In the summer of 1961 the New York Times ran a front page story entitled: ADMIRAL RICKOVER SAYS REDS LEARNED SECRETS FROM TOY SUB. In that story the father of the US Navy’s nuclear submarine program claimed that the hobby company Revell’s model of the USS George Washington nuclear-powered Polaris missile submarine had given away classified information to the Soviet Union. “If I were a Russian,” declared Rickover, “I would be most grateful to the United States for its generosity in supplying such information for $2.98.”
Under the helm of its president, Louis (“Lew”) H. Glaser, Revell’s PR department went into combat mode to not just defend its reputation as a patriotic American hobby company, but also to exploit Vice Admiral Hyman G. Rickover’s backhanded endorsement of their models’ authenticity (“Accurate to one thousandth of an inch” was Revell’s claim). A photographer and writer from LIFE magazine were invited to the company’s headquarters so Glaser could counter that the charges were absurd and demonstrate that the details of the submarine were easily obtainable from unclassified trade and technical journals. A photo taken of Glaser holding the submarine model was the 1960s equivalent of a captain of industry flipping the bird to a military hero.
Once the small feature appeared in the magazine, the Admiral refused to speak further of the incident. Revell on the other hand used the brouhaha to sell record numbers of the Polaris submarine kit.