In a Navy career that spanned six decades, Adm. Hyman Rickover, a Russian 'emigr'e, became one of the pre-eminent military leaders of his time despite a style that enraged the Pentagon brass and the defense industry. Congress revered him, and twice awarded him its gold medal for exceptional public service. For 30 of his 63 years on active duty, Admiral Rickover was skipper of a navy-within-a-navy, the nuclear Navy. His push for nuclear power plants at sea had impact on civilian nuclear programs as well.
Former President Carter, who once said Rickover had played a greater influence on him than anyone except his parents, yesterday called the retired admiral ``one of America's greatest citizens and patriots.''
``Admiral Rickover took the concept of nuclear power from an idea to the present reality of more than 150 US naval ships under nuclear power, with a record of 3,000 ship-years of accident-free operations,'' said Navy Secretary John Lehman. ``All Americans owe him a debt of gratitude and all sailors mourn his passing.''
Adm. James Watkins, who recently retired as chief of naval operations, said: ``I have never met a man who worked harder or evidenced less interest in material possessions than Admiral Rickover. His life was devoted to the job. . . . He was among the very first to work every morning and the very last to leave at night.''
``Long before the terms `waste, fraud, and abuse' became fashionable, Admiral Rickover was on his own campaign,'' said Admiral Watkins. ``This stemmed not only from his sense of duty to country, but also from his conviction that technical discipline and financial discipline go hand in hand.''
Watkins noted that Rickover ``could have retired in 1952 at three-quarters pay and made a fortune in the private sector. But he stayed on, serving his country for another 30 years. That's when he designed and built the nuclear propulsion plant for Nautilus and for all the ships that today comprise 40 percent of our major combatants.''