USS Growler file photo [30799]

Growler

CountryUnited States
Ship ClassGato-class Submarine
Hull NumberSS-215
BuilderElectric Boat Company
Laid Down10 Feb 1941
Launched22 Nov 1941
Commissioned20 Mar 1942
Sunk8 Nov 1944
Displacement1,549 tons standard; 2,463 tons submerged
Length312 feet
Beam27 feet
Draft17 feet
MachineryFour General Motors Model 16-278A V16 diesel engines (5,400shp), four high-speed General Electric electric motors with reduction gears (2,740shp), two 126-cell Sargo batteries, two propellers
Speed21 knots
Range11,000nm at 10 knots surfaced, 48 hours at 2 knots submerged
Crew60
Armament6x21in forward torpedo tubes, 4x21in aft torpedo tubes, 24 torpedoes, 1x3in/50cal deck gun, Bofors 40mm, and (added in Sep 1942) Oerlikon 20mm cannon
Submerged Speed9 knots

Contributor:

ww2dbaseThe submarine Growler was named for a variety of North American largemouth black bass found in northern rivers and lakes. The Gato-class submarine was laid down 10 Feb 1941 at the Electric Boat Company, Groton, Connecticut, United States. She was launched on 22 Nov 1941 and was sponsored by Mrs. Lucile Lyon Ghormley, wife of Vice Admiral Robert L. Ghormley. Part of Growler lore is that Mrs. Ghormley missed the submarine with the ceremonial bottle of champagne. As the vessel began slipping down the ways, an alert workman below the visitors' platform picked up the bottle and threw it at the retreating submarine, successfully smashing it against the bow. Growler's captain would later muse prophetically that this could be an omen of bad luck for the submarine, but she would always shoot straight.

ww2dbaseUSS Growler was commissioned 20 Mar 1942 with Lieutenant Commander Howard W. Gilmore in command. After shakedown trials, Growler stood out of New London, Connecticut (across the Thames River from Groton) on 4 May 1942 bound for the Pacific.

ww2dbaseGrowler's first war patrol began on 29 Jun 1942 assigned to patrol off Kiska Harbor in Alaska's Aleutian Islands. On 5 Jul 1942, Captain Gilmore saw what he first described as three Japanese cruisers inside the harbor but were later identified as three destroyers. After boldly maneuvering Growler into the anchorage, Gilmore fired two torpedoes. One struck the Asashio-class Kasumi and the other hit the Kagero-class Shiranui, severing Shiranui's bow and killing three men. Both ships were damaged badly enough that they could offer no response to Growler's attack. Growler next fired two torpedoes at the third destroyer, the Asashio-class Arare. The ship was struck amidships followed by numerous secondary explosions that nearly broke the destroyer in two. Despite the damage, Arare managed to launch at least two torpedoes back toward Growler that passed down either side of the submarine. Arare sank very shortly afterwards. For his courage, determination, and fine seamanship throughout this action, Gilmore was later awarded the Navy Cross.

ww2dbaseOn Growler's second war patrol, she spent a month in the waters around Formosa (Taiwan) and Gilmore was awarded a second Navy Cross for the submarine's performance on this patrol. His citation read, in part, "Taking advantage of every favorable attack with alert skill and courageous efficiency, Commander Gilmore succeeded in sinking a total of 25,946 tons of enemy merchant shipping." On this patrol, Growler also refrained from taking any action against the Hikawa Maru, a "properly marked" hospital ship. Additionally, for his contribution as Executive Officer during this patrol, Lieutenant Commander Arnold F. Schade was awarded the Silver Star.

ww2dbaseAfter a brief refit at Pearl Harbor that replaced one propeller, improved her radar equipment, and added to her deck armament, Growler set out for her third war patrol, this time off New Ireland in the Bismarck Islands prowling the shipping lanes between Truk and Rabaul. After five weeks on station without being able to develop a single target, Growler made for Brisbane, Australia. Two days before arriving, Growler's No. 2 main engine suffered a broken crankshaft that resulted in greater repairs in Brisbane than had been anticipated.

ww2dbaseAfter three weeks, Growler departed Brisbane on 1 Jan 1943 for her fourth war patrol, this time to the Bismarck Sea. On 16 Jan 1943, Growler scored two hits on the lead ship of a Japanese convoy and the 5,857-ton cargo ship Chifuki Maru sank by the stern while Growler ran a gauntlet of depth charges and bombs.

ww2dbaseOn 7 Feb 1943, Growler initiated a surface attack on the Japanese 900-ton armed stores ship Hayasaki 70 miles northwest of Rabaul. Hayasaki turned toward Growler with intent to ram the sub. Due to a combination of poor visibility and a mild communications lapse aboard Growler, Gilmore did not sense Hayasaki bearing down on the submarine until a collision was unavoidable. As Growler was making 17 knots and Hayasaki about the same, Gilmore ordered a hard left-rudder to turn into the approaching ship and avoid being broadsided. The result was that two vessels rammed one another nearly head-on, badly damaging both. Hayasaki's machine guns opened fire on Growler's bridge and conning tower killing one officer and one lookout while wounding three others, including Commander Gilmore who was wounded very badly. Gilmore ordered the bridge cleared with the intent of diving the boat. Executive Officer Lt. Cmdr. Schade and the quartermaster hauled two wounded men down through the hatch leaving Gilmore on the bridge alone. Unable to even fall through the hatch on his own and with the bridge still being raked by machine gun fire, Gilmore issued the order that would etch his place in United States Naval history, especially Navy submariner history. From the bridge, Gilmore shouted through the open hatch, "Take her down!" With the captain still on the bridge, Schade submerged Growler. The sub was saved but Commander Gilmore was lost. For his actions in saving his boat and crew, Commander Gilmore was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the first World War II submarine commander to receive this honor.

ww2dbaseIn the halls of the United States Naval Academy, Gilmore's order to "Take her down!" is chiseled into the walls alongside John Paul Jones' "We have not yet begun to fight!" and David Farragut's "Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead!" Such is the weight given to this particular moment of selfless heroism.

ww2dbaseBut Growler still had a war to fight. Lt. Cmdr. Schade assumed command and his first order of business was to get out of there and effect repairs. The leading 18-feet of Growler's bow was bent to port 90-degrees which rendered both diving planes inoperative, reduced speed, and created difficulties maintaining a steady course. The bridge hatch cover had a 13mm bullet hole through it which impacted the ability to dive the boat for any appreciable period. Even so, Schade pressed on toward Brisbane, arriving ten days after the collision. For his part, Lt. Cmdr. Schade was awarded the Navy Cross.

ww2dbaseGrowler underwent extensive repairs performed by sub-tender USS Fulton and the Australian firm of Evans Deakin Company at Kangaroo Point on the Brisbane River. There was no damage to the submarine's pressure hull or forward torpedo tubes so the bow repairs were simpler than they otherwise might have been. Over 40 bullet holes to the bridge and conning tower were also patched with new armor applied. When the Australian workmen attached a replacement bow section, it had two small nickel kangaroos applied to the sides, thus giving Growler a new nickname of the "Kangaroo Express." Growler also received complete overhauls of two of her four diesel engines and had her deck armament reconfigured.

ww2dbaseGrowler conducted some shakedown exercises and test fired a few torpedoes before leaving on her fifth war patrol 13 May 1943, three months after the ramming incident. Lieutenant Commander Schade was in command for this patrol after being formally elevated to the position of Growler's captain. On 19 Jun 1943 while patrolling the Palau-to-Rabaul shipping lanes, Growler intercepted a southbound convoy. Growler fired four torpedoes at the leading ships and scored hits on the 5,200-ton Japanese Army troop/cargo ship Miyadono Maru causing serious damage. Once all passengers were removed, the ship was scuttled by gunfire from the convoy's escorts. While those passengers were being removed, however, Growler was subjected to a very intense depth charge attack that caused "considerable minor damage" that ultimately led Schade to discontinue Growler's war patrol and return to Brisbane.

ww2dbaseGrowler's sixth war patrol was a largely uneventful fifty-three days. She engaged no shipping but came away with two interesting "fish" stories. On 23 Aug 1943, Growler's new bow was tested when, according to her log, she "Ran into school of blackfish [pilot whales]. Hit one head on, with severe jar. Ran over him and cut him up with the propellers." Then on 6 Sep 1943, "Upon surfacing the deck was found covered with large Bonita fish. We collected a large sack full (over fifty) and served fresh fillet to all hands." Soon after their fresh fish dinners, Growler returned to Brisbane.

ww2dbaseThe submarine's seventh war patrol was impeded by a series of mechanical problems that worsened throughout the patrol, primarily with Growler's generators and storage batteries. She received orders to proceed to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and from there on to Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco, California, United States for an extensive overhaul and refitting.

ww2dbaseReturning to Pearl Harbor on 8 Feb 1944 and then on to Midway, Growler departed for the East China Sea on her eighth war patrol. This patrol was plagued with bad weather and rough seas and was further handicapped by improving anti-submarine practices by the Japanese. In only two encounters, Growler sank or damaged just 3,250 tons of shipping. The patrol ended with Growler's arrival at Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands 16 Apr 1944.

ww2dbaseWhile at Majuro, Growler got a new commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Thomas B. Oakley, Jr., as well as many replacement crewmen. For nearly a month, the submarine engaged in an extensive training schedule. On 14 May 1944, Growler departed Majuro on her ninth war patrol, this time to the Philippine Sea and the Mariana Islands.

ww2dbaseGrowler swept the waters around Saipan and Tinian before the American landings set for 15 Jun 1944. During the actual Saipan landing operations, Growler performed lifeguard duty by remaining ready to rescue downed airmen. On 22 Jun 1944, Growler met with submarines USS Bang and Seahorse to form a wolfpack. While transiting the Balintang Channel of the Luzon Strait on the surface at night, Growler's radar detected a large ship ahead surrounded by four smaller escorts. Growler closed and fired a spread of six torpedoes. The target turned out to be the 1,920-ton Japanese tanker Katori Maru loaded with gasoline. At the end of the torpedoes' run, the tanker exploded with such tremendous force that the shock was felt throughout the interior of the submarine over 3,000 yards away. The explosion lit up the sky to the point that an officer inside the conning tower saw the flash through the open hatch. The ship sank within minutes. One of the 600-ton escort ships disappeared from radar at the same time and it was speculated that it may have been hit by one of the torpedoes from the same spread, but this was never confirmed. In the same encounter, submarine Bang damaged the Japanese 10,000-ton fleet tanker Miri Maru and 5,200-ton merchant tanker Sarawak Maru.

ww2dbaseOn 6 Jul 1944, Growler came across a well-constructed raft in the open ocean that was supporting five men who appeared to be fishermen and refused all efforts to be rescued. Since they were drifting toward land, they were left to drift.

ww2dbaseGrowler refueled briefly at Midway and pressed on to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. After a refit, added deck armament, and four days of torpedo test firing, Growler departed on her tenth war patrol in a wolfpack with submarines USS Sealion and Pampanito.

ww2dbaseAfter arriving on station south of Formosa (Taiwan), on 31 Aug 1944 Growler and her wolfpack attacked a convoy of twenty ships bound for Manila. Growler and Sealion badly damaged the 9,181-ton tanker Rikko Maru and Growler probably also sank a small escort vessel. In the same engagement, Sealion torpedoed and sank the minelayer Shirataka. On 12 Sep 1944, Growler engaged two different Japanese convoys in the South China Sea, expending a total of 23 torpedoes. Growler sank 860-ton coastal defense vessel Hirato in the first attack (killing Rear Admiral Kajioka Sadamichi, noted for commanding multiple amphibious operations earlier in the war) and the 1,950-ton Fubuki-class destroyer Shikinami in the second attack. In the same action, Sealion and Pampanito sank troop ships Rakuyo Maru and Kachidoki Maru respectively. Unknown aboard the submarines at the time was that the two ships were transporting over 2,200 British and Australian prisoners of war from Singapore to Formosa (Taiwan).

ww2dbaseGrowler sailed south and arrived at Fremantle, Australia on 26 Sep 1944. Three weeks later, Growler sailed on her eleventh war patrol leading another wolfpack with submarines USS Hake and Hardhead bound for the South China Sea. On 8 Nov 1944, the wolfpack began tracking a Japanese convoy southwest of Manila in the Philippines. Growler took a position on one side of the convoy while Hake and Hardhead were on the other. As they closed in for an attack, Hake and Hardhead heard explosions of unknown origin on the opposite side of the convoy. Hake and Hardhead pressed the attack and Hardhead torpedoed and sank the 5,200-ton tanker Manei Maru. Following the attack, all attempts to contact Growler got no response. Growler was never heard from again. She was listed as overdue and presumed lost with all 86 on board. The circumstances of her loss still remain unknown.

ww2dbaseIn her 32 months of service and eleven war patrols, Growler was credited with sinking 15 to 17 enemy vessels (sources differ) for a total of 74,900 tons, and damaging 7 other ships of 34,100 tons. Growler received eight battle stars for service during World War II.

ww2dbaseSources:
United States Navy
United States National Archives
Arnold F. Schlade USN, USS Growler
CombinedFleet Imperial Japanese Navy History
NavSource Naval History
Hall of Valor Project
Australia @ War
The Silent Service - Episode 57: "The Growler's Captain" copyright 1958; George M. Cahan, Producer
UBoat.net
Wikipedia

Last Major Revision: Jan 2021

Submarine Growler (SS-215) Interactive Map

Growler Operational Timeline

10 Feb 1941 Submarine Growler was laid down at the Electric Boat Company, Groton, Connecticut, United States.
22 Nov 1941 Submarine Growler was launched at the Electric Boat Company, Groton, Connecticut, United States.
20 Mar 1942 Submarine USS Growler was commissioned at the Electric Boat Company, Groton, Connecticut, United States.
4 May 1942 Submarine USS Growler departed the Submarine Base at New London, Connecticut, United States bound for the Pacific Ocean.
15 May 1942 Submarine USS Growler transited the Panama Canal on her way to the Pacific Theater.
29 Jun 1942 Submarine USS Growler set out for her first war patrol, departing Midway bound for the Aleutians.
5 Jul 1942 USS Growler attacked Japanese destroyers in Kiska Harbor, Kiska, Aleutian Islands, damaging Kasumi (10 were killed), damaging Shiranui (3 were killed), and sinking Arare (104 were killed, 42 survived).
9 Jul 1942 Submarine USS Growler put into Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
17 Jul 1942 Submarine USS Growler completed her first war patrol and arrived at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
5 Aug 1942 Submarine USS Growler began her second war patrol, departing Pearl Harbor, Hawaii bound for Formosa (Taiwan).
25 Aug 1942 Submarine USS Growler fired three torpedoes at a 10,000-ton freighter east of Formosa (Taiwan) but missed. Then Growler sank Japanese auxiliary gunboat Senyo Maru 20 miles southwest of Takao and endured a three-hour attack of 65 depth charges.
31 Aug 1942 USS Growler sank Japanese ship Eifuku Maru 35 miles northeast of Taiwan.
7 Sep 1942 USS Growler sank Japanese freighter Kashino Taika Maru 25 miles north of Keelung, Taiwan.
30 Sep 1942 Submarine USS Growler arrived at Pearl Harbor and began a refit that replaced one propeller and added an Oerlikon 20mm cannon.
26 Oct 1942 Submarine USS Growler departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for her third war patrol; this time in the shipping lanes between Truk and Rabaul.
8 Dec 1942 Submarine USS Growler suffered a casualty in her No. 2 main engine due to a broken crankshaft and the engine was taken off line until it could be repaired.
10 Dec 1942 Submarine USS Growler arrived at Brisbane, Australia at the completion of her third war patrol. During this patrol, Growler operated off the east coast of New Ireland, Bismarck Islands in the lanes between Truk and Rabaul but sank no shipping.
1 Jan 1943 Submarine USS Growler departed Brisbane, Australia on her fourth war patrol.
16 Jan 1943 Submarine USS Growler torpedoed and sank the 5,857-ton cargo ship Chifuki Maru 11 miles north of Waton Island between New Britain and New Ireland in the Bismarck Islands. Growler then endured an intense depth charge attack.
7 Feb 1943 Submarine USS Growler initiated a surface attack on the 900-ton armed stores ship Hayasaki 70 miles northwest of Rabaul. Hayasaki turned toward Growler with intent to ram the sub. The two vessels rammed one another head-on, badly damaging the bows of both. Hayasaki opened fire on Growler’s bridge and conning tower with machine guns, mortally wounding Growler’s captain, Commander Howard W. Gilmore. From the bridge, Gilmore shouted down through Growler’s open hatch, “Take her down!” and the submarine submerged beneath him. The sub was saved but Commander Gilmore was lost. For his actions in saving the boat, Commander Gilmore was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
17 Feb 1943 Submarine USS Growler arrived at Brisbane, Australia ending her fourth war patrol, cut short due to a badly damaged bow after ramming a Japanese ship ten days earlier. Repairs were begun immediately at Capricorn Wharf.
23 Feb 1943 Submarine USS Growler entered South Brisbane Drydock for more extensive repairs to her damaged bow.
28 Feb 1943 Submarine USS Growler was floated out of South Brisbane Drydock and returned alongside sub tender USS Fulton at Capricorn Wharf, Brisbane, Australia for further repairs. She would be drydocked twice more before repairs were complete.
13 May 1943 Submarine USS Growler departed Brisbane, Australia on her fifth war patrol.
19 Jun 1943 Submarine USS Growler torpedoed the 5,200-ton Japanese Army troop/cargo ship Miyadono Maru 270 miles north of Manus Island causing serious damage. Once all survivors were removed, the ship was scuttled by gunfire from the convoy escorts.
30 Jun 1943 Submarine USS Growler arrived at Brisbane, Australia at the completion of her fifth war patrol. During this patrol, Growler operated north of New Guinea but after sinking one ship and damaging another, considerable minor damage from an intense depth charge attack forced Growler to return to Brisbane.
21 Jul 1943 Submarine USS Growler departed Brisbane, Australia on her sixth war patrol.
12 Sep 1943 Submarine USS Growler arrived at Brisbane, Australia after her sixth war patrol. During this patrol, Growler engaged no shipping.
4 Oct 1943 Submarine USS Growler departed Brisbane, Australia on her seventh war patrol.
7 Nov 1943 Submarine USS Growler arrived at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii after her seventh war patrol was cut short by worsening material problems.
18 Nov 1943 Submarine USS Growler arrived at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco, California, United States for an extensive overhaul and refitting.
8 Feb 1944 Submarine USS Growler arrived at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on her way further west.
21 Feb 1944 Submarine USS Growler arrived at Midway Atoll for refueling before departing on her eighth war patrol.
16 Apr 1944 Submarine USS Growler arrived at Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands after her eighth war patrol in the East China sea, a patrol that was hampered throughout by bad weather and rough seas.
23 Apr 1944 Lt. Cmdr. Thomas B. Oakley, Jr. relieved Lt. Cmdr. Arnold F. Schlade as commanding officer of submarine USS Growler at Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands.
14 May 1944 Submarine USS Growler departed Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands on her ninth war patrol to take up patrol in the Marianas-Eastern Philippines-Luzon area.
29 Jun 1944 Submarine USS Growler made a nighttime surface torpedo attack on the 1,920-ton Japanese tanker Katori Maru loaded with gasoline which exploded with great fury.
13 Jul 1944 Submarine USS Growler made a nine-hour refueling stop at Midway Atoll on her way to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
17 Jul 1944 Submarine USS Growler arrived at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for a refit after completing her ninth war patrol.
11 Aug 1944 Submarine USS Growler departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for her tenth war patrol.
15 Aug 1944 During a stop at Midway Atoll, submarine USS Growler formed a wolfpack with submarines USS Sealion and Pampanito with Growler’s captain, Lt. Cmdr. Thomas B. Oakley, Jr., in command.
17 Aug 1944 Submarine USS Growler and her wolfpack departed Midway Atoll bound for the waters around Formosa (Taiwan).
31 Aug 1944 South of Formosa (Taiwan), submarine USS Growler and her wolfpack attacked a convoy of twenty ships bound for Manila. Growler and Sealion badly damage the 9,181-ton tanker Rikko Maru and Growler probably also sunk a small escort vessel.
12 Sep 1944 Submarine USS Growler engaged two different Japanese convoys in the South China Sea expending a total of 23 torpedoes. Growler sunk 860-ton coastal defense vessel Hirato in the first attack (killing Rear Admiral Kajioka Sadamichi, noted for commanding multiple amphibious operations earlier in the war) and the 1,950-ton Fubuki-class destroyer Shikinami in the second.
19 Sep 1944 While transiting the Makassar Strait, submarine USS Growler noted in her war diary that the sub “crossed the Equator. Davey Jones, Neptunus Rex and his Royal Party boarded the ship through No. 2 Torpedo Tube and duly initiated 38 Pollywogs into the Ancient Order of the Deep. No casualties.”
22 Sep 1944 Submarine USS Growler entered the Indian Ocean from the Bali Sea via the Lombok Strait en route Fremantle, Australia.
26 Sep 1944 Submarine USS Growler arrived at Fremantle, Australila for a refit after completing her tenth war patrol.
20 Oct 1944 Submarines USS Growler, Hake, and Hardhead departed Fremantle, Australia as a wolfpack bound for the South China Sea. This would be Growler’s eleventh war patrol.
8 Nov 1944 The US submarine Growler was lost, presumed sunk by Japanese escort vessels, whilst attacking a Japanese convoy west of the Philippine Islands.

Photographs

Growler sponsor Mrs. Lucile L. Ghormley, wife of Vice-Admiral Robert L. Ghormley, and Rear Admiral Charles A. Dunn at the christening and launching of the submarine Growler, Groton, Connecticut, 22 Nov 1941.Submarine Growler being launched at the Electric Boat Company, Groton, Connecticut, United States, 22 Nov 1941.Tug boats towing the submarine Growler to the fitting out piers after being launched at the Electric Boat Company, Groton, Connecticut, United States, 22 Nov 1941.Submarine Growler at the fitting out piers at the Electric Boat Company, Groton, Connecticut, United States, 30 Dec 1941. Note Growler’s extended mine cutting gear above the suspended wooden planks.
See all 15 photographs of Submarine Growler (SS-215)



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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Commenter identity confirmed David Stubblebine says:
26 Dec 2020 12:49:00 PM

Commander Gilmore’s Medal of Honor citation reads:

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Commander Howard Walter Gilmore (NSN: O-60210), United States Navy, for distinguished gallantry and valor above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the USS Growler during her Fourth War Patrol in the Southwest Pacific from 10 January to 7 February 1943. Boldly striking at the enemy in spite of continuous hostile air and antisubmarine patrols, Comdr. Gilmore sank one Japanese freighter and damaged another by torpedo fire, successfully evading severe depth charges following each attack. In the darkness of night on 7 February, an enemy gunboat closed range and prepared to ram the Growler. Comdr. Gilmore daringly maneuvered to avoid the crash and rammed the attacker instead, ripping into her port side at 11 knots and bursting wide her plates. In the terrific fire of the sinking gunboat's heavy machineguns, Comdr. Gilmore calmly gave the order to clear the bridge, and refusing safety for himself, remained on deck while his men preceded him below. Struck down by the fusillade of bullets and having done his utmost against the enemy, in his final living moments, Comdr. Gilmore gave his last order to the officer of the deck, "Take her down". The Growler dived; seriously damaged but under control, she was brought safely to port by her well-trained crew inspired by the courageous fighting spirit of their dead captain.

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Submarine Growler (SS-215) Photo Gallery
Growler sponsor Mrs. Lucile L. Ghormley, wife of Vice-Admiral Robert L. Ghormley, and Rear Admiral Charles A. Dunn at the christening and launching of the submarine Growler, Groton, Connecticut, 22 Nov 1941.
See all 15 photographs of Submarine Growler (SS-215)




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