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Calvin Underwood Oral History

Identifier: OHP 117

Scope and Contents

Calvin Underwood served aboard Growler as a missile technician third class from 1962 to 1964. He began his interview by discussing his decision to enlist in the Navy a week after graduating high school, explaining that the only jobs available to him in his hometown involved working in the cotton mill. Underwood then stated that he was sent to boot camp in San Diego and described what it was like to leave home for the first time. He also explained that he decided to apply for sub school while he was attending missile technician A school in Dam Neck, VA, and that he reported aboard Growler in Pearl Harbor after completing his training to be a missile tech. Once the interview shifted to his time aboard Growler, Underwood described the relationship between crew members and specifically noted that scores were often settled with physical altercations once the boat arrived in Adak, Alaska. He then described his qualification process and explained how he was treated while he was a non-qual. One example that he provided was not being allowed to watch movies with the rest of the crew because if he had “time to watch a movie, he had time to qualify.” Underwood also stated that he believed this harassment, which was experienced by all non-quals, was intended to weed out those who were not fit for submarines service. He even noted some stories that highlighted how he treated non-quals. The interview then transitioned to Underwood’s duties aboard Growler. He stated that he was first assigned mess cooking duty, which involved waking up earlier than the rest of the crew in order to make coffee and breakfast, and performing tasks such as loading stores. He recalled storing potatoes, carrots, and onions in the showers. Underwood then described some of his other duties, which ranged from planesman, lookout, and topside gang leader, to standing sonar watches. He also explained the importance of having crew members who were capable of performing many jobs because there was such a limited pool of people aboard the submarine. Underwood then discussed his primary role as a missile technician and explained the process for launching a Regulus missile. He also noted how he felt while he was serving aboard Growler, stating that he was proud to be a part of Growler and that he felt launching a missile was defensive and never offensive. Underwood then recalled occasions when he stood sonar watches and Growler was pinged by Russian ships. The interview soon transitioned to a discussion of free time, and Underwood mentioned that there was an officer who held short religious service on Sundays. He also discussed playing cards and watching movies, as well as the crew’s liberty, which involved visiting bars and playing ball games. As the interview came to an end, Underwood discussed why Growler was decommissioning and the Regulus missile became obsolete. He also explained how he and his shipmates received their nicknames, and concluded the interview by stating that Growler’s escape buoys could not be used. Underwood explained that the buoys’ covers were welded down before the boat left Pearl Harbor so the buoys could not be released and found by the Russians. If the Russians located the buoys, they could locate the submarine along with the equipment and devices that were aboard the submarine.


  • September 16,2016



1 Files

27 Sheets

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David Dzendzel
September 28, 2018
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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