Everyone loves a title, everyone wants to be special, even entire communities. Take Groton and New London, Connecticut, for example.
The good folks of Groton, Connecticut, posted a sign, “You Are Entering the Submarine Capital of the World,” to eliminate confusion, because some people believe that New London, Connecticut, across the Thames River is the sub capital. And it is, sort of. It’s the capital of submarine sandwiches, being the birthplace of that wonderfully portable meal, introduced to the world by New London’s own Benedetto Capaldo. What had originally been a “grinder” because of the way you had to chew to get through the Italian bread became a “sub” during World War II. By then the submarine base commissary was ordering almost 500 sandwiches a day, and Benny had to hire four helpers to stuff the submarine-shaped loaves with salami, tomatoes, cheese, and lettuce. When the sailors eventually left town, they took their discovery of submarine sandwiches with them.
The Naval Sub Base, usually referred to as the “New London Sub Base,” really is in Groton, which long ago was part of New London. Between the Electric Boat Shipyard and the Naval Sub Base, the largest sub base in the world, there are a lot of “firsts” and “mosts” and “biggests” to back up the Submarine Capital. For example:
- Electric Boat is where Mamie Eisenhower cracked a bottle of champagne over the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, Nautilus, on January 21, 1954.
- During World War II, with almost 13,000 employees, Electric Boat launched a sub every two weeks and delivered 74 of the famous “fleet-type” subs—more than any other yard in America.
- Groton-built subs accounted for 39 percent of all Japanese shipping destroyed in the Pacific, and Groton’s Flasher sank 100,231 tons worth of enemy ships—an American record.
- Seawolf, launched in Groton in 1955, was the first sub ever powered by a liquid-metal-cooled atomic reactor.
- A diesel engine was first used in a submarine commissioned n Groton in 1912.
- The museum library, with 5,000 volumes on submersibles, is one of the largest of its kind in the world.
- On August 19, 1958, Electric Boat launched Triton, the first sub with two nuclear reactors.
- As the world’s leading training ground of submarine officers, the Naval Sub Base was the first to use, in 1930, an escape training tank to better prepare its men (and eventually women).
- 1959 saw the launch of the world’s first ballistic missile sub—the George Washington.
Excerpt from “The Submarine Capitals of the World,” Yankee Magazine, March 1990.