Eugene P. Wilkinson

Eugene P. "Dennis" Wilkinson was a United States Naval officer who was selected for two historic command assignments. The first, in 1954, was as the first Commanding Officer of the USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear submarine. The second was in 1961, where Admiral Rickover selected him to serve as the first Commanding Officer of the USS Long Beach, America's first nuclear surface ship.

Biography and military career

Wilkinson, born in August 1918 in Long Beach, California, graduated from San Diego State College in 1938 and was commissioned in December 1940. He served aboard the submarine USS Darter (SS-227) during World War II. Wilkinson was awarded the Silver Star for his service aboard the Darter. Prior to commanding Nautilus, he commanded the submarines USS Volador (SS-490), USS Sea Robin (SS-407), and USS Wahoo (SS-565).

During his three-year tour aboard the Nautilus, he presided over pre-commissioning and post-commissioning trials of the submarine. These trials established the capabilities of the nuclear-powered submarine and were used in the development of early nuclear-powered submarine tactics. Nautilus successfully attacked surface ships without being detected and evaded most pursuers.

At 1100 on 17 January 1955, after getting underway, CDR Wilkinson signaled "Underway on Nuclear Power." This historic message ushered in the nuclear age for the United States Navy, as well as the world. CDR Wilkinson was the first commanding officer in a nuclear fleet that would eventually cover most of the aircraft carriers, several cruisers, and the entire submarine fleet for the United States Navy. Following his tour aboard Nautilus, he commanded the Navy's first nuclear-powered surface ship, USS Long Beach (CGN-9).

He retired with the rank of Vice Admiral, having commanded the Submarine Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet from 1969 to 1972.


During his noteworthy naval career, Admiral Wilkinson earned the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Navy Unit Commendation, the Joint Service Commendation Medal.

The Japanese government awarded Wilkinson the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Second Class.

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