Hyman G. Rickover: United States admiral (1900 - 1986) | Biography, Facts, Information, Career, Wiki, Life
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Hyman G. Rickover
United States admiral

Hyman G. Rickover

Hyman G. Rickover
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro United States admiral
A.K.A. Hyman George Rickover
Was Sailor Military officer Soldier Officer Submariner
From United States of America
Field Military
Gender male
Birth 27 January 1900, Maków Mazowiecki, Maków County, Masovian Voivodeship, Poland
Death 8 July 1986, Arlington County, Virginia, U.S.A. (aged 86 years)
Hyman G. Rickover
The details (from wikipedia)


Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, U.S. Navy, directed the original development of naval nuclear propulsion and controlled its operations for three decades as director of Naval Reactors. In addition, he oversaw the development of the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, the world's first commercial pressurized water reactor used for generating electricity.

Known as the "Father of the Nuclear Navy", Rickover's profound effects on the Navy and its most powerful warships were of such scope that he "may well go down in history as one of the Navy's most important officers." He served in a flag rank for nearly 30 years (1953 to 1982), ending his career as a four-star admiral. His total of 63 years of active duty service made Rickover the longest-serving naval officer and the longest serving member of the U.S armed forces in history.

Rickover is only one of four people who have ever been awarded two Congressional Gold Medals. His substantial legacy of technical achievements includes the United States Navy's continuing record of zero reactor accidents, as defined by the uncontrolled release of fission products to the environment subsequent to reactor core damage.

Early life and education

Rickover was born Chaim Godalia Rickover, to Abraham Rickover and Rachel (née Unger) Rickover, a Polish-Jewish family from Przasnysz, in Russian Poland. His parents later changed his name to "Hyman," which, like Chaim, is derived from Chayyim, meaning "life." He did not use his middle name, Godalia (a form of Gedaliah), but when required to list one for the Naval Academy oath, he substituted "George".

Rickover made passage to New York City with his mother and sister in March 1906, fleeing anti-Semitic Russian pogroms during the Revolution of 1905 and joining Abraham, who had made earlier, initial trips there beginning in 1897 to become established. Rickover's immediate family lived initially on the East Side of Manhattan and moved two years later to the North Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago, which at that time was a heavily Jewish neighborhood, where Rickover's father continued work as a tailor. Rickover took his first paid job at nine years of age, earning three cents an hour for holding a light as his neighbor operated a machine. Later, he delivered groceries. He graduated from grammar school at 14.

While attending John Marshall High School in Chicago (from which he graduated with honors in 1918), Rickover held a full-time job as a telegraph boy delivering Western Union telegrams, through which he became acquainted with U.S. Congressman Adolph J. Sabath, himself a Czech Jewish immigrant. Through the intervention of a family friend, Sabath nominated Rickover for appointment to the United States Naval Academy. Rickover was only a third alternate for appointment, but through disciplined self-directed study and good fortune, Rickover passed the entrance exam and was accepted.

Early naval career through World War II

Rickover's active duty naval career began in 1918, during a time when attending military academies was considered active duty service, due in part to World War I. On 2 June 1922, Rickover graduated 107th out of 540 midshipmen and was commissioned as an ensign. He joined the destroyer La Vallette on 5 September 1922. Rickover impressed his commanding officer with his hard work and efficiency, and was made engineer officer on 21 June 1923, becoming the youngest such officer in the squadron.

He next served on board the battleship Nevada before earning a Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Electrical Engineering by way of a year at the Naval Postgraduate School at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, followed by further work at Columbia University. At Columbia, he met Ruth D. Masters, a graduate student in international law, whom he married in 1931 after she returned from her doctoral studies at the Sorbonne in Paris. Shortly after marrying, Rickover wrote to his parents of his decision to become an Episcopalian, remaining so for the remainder of his life.

Rickover had a high regard for the quality of the education he received at Columbia, as demonstrated in this excerpt from a speech he gave at the university some 52 years after attending:

"In 1929 I attended the Columbia School of Engineering for postgraduate study in electrical engineering. Columbia was the first institution that encouraged me to think rather than memorize. My teachers were notable in that many had gained practical engineering experience outside the university and were able to share their experience with their students. I am grateful, among others, to Professors Morecroft, Hehre, and Arendt. Much of what I have subsequently learned and accomplished in engineering is based on the solid foundation of principles I learned from them."

Rickover preferred life on smaller ships, and he also knew that young officers in the submarine service were advancing quickly, so he went to Washington and volunteered for submarine duty. His application was turned down due to his age, at that time 29 years. Fortunately for Rickover, he ran into his former commanding officer from Nevada while leaving the building, who interceded successfully on his behalf. From 1929 to 1933, Rickover qualified for submarine duty and command aboard the submarines S-9 and S-48. While at the Office of the Inspector of Naval Material in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1933, Rickover translated Das Unterseeboot (The Submarine) by World War I German Imperial Navy Admiral Hermann Bauer. Rickover's translation became a basic text for the U.S. submarine service.

On 17 July 1937, he reported aboard the minesweeper Finch at Tsingtao, China and took command. The future longest-serving U.S. Navy officer assumed his only ship-command with additional duty as Commander, Mine Division Three, Asiatic Fleet. The Marco Polo Bridge Incident had occurred ten days earlier, and in August, Finch stood out for Shanghai to protect American citizens and interests from the conflict between Chinese and Japanese forces. On 25 September, Rickover was promoted to lieutenant commander, retroactive to 1 July. In October, his designation as an engineering duty officer became effective, and he was relieved of his three-month command of Finch at Shanghai on 5 October 1937.

Rickover was assigned to the Cavite Navy Yard in the Philippines, and was transferred shortly thereafter to the Bureau of Engineering in Washington, D.C. Once there, he took up his duties as assistant chief of the Electrical section of the Bureau of Engineering on 15 August 1939.

On 10 April 1942, after America's entry into World War II, Rickover flew to Pearl Harbor to organize repairs to the electrical power plant of USS California. Rickover had been promoted to the rank of commander on 1 January 1942, and in late June of that year was made a temporary captain. In late 1944 he appealed for a transfer to an active command. He was sent to investigate inefficiencies at the naval supply depot at Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Having identified a number of problems there he was appointed in July 1945 to command of a ship repair facility on Okinawa. Later in the war, his service as head of the Electrical Section in the Bureau of Ships brought him a Legion of Merit and gave him experience in directing large development programs, choosing talented technical people, and working closely with private industry. Time magazine featured him on the cover of its January 11, 1954 issue. The accompanying article described his wartime service:

"Sharp-tongued Hyman Rickover spurred his men to exhaustion, ripped through red tape, drove contractors into rages. He went on making enemies, but by the end of the war he had won the rank of captain. He had also won a reputation as a man who gets things done."

Naval Reactors and the Atomic Energy Commission

Admiral Rickover looking over USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear-powered vessel.

In December 1945, Rickover was appointed Inspector General of the 19th Fleet on the west coast, and was assigned to work with General Electric at Schenectady, New York, to develop a nuclear propulsion plant for destroyers. In 1946, an initiative was begun at the Manhattan Project's Clinton Laboratory (now the Oak Ridge National Laboratory) to develop a nuclear electric generating plant. Realizing the potential that nuclear energy held for the Navy, Rickover applied. Rickover was sent to Oak Ridge through the efforts of his wartime boss, Rear Admiral Earle Mills, who became the head of the Navy's Bureau of Ships that same year.

Rickover became an early convert to the idea of nuclear marine propulsion, and was the driving force for shifting the Navy's initial focus from applications on destroyers to submarines. Rickover's vision was not initially shared by his immediate superiors: he was recalled from Oak Ridge and assigned "advisory duties" with an office in an abandoned ladies room in the Navy Building. He subsequently went around several layers of superior officers, and in 1947 went directly to the Chief of Naval Operations, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, also a former submariner. Nimitz immediately understood the potential of nuclear propulsion in submarines and recommended the project to the Secretary of the Navy, John L. Sullivan. Sullivan's endorsement to build the world's first nuclear-powered vessel, the USS Nautilus, later caused Rickover to state that Sullivan was "the true father of the Nuclear Navy."

Subsequently, Rickover became chief of a new section in the Bureau of Ships, the Nuclear Power Division, and began work with Alvin M. Weinberg, the Oak Ridge director of research, to initiate and develop the Oak Ridge School of Reactor Technology and to begin the design of the pressurized water reactor for submarine propulsion. In February 1949 he was assigned to the Atomic Energy Commission's Division of Reactor Development, and then assumed control of the Navy's effort as Director of the Naval Reactors Branch, reporting to Mills. This twin role enabled him to lead the effort to develop Nautilus as well as to oversee the development of the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, the first commercial pressurized water reactor nuclear power plant.

The decision to select Rickover as head of development of the nation's nuclear submarine program ultimately rested with Admiral Mills. According to Lieutenant General Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project, Mills was anxious to have a very determined man involved. He knew that Rickover was "not too easy to get along with" and "not too popular," but in his judgement Rickover was the man whom the Navy could depend on "no matter what opposition he might encounter". Rickover and the team did not disappoint: the result was a highly reliable nuclear reactor in a form-factor that would fit into a submarine hull with no more than a 28-foot beam. This became known as the S1W reactor. Nautilus was launched and commissioned with this reactor in 1954,

Rickover was promoted to vice admiral in 1958, the same year that he was awarded the first of two Congressional Gold Medals. He exercised tight control for the next three decades over the ships, technology, and personnel of the nuclear Navy, interviewing and approving or denying every prospective officer being considered for a nuclear ship. Over the course of Rickover's career, these personal interviews numbered in the tens of thousands; over 14,000 interviews were with recent college-graduates alone. The interviewees ranged from midshipmen and newly commissioned ensigns destined for nuclear-powered submarines and surface combatants, to very senior combat-experienced Naval Aviator captains who sought command of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The content of most of these interviews has been lost to history, though some were later chronicled in several books on Rickover's career, as well as in a rare personal interview with Diane Sawyer in 1984.

Safety record

Rickover's stringent standards are largely credited with being responsible for the U.S. Navy's continuing record of zero reactor accidents (defined as the uncontrolled release of fission products to the environment resulting from damage to a reactor core). He made it a point to be aboard during the initial sea trial of almost every nuclear submarine completing its new-construction period. Following the Three Mile Island meltdown on March 28, 1979, Admiral Rickover was asked to testify before Congress in the general context of answering the question as to why naval nuclear propulsion had succeeded in achieving a record of zero reactor-accidents, as opposed to the dramatic one that had just taken place. In his testimony, he said:

"I am always chagrined at the tendency of people to expect that I have a simple, easy gimmick that makes my program function. Any successful program functions as an integrated whole of many factors. Trying to select one aspect as the key one will not work. Each element depends on all the others."

The accident-free record of United States Navy reactor operations stands in stark contrast to those of the Soviet Union, which had fourteen known reactor accidents. As stated in a retrospective analysis in October 2007:

"U.S. submarines far outperformed the Soviet ones in the crucial area of stealth, and Rickover's obsessive fixation on safety and quality control gave the U.S. nuclear Navy a vastly superior safety record to the Soviet one. This was especially crucial as in a democratic society, particularly after the Three Mile Island nuclear power station crisis in March 1979, a host of nuclear accidents or well-publicized near misses could have shut down the nuclear fleet completely."

As head of Naval Reactors, Rickover's focus and responsibilities were dedicated to reactor safety rather than tactical or strategic submarine warfare training. However, this extreme focus was well known during Rickover's era as a potential hindrance to balancing operational priorities. One way by which this was addressed after the admiral retired was that only the very strongest, former at-sea submarine commanders have held Rickover's now unique eight-year position as NAVSEA-08, the longest chartered tenure in the U.S. military. From Rickover's first replacement, Kinnaird R. McKee, to today's head of Naval Reactors, James F. Caldwell, Jr., all have held command of nuclear submarines, their squadrons and ocean fleets, but not one has been a long-term Engineering Duty Officer such as Rickover.

Views on nuclear power

Given Rickover's single-minded focus on naval nuclear propulsion, design, and operations, it came as a surprise to many in 1982, near the end of his career, when he testified before the U.S. Congress that, were it up to him what to do with nuclear powered ships, he "would sink them all." At a congressional hearing Rickover testified that:

"I do not believe that nuclear power is worth it if it creates radiation. Then you might ask me why do I have nuclear powered ships. That is a necessary evil. I would sink them all. I am not proud of the part I played in it. I did it because it was necessary for the safety of this country. That's why I am such a great exponent of stopping this whole nonsense of war. Unfortunately limits — attempts to limit war have always failed. The lesson of history is when a war starts every nation will ultimately use whatever weapon it has available. ... Every time you produce radiation, you produce something that has a certain half-life, in some cases for billions of years. ... It is important that we control these forces and try to eliminate them." (Economics of Defense Policy: Hearing before the Joint Economic Committee, Congress of the United States, 97th Cong., 2nd sess., Pt. 1 (1982))

A few months later, following his retirement, Rickover spoke more specifically regarding the questions "Could you comment on your own responsibility in helping to create a nuclear navy? Do you have any regrets?":

"I do not have regrets. I believe I helped preserve the peace for this country. Why should I regret that? What I accomplished was approved by Congress — which represents our people. All of you live in safety from domestic enemies because of security from the police. Likewise, you live in safety from foreign enemies because our military keeps them from attacking us. Nuclear technology was already under development in other countries. My assigned responsibility was to develop our nuclear navy. I managed to accomplish this."


Rickover has been declared in retrospect as "the most famous and controversial admiral of his era." Hyperactive, political, blunt, confrontational, insulting, flamboyant, and a workaholic, Rickover was always demanding of others — without regard for rank or position — as well as himself. Moreover, he had "little tolerance for mediocrity, none for stupidity." "If a man is dumb," said a friend, "Rickover thinks he ought to be dead." Even while a captain, Rickover did not conceal his opinions, and many of the officers whom he regarded as dumb eventually rose in rank to be admirals and were assigned to the Pentagon.

Rickover found himself frequently and loudly in bureaucratic combat with these senior naval officers, to the point that he almost missed becoming an admiral: two selection boards passed over Captain Rickover for promotion. One of these selection boards even met the day after USS Nautilus had its keel-laying ceremony in the presence of President Truman — and indicative of the Navy's attitude toward the ship's creator, Rickover had not been originally invited and was only eventually invited by way of his AEC role, not his Navy role. It eventually took the intervention of the White House, U.S. Congress, and the Secretary of the Navy — and the very real threat of changing the Navy's admiral-selection system to include civilians — before the next flag-selection board welcomed the twice passed-over Rickover (normally a career-ending event) into their ranks.

Rickover's military authority and congressional mandate were absolute with regard to the U.S. fleet's reactor operations, but his exceptional degree of control was frequently a subject of internal Navy controversy. He was head of the Naval Reactors branch, and thus responsible for "signing off" on a crew's competence to operate the reactor safely, giving him the power to effectively remove a warship from active service — and he did so on several occasions, much to the consternation of those affected. The view became established that he sometimes exercised power to settle scores or tweak noses. Even the most senior, renowned, and professionally accomplished nuclear-trained officers that Rickover had personally selected, such as Edward L. Beach, Jr., had mixed feelings about "the kindly old gentleman," or simply "KOG", as Rickover became euphemistically known in inner circles. Beach, in his later years, once referred to him as a "tyrant" with "no account of his gradually failing powers" (p. 179, United States Submarines, 2002).

Focus on education

President Kennedy and Rickover, White House, 1963

When he was a child still living in Russian-occupied Poland, Rickover was not allowed to attend public schools because of his Jewish faith. Starting at the age of four, he attended a religious school where the teaching was solely from the Tanakh, i.e., Old Testament, in Hebrew. Following his formal education in the U.S., Admiral Rickover developed a decades-long and outspoken interest in the educational standards of the United States.

Rickover believed that U.S. standards of education were unacceptably low. His first book centered on education was a collection of essays calling for improved standards of education, particularly in math and science, entitled Education and Freedom (1959). In it, he stated that, "education is the most important problem facing the United States today" and "only the massive upgrading of the scholastic standards of our schools will guarantee the future prosperity and freedom of the Republic." A second book, Swiss Schools and Ours (1962) was a scathing comparison of the educational systems of Switzerland and America. He argued that the higher standards of Swiss schools, including a longer school day and year, combined with an approach stressing student choice and academic specialization produced superior results.

Recognizing "that nurturing careers of excellence and leadership in science and technology in young scholars is an essential investment in the United States national and global future," following his retirement Rickover founded the Center for Excellence in Education in 1983. Additionally, the Research Science Institute (formerly the Rickover Science Institute), founded by Admiral Rickover in 1984, is a summer science program hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for high school seniors from around the world.

The General Dynamics scandal

In the early 1980s, structural welding flaws — whose nature and existence had been covered up by falsified inspection records — led to significant delays and expenses in the delivery of several submarines being built at the General Dynamics Electric Boat Division shipyard. The yard tried to pass the vast cost overruns directly on to the Navy, while Rickover demanded that the yard make good on its "shoddy" workmanship. The Navy settled with General Dynamics in 1981, paying out $634 million of $843 million in Los Angeles class submarine cost-overrun and reconstruction claims. Secretary of the Navy John Lehman was partly motivated to seek the agreement in order to continue to focus on achieving President Reagan's goal of a 600-ship Navy, but Rickover was extremely bitter over the General Dynamics yard being paid hundreds of millions of dollars for its incompetence and deceit, and lambasted both the settlement and Secretary Lehman. This was hardly Rickover's first clash with the defense industry; he was historically hard, even harsh, in exacting high standards from defense contractors.

As a result of investigations into the scandal, a Navy Ad Hoc Gratuities Board determined that Rickover had received gifts from General Dynamics over a 16-year period valued at $67,628, including jewelry, furniture, exotic knives and gifts that Rickover had in turn presented to U.S. politicians. Charges were investigated as well that gifts were provided by two other major nuclear ship contractors for the navy, General Electric and the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock. Secretary Lehman admonished Rickover for his impropriety via a non-punitive letter and stated that Rickover's "fall from grace with these little trinkets should be viewed in the context of his enormous contributions to the Navy." Rickover released a statement through his lawyer saying his "conscience is clear" with respect to the gifts. "No gratuity or favor ever affected any decision I made." Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin, a longtime supporter of Rickover, later publicly associated a debilitating stroke suffered by the admiral to his having been censured and "dragged through the mud by the very institution to which he rendered his invaluable service."

Forced retirement

By the late 1970s, Rickover's position seemed stronger than it had ever been. Over many years, powerful friends on both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees ensured that he remained on active duty long after most other admirals had retired from their second careers. However, Secretary of the Navy John Lehman felt that Rickover was hindering the well-being of the navy. As Lehman stated in his book, Command of the Seas:

one of my first orders of business as secretary of the navy would be to solve ... the Rickover problem. Rickover's legendary achievements were in the past. His present viselike grip on much of the navy was doing it much harm. I had sought the job because I believed the navy had deteriorated to the point where its weakness seriously threatened our future security. The navy's grave afflictions included loss of a strategic vision; loss of self-confidence, and morale; a prolonged starvation of resources, leaving vast shortfalls in capability to do the job; and too few ships to cover a sea so great, all resulting in cynicism, exhaustion, and an undercurrent of defeatism. The cult created by Admiral Rickover was itself a major obstacle to recovery, entwining nearly all the issues of culture and policy within the navy.

Secretary Lehman eventually attained enough political clout to enforce his decision to retire Rickover. This was in part assisted by the Admiral's nearly insubordinate stance against paying the General Dynamics submarine construction claims, as well as his advanced age and waning political leverage. On July 27, 1981, Lehman was handed the final impetus for ending Rickover's career by way of an operational error on the Admiral's part: a "moderate" loss of ship control and depth excursion while performing a submerged "crash back" maneuver during the sea trials of the newly constructed USS La Jolla (SSN-701). Rickover was the actual man-in-charge during this specific performance test, and his actions and inactions were judged to have been the causal factor. On January 31, 1982, in his 80s, Rickover was forced to retire from the Navy as a full admiral after 63 years of service under 13 presidents (Woodrow Wilson through Ronald Reagan). According to Rickover, he first learned of his firing when his wife told him what she heard on the radio.

According to former President Jimmy Carter, several weeks following his retirement, Rickover "was invited to the Oval Office and decided to don his full dress uniform. He told me that he refused to take a seat, listened to the president ask him to be his special nuclear advisor, replied 'Mr. President that is bullshit,' and then walked out." The Navy's official investigation of General Dynamics' Electric Boat division was ended shortly afterward. According to Theodore Rockwell, Rickover's Technical Director for more than 15 years, more than one source at that time stated that General Dynamics officials were bragging around Washington that they had "gotten Rickover."

Admiral Rickover's final public remarks after his retirement included a lecture in May 1982 at the Morgenthau Memorial Lecture series under the auspices of the Carnegie Council ("The Voice for Ethics in International Policy"), developed and polished over the course of the last five of his 63 years of public service. On February 28, 1983, a post-retirement party honoring Admiral Rickover was attended by all three living former U.S. Presidents at the time, Nixon, Ford, and Carter, all formerly officers in the U.S. Navy. President Reagan was not in attendance.


Headstone of Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, Arlington National Cemetery, Memorial Day, 2017

After suffering strokes, pneumonia and generally declining health over time, Admiral Rickover died at his home in Arlington, Virginia, on July 8, 1986 at 86 years of age, the same as that of his father, Abraham, before him. He was buried on July 11 in a small, private ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. On July 14, memorial services were led by Admiral James D. Watkins at the Washington National Cathedral, with President Carter, Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Secretary Lehman, senior naval officers and about 1,000 other people in attendance. Mrs. Rickover had asked President Carter to read from John Milton's On His Blindness. Carter was at first puzzled by her choice, but then came to believe that the last line had special meaning for all wives and family members of submariners who were away at sea: "They also serve who only stand and wait."

Admiral Rickover is buried in Section 5 at Arlington National Cemetery. His first wife, Ruth Masters Rickover (1903–1972), is buried with him and the name of his second wife, Eleonore A. Bednowicz Rickover, whom he met and married while she was serving as a Commander in the Navy Nurse Corps, is also inscribed on his gravestone. He is survived by Eleanore and by Robert Rickover, his sole son by his first wife.


USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-709)

The Los Angeles-class submarine USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-709) was named for him. It was commissioned two years before the admiral's death, making it one of the relatively few United States Navy ships to be named for a living person. USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-709) was launched on August 27, 1983, sponsored by the admiral's second wife, Mrs. Eleonore Ann Bednowicz Rickover, commissioned on July 21, 1984, and deactivated on December 14, 2006.

In 2015, the Navy announced that a new Virginia class submarine, USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-795), would be named for Rickover.

Rickover Hall at the United States Naval Academy, houses the departments of Mechanical Engineering, Naval Architecture, Ocean Engineering, Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering. Rickover Center at Naval Nuclear Power Training Command, where officer and enlisted U.S. Navy personnel begin their engineering training, is located at Joint Base Charleston.

In 2011, the U.S. Navy Museum included Admiral Rickover as part of the Technology for the Nuclear Age: Nuclear Propulsion display for its Cold War exhibit, which featured the following, most-often misquoted quotation:

"Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous impatience".


  • Admiral Hyman Rickover Fellowship (M.I.T.)
  • Rickover Naval Academy
  • Rickover Junior High School


The second of two Congressional Gold Medals awarded to Admiral Rickover

Warfare insignia

  • Submarine Warfare Insignia (Dolphins)

Decorations and medals

  • Presidential Medal of Freedom (1980)
  • Congressional Gold Medal – 2 awards (1958, 1982)
  • Navy Distinguished Service Medal with two gold stars representing 3 awards (1961, 1964, 1982)
  • Legion of Merit with gold star representing 2 awards (1945, 1952)
  • Navy Commendation Medal (1945)
  • Army Commendation Medal (1949) (Conversion award from Letter of Commendation from the Secretary of the Army in 1946.)
  • World War I Victory Medal
  • China Service Medal
  • American Defense Service Medal
  • American Campaign Medal
  • Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
  • World War II Victory Medal
  • Navy Occupation Service Medal with "ASIA" clasp
  • National Defense Service Medal with bronze star representing 2 awards

Foreign order

  • Honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (1946)

In recognition of his wartime service, he was invested as an Honorary Commander of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1946 by King George VI.

Admiral Rickover was twice awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for exceptional public service; the first in 1958, and the second 25 years later in 1983, becoming one of only three persons to be awarded more than one. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter presented Admiral Rickover with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest non-military honor, for his contributions to world peace.

He also received 61 civilian awards and 15 honorary degrees, including the Enrico Fermi Award "For engineering and demonstrative leadership in the development of safe and reliable nuclear power and its successful application to our national security and economic needs." Some of the most notable other awards include:

  • the Egleston Medal Award of Columbia University Engineering School Alumni Association (1955)
  • the George Westinghouse Gold Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) (1955)
  • the Michael I. Pupin 100th Anniversary Medal (1958)
  • the Golden Omega Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) (1959)
  • the Prometheus Award from the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) (1965)
  • the Newcomen Medal (1968)
  • the Washington Award from the Western Society of Engineers (1970)

Some of his honorary degrees included:

  • Sc.D.: Colby College (1954); Stevens Institute of Technology (1958); Columbia University (1960)


  • Admiral Rickover — 60 Minutes interview by Diane Sawyer and Edward R. Murrow (1984)
  • Rickover: The Birth of Nuclear Power by Steve Bannon — documentary screened at the GI Film Festival in the District of Columbia on May 24, 2014, and broadcast on December 9, 2014 on PBS.


In order of publication:

  • Blair, Clay, Brazen Prejudice article on the U.S. Navy's treatment of Rickover in Time magazine (August, 1952)
  • Rickover, Hyman G., "Academic vs. Practical Reactors" statement to the U.S. Congress (1953)
  • The Man in Tempo 3 cover story on Rickover in Time magazine (January, 1954)
  • Blair, Clay, The Atomic Submarine and Admiral Rickover (H. Holt, 1954)
  • Rickover, Hyman G., Nuclear Power and the Navy (Navy League of the United States, 1955)
  • Stanford, Neal, The Future of Fossil Fuels - An Intimate Message from Washington (The Christian Science Monitor, 1957)
  • Wallace, Robert, A Deluge Of Honors For An Exasperating Admiral (LIFE magazine, September 1958)
  • Rickover, Hyman G., Education and Freedom (Dutton, 1959)
  • Rickover, Hyman G., Swiss Schools and Ours: Why Theirs are Better (Little, Brown, 1962)
  • Rickover, Hyman G., American Education, a National Failure; The Problem of Our Schools and What We Can Learn from England (Dutton, 1963)
  • Rickover, Hyman G., Liberty, Science and Law (Newcomen Society in North America, 1969)
  • Rickover, Hyman G., Eminent Americans: Namesakes of the Polaris Submarine Fleet (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1972)
  • Rickover, Hyman G., Nuclear Warships and the Navy's Future ({s.n.}, 1974)
  • Rickover, Hyman G., The Role of Engineering in the Navy, speech, (1974)
  • Groves, Leslie R., Now It Can Be Told: The Story of the Manhattan Project (Da Capo PR, 1975)
  • Rickover, Ruth Masters, Pepper, Rice, and Elephants: A Southeast Asian Journey from Celebes to Siam (Naval Institute Press, 1976)
  • Zumwalt, Elmo R., On Watch: A Memoir (Quadrangle/New York Times Co., 1976) includes a chapter on Rickover
  • Rickover, Hyman G., How the Battleship Maine Was Destroyed (Naval Institute Press, 1976)
  • Rickover, Hyman G., Thoughts on Man's Purpose in Life speech presented at the San Diego Rotary Club (1977)
  • Rickover, Hyman G., No Holds Barred: The Final Congressional Testimony of Admiral Hyman Rickover (Center for Study of Responsive Law, 1982)
  • Rickover, Hyman G., Doing a Job 1981 management philosophy speech at Columbia University School of Engineering (CoEvolution Quarterly, 1982)
  • Rickover, Hyman G., Thoughts on Man's Purpose in Life, (Second Annual Morgenthau Memorial Lecture, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, 1982 revision)
  • Polmar, Norman; Allen, Thomas B., Rickover: Controversy and Genius (Simon & Schuster, 1982)
  • Schratz, Paul R., "Admiral Rickover and the Cult of Personality" (Air University Review, July–August 1983) -- "non-conformist" opinion piece from a World War II diesel boat commander
  • Rickover, Hyman G., personal interview (transcript) on 60 Minutes by Diane Sawyer and Edward R. Murrow (1984)
  • Rickover, Hyman G., personal interview (video) on 60 Minutes by Diane Sawyer and Edward R. Murrow (1984)
  • Tyler, Patrick, Running Critical: The Silent War, Rickover & General Dynamics (Harper Trade, 1986)
  • Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 3 (1989)
  • Duncan, Francis, Rickover and the Nuclear Navy: The Discipline of Technology (Naval Institute Press, 1990)
  • Rockwell, Theodore, The Rickover Effect: The Inside Story of How Adm. Hyman Rickover Built the Nuclear Navy (John Wiley & Sons, 1995)
  • Beaver, William, Admiral Rickover: Lessons for Business Leaders (Business Forum, 1998)
  • Sontag, Sherry; Drew, Christopher; Drew, Annette Lawrence; Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage (PublicAffairs, 1998)
  • Gordon, Robert B., Working for Admiral Rickover: Memoir (Naval Historical Foundation Memoir program, 2000)
  • Duncan, Francis, Rickover: The Struggle for Excellence (Naval Institute Press, 2001)
  • Craven, John Piña, The Silent War: The Cold War Battle Beneath the Sea (Simon & Schuster, 2001)
  • Lehman, Jr., John F., Command of the Seas, (US Naval Institute Press, 2nd rev. ed., 2001)
  • Rockwell, Theodore, The Rickover Effect: How One Man Made a Difference (Backinprint.com, 2002)
  • Clancy, Tom, Submarine: A Guided Tour Inside a Nuclear Warship (Berkley, 2002)
  • Hinkle, David, United States Submarines (Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, 2002)
  • David, Heather M., Admiral Rickover and the Nuclear Navy (Putnam Pub Group, 2004)
  • Summitt, Dan, Tales of a Cold War Submariner (Texas A&M University Press, 2004)
  • Hagerott, Mark, Commanding Men and Machines: Admiralship, Technology, and Ideology in the 20th Century U.S. Navy University of Maryland, PhD dissertation (2004)
  • Hill, Sir Robert, Vice Admiral, British Royal Navy, Admiral Hyman G Rickover USN and the UK Nuclear Submarine Propulsion Programme (The Thomas Lowe Gray Memorial Lecture, presented to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 19 April 2005)
  • Zweigenhaft, Richard L., Diversity in the Power Elite: How It Happened, Why It Matters (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006)
  • Gilchrist, Dan, Power Shift: The Transition to Nuclear Power in the U.S. Submarine Force As Told by Those Who Did It (iUniverse, 2006)
  • Rickover, Hyman G., Energy Resources and Our Future, 1957 speech, (Energy Bulletin, 2006)
  • Rose, Lisle A., Power at Sea: A Violent Peace, 1946–2006 (University of Missouri Press, 2006)
  • Allen, Thomas; Polmar, Norman; Rickover: Father of the Nuclear Navy (Potomac Books, 2007)
  • Meyer, CM, The Long Shadow of Admiral Hyman Rickover Part 1 (energize magazine, April 2007)
  • Meyer, CM, The Long Shadow of Admiral Hyman Rickover Part 2 (energize magazine, May 2007)
  • Meyer, CM, The Long Shadow of Admiral Hyman Rickover Part 3 (energize magazine, June 2007)
  • Spear, Steven J., Chasing the Rabbit (McGraw-Hill, 2008) -- includes applicable business lessons from the US Navy's Nuclear Power Program
  • Tucker, Todd, Atomic America: How a Deadly Explosion and a Feared Admiral Changed the Course of Nuclear History (Free Press, 2009)
  • Toti, William J., The Wrath of Rickover (Proceedings Magazine, U.S. Naval Institute Press, June 2010)
  • A brief history: From squash court to submarine – Nuclear reactors and their uses have not changed much over seven decades (The Economist, March 2012)
  • Chiles, James R., Titanics of Tomorrow? (New York Daily News, April 15, 2012)
  • Nordman, Doug, Sea story: the Admiral Rickover interview, (Military Guide, February 11, 2013)
  • Rickover: The Birth of Nuclear Power – documentary produced for PBS (2014)
  • Scarborough, Rowan, Father of nuclear Navy – Film shows how Capt. Rickover bucked authority, helped win Cold War (Washington Times, May 14, 2014)
  • Oliver, Dave, Against the Tide: Rickover's Leadership Principles and the Rise of the Nuclear Navy (Naval Institute Press, 2014) ISBN 1612517978
  • Kruse, Kevin, Leadership Lessons From Admiral Rickover, Forbes magazine, (January 6, 2015)
  • Nelson, Chris, The God of Submarines, Center for International Maritime Security, (June 19, 2015)
  • Carter, Jimmy, A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety (Simon & Schuster, 2016)
  • DiGeronimo, Matthew; Koonce, Bob, Extreme Operational Excellence: Applying the US Nuclear Submarine Culture to Your Organization (Outskirts Press, September 6, 2016)
  • Winters, Ann, Underway on Nuclear Power (The American Nuclear Society, March 28, 2017)
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