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The Biography of Admimiral Hyman G Rickover,the acknowledges "Father of the Nuclear Navy".Rickover was an acknowledged leader and engineering genius,he was also known for his ascerbic personality.He served his country for 60 years in the Navy.Over these years he made many powerful friends and just as powerful enemies.Finnally president Reagan was able to retire him,somethi The Biography of Admimiral Hyman G Rickover,the acknowledges "Father of the Nuclear Navy".Rickover was an acknowledged leader and engineering genius,he was also known for his ascerbic personality.He served his country for 60 years in the Navy.Over these years he made many powerful friends and just as powerful enemies.Finnally president Reagan was able to retire him,something two previous presidents weren't able to do.This is a well research and penetrating biography.


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The Biography of Admimiral Hyman G Rickover,the acknowledges "Father of the Nuclear Navy".Rickover was an acknowledged leader and engineering genius,he was also known for his ascerbic personality.He served his country for 60 years in the Navy.Over these years he made many powerful friends and just as powerful enemies.Finnally president Reagan was able to retire him,somethi The Biography of Admimiral Hyman G Rickover,the acknowledges "Father of the Nuclear Navy".Rickover was an acknowledged leader and engineering genius,he was also known for his ascerbic personality.He served his country for 60 years in the Navy.Over these years he made many powerful friends and just as powerful enemies.Finnally president Reagan was able to retire him,something two previous presidents weren't able to do.This is a well research and penetrating biography.

30 review for Rickover: Controversy and Genius: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Eric_W

    Hyman Rickover had more impact on the Navy than anyone else in its history. He was enormously effective in manipulating the bureaucracy and political power. Indeed, after being passed over twice for rear admiral normally requiring mandatory retirement, he called in some political markers and he was awarded the promotion. He used his position to try to influence American education, worried that a Soviet leadership in a technological world would disadvantage this country. At one time, he controlle Hyman Rickover had more impact on the Navy than anyone else in its history. He was enormously effective in manipulating the bureaucracy and political power. Indeed, after being passed over twice for rear admiral normally requiring mandatory retirement, he called in some political markers and he was awarded the promotion. He used his position to try to influence American education, worried that a Soviet leadership in a technological world would disadvantage this country. At one time, he controlled more public funds than perhaps anyone else in government, but he was also adamant that contractors be accountable for the way the funds were spent. Rickover's love of engineering began during his first assignment following graduation from Annapolis. He was assigned to the destroyer La Vallette and spent his time reading in his bunk or crawling around the steam propulsion plant which took up most of the space in destroyers which were built for speed. The Navy was divided into the "black gang," or engineers, and the "white glove" types, who wanted to make a name for themselves leading ships into battle. Rickover's hero was Robert Milligan, engineer of the battleship Oregon, who managed to get his boilers to such efficiency that the Oregon was able to race to Cuba during the Spanish-American war. (In fact, Milligan wrote a well-researched analysis of the explosion on the Maine.) Rickover prided himself in being able to detect faults in the plant by just hearing particular noises and could tell if they were overheating by testing the temperature of the oil with his fingertips. Engineers were Rickover's heroes. He learned early that he was not command material. Assigned in the early thirties to the Finch, a small minesweeper with a crew of about fifty, he is remembered as being a martinet and was relieved within a few months. He asked to be transferred to engineering duty, traditionally a dead-end for Navy officers. Earlier, as engineering officer on the battleship New Mexico, he had fanatically gone to great lengths to save water in his attempt to win an efficiency award. He plugged the shower heads so that only a trickle of water would be delivered and was known to drag men out of the shower if he felt they were taking too much time. His fanatical attention to detail and efficiency was an asset during the war. He was appointed to head the electrical section of BuShips (Bureau of Ships), a division of the Navy that was responsible for the design and construction of all Navy ships during the war, an enormous task. His section was soon recognized as one of the most efficient — and controversial. Unlike most of the rest of BuShip sections, Rickover employed as few Navy men as possible noting that the Navy placed rank ahead of competence and that its practice of rotating men in and out of positions led to inefficiencies. It was a prejudice that continued when he was head of the nuclear program. By the fifties, Rickover’s independent frame of mind was beginning to wear on the Navy brass, who looked forward to passing over his promotion to admiral, making retirement mandatory. Rickover played them like puppets, using the media and friends in Congress to force them to retain him. He became seemingly so indispensable that Congress, by the sixties, was falling all over itself to make sure he was regularly promoted and retained beyond the maximum retirement age of sixty-two. Rickover had learned something very important: congressmen preferred to give money to individuals rather than to institutions that remained abstractions. He prepared rigorously for his testimony before Congress, using epigrams and quotations—in one speech he quoted over forty different people — and one-liners that could be used in headlines, e.g., “Give the Admirals Coloring Books.” He appeared before the committees as an individual, not as a Navy official, and his candor and honesty were appealing. But he was also careful to support his Navy, the nuclear submarine Navy, not the Navy as a whole. The Enterprise was the first nuclear aircraft carrier. Its advantages were obvious: a cruising range of 200,000 miles as opposed to only seven days steaming at full power in a diesel carrier before refueling was required (destroyers on maneuvers require fueling every other day at sea), and this meant lots more space for weapons systems and stores because fuel bunkers were no longer needed. Rickover lobbied for other nuclear surface ships, as well. The Long Beach was the first nuclear guided-missile cruiser. Typically, officers complained that too much attention was paid to nuclear components at the expense of more mundane things like weapons systems, and when the Long Beach put to sea, the power plant worked perfectly, but the rest of the ship had serious deficiencies. Rickover’s interview process for nuclear power Navy candidates became notorious. He insisted on interviewing each candidate, and the interviews could become so strenuous that many candidates remembered them verbatim. Each interview had a common thread: the candidate had to prove that he (no women) would willingly sacrifice everything including family to become a nuc. (Rickover’s refusal to allow nuc students at the Academy to have Christmas leave caused a minor scandal.) One problem he posed was to have the candidate imagine he was on a sinking boat with five other men, and only one of them could be saved. “Are you resourceful enough to talk the other five into letting you be the one saved?” The candidate was expected to reply in the affirmative. Rickover would then call five staff members into the room and tell the candidate, “Start talking.” Another favorite ploy was to tell the candidate to, “Piss me off, if you can.” The candidate who swept everything off Rickover’s desk onto the floor passed. One critic later wrote that often the interviews had less to do with finding qualified candidates than they did with letting everyone know who was boss. Rickover’s professed philosophy of management and leadership, i.e., that there be freedom to “argue and dissent in what concerns ideas and knowledge . . . the foundation of a true system of education,” were challenged in the late seventies by Lieutenant Ralph Chatham in a prize-winning essay published in the Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute. Chatham argued that each nuclear submarine had two captains: its appointed one and Rickover, operating from his office in Washington. Chatham cited instances where Rickover had called a submarine while on station to change the captain’s watch bill. Rickover had created an atmosphere that had officers so worried about making mistakes that initiative was destroyed and trust was eliminated. Despite the public criticism, Rickover was again reappointed in 1979 as “Head of the Nuclear Propulsion Program” for two more years. By this time, more than thirty-five percent of the Navy was nuclear- powered. He knew what was right about everything. He complained about the “sophomoric drivel” being written about leadership in the Proceedings in 1981. Leadership, he wrote, required four components: “a.) Learn your job. (This involves study and hard work.) b.) Work hard at your job. c.) Train your people. d.) Inspect frequently to see that the job is being done properly." Rickover constantly complained about the other admirals, arguing that there were too many of them, thereby leading to inefficiency. As the shipbuilding industry was bought up by large conglomerates, he became more and more distrustful, and it was widely known that many of the Navy representatives were nothing more than spies for Rickover's Nuclear Branch. Some shipbuilders, tiring of the constant interference and changes, refused to bid on Navy contracts. In one case, a contractor refused to continue work on an aircraft carrier, and was forced to continue only under court order. Ostensibly Rickover believed smaller was better. "If you really want to get a job done," he once said, "you do not need a large group of people. If you do, the first thing you know your time gets taken up arranging for baseball games, picnics, and Easter parades for your employees; worrying about their morale rather than greeting them to do the job for which they are paid. People who are doing work do not need these trivia for satisfaction." Unfortunately for him, Rickover, a man of words, found himself in the seventies increasingly in a world dominated by sound bites and images. He disliked the press for their shallowness, but he reserved hatred for television. "No one sitting through these nightly TV shows is likely to make the mistake of thinking that he is participating in a flowering of American culture. He is taking part in the surrender of the will to the conception of society as a captive mass audience. . . . First attracted and then corrupted by the deliberate employment of superficial and meretricious modes of entertainment, this mass audience becomes acquiescent to dishonest and fantastic commercial claims." It's depressing that as Rickover became an icon, he became more impossible and arrogant, unwilling to admit that his views might not be the only correct views. He was right about a great deal, but, by the end of his life, the manner in which he tried to enforce his correctness hindered their implementation.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Levy

    Polmar knows who to write a military biography! This famous admiral is the kind of guy we need today. He was a person who could get things done despite the overwhelming idiots/ politicians in his way. Was he perfect? By all means, no. But, to get the kind of things done that he managed to accomplish required stepping on a lot of toes. Meanwhile, he mentored some of the brightest minds in the Navy at an important point of the Cold War.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Richp

    This is an excellent bio. The authors do a good job of covering his career and life, in the context of the Navy and the times. They present Rickover's strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, and successfully avoid the trap of judgment. The book could be improved in some small ways. In the intro, we find Rickover would not cooperate with the authors, although he had bent over backward with Clay Blair earlier. We don't find out why until a footnote 2/3 through the book. At times, part of This is an excellent bio. The authors do a good job of covering his career and life, in the context of the Navy and the times. They present Rickover's strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, and successfully avoid the trap of judgment. The book could be improved in some small ways. In the intro, we find Rickover would not cooperate with the authors, although he had bent over backward with Clay Blair earlier. We don't find out why until a footnote 2/3 through the book. At times, part of a page is too much a repeat of material presented much earlier. (Some repetition is desirable because most of the chapters cover subjects, and their chronologies overlap considerably.) Many passages give excerpts of testimony to Congress or speeches, but leave decades of ambiguity about dates that is not resolved in the endnotes. Rickover's retirement is not covered, because it happened shortly after the publication. (This is my second book in a row in which a major event is not covered for that reason.)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tolga Uzuner

    Important to also reas the biography on Zumwalt alongside this, to get a truly well rounded perspective on how there is more than one way to skin a cat, and to live a life.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Spencer Whetstone

    Fascinating study of a man of incredible force of will.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Chartierjosh

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mike Manos

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tim

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nick DiBlasi

  11. 4 out of 5

    David

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ed

  13. 5 out of 5

    Roger

  14. 4 out of 5

    Pat Rolston

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  16. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Smith

  17. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Wilson

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  19. 5 out of 5

    Weldon Regan

  20. 5 out of 5

    James

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

  22. 5 out of 5

    John

  23. 5 out of 5

    Diana Thompson

  24. 5 out of 5

    T.P. Davis

  25. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Whitehead

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rick

  27. 5 out of 5

    J.J.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Charlie Burrow

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tai Stith

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michael

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