As the boat moved down the channel into Long Island Sound, the captain ordered a message sent ashore that forever changed the strategy of naval warfare: "Underway on nuclear power."
With those words on the morning of Jan. 17, 1955, Cmdr. Eugene Wilkinson signaled that Nautilus, the Navy's first nuclear-powered submarine, a bold and technically complex project, was a success.
The primacy of diesel-powered submarines, forced to surface regularly and thus vulnerable to counterattack, was over. Future U.S. submarines would be nuclear.
With its onboard reactor, the Nautilus could stay submerged almost indefinitely and could move faster than any diesel submarine....