Odette’s archive provides a peek into the ways Growler crew members communicated with each other and their families back home. This slip of paper is the only example of a Growler Familygram in the Museum’s collection. While on patrol, Growler maintained radio silence, so crew members had no contact with the outside world. Periodically, families could send a very brief message, via radio, to members of the crew. Short messages like this were vital to morale.
USS Growler (SSG-577) served from 1958 to 1964 and is now the only American guided missile submarine open to the public. Last year, two Museum staff members traveled to North Charleston, South Carolina, to reconnect with former Growler crew members during their annual reunion. The team filmed 10 oral histories with crew members and their families to preserve their stories and help us better understand everyday life on a submarine. Some of the crew members also generously donated items from their time aboard. Below are some highlights from two former crew members. Their oral histories and artifacts will be vital to our research for an upcoming exhibition in 2018, celebrating the 60th anniversary of Growler’s commissioning.
Collection of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Gift of Dennis Sloan. 2016.73.02 and 2016.73.03
Above are wonderful plaques donated by Dennis Sloan, who served on Growler in 1959–1960. The images on the plaques feature Growler and a Regulus II missile. The insignia includes Growler’s motto, “Telo Utor Peregrinabor,” which according to the crew means “Have missile, will travel.” Plaques were cast in plaster and painted in vibrant colors. The insignia on the right is a cast prior to painting. Before these donations, the Museum didn’t have any plaques dedicated to a crew member or any unfinished versions.
Collection of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. 2016.71.03a-b
Allen Odette served aboard Growler from 1961 to 1963 as a fire control technician, guided missile second class. His great collection includes these cuff links, which we have never seen before!
P2016.71.106: Crew members enjoy eggnog and cake during Christmas aboard Growler.
P2016.71.120: A crew member inside the submarine.
The Odette collection includes more than 200 slides that document Odette’s time aboard Growler. While many of the slides capture what Odette and other crew members did and saw while on leave, the collection also features photos of the submarine’s interior, providing a rare glimpse of life inside Growler during service.
Collection of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. A2016.
We thank all of the Growler former crew members for their service and for their contributions to the Museum. Stop by and see Growler, newly renovated thanks to a National Park Service Maritime Heritage Grant!