This weekend marks the anniversary of an important milestone in the life of our missile submarine Growler. On April 5, 1958, Growler (SSG-577) was launched and christened at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. Originally laid down as an attack submarine, Growler was reconfigured to carry, launch and guide Regulus I nuclear missiles.
A ship launching is the ceremonial transfer of a newly constructed ship to the water. The christening bestows a vessel with its name. Growler was named for a previous submarine, USS Growler (SS-215), which served with distinction during World War II before it was lost during its eleventh patrol.
At a christening ceremony, the person who smashes the ceremonial bottle of champagne across a vessel’s bow is called the sponsor. Growler’s sponsor was Betty Byerts, a touching choice that underscored the history of the submarine’s namesake. She was the widow of Commander Thomas B. Oakley, Jr. who commanded the previous Growler on its final—and fatal—patrol.
This souvenir cover commemorates Growler’s launch date. It also illustrates the U.S. Navy’s aspirations for the Regulus missile program. The cover declares that Growler was the “first missile-launching submarine built on the East Coast.” As it turned out, Growler was one of only two submarines in its class. The other, USS Grayback, was built in California. The illustration shows Growler launching a Regulus II missile. This supersonic version of the Regulus missile never entered service, and Growler never launched one.