Much to my surprise and delight, Admiral Rickover was two totally different people, as I found when I was required by my Executive Officer to escort the Admiral below for his inspection of the USS Tecumseh (SSBN 628) during an Operational Reactor Safeguard Exam (ORSE). The Admiral and his inspection party came below through the after hatch, went through the Missile Compartment and by the Crews Mess, I announced “Attention on Deck’ as we entered the Missile Compartment and the Admiral said “ That is not necessary COB we have working Sailors here”. The CPO Quarters is adjacent to the Crew Mess and the Admiral told his inspection party to go to the Ward Room, he wanted to go in Chiefs Quarters. He knocked on the door before I could get to it and then removed his hat and entered, he asked if he could have this seat right next to the door, which he probably knew was my seat, I said “Yes Admiral, is there anything else I can get for you?” He said” No COB I’m fine for awhile”. He made all of us feel at ease almost instantaneously and begin asking the Chiefs questions, which were varied and friendly. He must have spent at least 15 minutes just asking questions and making comments, it was all quite relaxing and I was relieved that all the Chiefs presented the example they should. When Admiral Rickover was ready to leave Chiefs Quarters he said something about “Getting to the business he came for and that the Ward Room was probably having fits by now”. When I opened the door to let the Admiral exit Chiefs Quarters I looked down the passage way and saw the Executive Officer standing at the Wardroom door, and looking just a little anxious as I led the Admiral in that direction. The Executive Officer told me later that the Admiral was quite pleased with the Chiefs of the Tecumseh. That made me feel very good.
The inspection took more than a day and when Admiral Rickover prepared to depart the Tecumseh he said “COB can you give me your foul weather jacket you are about my size and with COB printed on the back people will pay more attention to me.” I gladly gave him my foul weather jacket and I never got it back, but that was alright too. We passed the ORSE with a good grade.
The Nuclear Powered Navy has a good record, they the got off to the right start with Admiral Rickover’s leadership, they have continued that record for well over half a century and I expect the record will continue to be excellent. I am not aware of the leadership that drives the program today, but I certainly hope that it remains to be filled with the topnotch people that have guided it in the past.
COB, USS Tecumseh