rear view mirror and he sees that the entire chain of command has a look of horror on their faces. They think he forgot to stop. He takes Rickover to his hotel and waits. I don't remember how long but I believe about an hour. He takes Rickover back to base and every shread of preparation for his visit is gone and torn down (stage, bunting, everything). The CO summans my friend to his office to get a blow by blow of what happened...insert laugh here...he tells the CO that Rickover made a point of saying somehting about stawberries and creme...too late! Of course to here my friend tell it had me in tears. Wish I could have been there.

2/05/2009 10:42 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ltjg Jinks, who's ears were so big that his nickname was "wing nut", told this Rickover interview story while we were on mid watch in the torpedo room on the Stony J, a 637 class SSBN, during a mid 1970s blue crew patrol.

When he entered Rickover's office for his NPS interview, he was instructed to sit down in "the chair". After a few minutes Rickover looked up from whatever it was that was holding his attention. Upon his first glance at Wing Nut, and without hesitation Rickover asked him whether or not he could wiggle his XXXL ears. "Yes" replied Wing Nut. "Then wiggle them" directed the Admiral.

From the moment he first reported aboard the Stony J, we all wondered whether he could flap those huge sound scoopers. By telling us this story he was opening the door for us to ask. We asked and he demonstrated.

The man could flex them at least a half inch in each direction. Additionally he could cycle the port ear forward while the starboard ear went backward and visa versa. It was by far the most impressive and memorable example of contra flapping ear wiggling any of us could remember.

Apparently it also impressed Rickover because, according to Wing Nut, Rickover's reaction was to smile and end the interview with a "Thank You".

By the way, Mr. Jinks was one of the best JOs I served with.


2/05/2009 11:42 AM

Blogger Marty said...

I think most of the classic Rickover stories have a little too much profanity for an 8th grader. I vaguely remember an old XO of mine, John Grossenbacher (later VADM Grossenbacher) telling me a classic about his interview and Rickover calling for "Get Grossen back in here!" and the Admiral's staff sending in young Grossenbacher back in to the office (repeatedy, and of course enraging Rickover)... and then somewhere in the vague depths of my memory is the best Rickover story about an old shipmate getting (an Eng at the time) yelled at while the Rx Comp is knee deep in a primary spill...

2/05/2009 11:52 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would think that all kidding aside, the student would be more interested in Rickover's famous quote about responsibility vs. authority, or his explanation about the 'discipline of technology'.

2/05/2009 12:14 PM

Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

Part of the KOG's mystique was his interactions during Nuclear Power candidate interviews. Besides my own interview experience (three hours in a supply closet contemplating my "poor" answer to a Rickover question), as Director of Officer Training at NPS Bainbridge in the early seventies I determined that there was a pattern to his questions and his reactions.
Here are two Rickover stories that show a different side to the Admiral.
In the late sixties Rickover was in Guam supervising NR proficiency examinations on some of the SSBNs stationed there (this was before the establishment of the NPEBs in 1967). He also took time to visit the nurse that had cared for him when he had his heart attack. She was a Commander at the Guam Naval Hospital and later became the Admiral's second wife. While Rickover and his NR minions were examining the subs, it seems that the PLAYBOY Magazine had sent the Playmate of the Year to Viet Nam to deliver a subscription to an Army company stationed there. The Playmate was returning from this "Mission" and the NR detachment boarded the same plane in Guam. Rickover managed to sit next to the Playmate of the year and by the time the flight arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area, she was a fast friend and they walked off the plane arm in arm to the delight of the accompanying staff.
Story Two is a personal experience. I was tasked to escort the Admiral from his commercial flight into New Orleans to a waiting helicopter that would take him to the shipyard in Pascagoula, MS. Naturally I had to drive to New Orleans and then back to Pascagoula while the Admiral took the chopper. The airport officials were very gracious to a Navy Commander in his best Trop Whites and the Security Officer for the airport volunteered his car and himself to transfer the admiral. We met him at the plane (He was the last one off) and I introduced myself. He accepted the invitation and while we were going to the helo, he handed me an official envelope with all of the official franking crossed off and many stamps replacing the frank. "Mail This at the first available Mailbox" It was a letter to his wife. Rickover wasted nothing and did not abuse his position. He was not really thrilled about the helo ride but accepted it. Ingalls Shipyard did not fair very well in the insuing inspection.
That is just two of many Rickover stores... Most are true.

2/05/2009 12:29 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

right before xmas as a first class midshipman, I was in Rickover's outer office waiting with a number of others for my turn in the "chair." Of course I was nervous. My nervousness was not abated by seeing terrified Navy Captains scurrying in and out of the office.
My turn came and I was escorted into the office. Rickover was bent over his desk reading and signing some papers. As I sat down, he picked up each signed paper and threw it over his right shoulder so that it drifted down to the floor. A secretary was moving in and out like a blur picking up the papers.
Rickover, still not looking up, told me that I stood 18th out of about a 1000 my junior year and he now wanted to know what I would stand for my senior year. My mind was racing...the stars had aligned for me as a junior, all As, a first...As a senior near the end of the first semester, I knew that my accomplishments from the previous year were not repeatable. What to tell Rickover? He wanted improvement. "Well?" he said. I tried to speak but all that came out was "Ack, Ack ..." He now looked up and said "Come on, I haven't got all G**D*** day!" "Ack, Ack......" Finally, tiring of me, he stated "You'll stand 12th." To which I replied "yes, sir."
Immediately, one of those Navy Captains placed a sheet of paper in front of me to sign, stating that I'd stand 12th, that I'd study 35 hours a week, and that I'd write Rickover once a week on my progress. As soon as I signed I was lifted out of the chair and hurriedly escorted out of the office.
The rest of the year was a disaster, grade wise. I ended up the year around 300, missing the mark and not just by a little. Too many outside distractions, I guess.
I heard nothing from the Admiral but knew that some 2 or 3 years in the future, when showing up at NR for my engineer's exam, I'd get to meet with him again to discuss my shortcomings. I was not looking forward to this next meeting at all.
Luckily for me though, as I was studying for the exam, Rickover was let go. I went and passed the exam. No mention was made of my broken promise.

2/05/2009 12:50 PM

Blogger said...

I interviewed with Naval Reactors personnel in the summer of 1980, after my sophomore year at Penn State. As I recall, the interviews prior to meeting Adm. Rickover were not particularly challenging. The one question I remember flubbing was "I tell you that sugar cube on that desk contains 1 Curie of radioactive material, what do you do?" I mumbled someting about time, distance, shielding, but was told I jumped the gun because the first thing is to ask "What kind of radiation?"
For real info on Rickover interviews, look into Adm. Elmo Zumwalt's autobiography from the mid-70s.

My interview consisted of three questions.

1. What's that stuff on his shoulders? (I was a Junior mid-shipman, not a Senior one like he was used to seeing.)

2. Are you going to get married? With no steady girlfriend and no prospects, I said "No."

3. Not ever!?

(Ouch!) mumbled something about no girlfriend and no plans at which point he entered the interview.

Two observations. He was only about 5 ft. tall and sat barely above the desk. Also there was no scratch on the desk.
Urban legend has it that he challenged an Academy midshipman to make him mad and the kid took a knife from his pocket and gouged his desk.
Another urban legend has it that Rickover was in the maneuvering space of a submarine near the end of new construction. They were at the pier doing criticality testing. Rickover reached over the shoulder of the Reactor Operator to scram the plant. The R.O. smacked his hand away and ordered him out of the space. It is believed the R.O. got a promotion for his response!

sent from:

2/05/2009 1:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed reading all these tales. They're both interesting and informative.

Since the 8th grade student will be reading through our responses, he might want to read through this wiki article as well.

Granted, the young man has probably already thought to do that. But there are several external resources toward the bottom of the article which he might find useful as he writes his paper.

Thanks, J.

2/05/2009 2:41 PM

Blogger a_former_elt_2jv said...

I have Rickover's signature as my signature for this board.

2/05/2009 2:52 PM

Blogger Gnomeself Be True said...

This won't be helpful....
Rickover rode our boat shortly after commissioning.
He came to the mess decks to give us a few words...none of which I remember. I do remember how he ended things though.
There was cake being served for the occasion, and after his comments, he said something along the lines of, "As for the cake, I've already brushed my teeth."
On that, the great man turned and went to the Captain's stateroom.

2/05/2009 3:13 PM

Blogger Mr. C. said...

I had attended college in Germany my junior year.

During my interview with Rickover, he asked me why I studied in Germany. I gave him my answer (learn a different culture, study abroad, new experiences, etc), he called me a name I have never been called in my life (or ever since).

Here's the exact quote: "I think you are a ninny!"

Then he kicked me out of the office.

2/05/2009 7:21 PM

Blogger Jarrod said...

Possibly apocryphal:

The D1G prototype was opening and the Admiral was visiting. One of the leadership (PM, CO, whoever) said cheerfully, "Welcome to Dig, sir," to which Rickover replied, "It's D-one-G, asshole."

2/05/2009 8:02 PM

Blogger Bearpaw said...

My only experience with Rickover was standing at his grave in Arlington

2/05/2009 8:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my interview with "The Admiral" he asked what was my High School class standing. I had not thought about that fact in a long time and was unsure of the exact number so I said, "About half". He responded with, "Half of what!... Two."

One of his interesting habits was to send copies of various magazine or technical articles to the submarines that that often left us puzzled regarding his purpose for sending it. Two of these that I've never been able to forget were: "Rats in the Beer Vats" (published by a prohibitionist organization); and "An Average Day in the Life of a Byzantine Princess". Needless to say that these articles fueled many colorful and humorous discussions to spice up an otherwise dull Maneuvering Room watch.


2/05/2009 9:44 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

My favorite is the story that he was on the phone with one of his shipyard representatives who was standing in Electric Boat and witnessed a fire starting in the shipyard. Rickover immediately hung up and called the CEO of Electric Boat, asking him why there was a fire in his shipyard, just as the fire alarm rang.

2/05/2009 11:45 PM

Blogger beebs said...

"It is necessary for us to learn from others' mistakes. You will not live long enough to make them all yourself." -- Adm. Hyman G. Rickover

When I went to see RADM Rickover, we were advised not to mention football in any way, shape or form. One of the first questions he had for me was, "Mr. beebs, do you play football?" I was stocky at that time with a nineteen inch neck. I said, not wanting to lie to the Admiral, "Yes, sir, I play battalion football." He flew into a rage, and stated, "Why don't you just get a bag of rocks in your room and ram into them? Guess when the last football game I saw was?" I replied, "Three years ago, Admiral." He hollered, "The last football game I watched was in 1921! [The Army Navy game in his senior year at Annapolis.] I don't have time for football, and neither should you.

"Get Out of My Office!" I was thrown out of the interview by two Commanders in the inner office into the outer office, then I went downstairs for the debrief.

I didn't think I was going to be selected, so I was thinking, "Maybe I can go Navy Air F-14 RIO." I was flabbergasted to be selected.
I do know for a fact that after a particularly NRRO visit at 2AM in shipyard that Rickover managed to call the CO at home before he knew of the NR rep visit.

2/06/2009 1:38 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My boss at SupShip Groton found himself on the list of diesel guys who were to be sent to nuc school during the 1960s. He was not particularly eager to attend.

The Admiral’s approach during Jack’s interview was that nuclear training was patriotic. Jack’s innocent question (“Admiral, do you mean that diesel boats aren’t patriotic any more?”) was sufficient to get him thrown out of the office and off the list.

Bill the Shoe

2/06/2009 6:32 AM

Blogger Srvd_SSN_CO said...

An instructor once told me his story:
"During my interview the Admiral asked me what my class standing was. I told him. He asked what it would be when I graduated. As it was only 1 more semester, I told him it would probably be the same. He yelled at me to 'get in there.' 'There' was a closet. One red light and a copy of the RADCON manual. I was in there for about an hour, when the O6 from the line locker opened the door and gave me a letter to sign. It said I would graduate one spot higher than my current ranking. I told him I couldn't be sure that would happen. He said "I know. but if you sign it, he'll be happy, and you get in." I signed it and I got in. Oh, and I did finish one spot higher."

2/06/2009 1:17 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Urban legend has it that he challenged an Academy midshipman to make him mad and the kid took a knife from his pocket and gouged his desk."

A version of that I heard was that he told a guy to piss him off and the midshipman/JO (whatever it was) wordlessly swept everything off Rickover's desk onto the floor.

2/06/2009 1:20 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clarifying an earlier comment, if you plug the following phrase into a standard Google search, you'll come up with a pretty good list of Rickover stories:

rickover story

2/06/2009 1:43 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even better, the guy who smashed a window in Rickover's office, graped the papers on his desk (including several marked "TOP SECRET") and tossed them out and onto the street below.

2/06/2009 3:50 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The most famous story I ever heard was when the KOG asked the interviewee to "Make me mad." The midshipman stood up, walked to Rickover's desk, picked up a model of the USS Nautilus that was prominently displayed, and smashed it to bits. Rickover was furious, and threw the guy out of his office. And he let him into the program.

2/06/2009 4:26 PM

Blogger Bill said...

Hi Joel;

I’ve collected some Rickover addresses here:

I’d also consider myself a moderate realist. In New England, this makes me a raving, right wing nut.

2/11/2009 7:38 AM

Blogger Mike Lambert said...

A Chief of the Boat passed a Rickover story to me. You can read it at this link.

2/11/2009 2:46 PM

Blogger Bull Snipe said...

While I have several personal stories, this no-shi**er about ADM Paul Tomb is my favorite. I've heard him tell it. Paul is at his Rickover interview.

Rickover: Well, Mr. Toom-b...

Paul: Sir, it's Tom-b.

Rickover: GODAMMIT, it looks like Tomb, it's spelled like Tomb, it's going to be pronounced Toom-b as long as you're in my program. Is that clear?

Paul: Yes Sir!

Rickover: OK, Mr. Toom-b, why are you interested in nuclear power?

Paul: Sir, it started when I first heard of the atom boom-b...

Paul may have made admiral on that story alone.

2/12/2009 1:05 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of these days, I can see the silver screen wanting to shoot a movie about Admiral Rickover. Can you imagine that?

They would have to cast someone as short and thin as the Admiral. Al Pacino or Harvey Keitel could probably do it since both actors have a tendency for being loud and dramatic. As controversial as the Admiral was, I suspect such a movie would do fairly well.

2/12/2009 3:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Joe Pesci would make an excellent Admiral Rickover...

2/15/2009 8:47 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

Hello 8th grader...if you would like some Oral History accounts of other's experiences with Adm Rickover you can email me at'm the moderator over there but also oversee our Heritage Programs - Oral history, video, photo archive. Oral Histories have were established in 1960...they transcriptions are all fully cross-indexed and we have plenty of bvackground. We can also search our magazines Proceedings to see if Rickover wrote anything for us. Anyhow, Great choice for a topic and we will help in any way we can.


2/17/2009 4:46 PM

Blogger AB- said...

Dear 8th grader -

I was a lowly Sonar Tech (at least I knew where we were and who was running around outside our tube) and didn't care for nucs while on board my three subs even though I had the highest TLD reading of all coners (another story) but I did have great respect for the zeros and nucs on board. Not only for the brain power but for the level of dedication they had.

The poor JO's really got a huge load of SH** and if they got to see Rickover they held their fates in their own hands.

My favorite story that I ever heard was - and this is not only clean enough for any group of people but a really great life changing aspect -

A PCO (Prospective Commanding Officer) was having dinner with Rickover at a steak joint. The steaks arrived and the PCO immediately salted and peppered his meat. Rickover stood up and said the meeting was over. The PCO asked what happened and Rickover replied - "Any man that immediately jumps to conclusions despite not knowing all the facts cannot command a nuclear power submarine".

The morale to the story is - taste the meat first - you can't possibly be so inflexible and predetermined about the outcome that you do not absorb all the available information before you make a decision.

To this day - even though I was a coner and a STS - I take two bites of all meat before making any spice decisions. This story has also influenced my decision about my own hiring choices and how I preceive people in my personal life.

De Profundis

2/22/2009 9:23 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the early 80's I was the below decks watch one day passing through an empty wardroom. I heard the CO's phone ring in his stateroom, but it was standing policy that nobody but the captain answered that phone, and he wasn't there. When it stopped ringing, the wardroom phone started. As I was allowed (even expected) to answer that phone I did. "GET ME VAUGHN" (our CO) was all that was said. Knowing that whoever would address our CO like that obviously outranked him I simply said "right away sir", and put him on hold. I found the CO, told him what I heard... to which he replied "Aw, crap!". He went into his stateroom (he could pick up the wardroom line from there) and closed the sliding door. I loitered around and all I heard was "Yes sir, no sir, no sir, yes sir, thank you sir". The slider opened and the CO, seeing me there said "I you have any doubts... that was Rickover".

3/13/2009 10:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

De Profundis,
I too was a Fast-Attack Sonarman, and the Salt & Pepper story is one of my favorites.

One famous story I haven't seen here concerned former President Carter's interview with Rickover. During Carter's interview with Rickover (which he failed), Rickover asked him where he graduated in his class at Annapolis. I think it was in the top 100, but Carter was proud of that fact. Rickover then asked Carter "Did you do your best?" Carter replied "No Sir, I didn't". Rickover sat at his desk and thought for a minute, and then replied to Carter, "Why Not?"

The lesson from this is that it doesn't make any difference if you're first or last in any given endeavor, as long as you've done the best that you can do.

5/11/2009 6:05 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog. Brought back lots of memories, including (of course) my own interview.
As one of a gaggle if OCS (Newport) candidates, I met the KOG for a few terrifying minutes in '66. I believe the only thing I did right was to interrupt him:
When he asked one of his standard questions I began a vague answer to what should have been a yes/no question, and he immediately blew up. As he was yelling, I interjected: "Sorry, Sir. No, Sir." He immediately calmed down, dismissed me (and, amazingly, accepted me).
I concluded the KOG was just judging whether we were seriously interested and likely to make it through the tough training, and maybe had a little grit (e.g. enough to interrupt him.)

7/31/2009 1:01 PM

Anonymous Opal said...

I totally match with anything you have written.

8/26/2012 9:26 PM


Post a Comment

<< Home