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USS Growler (SS-215)

USS Growler (SS-215) patch

The USS Growler (SS-215) was a Gato-class World War II era submarine.

The namesake of the USS Growler is a large-mouth black bass.

The radio call sign of the USS Growler was NAN-CHARLIE-BAKER-PETER.

On October 20, 1944, a wolf pack headed by the Growler's captain, Commander Thomas "Ben" Oakley, with USS Hake (SS-256) and USS Hardhead (SS-365), departed Fremantle. Their destination was west of the Philippine islands where they would operate as a coordinated search and attack group. This departure would mark the beginning of the Growler's eleventh and final war patrol. 1

On November 8, 1944, the wolf pack prepared to close a convoy to attack it. The Hake and the Hardhead were on the opposite side of the convoy from the Growler. The order to begin attacking the convoy was the last communication ever received from the Growler. The two other submarines heard what sounded like a torpedo explosion and then a series of depth charges on the Growler's side of the convoy. The Hardhead lined up and sank a 5,300-ton tanker. She was depth-charged heavily by the convoy's escorts. The Hake saw the tanker sink, but was forced to evade and go deep because of the escorts, who kept her on the bottom for sixteen hours, dropping 150 depth charges. After the barrage was over later that night, they attempted to contact the Growler without success. All additional efforts to contact the Growler over the next three days also proved futile. She was listed as lost in action. 2

The Navy Department issued the following press release regarding Growler's loss:

Navy Department Communiqué No. 572, February 1, 1945

1. The submarine USS Growler is overdue from patrol and presumed lost.

2. Next of kin of officers and crew have been informed.

Records for IJN coastal defense vessel CD-19 disclose the following information:

8 November 1944:
Off Mindoro, Philippines. CD-19, destroyer SHIGURE and kaibokan CHIBURI are escorting a convoy consisting of tanker MANEI MARU and possibly others. The convoy is attacked by a wolfpack of Cdr Thomas B. Oakley, Jr’s USS GROWLER (SS-215)(F), LtCdr Frank E. Haylor's HAKE (SS-256) and LtCdr Francis A. Greenup's HARDHEAD (SS-365). During the action, at about 0400, HARDHEAD sinks MANEI MARU at 13-30N, 119-25E. The escorts launch a heavy depth charge counter-attack and possibly sink GROWLER that goes MIA after this attack. 3

There are two loss possibilities for the Growler, however, neither of them provide conclusive evidence.

The Growler was probably sunk at about 13° 53′ N, 119° 26' E, as a result of the depth-charge attack conducted by the Japanese destroyer and escort vessels described above. However, the enemy vessels did not report any visible results, nor did they submit any claims for a sinking. 4

The Hake and the Hardhead each heard what sounded like a torpedo explosion and then a series of depth charges on the Growler's side of the convoy. The possible torpedo explosion could have been from a premature explosion or a circular run by one of the Growler's torpedoes. 5

The Growler received eight battle stars for her service in World War II. She was scored by JANAC with sinking 32,607 tons of Japanese shipping in ten vessels. Her Alden-McDonald score is 48,662 tons sunk in thirteen vessels and four vessels damaged for 4,914 tons. Her SORG score is fifteen vessels sunk for 74,900 tons and seven vessels damaged for 34,100 tons. The Growler's first captain, Commander Howard W. Gilmore, was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for sacrificing his life to save his crew and the Growler, during their fourth war patrol. Left immobile on deck after being mortally wounded by gunfire from a Japanese vessel, in order to avoid further damage to his crew and the Growler, he gave the legendary order to "Take her down!" 6

Patrol Data & Tonnage Scores

A list of the men lost with Growler is maintained at On Eternal Patrol.

Also see The Growler Story.


1. Blair, Clay Jr., Silent Victory: The U. S. Submarine War Against Japan, p. 783.

2. Ibid.

3. Hackett, Bob and Peter Cundall, "IJN Escort CD-19: Tabular Record of Movement," published online at Combined Fleet.

4. Miller, Vernon J., "U. S. Submarine Losses," issue 43, p. 207.

5. Ibid.

6. Alden, John D., and Craig R. McDonald, United States and Allied Submarine Successes in the Pacific and Far East During World War II, Fourth Edition, see USS Growler (SS-215), Attack Nos. 222, 223, 224, 296, 301, 311, 312, 319, 543, 591, 601, 898, 899, 1771, 1815, 2161, 2162, 2541, 2542, 2543, 2624, 2625, 2626, and 2630; Submarine war patrol reports on CD, USS Growler (SS-215), data collected by the Submarine Operations Research Group (SORG) in the report "Results of U. S. Submarine War Patrols Listed Alphabetically by Name of Submarine"; Japanese Naval And Merchant Shipping Losses During World War II By All Causes, Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee, USS Growler (SS-215); United States Submarine Losses World War II, p. 125.