Jimmy Carter: A Navy Story

Foreign Carter grew up in Plains, Georgia. Before the first grade, he had already decided he wanted to join the Navy. Influenced by his uncle, a radio man in the Navy, he studied hard and in 1942, he received an appointment to the Naval Academy. After completing the accelerated wartime program, he graduated on June 5th, 1946 with distinction and obtained his commission as an Ensign. After completing two years of surface ship duty, Carter had a few options open to him, but he chose to apply for the submarine force.

Accepted, he began the six-month course at the U.S Navy submarine School in New London, Connecticut. After completing his training, Carter was relocated to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where he reported on board the USS Pomfret. A few days later, they headed out on a simulated War Patrol to the Western Pacific and the Chinese Coast. The submarine returned to Pearl Harbor, and Carter was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade.

Pomfret headed to San Diego, where the submarine operated along the California coast. On February 1st, 1951, the Navy built its first new ship since the war, and Carter was ordered to report as the senior officer for the USS K-1 pre-commissioning detail. In June, Carter was promoted to Lieutenant and wanted to join Captain Rickover’s nuclear sub program. He applied for what he considered the finest Navy Billet available to any officer of his rank: the development of the first atomic submarines. He was interviewed by Rickover and was selected for duty in November with the U.

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atomic energy commission and served on temporary duty with the naval reactors branch. A few months later, due to a combination of mechanical failure and human error, a power surge of up to 90 megawatts caused some fuel rods to melt after rupturing in the NRX research reactor at Chalk River Laboratories. The reactor’s core was badly damaged, requiring a massive cleanup operation. This was the first incident of this magnitude, and Carter was ordered to lead a team of 23 people to assist in the cleanup. When he arrived on the scene, there was a duplicate reactor set up on a nearby tennis court where he and his team would practice removing bolts and pieces as quickly as they could.

Once lowered into the damaged reactor, each person would only have 90 seconds to work due to the extreme radioactivity. The core was shut down, rebuilt, and put back into operation without further incident. Carter prepared to become the engineering officer for the nuclear power plant being placed in USS Seawolf, one of the first submarines to operate on atomic power. He assisted in setting up training for the enlisted men and educated them on math, physics, and reactor technology. During this time, his father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died shortly after in July 1953.

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After his father’s death, Carter was burdened with the thought of leaving the Navy to manage the family interest. Jimmy and his wife Rosalind both very much enjoyed the Navy life. Rosalind did not want him to give up a job that could offer a lot of advancement opportunities, but he ultimately decided to resign. Carter was honorably discharged on October 9, 1953. He remained with the Navy Reserves until the end of 1961 when he transferred to the retired Reserve with the rank of lieutenant.

The value and experience gained in the Navy stayed with him. In 1963, Carter started his political career, and in 1976, he was elected the 39th commander-in-chief. In February of 2005, the Navy honored him with the commissioning of SSN 23, the USS Jimmy Carter, the third and final Seawolf class nuclear submarine.

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