The US Navy announced last week that it plans to name a new attack submarine for Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, the father of the nuclear navy. Tablet Magazine reported that would be the first American warship named for a Jew.
Something to kvell about if it were true, but it isn't. Yes, SSN 795 will be named for Rickover, but beyond that this story is wrong on all counts, according to Norman Polmar, Rickover's biographer and a naval historian.
"There was a previous submarine named for Rickover and several previous ships have been named for Jews," Polmar said. What's more, Rickover "renounced Judaism in 1931 when he married Ruth Masters, an Episcopalian."
Rickover was born Chaim Godalia Rickover in Poland in 1900 and died in 1986. He served under 13 presidents and has been called "hyperactive, political, blunt, confrontational, insulting, flamboyant, and an unexcelled workaholic." One of the young naval engineers he taught was Jimmy Carter.
The first USS Rickover was a fast attack nuclear submarine launched in 1983 and decommissioned in 2006; it is now in dry dock and scheduled to be dismantled in 2016.
Two World War II Liberty ships bore the names of Jews, the Morris C. Feinstone was named after the late general secretary of the United Hebrew Trades, and the Abraham Rosenberg memorialized a former president of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union,
Among others were the USS Israel, a World War I destroyer named for Joseph Israel, a Naval officer killed fighting the Barbary pirates in 1804. There is some dispute over whether he actually was Jewish. The USS Levy, a World War II destroyer, was named for Uriah P. Levy, a naval officer in the War of 1812 and the first Jewish Commodore of the U.S. Navy.