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Since the era of the First World War, United States Navy submarines have largely been given names relating to sea creatures (USS Bowfish, USS Cod, USS Bluegill, USS Triton, etc). That tradition held through the Second World War, and over a decade into the Cold War. There were subs that did not receive sea-creature names (the USS Scorpion, for example), but they were the exception rather than the norm. Even the first nuclear powered submarines held this tradition (USS Nautilus). It was Admiral Hyman Rickover who brought about a change in this semi-official policy.

Admiral Rickover was in charge of developing the Los Angeles Submarine attack submarine, and the program was one that dependent on support in the United States Congress. The first twelve Los Angeles Class ships were named for the twelve cities of the congressmen that swung the vote on the Los Angeles Class in Rickover's favor.

In a rather blunt expression, Rickover is said to have summed up the reason he was changing the long standing tradition: "Fish don't vote!"

From that point on, United States Navy submarines of the Los Angeles and Ohio classes have largely been named for cities and states (USS Alabama, USS Alaska, USS Miami, etc.). Some exceptions include the Los Angeles Class Hyman Rickover (named for Admiral Rickover), and the Seawolf Class of submarines (which includes the USS Seawolf, and the USS Jimmy Carter. The new Virginia Class subs promise to continue the state naming convention far into the twenty-first century.

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