USS Growler was built by the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Her keel was laid on February 16, 1955 and she was launched on April 5, 1957. She was commissioned on August 30, 1958.

USS Growler was designed to carry the Regulus cruise missile. She carried her missiles in two hangars that were built into the bow, with the launcher on deck between the hangar doors and the sail. The hangars contained two Regulus II (under development when the program was cancelled in 1964) or four Regulus I missiles, which were launched when the submarine was surfaced. Regulus missiles carried nuclear warheads, were powered by turbojet engines, guided by radio, and resembled small pilotless airplanes. They had a range of 500 miles. USS Growler made several patrols armed with the Regulus I missile, as part of the United States nuclear deterrent.

The WWII fleet submarines USS Tunny (SS-282) and USS Barbero (SS-317) had been modified to carry the Regulus missile by adding deck mounted launching ramps and missile hangars. In addition to Growler, two other submarines were built to carry the Regulus missile. USS Grayback (SSG-574) was a sister ship to Growler, commissioned six months earlier. The larger nuclear powered USS Halibut (SSGN-587) was commissioned in 1960. Regulus missiles were also carried by cruisers and aircraft carriers.

With the development of the Polaris ballistic missile, capable of being launched while the submarine is submerged, the Regulus missile was taken out of service. USS Growler and USS Grayback were both decommissioned May 25, 1964 after only six years of service. Grayback was later recommissioned as a transport submarine. Halibut was reclassified as an attack submarine (SSN) in 1965, and served in various roles until 1976. Growler remained in storage at Bremerton, WA for almost 25 years, until she was turned over to the USS Intrepid museum, located in New York City, in 1988. She is the only missile submarine currently open to the public in the United States.

USS Growler specifications.
Length: 322 feet
Width: 30 feet
Draft: 19 feet
Rated Diving Depth: 700 feet
Displacement: 2600 tons surface, 3600 tons submerged
Armament: Six 21-inch torpedo tubes, 4 forward, 2 aft
Missiles: Four Regulus I or two Regulus II, carried in hangars in the bow
Complement: 9 officers, 75 enlisted

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