Categories: Groton, Invention and Technology, War and Defense

USS Nautilus Passes Under North Pole – Today in History: August 3

USS Nautilus
USS Nautilus – US Navy Arctic Submarine Laboratory

On August 3, 1958, the USS Nautilus (SSN-571) made history by becoming the first ship to pass underneath the North Pole. The 1,830-mile journey was launched from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on July 23, 1958, under the name “Operation Sunshine” and brought the sub and her crew to the shores of England in 19 days.

The Electric Boat Division of the General Dynamics Corp., in Groton, Connecticut, constructed the ship. Originally launched on January 21, 1954, by Mamie Eisenhower, the Nautilus became the first commissioned nuclear-powered ship in the United States Navy. Upon completion of Operation Sunshine, the crew received a Presidential Unit Citation and Nautilus Commander William R. Anderson received the Legion of Merit from President Eisenhower. The ship sailed from Portland, England, to New York where it met with a celebration of horns, whistles, a 25-ship honor escort, and towering fountains of water pumped into the air from local fireboats.

The USS Nautilus was decommissioned on March 3, 1980, after a 25-year career that included traveling more than a half-million miles. The sub was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior two years later before being towed back to Groton in 1985 to become a part of the Submarine Force Museum.

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