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Robert L. Owens Oral History (First Interview)

Identifier: OHP 059

Scope and Contents

Robert L. Owens served aboard Growler, first as executive officer, then as commanding officer, from February 1960 to December 13, 1963. Owens began his interview by stating where he was born and raised and discussing his service in WWII. Owens explained that after boot camp and electrical school, he rode Intrepid from Alameda to Pearl Harbor, where he served aboard the submarine tender USS Bushnell. He then went aboard the USS Tinosa and made seven war patrols. After providing additional information regarding his time aboard Tinosa, Owens stated that he left the service after the war ended and earned a degree in geology from Fresno State College. He then explained his return to the Navy in the naval reserve and being sent to Regulus Missile School. Owens was then sent to a guided missile unit in Port Hueneme, California, where he not only worked with the Regulus Missile, but also applied for a selection process that allowed him to switch from the reserves to regular Navy. Owens continued, explaining that he became the missile officer for the unit, that he was responsible for preparing the missiles that were launched from Point Mugu Naval Air Station, and that this unit helped develop Regulus and trained missile technicians. Owens explained that his next assignment was the USS Grayback, which was under construction. He oversaw the installation of missile equipment and launching equipment, and being the only officer present, also oversaw other aspects of construction, such as engine tests and battery installation. Owens explained that he served as navigator for Grayback’s first patrol before being assigned to SUBPAC, and then Growler, as a prospective executive officer. He therefore discussed the jobs of the executive officer and the commanding officer, as well as becoming the commanding officer of Growler. Owens also explained the process of firing the Regulus Missile, from receiving the message that ordered the launch to the launch itself. He also spoke about the boat’s mission, and how he, and the crew, felt about their mission. The interview then shifted toward parties that were thrown to celebrate officers earning their dolphins. Family life was also discussed, particularly the lives of Navy wives. Owens then outlined the rest of his naval career, which included: returning to COMSUBPAC Staff as the Polaris Targeting Officer, commanding the fast attack boat Sea Leopard, joining CINCLANT as part of the team that would send the go-message to the Polaris boats, serving as the Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations for SubFlot 6, working in the Pentagon for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he was the Submarine Officer attached to the Chairman’s SALT negotiation team, and serving as the 688 Project Officer. Owens then stated that he returned to Sanger, California, where he ran his family’s plumbing business. The interview briefly returned to Growler and three different topics: taking aboard a fishing net’s glass float, removing a problematic torpedo from the sub, and explaining where on the boat the target locations for the missiles were kept. The interview ended with Owens stating what he hopes visitors will take away from seeing Growler and passing along advice to anyone considering the submarine service.


  • October 1, 2014



25 Sheets

7 Files

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David Dzendzel
January 30, 2017
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Repository Details

Part of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Online Archives Repository

One Intrepid Square
W. 46th Street and 12th Avenue
New York NY 10036-4103 United States