Steven A. White

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Steven A. White
Steven A White.jpg
Born (1928-09-18) September 18, 1928 (age 88)
Los Angeles County, California
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1952-1985
Rank Admiral
Commands held Chief of Naval Material
Battles/wars Korean War
Awards Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit (4)
Meritorious Service Medal
Navy Commendation Medal
Presidential Unit Citation
Spouse(s) Mary Anne Landreau
Other work Manager of nuclear power, TVA

Steven Angelo White (born September 18, 1928)[1] is a retired four-star admiral who served in the United States Navy from 1948 until 1985. He was the 19th and last Chief of Naval Material.[2]


Steven (“Steve”) Angelo White was born on September 18, 1928 in Los Angeles, California. The third of four children to Croatian immigrant and retired LA policeman Steven George White (formerly Stojan Sutalo) (c.1888-1951) and his wife, Helen née Blanchard, Steven grew up primarily in Tujunga, California. After an early graduation from Verdugo Hills High School[3] in January 1946, Steve received a scholarship to Occidental College (with the personal recommendation of the Vice President of Verdugo Hills). He left Occidental in early 1948 and, after a brief working hiatus from academia, transferred with a full Naval ROTC scholarship to the University of Southern California to complete his education.

Naval career[edit]

After several failed attempts to enlist during World War II (owing to his young age at the time), Steven joined the United States Navy Reserve as an enlisted seaman recruit in 1948. Through his application to and reception of an ROTC scholarship to USC, he commenced his career as an officer. While at USC, he pursued his Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, while simultaneously pursuing his Masters in Political Science. He began work as well on a Law Degree (though, as his military career progressed and his family life developed apace, he did not complete this degree).

During his time at USC, he served on three midshipmen cruises: to Panama on the light cruiser Toledo in the summer of 1949; for amphibious warfare training in Little Creek, Virginia and Naval aviation training at Pensacola, Florida in the summer of 1950; and to Cuba on the Battleship Missouri from Norfolk, VA in the summer of 1951 (his senior cruise). Following Steve’s graduation from USC in the summer of 1952, he was commissioned as an ensign.

Steve’s first assignment as a commissioned officer was USS Manchester (CL-83), a cruiser based out of Long Beach, California. Aboard Manchester, Steve took part in her prestigious service during the Korean War: Manchester served on the bomb-line off the east coast of Korea before Steve joined the ship in 1952, and returned to the bomb-line, with periodic trips to patrol and shell Wonsan, until the war conclusion with the signing of the armistice on July 27, 1953.

Following Steve’s application and acceptance to the submarine program, as well as his promotion to lieutenant, junior grade (LTJG) in December 1953, the Whites relocated to New London, Connecticut, for a six-month training course. At the conclusion of the course, Steve received orders to USS Tang (SS-563), then stationed at Pearl Harbor. He served aboard Tang for two years, including lengthy service in and around Japan. In 1956, when he was seriously considering resigning from the Navy and a return to his Law school ambitions, he first encountered Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, whose Naval nuclear program was then on the brink of blossoming.

Steve’s first encounter with the “Father of the Nuclear Navy”—which consisted of attendance to a lecture given by Rickover in Pearl Harbor in 1956—inspired Steve to apply for one of the very few openings in Rickover’s program. He survived the near-legendary and grueling interview process and, accepted to the program, once again relocated his family to New London to attend the Naval Nuclear Power School in the Naval Submarine Base from June 1956 through December 1956. Following graduation, the Whites moved to Idaho so Steve could continue his training until May 1957—this time serving at the nuclear prototype reactor in Arco, Idaho.

Steve’s first assignment post-training was the illustrious USS Nautilus (SSN-571), Admiral Rickover’s first nuclear submarine. From the clear May day in 1957 when Steve first climbed aboard Nautilus until he left the ship in mid-1960, Steve’s experience aboard and love for that ship grew at an exponential rate.[4] From September 1957 through May 1958, Nautilus made her first attempt to break into the “no man’s land” of the far Arctic. Her introduction to the forbidding waters of the Arctic was eventful. A first foray—part of a training rendezvous with the diesel sub USS Trigger (SS-564) at the southern end of the icepack, to be followed by participation in “Operation Strikeback”, a series of NATO exercises in the North Atlantic—demonstrated to both officers and crew the intensity of the challenge posed by the comparatively uncharted and unpredictable waters under the icepack. Their initial attempt to make a “run” for the Pole during their training with Trigger in early September was unsuccessful, owing to unpredicted intensity of underwater ice.

After Russian launching of the rocket Sputnik I (carrying the first manmade earth satellite) on October 5, and Sputnik II on November 3, as well as the United States’ failed attempt to launch the Vanguard TV3 rocket satellite on December 6, the desire for comparable technological achievement intensified, particularly in the administration of President Eisenhower. Nautilus successfully completed a transpolar crossing during “Operation Sunshine”, conducted June through August 1958, piercing the pole on August 3, at 23:15 Eastern Daylight Saving Time. This achievement was announced by the legendary TOP SECRET OP-IMMED message: “Nautilus Ninety North”, transmitted on August 5.[5]

In the months that followed the PANOPO (Pacific to Atlantic via NOrth POle) crossing and until Nautilus entered the Portsmouth, New Hampshire shipyard for her first overhaul in April 1959, Steve and the other officers served as PR representatives for Nautilus and nuclear power.

In January 1960, before completion of the Nautilus overhaul, Steve received orders to Westinghouse’s Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania for six weeks of school, thenceafter to serve as Engineer of USS Ethan Allen (SSBN-608), named for a Vermont Revolutionary War hero, then under construction with Electric Boat. Shipyard work concluded, Ethan Allen was selected for the live Christmas Island shot—the only complete missile test with an armed warhead ever ordered—in July 1961.

Soon after, Steve received the almost unprecedented honor of being promoted to Executive Officer of the same ship where he had served for two years as Engineer. Training followed at the Fleet Combat Training Center Atlantic (FTC) in Dam Neck, Virginia Beach. Aboard Ethan Allen, Steve and his fellow officers and crew experienced first-hand the 1962 tensions of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In the summer of 1964, Steve received his first shore-duty assignment: to the staff of the Deputy to the Submarine Force Commander Atlantic (SUBLANT). During this time, he unilaterally developed a training program and personal examinations for nuclear submarines.

In the summer of 1966, his next assignment, as commanding officer of USS Pargo (SSN-650) (then under construction by Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut), necessitated several weeks of training at Rickover’s CHARM school in Washington, D.C. (during which time Rickover utilized Steve more as a direct staff-member than allowed time for actual training). Command of Pargo brought with it a wide range of intense and fascinating experiences: training and target practice with the Mark 48 torpedo, as well as more under-ice and Arctic explorations.

By the summer of 1969, the Whites were established members of the Groton, Connecticut submarine community. Consequently, Steve’s orders to serve as Commander of Division 102, supervising four submarines, brought the delight of comparative stability to the oft-moving family. This work was followed by relocation to Washington, D.C., in October 1970, where Steve served for nearly two years, working directly for Admiral Rickover at Naval Reactors. It was then that he received the prize billet of Commander of the Navy’s second Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) Submarine Squadron in Rota, Spain, which concluded with his promotion to Rear Admiral and assignment as commander of Submarine Group Two, based in Groton.

During his next assignment, under Admiral Michaelis in the Office of Naval Material (NAVMAT) beginning the summer of 1976, Steve worked to revitalize and reform the branch and establish a group of all material personennel in all of the large organizations through the military structure, coordinating them to function more seamlessly under Michaelis’ command. This assignment was followed, in the summer of 1978, with orders to serve under the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (OP-02), in charge of Submarine Warfare. In May 1980, Steve received promotion to three stars and assignment to serve as COMSUBLANT.

During his COMSUBLANT tenure, he created the Tactical Readiness Evaluation (TRE) program, reconstructed war plans for interactions with the Soviet Union at a critical moment (taking into consideration their bastions for ballistic submarines), and transformed the program for negotiating the pace of operation and calculating “home port” time for officers and crew (converting OPTEMPO to PERSTEMPO). He also took great pride in introducing Admiral Rickover on November 11, 1981 at the commissioning of USS Ohio (SSGN-726)—an event which took place shortly before Rickover’s retirement. In May 1983, he received his final assignment in the United States Navy: promotion to four stars and return to NAVMAT, this time as Chief. He aggressively pursued (and enforced) fiscal responsibility and reform as Chief of NAVMAT.

Manager of nuclear power, Tennessee Valley Authority[edit]

Following his retirement from the Navy in July 1985, Steve worked as a part-time contractor and adviser for various companies (with the codicil that he refused ever to work on anything that might overlap with his military career and thereby produce a conflict of interest). Later that year he agreed to take on the weighty challenge of the nuclear power division of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).[6] In the three years he worked for TVA, he successfully cleaned out pervasive personnel problems, revitalized the deeply conflicted program, and laid the ground work for the resumption of nuclear power supply: TVA’s Sequoyah PWR Unit 1 resumed full functionality on November 10, 1988.[7] At the same time, he successfully combatted political questions,[8] allegations that he had broken conflict of interest laws,[9] death threats, and the personal discomfort of negative press. All charges were completely dismissed.[10] He retired from TVA in November 1988, despite flattering efforts on the part of the Board of Directors to persuade him to remain, and left with the agency’s full praise.[11] For a short time after leaving TVA, Steve worked once again as a contractor, serving Lockheed Martin Corporation and EBASCO services.


Adm. White's signature from 1991 letter to the president, requesting a review of the findings against US officers at Pearl Harbor[12]

In 2004 he joined 120 other retired US flag officers in signing an open letter that condemned John Kerry's vote against a funding bill for US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.[13] He appeared at the 2004 Republican National Convention to endorse the reelection of president George Bush.[14] He did not endorse McCain in the 2008 election.[15]


Steve married Mary Anne Landreau on January 27, 1951. The Whites have seven children, thirty-five grandchildren, eleven grandchildren-in-law, and twenty-nine great-grandchildren (and counting).


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Office of Naval Material - Lists of Commanding Officers and Senior Officials of the US Navy". Retrieved 2010-07-10. On 6 May 1985, the Command was disestablished. 
  3. ^ "VHHS Stars: Adm. Steven White, USN". Retrieved 2010-07-10. "he has the distinction of being one of the crew members on the first ship ever to reach the North Pole!"
  4. ^ Anderson, William (2008). The ice diaries: the untold story of the Cold War's most daring mission. Thomas Nelson. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-7852-2759-5. OCLC 173248968.
  5. ^ "Arctic Submarine Lab History". Retrieved 2010-07-10.
  6. ^ Ben, Franklin (1988-03-04). "Committee Assails Nuclear Agency". New York Times. "a report by the commission's office of investigation had concluded that 'Mr. White intentionally lied to the N.R.C.'"
  7. ^ "Sequoyah Unit 1" (PDF). p. 5. Retrieved 2010-07-11. "Outage dates (duration): August 22, 1985 to November 10, 1988 (3.2 Years)"
  8. ^ "T.V.A. REINSTATING ADMIRAL AS MANAGER OF NUCLEAR PROGRAM". January 8, 1987. Retrieved 2010-07-11.
  9. ^ "New contract drafted for authority, White". The Free Lance-Star (AP). 1987-01-05. Retrieved 2010-07-11.
  10. ^ Gray, Aelred; Johnson, David (January 2005). The TVA Regional Planning and Development Program: The Transformation of an Institution and Its Mission. Urban Planning and Environment. Ashgate. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-7546-3786-8. "Less than two years after his appointment as TVA nuclear chief Steven White faced a problem with the Justice Department over a NRC charge that he lied under oath. Though the charges were dismissed, they had cast new doubt on TVA's nuclear program."
  11. ^ Wald, Matthew L. (1989-02-17). "Trouble at a Reactor? Call In an Admiral". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-11. 'They are a terribly independent-minded, obnoxious bunch,' he [Admiral Kinnaird McKee] said. 'They've all been submarine commanding officers, and that's the only kind of guy who can do that well.' [...] 'I had a letter less than 10 days ago from a headhunter who asked, was I interested in coming back, or did I know of some other admiral? [...] The Tennessee Valley Authority, depending on who you talk to, was losing between $1 million and $6 million a day with its plants shut,' Admiral White said. 
  12. ^ "Retired Naval Officers (letter to the President)" (PDF). 1991-10-22. Retrieved 2010-07-11. 
  13. ^ "A candidate who sends troops into harm's way and then denies them the supplies they need to do the job cannot lead our nation in the War on Terror." Open Letter Signed By 121 Retired Flag Officers, initially posted on the (now closed) George W. Bush election website, 20th October 2004 (as
  14. ^ He and Gus Kinnear were the only 4 star admirals to appear on stage among a group of flag officers. They are announced 43 minutes into the convention: "Republican National Convention, Day 4 - C-SPAN Video Library". Retrieved 2010-07-11. 
  15. ^ "300 Retired Generals And Admirals Endorse John McCain For President". September 27, 2008. Retrieved 2010-07-11.