Paying Tribute to Legacy, Retired Nuclear Power School Sailors Celebrate 50th Reunion
GROTON, Conn. - Retired Sailors from Nuclear Power School Class (NPS) 60-3 held a reunion May 12 - 14 at Naval Submarine Base New London to honor their legacy and contribution to submarine history.
During their two-day reunion, the former nuclear power school classmates visited Submarine School trainers and the Submarine Force Library and Museum (SFLM), home of the Historic Ship Nautilus (SSN 571). They also toured General Dynamics Electric Boat shipbuilding facilities and Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Providence (SSN 719).
“This reunion is the first held in the history of the U.S. Navy for nuclear power school,” said retired Navy Capt. John M. Donlon, a former chief of staff of Commander, Submarine Group 2 (CSG2), who served as co-chair of NPS 60-3 reunion.
Of the 36 who graduated NPS 60-3 in Dec. 23, 1961, 13 former classmates and four wives were able to attend the event in New London. Many of the retirees left Nuclear Power School 50 years ago to serve in senior staff positions in the Navy, including a former acting secretary of the Navy, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy, an Admiral, four Rear Admirals, and 17 Captains.
Planning for the nuclear power school reunion took extensive time, energy, and dedication, said the retired captain.
“We used all kinds of connectivity to track down our nuclear power classmates,” said Donlon.
Donlon added when his class began on July 7, 1960, there were Nuclear Power Schools in New London and Mare Island near Vallejo, California. His was the 12th class since NPS New London was established.
The class began with 38 students enrolled, of which 18 were qualified submariners, 17 newly commissioned ensigns (12 from the U.S. Naval Academy and five through the Reserve Officers Training Corps), and three Army engineer officers.
Joel Pratt, the only attending surface warfare officer with service aboard USS Long Beach (CGN-9), assisted Donlon to make the reunion a reality. Donlon and Pratt started planning 15 months prior to pull off the historic event. “Our class was not ourselves pioneers, but we knew and worked with many and, we were among the first of thousands trained to operate Navy Nuclear Propulsion plants,” said Pratt.
Donlon retired from the U.S. Navy on June 30, 1979 and was well prepared to plan the event. “I was the longest serving chief of staff for Commander, Submarine Group 2. Some have come close, but I was the longest serving.”
Donlon added that during the banquet, fallen classmates were honored for their service. Two of the honored classmates served onboard nuclear powered attack submarine USS Thresher (SSN 593). According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, the 16 officers and 96 enlisted men onboard Thresher were declared lost at sea following a mishap during deep-diving exercises on April 10, 1963.
The current Chief of Staff, Capt. Frank Lowery, paid tribute to the Class 60-3 graduates during the reunion banquet by citing in concrete terms how their sacrifice, service and diligence in mission execution served as the foundation for present day crews’ operational primacy under the sea and the lines of effort that will take our submarine force forward in the future.
Robert Hamilton, Director of Communications at Electric Boat and former wartime correspondent for the New London Day newspaper, provided a moving description of his time at sea with the crew of Providence during the March 2003 mission to the Red Sea. Describing the execution of a Tomahawk Strike Mission, Hamilton brought the reunion members along for his fascinating patrol by sharing splendid detail of the crew’s performance and the mission’s effectiveness.
Professor Emeritus Henry Krieger, a renowned mathematician and an instructor of Class 60-3 regaled the banqueters with his new probability determination method. His short lecture on statistical probability brought the class back to 1960 when his extraordinary teaching methods resulted in their collective mastery of a graduate level mathematics course in a fraction of the time required by most universities. Professor Krieger was made an honorary class member during the program.
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