GROTON, Conn. - Retired Vice Adm. Eugene P. Wilkinson, the first commanding officer of the U.S. Navy's first nuclear-powered submarine, has died, the Naval Submarine Base in Connecticut said Tuesday.
Wilkinson, who was 94, died in Del Mar, Calif., last week. The cause of his death wasn't disclosed.
Wilkinson received his commission in 1940 and reported to the heavy cruiser USS Louisville for his first tour of duty.
He graduated from the Naval Submarine School in Groton in March 1942. During World War II, he participated in eight submarine war patrols.
Wilkinson commanded the Nautilus, which was commissioned in 1954 as the world's first nuclear-powered ship.
On Jan. 17, 1955, he ordered all lines cast off and signaled the historic event with the simple message, "Underway on nuclear power."
Wilkinson was born in Long Beach, Calif., on Aug. 10, 1918.
After attending the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., in 1957-58, he served as commander of a submarine division.
In September 1961, he was assigned as the initial commanding officer of the first nuclear-powered surface ship, the guided missile cruiser Long Beach.
He was director of the submarine warfare division from 1963 to 1966.
Wilkinson retired from the Navy in 1974 as a vice admiral and later was executive vice president of Data Design Laboratories, a high-tech company.
In 1980, he became the first president of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations.