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William Anderson; sailed sub under North Pole

WASHINGTON -- William Anderson, who as a naval officer captured the imagination of the world by sailing the first nuclear submarine beneath the North Pole and then served four terms in Congress, died of kidney failure Feb. 25, in Leesburg, Va., where he resided. He was 85.

As a Democratic congressman from Tennessee during the Vietnam War, Mr. Anderson steered a course that many had not expected. This included visiting two noted antiwar protesters in prison and rising to their defense on the House floor.

The voyage of the Nautilus submarine under the polar ice cap Aug. 3, 1958, seemed at the time to be a realization of the dreams of early science fiction.

The undersea feat gave Mr. Anderson and his 115 crewmembers prominence in the long line of those who had achieved renown by venturing into the unexplored places of earth.

Mr. Anderson wrote about the trip in books and in the Saturday Evening Post. An account of the pioneering voyage appeared Sept. 1, 1958, in Life magazine, and the magazine's cover featured a photograph of Mr. Anderson.

Yet he was a shy man, and if there was something he did not like about his achievement, his wife, Pat, said this week, it was "all the hoopla." When he was showered with praise, she said, "He would always give credit to his men." He was "very modest," she said.

"He was the kind of guy you would follow anywhere," Al Charette, a Nautilus crewmember, said on a website devoted to the submarine.

Mr. Anderson, a US Naval Academy graduate and a decorated World War II submarine combat veteran, was elected to Congress in 1964.

By 1970, he was becoming politically prominent, in part because of his expression of doubt about the conduct of the Vietnam War. His wife said he perceived a lack of full national commitment to victory. "He hated to see us over there without an intense intent to win," she said.

Well before the Watergate break-in, he became critical of the Nixon administration.

"The war is only one issue," he told the Post. "This administration appears too willing to throw the Bill of Rights out the window."

A Washington Post article said that on a trip to Vietnam during the war he discovered harsh conditions, the notorious "tiger cages" in which some enemy prisoners were confined.

After the trip, he became acquainted with Daniel and Philip Berrigan, antiwar Catholic priests who were imprisoned for destroying draft files. Before they were indicted, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover accused them in Senate testimony of being ringleaders in an antiwar kidnapping plot.

Mr. Anderson was reelected with 82 percent of the vote in November 1970, but after he took the House floor in December 1970 to defend the Berrigans and accuse Hoover of McCarthyism, he said, his popularity in his district declined.

He was defeated narrowly in the 1972 congressional campaign, his wife said.

His wife said the trip under the North Pole stemmed at least in part from a chance encounter in Washington with an acquaintance who was an aide to President Eisenhower. After meeting the aide on the steps of the Pentagon, Mr. Anderson was invited the next day to the White House, Pat Anderson said.

Eisenhower had been looking "for something spectacular," she said, and Mr. Anderson "knew when he had an opportunity."

The Nautilus spent four days under the Arctic ice in 1958 and surfaced in the North Atlantic.

Mr. Anderson's marriage to Yvonne Etzel ended in divorce.

In addition to his wife, he leaves four children, Michael of Haymarket, Va.; William Jr. of Orange County, Va.; and Thomas and Jane, both of Leesburg.