Today, we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the commissioning of our submarine, the former USS Growler. Here’s the story of how Growler joined the Intrepid Museum’s collection—and became the only missile submarine open to the public in the United States.
Commissioned in 1958, Growler was capable of launching and guiding Regulus I nuclear missiles. It served as a key part of the United States’ nuclear deterrence strategy during the Cold War. From 1960 to 1964, Growler patrolled the east coast of the Soviet Union. It was operated by a crew of 90 men, all volunteers, who stood ready to fire their nuclear missiles at any moment, hoping that order would never come.
While Growler patrolled the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. Navy was improving submarine and missile technologies. Growler was decommissioned on May 25, 1964, after only six years in service. It was scheduled to be destroyed as a test target, but the submarine was saved from this fate, in an effort led by Richard P. Torykian, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam. He approached the Secretary of the Navy to request that Growler be transferred to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
Visitors to the Museum can enter the submarine and explore the spaces where a crew of 95 men lived and worked for up to three months at a time, never seeing daylight, never communicating with loved ones and remaining on high alert to respond to a nuclear threat.
And in honor of its commissioning anniversary, the Museum also opened a new exhibition on Pier 86. A View from the Deep: The Submarine Growler & the Cold War is completely free and open to the public. It’s also fully accessible, so visitors with mobility challenges and others who do not wish to navigate the tight spaces of the submarine can still get immersed in the submarine’s fascinating history. The exhibition includes three multisensory installations: a 3D model of the submarine, an immersive experience simulating the sounds and vibrations the crew would have sensed on board, and an interactive exhibit on sonar technology.