Resource Listing January 1954

U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles announced the U.S. policy of massive retaliation. Shortly after taking office in 1953, President Eisenhower had adopted the New Look, a defense strategy relying heavily on nuclear rather than conventional weapons. In January 1954, Dulles framed this military strategy with a tough anti-Communist foreign policy. In the future, Dulles explained, the United States would not be drawn into expensive, limited conflicts like the one in Korea. Rather, in response to Communist aggression anywhere in the world, the United States might use "massive retaliatory power" applied "at places and with means of its own choosing." In other words, the United States would use nuclear weapons directly against the Soviet Union and China.

Before the end of World War II, many in the Navy could see the potential for a nuclear-powered submarine. Conventionally powered submarines had to surface regularly to recharge their batteries. A nuclear submarine could stay submerged for weeks or months. In 1948, the Navy put Captain Hyman Rickover in charge of developing a nuclear submarine. The Atomic Energy Commission also funded this work. The first nuclear submarine, U.S.S. Nautilus, was launched at Groton, Connecticut on January 21, 1954.

In August 1958, the U.S.S. Nautilus sailed far beneath the Arctic ice and reached the North Pole. The original power core propelled the submarine for more than two years. Modern cores last 10 to 15 years. By 1962, the Navy had 26 nuclear submarines and had launched two nuclear-propelled surface ships. The aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise, powered by eight nuclear reactors, was launched in October 1962 and is still in service.