On November 10, 1959, the nuclear submarine USS Triton was commissioned. She was the most powerful, expensive, and largest submarine built and was the only one to have double reactors. Eager to show Triton’s capabilities, her first mission was to voyage worldwide while submerged. Her trajectory took her on the same path Ferdinand Magellan began, and Juan Sebastian Elcano completed.
Their trip took three years to finish on the surface of the ocean. The Triton cut the time down to two months. Operation Sandblast was the name of the mission.
On February 15, 1960, the submarine left Groton, Connecticut. Captain Edward L. Beach was in command. He was well decorated with 12 WWII combat patrols and had a Navy Cross.
On February 24, the sub hit its starting position in the Middle Atlantic off St. Peter and St. Paul Rocks. There it went under the water and officially began her mission.
She headed south around Cape Horn and out west across the Pacific Ocean. Triton kept under the water as she went through the Philippines and Indonesian islands and eventually crossed the Indian Ocean.
Triton proceeded southwest going around the Cape of Good Hope and coming up again at St. Peter and St. Paul Rocks. The 60-day, 21-hour trip was completed on April 25, 1960.
The operation was considered a major victory for the U.S. and the Navy. Triton gave them a glimpse of what a nuclear-powered future held. They celebrated the submarine’s accomplishment until a U-2 spy plane was shot down in the Soviet Union.
Its pilot, Francis Gary Powers, was captured. However, the White House made the time to fly Capt. Beach in so he could receive the Legion of Merit, and the crew received the Presidential Unit Citation.
A globe-shaped gold clasp was added to show just how momentous their feat was. On March 1, 1961, the submarine was redesignated and converted into an attack ship in June 1962. Eventually, the submarine was decommissioned.