Had to think, sing fast for Rickover

I read with interest the editorial “Questioning authority,” about The Herald’s election endorsements, which talked about Admiral H.G. Rickover’s interviewing techniques.

My identical twin, Ed, had selected the nuclear Navy program during his last year at the University of Southern California while both of us were enrolled in the NROTC program and studying mechanical engineering. As a result, prior to graduation, Ed was required to interview with Admiral Rickover in order to be considered for service in the Naval Reactors Branch of the Atomic Energy Commission.

When he arrived at the admiral’s office in Washington, D.C., for his interview, he was seated outside for a period of time and finally escorted into his office. The admiral asked Ed several questions. When the admiral asked him what he did when he was not studying, Ed said that he attended church on Sunday and sang in the choir. The admiral then asked him to sing a few songs. At that point, Ed could not remember any of the songs he had sung. Ed was then escorted out of the admiral’s office and the Wave officer advised him to spend a little time trying to remember some of the songs before he went back into the admiral’s office.

Ed recalled three songs, and shortly thereafter was escorted back into the admiral’s office and sang the three songs. Then the admiral asked for a fourth song. Ed remembered a tune with which he was familiar, made up some words and sang the song. When he finished, the admiral said, “Lang, you have a lousy voice”; when can you report for duty? Ed said he was graduating, being commissioned, and marrying on June 15 (1957). The admiral said that he should report on June 16.

Charles Lang


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