Groton has been historically associated with military battles and bases. The Battle of Groton Heights took place in Groton on September 6, 1781 when British forces led by Benedict Arnold advanced on Fort Griswald. British forces landed on the River Thames, and there was little that residents could do but flee the advancing forces. American forces were beaten severely, and a ship containing gunpowder exploded in the harbor, setting fire to the city and consuming 143 buildings.

    Groton also was a center for submarine production, earning the nickname of the "Submarine Capital of the World." 75 submarines were stationed in Groton during World War II, and new submarines were being produced at a rate of one every two weeks. The first American nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus, was launched from Groton. The submarine now resides in Groton's Submarine Museum.

    The town of Mystic, Connecticut is located in the eastern outskirts of Groton. It is a popular tourist destination, and the setting for the 1988 movie, "Mystic Pizza," credited with launching the careers of Julia Roberts and Vincent d'Onofrio.