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Robert L. Owens Oral History (Second Interview)

Identifier: OHP 126

Scope and Contents

Robert L. Owens served aboard Growler, first as executive officer, then as commanding officer, from February 1960 to December 13, 1963. He began his second interview by recalling his early Navy career when he was drafted during World War II. Owens stated that he attended boot camp in Farragut, ID, and electrician school, before volunteering for submarine service and completing five war patrols on Tinosa. After discussing his experiences in the submarine service during World War II, Owens explained that he left the Navy, graduated from Fresno State with a degree in geology, and eventually joined the reserves and returned to active duty. He then discussed how he became involved in the Regulus program, provided background on the missile, described how the missile functioned, and also referenced the Regulus II. The interview then transitioned to a discussion on testing the Regulus missiles at Point Mugu. After describing these tests, Owens recalled life in the Navy as an older ensign, explained how he transitioned from the reserves to the regular Navy, and discussed how his time as an enlisted man helped him understand his enlisted crew. The interview then shifted to the Regulus missile submarines, and Owens discussed his duty as one of the first officers who were present during Grayback’s construction. He also described additional test launches, explained how Growler and Grayback were different from other submarines, and referenced the problems that both submarines experienced due to their engines. After discussing Growler and Grayback, Owens explained Growler’s mission, noting what circumstances would have caused Growler to launch its missiles and what locations would have been targeted. Owens also discussed Growler’s intelligence gathering mission and recalled the “sneaky peekies” (communications technicians) who were aboard the boat, explaining that they performed tasks such as recording the telemetry of Russian missiles that were launched from the Pacific end of a Russian missile test range. The interview then transitioned to a discussion on Owens’ role as executive officer, and he explained his responsibilities, including navigation and being in charge of the enlisted personnel, as well as his experience serving under two different commanding officers. Owens also spoke about his role as the commanding officer and how the job of the commanding officer differed from that of the executive officer. He then recalled two other events that occurred while he was aboard Growler, discussing one incident when Growler almost encountered a fishing boat while running on the surface during a thick fog and another time when Growler sailed through a fishing net, pulling a portion of the net back to Adak. As the interview came to an end, Owens provided an overview of the rest of his Navy career, including his involvement in the SALT talks. Owens then ended his interview by discussing the nose warmer that he donated to the Museum, stating that nose warmers were made by the officers’ wives and then given to the officers as Christmas gifts.


  • March 14, 2017



6 Files

30 Sheets

Language of Materials



David Dzendzel
October 1, 2018
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

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