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First CO to command a nuclear sub dies First CO to command a nuclear sub dies

Jul. 15, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Eugene Wilkinson
Eugene Wilkinson (Navy)
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The admiral who commanded both the first nuclear-powered sub and first nuclear-powered surface ship died July 11, a Navy message said.
The admiral who commanded both the first nuclear-powered sub and first nuclear-powered surface ship died July 11, a Navy message said.

Vice Adm. Eugene “Dennis” Wilkinson served as the first commanding officer of the Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine. On Jan. 17, 1955, when the Nauilus frst went to sea, Wilkinson sent the now-famous message, “Underway on nuclear power.”
Vice Adm. Eugene “Dennis” Wilkinson served as the first commanding officer of the Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine. On Jan. 17, 1955, when the Nauilus frst went to sea, Wilkinson sent the now-famous message, “Underway on nuclear power.”

He was also the first CO of the Long Beach, the Navy’s first nuclear-powered cruiser. In addition, he served in a variety of nuclear billets in the 1940s and was “instrumental in the early development of Navy nuclear propulsion,” wrote Vice Adm. Richard Hunt in NAVADMIN 180/13, the message that reported Wilkinson’s death.
He was also the first CO of the Long Beach, the Navy’s first nuclear-powered cruiser. In addition, he served in a variety of nuclear billets in the 1940s and was “instrumental in the early development of Navy nuclear propulsion,” wrote Vice Adm. Richard Hunt in NAVADMIN 180/13, the message that reported Wilkinson’s death.

Wilkinson graduated from San Diego State University in 1938 and was commissioned in 1940. During his 34-year Navy career, he served aboard two surface ships and 10 submarines. He earned a Silver Star for heroism aboard the Gato-class sub Darter during World War II.
Wilkinson graduated from San Diego State University in 1938 and was commissioned in 1940. During his 34-year Navy career, he served aboard two surface ships and 10 submarines. He earned a Silver Star for heroism aboard the Gato-class sub Darter during World War II.

A United States Naval Institute biography notes the admirals “competitiveness, sense of obligation to fulfill commitments, leadership qualities, and his methods in interpersonal relationships.”
A United States Naval Institute biography notes the admirals “competitiveness, sense of obligation to fulfill commitments, leadership qualities, and his methods in interpersonal relationships.”

He retired from the Navy in 1974 after advancing to the position of deputy chief of Naval Operations for Submarine Warfare. After his retirement, he served as the first president and chief executive officer of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, which promotes the safety of commercial nuclear power plants, according to the organization’s website.
He retired from the Navy in 1974 after advancing to the position of deputy chief of Naval Operations for Submarine Warfare. After his retirement, he served as the first president and chief executive officer of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, which promotes the safety of commercial nuclear power plants, according to the organization’s website.

“He was a pioneering leader, an outstanding shipmate, and he will be sorely missed by his community and the Navy family,” Hunt wrote.
“He was a pioneering leader, an outstanding shipmate, and he will be sorely missed by his community and the Navy family,” Hunt wrote.

Wilkinson is survived by his four children and four grandchildren. His wife of 58 years, Janice Edith Thull, passed away in 2000, the message said.
Wilkinson is survived by his four children and four grandchildren. His wife of 58 years, Janice Edith Thull, passed away in 2000, the message said.

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