Henry Nardone remembers Jan. 21, 1954, as if it were yesterday.
Nardone, now 91, stood atop a Navy submarine that winter morning 60 years ago as First Lady Mamie Eisenhower swung a bottle of champagne at its bow. The ship’s horn blew. Bells rang. And the Navy band played “Anchors Aweigh” as the Nautilus slipped down the ways at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Conn., and the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine splashed into the Thames River.
“It was quite a thrill to ride that ship down,” Nardone recalled in a report by the Providence Journal. “It picks up quite a bit of acceleration going down the ways.” He estimated the boat traveled at nearly 20 mph by the time it floated free. “We had tugs standing by in the water to make sure we didn’t go all the way across the river into New London.”
For information on touring Nautilus, which is now a Groton library and museum, visit www.ussnautilus.org.