James Earl Carter grew up in Plains, Georgia.
Before the first grade he already decided he wanted to join the Navy. Influenced by his uncle, a radioman in the Navy, he studied hard and in 1942 he received an appoint to the Naval Academy. After completing the accelerated wartime program, he graduated on June 5th 1946 with distinction and obtained his commission as ensign.
After completing two years of surface ship duty, Carter had a few options open to him but he chose to apply for submarine force. Accepted, he began the six-month course at the U.S. Navy Submarine School, in New London CT.
After he completes his training Carter is relocated to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii where he reports on board the USS Pomfret (SS 391) and a few days later they head out on a simulated war patrol to the western Pacific and the Chinese coast.
The submarine returns to Pearl Harbor, Carter is promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade, and Pomfret heads to San Diego where the submarine operates along the California coast.
On February 1st 1951, the Navy builds its first new ship since the war and Carter is ordered to report as the senior officer for the USS K-1 precommissioning detail.
In June, Carter is promoted to Lieutenant and wants to join Captain Rickover’s nuclear sub program. He applied for what he considered the finest navy billet available to any officer of his rank – the development of the first atomic submarines.
He is interviewed by Rickover and is selected for duty in November with the U. S. Atomic Energy Commission and serves on temporary duty with the Naval Reactors Branch.
A few months later, due to a combination of mechanical failure and human error, a power surge of up to 90mw caused some fuel rods to melt after rupturing in the NRX research reactor at Chalk River Laboratories.
The reactor’s core was badly damaged requiring a massive clean-up operation.
This was the first incident of this magnitude and Carter, was ordered to lead a team of 23 people to assist in the cleanup.
When he arrived on the scene there was a duplicate reactor setup on a nearby tennis court, where he and his team would practice removing bolts and pieces as quickly as they could. Once lowered into the damaged reactor each person would only have 90 seconds to work due to the extreme radioactivity. The core was shutdown, rebuilt, and put back into operation without further incident.
Carter prepared to become the engineering officer for the nuclear power plant being placed in USS Seawolf (SSN 575), one of the first submarines to operate on atomic power. He assisted in setting up training for the enlisted men and educated them on math, physics, and reactor technology.
During this time his father is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and dies shortly after in July 1953. After his father’s death, Carter is burdened with the thought of leaving the Navy to manage the family interest. Jimmy and his wife, Rosalynn, both very much enjoyed Navy life. Rosalyn did not want him to give up a job that can offer a lot of advancement opportunities but he ultimately decides to resign.
Carter is honorably discharged on October 9th 1953. He remains with the Navy in the Reserves until the end of 1961 when he transfers to the retired reserve with the rank of Lieutenant.
The value and experience gained in the Navy stayed with him …
In 1963 Carter started his political career and in 1976 he was elected the 39th Commander in Chief.
In February of 2005, the Navy honored the him with the commissioning of SSN-23 the USS Jimmy Carter. The third and final Seawolf class nuclear submarine.