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Wish of a Lifetime had the unique opportunity to honor 84-year old Navy veteran Charles for his incredible service in the form of a reunion.  It was an historic reunion of the few surviving crew members of the USS Nautilus – the first vessel to successfully voyage beneath the North Pole.  

Nearly 60 years ago, Charles found himself fresh out of Navy Nuclear Power School and on the crew of the world’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus.  In August 1958, he and his fellow crew members embarked on a top secret mission that would eventually make the history books.

The mission – “Operation Sunshine” – marked the first successful submarine voyage beneath the North Pole.  Prior to mission departure, Charles recalled that the captain forbid them from writing any more letters and gave them the option to leave, though no one knew what the mission was until a day into the voyage.  

After more than a week under the ice, the USS Nautilus emerged victorious between Iceland and Greenland.  President Eisenhower was immediately notified, and the crew members were hailed as American heroes.

“As we entered New York Harbor, they had fireboats throwing water in the air and a ticker tape parade down 5th avenue,” Charles recalled, “{we} had lunch at the top of the Empire State Building.”

Charles was the son of a World War II Navy veteran, and he enlisted in the Navy just 12 days after his 17th birthday.  He served for 20 years, achieved the rank of E8-Senior Chief Electrician and became the only American to ever qualify for all 3 nuclear prototypes.

“I gave the best years of my life to service.  I cannot explain the emotion I feel,” Charles shared, “The camaraderie between the crew that went under the pole, and the Nautilus members that served after is so strong.”

Though his health is failing, 84-year-old Charles was thrilled to attend the 60th reunion of “Operation Sunshine” with the remaining members of the USS Nautilus crew in Groton, CT, where the submarine has been preserved as a museum ship.  

“My physical limitations aren’t keeping me from attending something that meant so much to me most of my life!” Charles said.  Thanks to Brookdale Senior Living, Charles was able to relive the excitement of the mission and reconnect with his old crew one last time.